Michigan Court of Appeals; Docket #354694; Unpublished
Judges Sawyer, Servitto, and Rick; Per Curiam
Official Michigan Reporter Citation: Not Applicable; Link to Opinion
Legislative Purpose and Intent
In this unanimous, unpublished, per curiam decision, the Court of Appeals reversed the trial court’s denial of Defendant Meemic Insurance Company’s (“Meemic”) motion for summary disposition, in which Meemic sought dismissal of Plaintiff Mobile MRI Staffing LLC’s (“Metro”) first-party action against it. The Court of Appeals held that the 2019 amendments to the no-fault act—and to MCL 500.3145, specifically—do not apply retroactively. Metro’s claims, therefore, in which it sought payment of charges more than one-year-old, but within one year of receiving a formal denial from Meemic, was barred by the pre-amendment version of the one-year-back rule.
Meemic’s insured, Sherita Minor, injured her back in a motor vehicle accident on July 11, 2018. On July 28, 2018, Minor underwent three MRIs at Metro, for which she was charged $5,000 each. She assigned her right to pursue no-fault PIP benefits related to the MRIs to Metro, who in turn filed a claim with Meemic. On April 3, 2019, Meemic paid $1,300 to Metro for the MRIs, but refused to pay the balance. Metro then filed the underlying first-party action against Meemic, on November 13, 2019. Meemic moved for summary disposition, arguing that Metro’s claim was barred by the pre-amendment version of the one-year-back rule—MCL 500.3145(1)—in effect at the time of the crash. Metro argued, conversely, that the amendments to the no-fault act—and to MCL 500.3145, specifically—set forth in 2019 PA 21, applied retroactively, and that the operative date for purposes of its recovery, therefore, was April 3, 2019: the date in which it received a formal denial of its claim. The district court denied Meemic’s motion, reasoning that when the amendment to MCL 500.3145 went into effect, on June 11, 2019, it extended the amount of time Metro had to file its lawsuit.
The Court of Appeals reversed the district court’s denial of Meemic’s motion, holding that the 2019 amendment to MCL 500.3145 does not apply retroactively. The Court emphasized, preliminarily, the “foundational presumption in Michigan against retroactive application of legislation,” which can only be rebutted by a clear manifestation in the statute of the legislature’s intent for retroactive application. 2019 PA 21 contains no such manifestation, even considering the fact that the amendments were to be given “ ‘immediate effect.’ ” Under Michigan case law, “ ‘use of the phrase ‘immediate effect’ does not at all suggest that a public act applies retroactively.”
“We conclude the district court and the circuit court erred. This conclusion is based on the foundational presumption in Michigan against retroactive application of legislation. Johnson, 491 Mich at 429. Instead, the presumption is for prospective application. ‘Statutes are presumed to apply prospectively unless the Legislature clearly manifests the intent for retroactive application.’ Id. Unlike MCL 141.1157, in which the Legislature clearly stated the amended act ‘shall be applied retroactively,’ there is no such language in MCL 500.3145 or 2019 PA 21. Simply put, no explicit or implicit reference to retroactivity exists in either the statute or the amendment. Johnson, 491 Mich at 432. And the ‘[u]se of the phrase ‘immediate effect’ does not at all suggest that a public act applies retroactively.’ Id. at 430. Therefore, in light of the presumption in favor of prospective application, the district court erred.”
The Court of Appeals rejected Metro’s various arguments on appeal, the first of which was that “the relevant law is not the law in existence on the date the claim accrues, but rather the law in existence on the date the action was commenced.” As the Court pointed out, Michigan law stands for a contrary proposition: that, “Generally, a claim accrues at the time the wrong upon which the claim is based was done.”
“Generally, a claim accrues at the time the wrong upon which the claim is based was done. MCL 600.5827; Frank, 500 Mich at 147. In this case, the wrong upon which the claim is based was the partial payment of the medical expenses. This was the sole reason for plaintiff’s complaint. We conclude that the ‘wrong’ was done on April 3, 2019, the date on which defendant made the partial payment, which was over two months before the amended version of MCL 500.3145 went into effect. Even if the ‘wrong’ is placed on April 8, 2019, the date on which plaintiff was notified of the partial payment, there still are more than two months between that date and the effective date of the amended rule. Additionally, even if the proper date of accrual is July 28, 2018, the date on which the medical expenses were assigned to plaintiff, there is still a significant amount of time between that date and June 11, 2019. Therefore, whether the claim accrued on July 28, 2018, April 3, 2019, or April 8, 2019, the law in effect at that time—and therefore the law that applies to this case—is the preamendment version of the one-year-back rule.”
The Court of Appeals next rejected Metro’s “ ‘intention by omission’ ” argument, in which it argued that, “had the Legislature intended for the amended MCL 500.3145 to be applied only prospectively, they would have said so.” Not so, according to the Court: prospective application is presumed; retroactive application is not.
“Plaintiff attempts to make an ‘intention by omission’ argument. Plaintiff claims, had the Legislature intended for the amended MCL 500.3145 to be applied only prospectively, they would have said so. In plaintiff’s view, the omission of such a statement means the Legislature intentionally chose to have the amended statute apply retroactively. This argument falls short, however, because plaintiff fails to recognize the fact that there is no need for an explicit statement regarding prospective application. Prospective application is presumed. Nortley v Hurst, 321 Mich App 566, 571; 908 NW2d 919 (2017). A statement is only needed for retroactive application, and there is no such statement in the legislation in this case. Plaintiff has it backward. Plaintiff’s argument also runs into logical difficulties. The omission of one thing does not necessarily mean that its opposite is being intentionally endorsed.”
Lastly, the Court rejected Metro’s argument that the factors set forth in LaFontaine Saline, Inc v Chrysler Group, LLC, 496 Mich 26 (2014)—for determining whether a statute has retroactive effect—weighed in favor of retroactive application of the 2019 amendment to MCL 500.3145. The LaFontaine factors are as follows:
“First, we consider whether there is specific language providing for retroactive application. Second, in some situations, a statute is not regarded as operating retroactively merely because it relates to an antecedent event. Third, in determining retroactivity, we must keep in mind that retroactive laws impair vested rights acquired under existing laws or create new obligations or duties with respect to transactions or considerations already past. Finally, a remedial or procedural act not affecting vested rights may be given retroactive effect where the injury or claim is antecedent to the enactment of the statute.”
For the reasons stated above, the Court of Appeals held that the first factor weighed in favor of prospective application, only. The Court held that the second factor does not apply to this case because the amended version of MCL 500.3145 does not relate to an antecedent event. As for the third and fourth factors, the Court held that those weighed in favor of prospective application, only, too,“because applying MCL 500.3145 retroactively would effectively allow [Metro] to rewrite history and would require [Meemic] to back in time and issue a formal denial of [Metro’s] claim at a time when it was not required to do so.”