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March 18, 2021
In an unpublished opinion, North Shore Injury Center, Inc. et al. v. Home-Owners Insurance Company, the Michigan Court of Appeals addressed the issue of which date controls for purposes of calculating the one year back limitation on damages pursuant to MCL 500.3145.
In North Shore, underlying claimant Joys King suffered injuries in a motor vehicle accident and received treatment from several providers. Three providers, North Shore Injury Center, Excellent Pain Consultants, and Red Wings Medical Transportation, filed suit against Home-Owners Insurance for Michigan no-fault PIP benefits on July 1, 2016, but did not receive assignments from Mr. King until July 11, 2017 and July 13, 2017. Another provider, Northland Radiology, intervened in the case on October 5, 2016 but did not receive an assignment from Mr. King until March 14, 2017. Mr. King filed his own lawsuit against Home-Owners on August 26, 2016.
Defendant Home-Owners filed a Motion for Summary Disposition arguing that when a case seeking no-fault PIP benefits is premised on an assignment, then Jawad A. Shah, MD, PC v. State Farm Mut. Auto Ins. Co., 324 Mich App 182; 920 NW2d 148 (2018) controls and the applicable date for the one year back rule pursuant to MCL 500.3145 is measured from the date of the assignment. Plaintiffs argued that the one year back rule should be measured from the day the underlying claimant, Mr. King, filed his own suit, rather than the date assignments were signed.
The trial court agreed with plaintiffs and held that under “the law of assignment”, a provider, as an assignee of a claimant, stands in the shoes of the claimant and can recover based upon the date the claimant files his own suit. On appeal, the Court of Appeals found the trial court’s reasoning lacking and engaged in a detailed analysis of the language of MCL 500.3145, parsing the words “the” and “a” and finding that when a claimant files “an action” for recovery of no-fault benefits “payable under this chapter,” the claimant’s recovery is limited to losses incurred not more than one year before that specific action was commenced.
The Court of Appeals noted that Mr. King filed “an action” against Home-Owners on August 26, 2016, such that his recovery was limited to losses incurred not more than one year before his specific action was commenced. Plaintiffs, however, filed “an action” against Home Owners on July 21, 2016, so their recovery was limited to losses incurred not more than one year before their specific action was commenced. Mr. King’s assignment of his rights to plaintiffs did not change the relevant date for application of the one year back rule, which was the day plaintiffs filed their lawsuit, July 21, 2016. The Court held that Mr. King did not have the same rights to recovery in plaintiffs’ action – of which he was not a part – as he did in his own action and, because Mr. King, in plaintiffs’ action, did not have the right to recover losses incurred not more than one year before Mr. King’s separate action against Home-Owners was commenced, he could not assign such a right to plaintiffs.
In short, when Mr. King assigned his rights to plaintiffs, the Court found he did not have the right, in plaintiffs’ action, to recover losses incurred not more than one year before Mr. King commenced his own separate action. Mr. King only had that right in Mr. King’s own action against defendant. Therefore, since plaintiffs incurred all (or part) of their losses more than one year before Mr. King assigned them his rights, their claims were barred by the one year back rule.
The dissent, in a lengthy opinion, focused on the issue of tolling, and the applicability of the relation-back doctrine, which the majority found were not raised or addressed by either party in the trial court or on appeal.