Justia Injury Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Michigan Supreme Court
by
Helen Jordan, a nurse who was formerly employed by the predecessor to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, challenged in the Michigan Compensation Appellate Commission (MCAC) the decision of a magistrate that she was not entitled to disability benefits under the Worker’s Disability Compensation Act (WDCA). In 1995, plaintiff was working for defendant’s predecessor when she was injured during an altercation with a patient. Plaintiff was prescribed opioid medication to treat leg and back pain that she said resulted from the 1995 injury, and she used the opioid medication continuously after the incident and became dependent upon it. Plaintiff began receiving disability benefits under the WDCA in 1996. In 2015, plaintiff underwent an independent medical examination at defendant’s request pursuant to MCL 418.385. The doctor who conducted the examination concluded that any disability experienced by plaintiff was not the result of the 1995 incident, and defendant subsequently discontinued plaintiff’s benefits. Plaintiff applied for reinstatement of her benefits under the WDCA. The Michigan Supreme Court determined the agency record was too incomplete to facilitate “meaningful” appellate review: “Despite the MCAC’s conclusion, whether the experts agreed that plaintiff had a limitation of her wage-earning capacity in work suitable to her qualifications and training was not clear from the record.” Therefore, the Court concluded the Court of Appeals erred by deciding this case as a matter of law because further administrative proceedings were needed. View "Jordan v. Dep’t. of Health & Human Servs." on Justia Law

by
Willie Griffin filed suit against Trumbull Insurance Company, the Michigan Assigned Claims Plan (the MACP), Allstate Insurance Company, Esurance Property and Casualty Insurance Company, and an unnamed John Doe insurance company, seeking personal protection insurance (PIP) benefits for injuries plaintiff sustained while riding a motorcycle. In May 2016, Griffin was driving a motorcycle when a large truck merged into his lane. Griffin swerved to avoid the truck. While there was no physical collision, Griffin’s motorcycle went down, it was damaged, and he was badly injured. The responding police officer recorded the truck driver’s name, personal telephone number, and residential address in the crash report; however, the officer did not record the license plate number or VIN of the truck, the insurer of the truck, the owner of the truck, or any other identifying information regarding the truck. Days after the accident, Griffin’s attorney sent a letter to the truck driver using the address in the crash report. Trumbull, Griffin's insurer, made numerous unsuccessful attempts to contact the truck driver before closing its investigation in late December 2016. In December 2016, Griffin submitted a separate PIP benefits claim to the MACP through the Michigan Automobile Insurance Placement Facility (the MAIPF). Griffin also submitted claims to Esurance and Allstate, which were both lower-priority insurers. In April 2017, Griffin then filed this lawsuit seeking payment of his PIP benefits. During discovery, the parties learned that the truck had been owned by Pavex Corporation and insured by Harleysville Insurance. Trumbull moved for summary judgment, arguing that it was not liable to pay PIP benefits because Harleysville was the highest-priority insurer. The MACP also moved for summary judgment (Allstate, Esurance, and the John Doe insurance company were dismissed by stipulation), and those orders were not appealed. The trial court granted the two summary judgment motions, holding that Harleysville was the highest-priority insurer and that Griffin had not exercised reasonable diligence in attempting to timely locate Harleysville. The Michigan Supreme Court reversed in part, finding that Griffin properly filed a claim under the no-fault act against all insurers who were identifiable prior to the expiration of the limitations period and that Trumbull’s delaying a decision on payment or denial of Griffin’s claim until after the limitations period expired did not excuse it from liability to pay PIP benefits. The trial court erred by granting Trumbull’s summary-disposition motion, and the Court of Appeals erred by affirming on the basis that a previously unidentifiable higher-priority insurer became identifiable during litigation well after the one-year notice and limitations period in MCL 500.3145 had expired. View "Griffin v. Trumbull Insurance Co." on Justia Law

by
Lesley Meyers, personal representative of the estate of Samuel Corrado, filed an action against Karen Rieck; Radi Gerbi; Shelby Nursing Center Joint Venture, doing business as Shelby Nursing Center; and others alleging that defendants were negligent and had committed medical malpractice in treating Corrado. Corrado, the decedent, was a patient at Shelby Nursing Center, a nursing home, in 2014. The nursing home had a standing order for patients with nausea that directed staff to, among other things, administer an antinausea medication and to notify the patient’s doctor immediately if the patient had more than one episode of vomiting in a 24-hour period. Pursuant to the standing order, Gerbi administered the antinausea medication to Corrado. Gerbi also attempted to call a physician, but when he was unable to reach the physician he went on break instead. Meyers, Corrado’s daughter, called the nursing home to have someone sent to Corrado’s room. When she was unsuccessful, Meyers went to the nursing home herself, where she found Corrado having difficulty breathing. Corrado was taken to the hospital, where he died from hypoxia due to aspiration. During discovery, plaintiff learned of the standing order and moved to amend the complaint to add to its ordinary-negligence claim allegations that Gerbi had failed to comply with the standing order to contact a physician after Corrado’s second vomiting episode. In response, Shelby Nursing Center moved to dismiss the new claim, arguing that the standing order was not evidence of ordinary negligence, could not be used to establish the standard of care in a medical malpractice claim, and could not be admitted as evidence in support of a medical malpractice claim. The trial court granted plaintiff’s motion to amend and denied Shelby Nursing Center’s motion to dismiss. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that plaintiff’s proposed amended claim sounded in medical malpractice, rather than ordinary negligence. The Court of Appeals also concluded that the standing order could not be used to establish the standard of care for a medical malpractice claim and could not be admitted as evidence at trial. The Michigan Supreme Court concluded after review that plaintiff’s proposed amendment sounded in medical malpractice, and the standard of care in a medical malpractice action could not be established by the internal rules and regulations of the defendant medical provider. Those rules and regulations, however, might be admissible as evidence in determining the standard of care, provided that the jury is instructed that they do not constitute the standard of care. View "Estate of Corrado v. Rieck, et al." on Justia Law

by
Norman Champine brought an action against the Michigan Department of Transportation in the Court of Claims alleging that defendant had breached its duty to maintain I-696. Plaintiff was driving on I-696 in Macomb County when a large piece of concrete dislodged from the road and crashed through the windshield of his car, causing serious injuries. The Court of Claims granted summary judgment in favor of defendant on the basis that plaintiff had failed to provide proper notice under MCL 691.1404. The court reasoned that plaintiff’s separate notice to defendant was inadequate because it was not filed in the Court of Claims, the complaint itself could not serve as notice, and the complaint had not identified the exact location of the highway defect. Plaintiff appealed, and the Court of Appeals affirmed in an unpublished per curiam opinion, holding that the filing of a complaint could not satisfy the statutory notice requirements. The Court of Appeals declined to address whether plaintiff also failed to adequately describe the location of the incident, even assuming plaintiff’s complaint could serve as proper notice. The Michigan Supreme Court determined “notice” was not defined by MCL 691.1404, so courts were permitted to consider its plain meaning as well as its placement and purpose in the statutory scheme. "The plain meaning of the word 'notice' in the context of the statute indicates only that the governmental agency must be made aware of the injury and the defect. The statute does not require advance notice beyond the filing of the complaint, and the Court of Appeals erred by holding otherwise. Plaintiff properly gave notice by timely filing his complaint in the Court of Claims." Nonetheless, the case had to be remanded to the Court of Appeals for that Court to address whether the complaint adequately specified the exact location and nature of the defect as required by MCL 691.1404(1). View "Champine v. Department of Transportation" on Justia Law

by
Dean McMaster brought a negligence action against DTE Energy Company, Ferrous Processing and Trading Company (Ferrous), and DTE Electric Company (DTE), seeking compensation for injuries he sustained when a metal pipe fell out of a scrap container and struck him in the leg. DTE, the shipper, contracted with Ferrous to sell scrap metal generated by its business. DTE and Ferrous moved for summary judgment, and the trial court granted the motion as to DTE but denied the motion as to Ferrous. McMaster settled with Ferrous and appealed with regard to DTE. The Court of Appeals affirmed, reasoning that DTE did not have a duty to warn of or protect McMaster from a known danger, relying on the open and obvious danger doctrine. McMaster sought leave to appeal to the Michigan Supreme Court, and the Supreme Court peremptorily vacated Part III of the opinion and remanded the case to the Court of Appeals for consideration of DTE’s legal duty under the law of ordinary negligence. On remand, the Court of Appeals again affirmed the trial court, finding that the common-law duty of a shipper was abrogated by Michigan’s passage of MCL 480.11a, which adopted the federal motor carrier safety regulations as part of the Motor Carrier Safety Act (the MCSA). The Supreme Court disagreed, holding that the common-law duty of care owed by a shipper to a driver was not abrogated by MCL 480.11a. As an issue of first impression, the Court adopted the “shipper’s exception” or “Savage rule” to guide negligence questions involving participants in the trucking industry, as this rule was consistent with Michigan law. Applying this rule, the Supreme Court affirmed on alternate grounds, the grant of summary disposition to DTE Electric Company (DTE) because there existed no genuine issue of material fact that DTE did not breach its duty to plaintiff. View "McMaster v. DTE Energy Company" on Justia Law

by
Mecosta County Medical Center, d/b/a Spectrum Health Big Rapids (and others) sued Metropolitan Group Property and Casualty Insurance Company and State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company at the Kent Circuit Court, seeking personal protection insurance (PIP) benefits related to a single-car crash involving Jacob Myers. Myers co-owned the vehicle involved in the crash with his girlfriend; his girlfriend’s grandmother had purchased a no-fault insurance policy on the vehicle through Metropolitan Group. Myers assigned plaintiffs his right to collect PIP benefits in the amount of his treatment bills. After the assignment, Myers sued Metropolitan Group and State Farm at the Wayne Circuit Court for PIP benefits related to other costs arising from the crash. Plaintiffs sued defendants at the Kent Court to recover on the assigned claim. Defendants moved for summary judgment against Myers at the Wayne Court. State Farm argued that because Myers did not live with the State Farm policyholders he was not covered by their policy. Metropolitan Group asserted that Myers was not entitled to coverage because he did not personally maintain coverage on the vehicle. The Wayne Court granted both motions and dismissed Myers’s PIP claim with prejudice. Myers did not appeal. While defendants’ motions were pending with the Wayne Court, Metropolitan Group also moved for summary judgment at the Kent Court on the same basis as its motion in the Wayne Court. However, the Wayne Court granted defendants’ motions before the Kent Court considered Metropolitan Group’s motion. After the Wayne Court granted summary judgment for defendants, defendants filed additional motions for summary judgment at the Kent Court, arguing plaintiffs’ claims were barred under the doctrines of res judicata and collateral estoppel because the Wayne Court had concluded that Myers was ineligible for PIP benefits. The Kent Court granted the motion, holding that plaintiffs’ claims were barred by res judicata and collateral estoppel. Plaintiffs appealed, and the Court of Appeals reversed in a split, unpublished opinion. The appellate majority held that an assignee was not bound by a judgment against an assignor in an action commenced after the assignment occurred. The Michigan Supreme Court affirmed, finding that plaintiffs were not in privity with Myers with respect to the judgment entered subsequently to the assignment, and therefore, plaintiffs could not be bound by that judgment under the doctrines of res judicata and collateral estoppel. View "Mecosta County Medical Center v. Metropolitan Group Property, et al." on Justia Law

by
Plaintiff B. A. Tyler filed suit against David Findling; the Findling Law Firm, PLC; and Mekel Miller, alleging that David Findling published defamatory statements to attorney Anna Wright by telling her that plaintiff and plaintiff’s client (Samir Warda, for whose estate Findling had been appointed as a receiver) might have engaged in inappropriate or illegal activities. Findling made the allegedly defamatory statements to Wright, Warda’s attorney in a personal protection insurance (PIP) lawsuit, who recorded the conversation, in a room reserved for the plaintiffs’ side at the outset of a court-ordered mediation in the PIP matter. Wright subsequently shared this recording with plaintiff. Findling and his law firm (collectively, “defendants”) moved for summary judgment, and plaintiff responded with an affidavit by Wright. Defendants moved to strike Wright’s affidavit and to preclude her testimony at trial. The trial court granted the motion to strike under MCL 2.412(C), which governed the confidentiality of mediation communications, and granted defendants’ motion for summary judgment. Plaintiff’s motion to file an amended complaint was also denied. In an unpublished per curiam opinion, the Court of Appeals vacated the trial court’s order granting defendants’ motion to strike Wright’s affidavit and find her testimony inadmissible, reversed the order granting defendants summary judgment, affirmed the order denying plaintiff’s motion to amend his complaint, and remanded for further proceedings. The Michigan Supreme Court reversed the Court of Appeals in part, finding Findling's statements were indeed "mediation communications" under MCR 2.412(B)(2) and were therefore confidential under MCR 2.412(C). The Supreme Court also determined the appeals court erred in reversing the grant of summary judgment without which, plaintiff had no evidence to support the relevant defamation allegations. In all other respects, the appellate court's judgment was affirmed. View "Tyler v. Finding" on Justia Law

by
Kelly Bowman and her husband Vernon, brought a medical malpractice suit against St. John Hospital and Medical Center, Ascension Medical Group Michigan, and Tushar Parikh, M.D., alleging that Parikh erroneously advised Kelly Bowman that a growth in her breast was benign, on the basis of his interpretation of a 2013 mammogram. For the next two years, she felt the lump grow and sought follow-up care. In April 2015, she underwent a biopsy, which revealed “invasive ductal carcinoma with lobular features.” In May 2015, she was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer and underwent a double mastectomy, which revealed that the cancer had spread to a lymph node. In August 2016, soon after learning that the cancer had spread to her bone marrow, she sought a second opinion from a specialist and learned that the 2013 mammogram might have been misread. Defendants moved for summary judgment, contending the Bowmans' complaint was untimely under the applicable statute of limitations. The trial court denied the motion, and defendants appealed. The Court of Appeals reversed in a split decision. During the pendency of the proceedings, Kelly Bowman died, and her estate was substituted as plaintiff. The question for the Michigan Supreme Court's opinion was on whether Kelly Bowman "should have discovered the existence of [her claim] over six months before initiating proceedings. The Court answered, "no:" the record did not reveal Kelly Bowman should have known before June 2016 that her delayed diagnosis might have been caused by a misreading of the 2013 mammogram. "the available facts didn’t allow her to infer that causal relationship, and the defendants have not shown that Ms. Bowman wasn’t diligent. The present record does not allow us to conclude, as a matter of law, that Ms. Bowman sued over six months after she discovered or should have discovered the existence of her claim. And so we reverse the Court of Appeals’ judgment and remand to the trial court for further proceedings." View "Estate of Kelly Bowman v. St. John Hospital & Med. Ctr." on Justia Law

by
Plaintiff Esurance Property & Casualty Insurance Company (Esurance) paid personal injury protection (PIP) benefits to claimant, Roshaun Edwards (Edwards), pursuant to a no-fault automobile insurance policy, issued to another person, that was later declared void ab initio. Thereafter, Esurance filed this suit against defendants, the Michigan Assigned Claims Plan (MACP) and the Michigan Automobile Insurance Placement Facility (MAIPF), seeking reimbursement under a theory of equitable subrogation for the PIP benefits that Esurance had paid to Edwards under Michigan’s no-fault act before the policy was rescinded. The Michigan Supreme Court held that an insurer who erroneously pays PIP benefits could be reimbursed under a theory of equitable subrogation when the insurer was not in the order of priority and the payments were made pursuant to its arguable duty to pay to protect its own interests. On the facts alleged in this case, Esurance could stand in Edwards’s shoes and pursue a claim for equitable subrogation because it was not in the order of priority and also was not a “mere volunteer” under Michigan law when it paid Edwards’s PIP benefits. Accordingly, the Supreme Court reversed the decision of the Court of Appeals and remanded this case to that court for further proceedings. View "Esurance Prop. & Casualty Ins. Co. v. Michigan Assigned Claims Plan" on Justia Law

by
Two former employees of Michael Morse and his firm, Michael J. Morse, PC, sued Morse for workplace sexual harassment, including sexual assault, intentional infliction of emotional distress; negligence, gross negligence, and wanton and willful misconduct; and civil conspiracy. In both cases, the firm moved to dismiss and compel arbitration on the basis that both women signed the firm’s Mandatory Dispute Resolution Procedure agreement (MDRPA) prior to accepting employment with the firm. The trial court granted defendants' motion in each case, concluding that the arbitration agreement was valid and enforceable and that the claims were related to the employees' employment and therefore subject to arbitration. A majority of the Court of Appeals concluded that plaintiffs’ claims of sexual assault were not subject to arbitration because sexual assault was not “related to” plaintiffs’ employment. Further, the Court of Appeals stated that the fact that the alleged assaults would not have occurred but for plaintiffs’ employment with the firm did not provide a sufficient nexus between the terms of the arbitration agreement and the alleged sexual assaults. "Defendants noted certain facts that supported connections between plaintiffs’ claims and their employment, including that the alleged assaults occurred at work or work-related functions. But those facts did not necessarily make plaintiffs’ claims relative to employment; rather, the facts had to be evaluated under a standard that distinguished claims relative to employment from claims not relative to employment. This analysis prevents the absurdity of an arbitration clause that bars the parties from litigating any matter, regardless of how unrelated to the substance of the agreement, and it ensures that the mere existence of a contract does not mean that every dispute between the parties is arbitrable. Neither the circuit courts nor the Court of Appeals considered this standard when evaluating defendants’ motions to compel arbitration." Rather than apply this newly adopted approach in the first instance, the Michigan Supreme Court vacated the judgments of the Court of Appeals and remanded the cases to the circuit courts so that those courts could analyze defendants’ motions to compel arbitration by determining which of plaintiffs’ claims could be maintained without reference to the contract or employment relationship. View "Lichon v. Morse" on Justia Law