Michigan Court of Appeals; Docket #336479; Unpublished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In this unanimous unpublished per curiam opinion, the Court of Appeals vacated the judgment of the lower court and remanded the case because it found that Plaintiff Spectrum Health Hospitals (“Spectrum”) did not have standing to bring it case pursuant to Covenant Med Ctr, Inc v State Farm Mut Auto Ins Co, 500 Mich 191; 895 NW2d 490 (2017). The Court vacated and remanded because it found that a plaintiff that lacks standing raised no proper issue before any court.
Bolivar Gonzalez and Alice Nunn were injured in separate motor vehicle accidents and Spectrum provided medical care for both. Defendant Wolverine Mutual Insurance Company (“Wolverine”) provided no-fault benefits for both, but it did not pay Spectrum its charged amount. Subsequently, Spectrum brought an action to recover the balance it believed it was owed. After a jury trial, Spectrum was awarded the difference in the balance owed. Spectrum then moved for no-fault attorney fees. The trial court granted Spectrum attorney fees and Wolverine appealed. While on appeal the Michigan Supreme Court decided Covenant and abolished the independent statutory cause of action for medical providers. The Court of Appeals subsequently decided that Covenant applied to cases on appeal.
The Court of Appeals found that the judgment of the lower court was vacated and it remanded the case. The Court reasoned that Spectrum brought its action as an independent statutory action and under Covenant it did not have standing to bring such an action. Wolverine requested that the Court grant it summary disposition, but it refused to do so because it found that the there was no issue before the Court and the Court would not issue an advisory opinion. The Court thus remanded the case down to the trial court for further proceedings.
“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.’ In re Beatrice Rottenberg Living Trust, 300 Mich App 339, 355; 833 NW2d 384 (2013), citing Miller, 481 Mich at 608–612; see also Maki Estate v Coen, 318 Mich App 532, 539 n 1; 899 NW2d 111 (2017) (“Statutory standing is a jurisdictional principle . . .”). This is similar or akin to subject-matter jurisdiction, and jurisdiction to hear and determine a case cannot be conferred by consent, waiver, or estoppel. In re AMB, 248 Mich App 144, 166; 640 NW2d 262 (2001)”
The Court thus vacated the judgment of the lower court and remanded it for further proceedings.