Articles Posted in Michigan Supreme Court

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Audrey Trowell filed an action against Providence Hospital and Medical Centers, Inc., after she sustained injuries while she was hospitalized. At issue in this case was whether plaintiff’s claims sounded in medical malpractice or ordinary negligence. If her claims implicated medical malpractice, then they were barred by the two-year statute of limitations applicable to medical malpractice actions and defendant was entitled to summary judgment under MCR 2.116(C)(7). If her claims sounded in ordinary negligence, then they were timely. The Court of Appeals couldn't tell based solely on the basis of the allegations in the complaint, so it remanded for an evidentiary hearing to determine whether plaintiff’s claims were in medical malpractice, ordinary negligence, or both. The Michigan Supreme Court disagreed with this approach, holding that under the facts of this case, in which the only material submitted to the trial court was plaintiff’s complaint, the remand was improper and in determining the nature of plaintiff’s claims, the lower courts’ review was limited to the complaint alone. A proper review of the allegations in plaintiff’s complaint lead the Supreme Court to conclude that although the complaint included some claims of medical malpractice, it also contains one claim of ordinary negligence. The case was remanded to proceed on the ordinary negligence claims. View "Trowell v. Providence Hospital & Medical Centers, Inc." on Justia Law

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Kenneth Bertin brought an action against Douglas Mann alleging that Mann was negligent in operating a golf cart when he hit Bertin with the cart while the parties were playing a round of golf. The parties offered differing accounts of how the accident occurred. Bertin alleged that he had parked the cart and begun walking to his ball when he was suddenly struck by the cart driven by Mann, at which point Bertin fell to the ground and was hit a second time with the cart. Mann alleged that when he began accelerating, Bertin stepped in front of the cart and was hit. At issue in this case was whether getting hit by a golf cart is an inherent risk of golfing. If so, then Mann owed a duty only to refrain from reckless misconduct, but could not be held liable for negligent conduct. If not, then Mann would be held to the negligence standard of conduct. "The question boils down to how we determine which risks in a recreational activity are inherent, such that the reckless standard of conduct applies." The Court of Appeals answered this question by meditating upon golf’s essence and discerning that golf carts are not within the essence of the sport. The Michigan Supreme Court declined to endorse this philosophical mode of analysis. Instead, the Court held when determining whether a risk is inherent in a recreational activity for purposes of establishing the relevant standard of conduct, the fact-finder should ask whether the risk was reasonably foreseeable. Because the courts below did not apply this test, the Court reversed the appellate court's judgment and remanded the case to the trial court for consideration of this issue. View "Bertin v. Mann" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Ali Bazzi, was injured while driving a vehicle owned by his mother, third-party defendant Hala Baydoun Bazzi, and insured by defendant Sentinel Insurance Company (Sentinel). Plaintiff sued Sentinel for mandatory personal protection insurance (PIP) benefits under Michigan’s no-fault act, and Sentinel sought and obtained a default judgment rescinding the insurance policy on the basis of fraud. The issue this case presented for the Michigan Supreme Court was whether the judicially created innocent-third-party rule, which precludes an insurer from rescinding an insurance policy procured through fraud when there is a claim involving an innocent third party, survived its decision in Titan Ins Co v. Hyten, 817 NW2d 562 (2012), which abrogated the judicially created easily-ascertainable-fraud rule. The Supreme Court held "Titan" abrogated the innocent-third-party rule but that the Court of Appeals erred when it concluded that Sentinel was automatically entitled to rescission in this instance. Accordingly, the Court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded to the trial court to consider whether, in its discretion, rescission was an available remedy. View "Bazzi v. Sentinel Ins. Co." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff David McQueer brought a negligence action against his employer, Perfect Fence Company, to recover damages after he was injured on the job. Perfect Fence moved for summary judgment on the ground that the exclusive-remedy provision of the Worker’s Disability Compensation Act (WDCA), MCL 418.101 et seq., barred plaintiff’s action. Plaintiff responded that his action was not barred because defendant had violated MCL 418.611 by failing to procure workers’ compensation coverage for him and had violated MCL 418.171 by encouraging him to pose as a nonemployee. Plaintiff additionally moved to amend his complaint to add claims of intentional tort and breach of an employment contract. Plaintiff argued that the evidence raised a question of fact about whether defendant intended to injure him in a way that brought plaintiff’s claim within the scope of the intentional tort exception to the exclusive-remedy provision of the WDCA. The trial court granted Perfect Fence’s motion, concluding that the company had not violated MCL 418.611 because defendant had provided workers’ compensation coverage. The court also ruled that MCL 418.171 was not applicable to plaintiff’s claims. The court denied plaintiff’s motion to amend his complaint, concluding that amendment would be futile because the undisputed facts did not demonstrate that defendant intended to injure plaintiff. Plaintiff appealed. The Court of Appeals reversed the trial court’s grant of summary judgment and denial of plaintiff’s motion to amend his complaint in an unpublished per curiam opinion. The panel agreed with the trial court that defendant had not violated MCL 418.611, but concluded that plaintiff had established a question of fact regarding whether defendant had improperly encouraged him to pose as a contractor for the purpose of evading liability under WDCA in violation of MCL 418.171(4). The panel also concluded that because plaintiff had presented sufficient evidence to create a question of fact regarding whether an intentional tort had occurred, the trial court abused its discretion by not allowing plaintiff to amend his complaint. The Michigan Supreme Court held MCL 418.171 did not apply in this case: because plaintiff was not the employee of a contractor engaged by defendant, he had no cause of action under MCL 418.171. For this reason, the Court reversed the Court of Appeals judgment only as to whether MCL 418.171 applied. View "McQueer v. Perfect Fence Company" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs Steven and Jane Iliades brought a products-liability action against Dieffenbacher North America Inc., alleging negligence, gross negligence, and breach of warranty after plaintiff was injured by a rubber molding press defendant manufactured. Plaintiff was injured when he attempted to retrieve parts that had fallen to the floor inside the press by reaching behind the light curtain without first placing the press into manual mode. Because of plaintiff’s position behind the light curtain, the light curtain was not interrupted, the press resumed its automatic operation, and plaintiff was trapped between the two plates of the press. The trial court granted summary disposition to defendant, ruling that plaintiff had misused the press given the evidence that he had been trained not to reach into the press while it was in automatic mode, knew how to place the press into manual mode, knew that the light curtain was not meant to be used as an emergency stop switch, and knew that the press would automatically begin its cycle if the light curtain was no longer interrupted. The court further ruled that plaintiff’s misuse was not reasonably foreseeable because plaintiff had not presented any evidence that defendant could have foreseen that a trained press operator would crawl beyond a light curtain and partially inside a press to retrieve a part without first disengaging the press. The Court of Appeals reversed and remanded in an unpublished per curiam opinion, holding that, regardless of whether plaintiff had misused the press, defendant could be held liable because plaintiff’s conduct was reasonably foreseeable. The Michigan Supreme Court determined that whether the misuse was reasonably foreseeable depended on whether defendant knew or should have known of the misuse, not on whether plaintiff was grossly negligent in operating the press. Because the majority of the Court of Appeals did not decide whether and how plaintiff misused the press, and because it did not apply the common-law meaning of reasonable foreseeability, the Supreme Court reversed the Court of Appeals and remanded for reconsideration of summary judgment entered in defendant’s favor. View "Iliades v. Dieffenbacher North America, Inc." on Justia Law

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At issue before the Michigan Supreme Court in this case is whether plaintiff, arguing that venue was improper, could avail herself of MCR 2.223(A), which permitted a court to order a venue change “on timely motion of a defendant,” MCR 2.223(A)(1), or on the court’s “own initiative,” MCR 2.223(A)(2). This case arose out of a fatal automobile accident in Lake County between defendant Rodney Hall and decedent James Armour II. Plaintiff Joanne Dawley, Armour’s spouse, sued Hall in Wayne County in August 2014. Defendant moved to transfer venue to Mason County or Lake County, alleging among other things that he conducted business in Mason County by owning and operating Barothy Lodge. The Wayne Circuit Court granted the motion and transferred venue to Mason County in March 2015. Ten months later, plaintiff moved under MCR 2.223 to change venue back to Wayne County, alleging that discovery had revealed that defendant did not, in fact, own the resort in his name; he was merely a member of Hall Investments, LLC, which owned the resort. Therefore, according to plaintiff, venue in Mason County was improper because defendant did not conduct business there. The trial court disagreed, but the Court of Appeals reversed and remanded for transfer of venue to Wayne County. Defendant appealed to the Supreme Court, arguing among other things that MCR 2.223 did not permit a plaintiff to move for transfer of venue. The Supreme Court found that because plaintiff’s motion was neither a motion by defendant nor an action on the court’s “own initiative,” it held plaintiff could not file a motion for a change of venue under MCR 2.223(A). Accordingly, the Court vacated the Court of Appeals’ decision ordering transfer of venue. View "Estate of James Armour II v. Hall" on Justia Law

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Michael and Jacqueline Ray, acting as coconservators for their minor child, Kersch Ray, filed an action against Eric Swager, Scott Platt, and others, in part alleging that Swager was liable for the injuries suffered by Kersch when Kersch was struck by an automobile driven by Platt. Kersch was thirteen years old and a member of the Chelsea High School cross-country team at the time of the accident; Swager was the coach of the team and a teacher at the high school. Kersch was struck by the car driven by Platt when Kersch was running across an intersection with his teammates and Swager during an early morning team practice. Plaintiffs alleged that Swager had instructed the runners to cross the road even though the “Do Not Walk” symbol was illuminated. Swager moved for summary judgment, arguing that as a governmental employee he was entitled to immunity from liability. The trial court denied Swager’s motion, concluding that whether Swager’s actions were grossly negligent and whether he was the proximate cause of Kersch’s injuries (and therefore not entitled to immunity under the GTLA) were questions of fact for the jury to decide. Plaintiffs appealed. In an unpublished per curiam opinion, the Court of Appeals reversed and remanded, reasoning Swager was immune from liability under MCL 691.1407(2) because reasonable minds could not conclude that Swager was the proximate cause of Kersch’s injuries; rather, Platt’s presence in the roadway and Kersch’s own actions were the immediate and direct causes of Kersch’s injuries, and the most proximate cause of Kersch’s injuries was being struck by a moving vehicle. Plaintiffs appealed. The Michigan Supreme Court concluded the Court of Appeals incorrectly analyzed proximate cause under the Governmental Tort Liability Act, reversed and remanded for further proceedings. View "Ray v. Swager" on Justia Law

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Only two sections of the Michigan no-fault act mention healthcare providers, MCL 500.3157 and MCL 500.3158, and neither of those sections confers on a healthcare provider a right to sue for reimbursement of the costs of providing medical care to an injured person. Although MCL 500.3112 allows no-fault insurers to directly pay PIP benefits to a healthcare provider for expenses incurred by an insured, MCL 500.3112 does not entitle a healthcare provider to bring a direct action against an insurer for payment of PIP benefits. Covenant Medical Center, Inc., brought suit against State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company to recover payment under the no-fault act for medical services provided to State Farm’s insured, Jack Stockford, following an automobile accident in which Stockford was injured. State Farm denied payment. In the meantime, Stockford had filed suit against State Farm for no-fault benefits, including personal protection insurance (PIP) benefits. Without Covenant’s knowledge, Stockford and State Farm settled Stockford’s claim for $59,000 shortly before Covenant initiated its action against State Farm. As part of the settlement, Stockford released State Farm from liability for all allowable no-fault expenses and any claims accrued through January 10, 2013. State Farm moved for summary judgment under MCR 2.116(C)(7) (dismissal due to release) and MCR 2.116(C)(8) (failure to state a claim). The trial court granted State Farm’s motion under MCR 2.116(C)(7), explaining that Covenant’s claim was dependent on State Farm’s obligation to pay no-fault benefits to Stockford, an obligation that was extinguished by the settlement between Stockford and State Farm. View "Covenant Medical Center, Inc. v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Ins. Co." on Justia Law

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In 2004, George and Thelma Nickola, were injured in a car accident. The driver of the other car was insured with a no-fault insurance policy provided the minimum liability coverage allowed by law: $20,000 per person, up to $40,000 per accident. The Nickolas’ (acting through their attorney) wrote to their insurer, defendant MIC General Insurance Company, explaining that the no-fault liability insurance policy was insufficient to cover the Nickolas' injuries. The letter also advised MIC that the Nickolas were claiming UIM benefits under their automobile policy. The Nickolas’ policy provided for UIM limits of $100,000 per person, up to $300,000 per accident, and they sought payment of UIM benefits in the amount of $160,000; $80,000 for each insured. An adjuster for defendant MIC denied the claim, asserting that the Nickolas could not establish a threshold injury for noneconomic tort recovery. The matter was ultimately ordered to arbitration, the outcome of which resulted in an award of $80,000 for George’s injuries and $33,000 for Thelma’s. The award specified that the amounts were “inclusive of interest, if any, as an element of damage from the date of injury to the date of suit, but not inclusive of other interest, fees or costs that may otherwise be allowable.” The trial court affirmed the arbitration awards but declined to award penalty interest under the UTPA, finding that penalty interest did not apply because the UIM claim was “reasonably in dispute” for purposes of MCL 500.2006(4). The Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court, holding that the “reasonably in dispute” language applied to plaintiff’s UIM claim because a UIM claim “essentially” places the insured in the shoes of a third-party claimant. The Michigan Supreme Court held that an insured making a claim under his or her own insurance policy for UIM benefits cannot be considered a “third party tort claimant” under MCL 500.2006(4). The Court reversed the Court of Appeals denying plaintiff penalty interest under the UTPA, and remanded this case back to the trial court for further proceedings. View "Estate of Nickola v MIC General Ins. Co." on Justia Law

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On a snowy night, plaintiff Krystal Lowrey went with friends to defendant Woody’s Diner for drinks to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. While exiting the diner, she fell on the stairs and injured herself. She brought this premises liability action, and the trial court granted summary disposition in defendant’s favor. The Court of Appeals subsequently reversed, concluding that defendant had failed to establish that it lacked notice of the hazardous condition alleged in the complaint, reasoning that defendant had not presented evidence of what a reasonable inspection would have entailed under the circumstances. After its review, the Michigan Supreme Court concluded that in order to obtain summary judgment under MCR 2.116(C)(10), defendant was not required to present proof that it lacked notice of the hazardous condition, but needed only to show that plaintiff presented insufficient proof to establish the notice element of her claim. The Court concluded defendant met its burden because plaintiff failed to establish a question of fact as to whether defendant had notice of the hazardous condition. Accordingly, the Court reversed the Court of Appeals regarding defendant’s notice, reinstated the trial court’s order granting summary judgment in favor of defendant on that issue, and vacated the remainder of the Court of Appeals’ opinion. View "Lowrey v. LMPS & LMPJ, Inc." on Justia Law