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Lakeland Neurocare Centers v. State of Michigan, et al. (COA – UNP 6/11/2020; RB #4091)

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Michigan Court of Appeals; Docket #348675; Unpublished
Judges Cameron, Boonstra, and Letica; Per Curiam
Official Michigan Reporter Citation: Not Applicable; Link to Opinion


STATUTORY INDEXING:
One-Year Notice Rule Limitation [§500.3145(1)]
When Claimants Can Receive PIP Benefits Through the Assigned Claims Facility [§500.3172(1)]

TOPICAL INDEXING:
Court of Claims Litigation


SUMMARY:
In this unanimous unpublished per curiam decision, the Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s summary disposition order dismissing the plaintiff’s first-party action for no-fault PIP benefits against both the State of Michigan and the Michigan Assigned Claims Plan.  As to the plaintiff’s claims against the State of Michigan, the Court of Appeals held that the plaintiff, Lakeland Neurocare Centers (Lakeland), failed to comply with the one-year statutory notice provision pursuant to MCL 600.6431 and the notice provision and limitation period set forth in MCL 500.3145(1).  Specifically, the Court rejected Lakeland’s argument that its claim accrued on the date it first rendered treatment, as opposed to the date of the underlying motor vehicle collision in which its patient was injured.  As to the plaintiff’s claims against the MACP, the Court of Appeals held that Lakeland failed to exercise due diligence in attempting to locate an insurer of higher-priority before submitting its claim to the MACP.

Vincent Bean was injured as a result of being struck by an MDOT snowplow vehicle on January 29, 2018, and received treatment for his injuries from Lakeland.  Bean assigned his right to pursue no-fault PIP benefits related to his treatment to Lakeland, and, because Bean was uninsured at the time of the collision, Lakeland filed an application for PIP benefits on Bean’s behalf with the MACP.  The MACP responded by notifying Lakeland that it had identified two potentially higher-priority insurance carriers—MDOT’s self-insurance plan and the snowplow vehicle’s driver’s personal no-fault insurance plan—and advised that Lakeland only file a claim with the MACP after first providing proof that those carriers denied its claim.  Lakeland, however, did not file a claim with either of those carriers, or make further contact with the MACP.  Instead, on February 5, 2019, Lakeland filed a notice of intent to file a claim with the court of claims, and on the following day, February 6, 2019, Lakeland filed this lawsuit against both MDOT and the MACP.  MDOT moved for summary disposition, arguing that Lakeland’s claims were barred by the one-year notice provision in MCL 600.6431, as well as the notice provision and limitation period set forth in MCL 500.3145(1), and the MACP moved for summary disposition, arguing that two higher-priority insurers had been identified and that Lakeland had not exercised due diligence in first submitting his claim to those two insurers.  The trial court ultimately granted both MDOT’s and the MACP’s motions.

The Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s summary disposition orders in favor of both defendants.  As to MDOT, the Court of Appeals rejected Lakeland’s argument that, “although Bean was injured [on January 28, 2019], his claim for benefits arising from his medical treatment by plaintiff did not accrue until plaintiff provided that medical treatment,” because “Lakeland’s claim for PIP benefits . . . ‘accrued’ at the time Bean was injured, not once he received medical treatment.”

Generally, a claim for personal injury “accrues” when “all of the elements are present and can be properly pleaded in a complaint.” Trentadue v Buckler Lawn Sprinkler, 479 Mich 378, 385; 738 NW2d 664 (2007). Bean was allegedly injured by the actions of MDOT’s employee on January 29, 2018, and plaintiff admits that Bean’s claim accrued at that time. As an assignee, plaintiff stands in the same position as Bean. Crossley v Allstate Ins Co, 139 Mich App 464, 470 362 NW2d 760 (1984). Further, the no-fault act “specifically provides that the action accrues at the time of the accident.” See Sallee v Auto Club Ins Ass’n, 190 Mich App 305, 308; 475 NW2d 828 (1991). Plaintiff’s claim for PIP benefits therefore “accrued” at the time Bean was injured, not once he received medical treatment.

The Court also rejected Lakeland’s reliance on MCL 500.3145(2) in support of the proposition that a claim for PIP benefits “accrues” as each treatment is rendered/received.  The Court noted that, while “MCL 500.3145(2) provides that . . . an action may be commenced within one year of the most recent allowable expense incurred . . . it does not support plaintiff’s position that notice was in fact filed or provided in a timely manner.”

As to the MACP, the Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s summary disposition order, and agreed with the trial court that Lakeland failed to exercise due diligence in attempting to locate a higher-priority insurer before submitting its claim to the MACP. 

We agree with the trial court that plaintiff did not demonstrate sufficient due diligence in seeking to identify higher-priority insurers. Again, the name of the driver and the fact that the snowplow was owned by MDOT were stated in the police report. At a minimum, even assuming for the moment that plaintiff’s call to the AG’s office represented due diligence regarding that insurer, plaintiff presents no evidence that it made any attempt to determine whether the operator of the motor vehicle involved in the accident was covered by an applicable policy. And, for the reasons already discussed, we are not inclined to find that a simple phone call and conversation with an unnamed person at the AG’s office suffices as a duly diligent search for a higher priority insurer. The trial court did not err by determining that plaintiff did not show reasonable diligence in seeking to identify whether an owner, registrant, or operator the vehicle involved in the accident was covered by an applicable policy of insurance. MCL 500.3115(1).


Lansing car accident lawyer Stephen Sinas is the lead editor of the appellate case summaries published on this site regarding the Michigan auto insurance law. To learn more about how Stephen Sinas and how the Sinas Dramis Law Firm can help you if you have been injured in a Michigan auto accident, visit SinasDramis.com.

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