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Robinson v. Mahmood, et al. (COA – UNP 6/18/2020; RB #4100)

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Michigan Court of Appeals; Docket # 347840; Unpublished
Judges Gadola, Cavanagh, and Kelly; Per curiam
Official Michigan Reporter Citation: Not Applicable; Link to Opinion


STATUTORY INDEXING:
Entitlement to PIP Benefits: Arising Out of/Causation Requirement [§3105(1)]

TOPICAL INDEXING:
Not Applicable


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In this unanimous unpublished per curiam decision, the Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s summary disposition order dismissing the plaintiff’s first-party action to recover no-fault PIP benefits.  The plaintiff, Damon Robinson, presented select medical records from a single medical provider to support his claim for no-fault PIP benefits after he was injured in a motor vehicle crash, but the Court of Appeals ruled that those records did not give rise to a genuine issue of material fact as to whether Robinson’s injuries were caused by the crash.  Thus, Robinson was ineligible for PIP benefits pursuant to MCL 500.3105.

Damon Robinson was injured as a result of a crash between the bus he was traveling in, owned by the Suburban Mobility Authority for Regional Transportation (SMART), and a motor vehicle.  Robinson subsequently filed a first-party action to recover no-fault PIP benefits against SMART, but SMART moved for summary disposition, arguing that Robinson could not prove that any of his alleged injuries were caused by the crash.  SMART supported its motion with the testimony of its own medical examiner, who opined that “the only injury [Robinson] sustained in the accident was soft tissue swelling which did not require treatment.”  In response, Robinson presented medical records from one of his treatment providers, Dr. Todd Best, which he argued created a question of fact as to the issue of causation.  The trial court ultimately granted summary disposition in SMART’s favor, reasoning that, “other than Dr. Best’s mere notations in plaintiff’s medical records that plaintiff’s injuries resulted from the accident, there was no basis or support for that opinion.”

On appeal, Robinson argued that the trial court erred in granting summary disposition in SMART’s favor, because SMART merely “presented testimony from its paid expert who had an opinion that conflicted with plaintiff’s treating physician,” and since “the trial court was not permitted to weigh the evidence or make credibility determinations in deciding the motion,” summary disposition was improperly granted.  The Court of Appeals disagreed, and affirmed the trial court’s order.  Central to the Court’s analysis was the lack of any statement or evidence in Robinson’s records from Dr. Best which established a “definite causal link between the bus accident and [Robinson’s] injuries.”  Dr. Best did note in the records that several of Robinson’s injuries were “secondary to” or “due to” the crash, but the Court deemed these notations insufficient for purposes of establishing causation.

One of the medical reports relied upon by plaintiff was a report by Dr. Best dated October 26, 2016. It was actually a letter written to Dr. Kenneth Chun, who was plaintiff’s primary care physician. The letter indicated that plaintiff’s chief complaint was “MVA injuries 08-04-16.” The history section of the letter recounted that plaintiff had a history of low back pain that was manageable and, immediately after the bus accident he had left shoulder, hip, elbow, and knee pain. The letter indicated that plaintiff continued to have a number of problems and that Dr. Chun had seen plaintiff but did not order any testing. The letter further indicated that plaintiff complained of headaches, balance issues, memory issues, and pain in the neck, left shoulder, low back, left hip, and right lower leg. Under the heading labeled “Assessment,” Dr. Best listed several problems as being “secondary to” or “due to” the accident, including: left shoulder pain, neck pain, adjustment disorder, and left hip pain. He also noted to “rule out” minor traumatic brain injury and back seizures “due to” the accident. And Dr. Best indicated that plaintiff’s low back pain was aggravated by the accident. Dr. Best’s plan of care included prescriptions for diagnostic testing, as well as for replacement services, case management services, transportation services, and attendant care services through December 31, 2016.

The second medical report relied upon by plaintiff was dated November 22, 2016, and was also a letter from Dr. Best to Dr. Chun. The letter again indicated that plaintiff’s chief complaint was “MVA injuries 08-04-16.” The history section indicated that plaintiff continued to have memory issues and headaches, as well as pain in his neck, left shoulder, low back, and left hip. Under the heading labeled “Assessment,” Dr. Best again listed several problems as being “secondary to” or “due to” the accident, including: left shoulder pain, neck pain, adjustment disorder, and left hip pain. He also noted to “rule out” minor traumatic brain injury and post traumatic seizures “due to” the accident. And Dr. Best indicated that plaintiff’s low back pain was aggravated by the accident. Dr. Best’s plan of care included prescriptions for physical therapy and neuropsychological testing, as well as for replacement services, case management services, transportation services, and attendant care services through January 31, 2017.

As the trial court noted, however, these two medical reports and associated prescriptions for additional services do not give rise to a genuine issue of material fact on the issue whether plaintiff suffered accidental bodily injuries in the bus accident. They simply do not establish a definite causal link between the bus accident and plaintiff’s claimed injuries. While the medical reports indicate that plaintiff was self-reporting that he suffered injuries in the bus accident and that he had pain in various parts of his body, Dr. Best does not present any definitive opinion on medical causation. Again, plaintiff’s opinion that he suffered injuries in the bus accident is wholly insufficient. See Howard, 100 Mich App at 273. And plaintiff failed to present an affidavit or deposition testimony from Dr. Best that specifically attributed plaintiff’s impairments—including any found on physical examination—to the bus accident. That Dr. Best repeated plaintiff’s claims of injury and pain to Dr. Chun in his letters does not equate to an expert medical opinion on the issue of causation. While plaintiff is correct that a trial court may not make credibility determinations or weigh the evidence in deciding motions for summary disposition under MCR 2.116(C)(10), Pioneer State Mut Ins Co v Dells, 301 Mich App 368, 377; 836 NW2d 257 (2013), that is not what the trial court did in this case. Defendant brought a motion for summary disposition, arguing that plaintiff could not establish that his purported injuries were causally connected to the accident and provided evidence in support of that motion. Plaintiff responded with two medical reports and some prescriptions from Dr. Best—evidence that simply did not “permit inferences contrary to the facts asserted” by defendant. See Opdyke Invest Co, 413 Mich at 360. Therefore, as the trial court concluded, defendant SMART was entitled to summary disposition; all PIP benefits to which plaintiff was entitled had been paid.


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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