Michigan Court of Appeals; Docket #336221 and #336257; Unpublished
Judges Murphy, O’Connell, and Kelly; per Curiam
Official Michigan Reporter Citation: Not Applicable; Link to Opinion
Medical Provider Standing (Post-Covenant)
In this unanimous unpublished per curiam opinion, the Court of Appeals vacated the circuit court’s orders and remanded the cases for further hearing because Plaintiff Bronson Health Care Group (“Bronson”) lacked standing in the cases. The Court found that after the Michigan Supreme Court’s ruling in Covenant Med Ctr, Inc v State Farm Mut Auto Ins Co, 500 Mich 191; 895 NW2d 490 (2017) medical providers lacked independent statutory causes of action against no-fault insurers and because of this Bronson lacked standing to bring any action against Defendant Farm Bureau Mutual Insurance Company (“Farm Bureau”).
The two cases on appeal came out of a dispute of the reasonableness of charges. In the Courtney case, Ashley Courtney sustained injuries in a motor vehicle accident and Bronson provided services to her. Farm Bureau disputed the reasonableness of the charges made by Bronson and so it refused to pay the full amount request. Bronson brought an action to compel payment. In the Lamson case, Luke Lamson sustained injuries in a motor vehicle accident and Bronson treated him for those injuries. Bronson submitted a bill for reimbursement from Farm Bureau, which disputed the reasonableness of the charges and refused to pay the full amount. Bronson filed a complaint to compel payment. While both cases were on appeal the Michigan Supreme Court decided Covenant. Subsequently, the Court of Appeals determined that Covenant applied retroactively to cases on appeal.
The Court of Appeals reasoned that the cases must be remanded because Bronson lacked standing in both cases. The Court explained that pursuant to Covenant Bronson lacked standing as a medical provider bringing an issue as an independent statutory claim. Moreover, the Court explained that when a party lacks standing, it is like the case never occurred at all. Therefore, there was no issue before the Court. The Court explained that it does not issue advisory opinions and because there was no issue before it, it had to vacate the orders of the circuit court and remand the case to see if Bronson could establish standing.
“The fact remains that under Covenant and its progeny, Bronson did not have a statutory right to bring these actions in the first place. “[A] determination that a plaintiff lacks statutory standing to assert a cause of action is essentially the equivalent of concluding that a plaintiff cannot bring any action in reaction to an alleged legal violation.” Miller v Allstate Ins Co, 481 Mich 601, 609; 751 NW2d 463 (2008). ‘The principle of statutory standing is jurisdictional; if a party lacks statutory standing, then the court generally lacks jurisdiction to entertain the proceeding or reach the merits.’”
Thus, the Court vacated the orders and remanded the cases for further proceedings.