Michigan Court of Appeals; Docket # 329420; Unpublished
Judges Riordan, Fort Hood and Servitto; Unanimous, Per Curiam (Judge Servitto concurring in the result only)
Official Michigan Reporter Citation: Not Applicable; Link to Opinion
Concur in result only
In this unanimous unpublished per curiam Opinion, the Court of Appeals held that summary disposition was properly granted for defendant-insurer on plaintiff-medical transportation provider’s claim for PIP benefits because plaintiff was not permitted to aggregate its individual claims to satisfy the $25,000 minimum jurisdictional requirement for circuit court actions.
Plaintiff filed a complaint against defendant in circuit court, asserting that defendant failed to pay PIP benefits for the medical transportation services it provided for 14 individuals. Defendant filed a motion for summary disposition, claiming the trial court lacked subject-matter jurisdiction because plaintiff could not aggregate the 14 separate PIP claims to meet the $25,000 amount in controversy requirement for circuit court claims. The trial court granted defendant’s motion for summary disposition. On appeal, plaintiff argued that its individual claims, none of which exceeded $25,000, could be joined to satisfy the jurisdictional minimum.
The Court of Appeals disagreed with plaintiff and affirmed the trial court’s ruling.
In so holding, the Court pointed out that, in its first amended complaint, plaintiff asked the trial court to enter judgment in its favor for an amount greater than $25,000, plus penalties, interest and attorney fees. “Plaintiff listed the 14 individuals for whom it had provided medical transportation services, and the financial loss it suffered with regard to each individual as a result of defendant’s failure to tender PIP benefits,” the Court observed.
The Court then explained that both parties supported their arguments by citing Boyd v Nelson Credit Ctrs Inc, 132 Mich App 774 (1984), and Moody v Home Owners Ins Co, 304 Mich App 415 (2014), rev’d on other grounds by Hodge v State Farm Mut Auto Ins Co, 499 Mich 211 (2016). In Hodge, the Michigan Supreme Court held that, when determining subject-matter jurisdiction, the jurisdictional amount is determined on the face of the pleadings, but the Hodge Court did not address the scenario presented in this case, where a plaintiff attempts to aggregate the PIP claims of multiple individuals in an effort to satisfy the $25,000 amount-in-controversy requirement for circuit court actions.
In Boyd, an action by multiple plaintiffs against a single defendant, the Court held that in an action that is not a class action, the individual claims of multiple plaintiffs could not be aggregated to “establish the jurisdictional minimum for circuit court.”
In Moody, the plaintiff filed a suit for no-fault benefits in district court asserting damages that did not exceed $25,000. The district court consolidated the plaintiff’s case with a case filed by three of his service providers. On appeal, the Court held that the district could look beyond the pleadings to determine the amount in controversy. The plaintiff’s answers to discovery and the evidence at trial demonstrated that the amount in controversy exceeded $25,000. Therefore, the district court lacked subject matter jurisdiction over the plaintiff’s claim. The Moody Court also rejected the provider’s assertion that their claims could be saved, and heard in district court, if severed from the plaintiff’s case. The Court reasoned that the providers’ claims actually belonged to the plaintiff. Therefore, there was such an identity between the claims of the providers’ and the plaintiff that the consolidation for trial resulted in merging the claims for the purpose determining the amount in controversy.
The Court of Appeals in the instant case said it was “clear” the Moody Court’s determination that Moody and the providers’ claims were merged for purposes of determining the district court’s jurisdiction “was premised on the particular facts of that case, where the cases had already been consolidated for trial.” In addition, the Court said the Moody Court’s determination that the general rule in Boyd precluding the merger of multiple plaintiffs’ claims to meet the circuit court’s jurisdiction requirement was also grounded in the specific facts of Moody, specifically, where the multiple providers’ claims arose from the injuries sustained by one person and were consolidated for trial with the claim of the injured person.
The Court determined that the instant case was more like Boyd. The Court of Appeals concluded that plaintiff was “essentially attempting to subvert the rule first articulated by this Court in Boyd.” Therefore, “we conclude that plaintiff’s attempt to bring its claims within the circuit court’s jurisdiction by aggregating the claims of several individuals is not permissible.”