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Hensley v Auto Club Group Ins Co, et al (COA – UNP 10/14/2021; RB #4323)

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Michigan Court of Appeals; Docket #353205; Unpublished
Judges Beckering, Shapiro, and Swartzle; Per Curiam
Official Michigan Reporter Citation: Not Applicable; Link to Opinion; Link to Concurrence


STATUTORY INDEXING:
Not Applicable

TOPICAL INDEXING:
Notice and Statute of Limitations for Uninsured Motorist Benefits


SUMMARY:
In this unanimous unpublished per curiam decision (Swartzle, concurring), the Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s summary disposition order dismissing Plaintiff Dana Hensley’s third-party action for uninsured motorist benefits against Defendant Auto Club Group Insurance Company (“Auto Club”). The Court of Appeals held that Hensley failed to comply with a provision in his policy with Auto Club which required that he file a written report of any hit-and-run collision to law enforcement within 24-hours of the collision’s occurrence in order to proceed with a claim for UM benefits under the policy.

Hensley was involved in a hit-and-run collision on August 8, 2017, at approximately 3:15 p.m. He later filed a police report of the collision with the Inkster Police Department, who listed the “ ‘Report Date/Time’ ” as August 10, 2017 at 3:37 p.m., and the “ ‘Created Date/Time’ ” as August 10, 2017 at 5:32 p.m. Approximately one-and-a-half years later, Hensley filed the underlying complaint against his automobile insurance company, Auto Club, alleging that he was entitled to uninsured motorist benefits under his policy as a result of the collision. Auto Club moved for summary disposition, invoking a provision in Hensley’s policy which required him to make a written report of any hit-and-run collision to law enforcement within 24-hours of its occurrence in order to proceed with a claim for UM benefits under the policy. Hensley did not respond to Auto Club’s motion, and thus it was granted by the trial court. Hensley then filed a motion for reconsideration, arguing that he did, in fact, make a signed written statement with the Inkster Police Department within 24 hours of the collision, adducing an unwitnessed handwritten statement, dated August 9, 2017 at 3:00 p.m., in support of the motion. The trial court denied Hensley’s motion, noting that the unwitnessed statement could not be verified.

The Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s summary disposition order, observing preliminarily that any claims for UM benefits is governed entirely by contract, and that the plain language of the specific contract at issue in this case provides that a claimant for such benefits must “ ‘make a written report of a hit-and-run accident within 24 hours to a law enforcement agency.’ ” In this case, Hensley failed to do so, and thus his case was properly dismissed. Moreover, the Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s denial of Hensley’s motion for reconsideration because there was no way to verify that the unwitnessed statement was actually prepared on the date and time written on it.

“The plain language of the reporting provision—which must be enforced as written—required plaintiff to make a written report of the incident to law enforcement within 24 hours of the accident occurring. See TNT Equip, Inc, 328 Mich App at 672. In support of its motion for summary disposition, defendant provided the police report dated August 10, 2017. Specifically, the police report lists the ‘Report Date/Time’ as August 10, 2017 at 15:37 (3:37 p.m.) and the ‘Created Date/Time’ as August 10, 2017 at 5:32 p.m. The alleged day and time of the hit-and-run accident was August 8, 2017 at about 3:15 or 3:30 p.m. Therefore, the police report relied upon by defendant in support of its motion clearly shows the date and time of the report are outside the 24-hour reporting window mandated by the policy. Thus, the trial court’s decision to grant defendant’s motion for summary disposition was supported by the evidence.

And, as the trial court concluded, the evidence plaintiff submitted in support of his motion for reconsideration was not persuasive. Plaintiff submitted a handwritten ‘statement sheet’ dated August 9, 2017 at 3:00 p.m., on which he recounted his view of the accident. Plaintiff argued that the statement sheet showed that he made a written report to the police department within 24 hours of the accident. However, as the trial court noted, there is no way to verify that the statement sheet was actually prepared on the date and time that plaintiff placed on the statement. In fact, the space on the statement sheet for a witness to sign is blank; no witness signed the document. Therefore, plaintiff’s argument was without sufficient evidentiary support to create a genuine issue of material fact on the issue whether he satisfied the reporting requirement entitling him to UM benefits under the insurance policy. Accordingly, the trial court properly granted summary disposition in favor of defendant.”

 


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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