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Estate of Donald Miller v. Allstate Fire and Cas. Ins. Co. (COA - UNP 12/22/2020; RB # 4198)

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Michigan Court of Appeals; Docket # 348341; Unpublished
Judges Swartzle, Beckering, and Gleicher; per curiam
Official Michigan Reporter Citation: Not Applicable; Link to Opinion


STATUTORY INDEXING:
Priority Rules for Payment of PPI Benefits [§500.3125]

TOPICAL INDEXING:
Michigan Auto Insurance Placement Facility (MAIPF – MCL 500.3301, Et Seq.)


SUMMARY:
In this unanimous unpublished per curiam opinion, the Court of Appeals affirmed the holding of the trial court granting Defendant Nationwide’s motion for summary disposition denying liability on the basis that a higher-priority insurer existed because Plaintiff’s personal protection insurance was identifiable before he filed a claim for no-fault benefits through the Michigan Assigned Claims Plan (Now, Michigan Automobile Insurance Placement Facility).

This case arose from an accident involving a bicycle and a car in which Donald Miller, the bicyclist was injured. Following the accident, Donald Miller filed an application with the Michigan Assigned Claims Plan (MACP), who assigned Miller’s claim to Defendant Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company (Nationwide). Subsequently, Miller filed a complaint against Defendant Nationwide and Defendant Allstate Fire and Casualty Company (Allstate), the insurer of the driver who struck him. Both Defendants filed motions for summary disposition with Defendant Allstate asserting an affirmative defense that Miller had failed to notify Defendant Allstate about the accident within one year of its occurrence under MCL 500.3145 and Defendant Nationwide denying liability on the basis that a higher-priority insurer (Allstate) existed. With respect to Defendant Nationwide’s motion, Miller argued that application for no-fault benefits through the MACP was permissible because Miller had been “unable to identify any applicable personal protection insurance after the accident.” The trial court ultimately granted summary disposition for Defendant Nationwide on this issue. Specifically, the trial court “found that there was no genuine issue of material fact that Allstate was a higher-priority insurer” and concluded that Miller was “precluded from claiming PIP benefits through the MACP.”

On appeal, Miller argued that the trial court erred in granting summary disposition to Defendant Nationwide because he “exercised due diligence in attempting to locate a higher-priority insurer before submitting his claim to the MACP, but no such insurer could be identified.”  In light of the evidence before it, the Michigan Court of Appeals disagreed. Specifically, the Court turned to Miller’s deposition which indicated Miller had exchanged information with the driver of the vehicle who struck him at the scene, and had “obtained her full name, address, telephone number, driver’s license number, and the year, make, model, color, license plate number, and VIN number of her car.” The Court further noted that in a subsequent call to the driver following the accident, and well before he filed his application with the MACP, Miller had learned that the driver was insured and who her insurer was. Thus, the Court concluded, “[a]t the very least, he possessed substantial information that he could have used to identify her insurer.”

The Court further found Miller’s argument that the Court’s decision in Spencer v. Citizens Ins. Co., 239 Mich. App. 291; 608 N.W.2d 113 (2000) should apply to the facts of this case to be unpersuasive. In Spencer, the plaintiff sought benefits from the MACP after a hit and run and the MACP assigned the claim to Citizens – who stopped paying no-fault benefits when it learned the plaintiff had identified and sued the driver of the vehicle and reached a third-party claim settlement with the driver’s insurer. The plaintiff brought suit when the trial court held that Citizens was no longer required to pay the plaintiff’s PIP-benefits in light of the existence of a higher-priority insurer. The Spencer court was thus tasked with determining “whether any provision of the no-fault act permits the assigned claim insurer to cease paying assigned-claim benefits in the event it subsequently discovers a higher-priority insurer,” and found there to be no such provision. However, the Court in this case distinguished that, here, Defendant Nationwide “neither refused to pay nor paid any no-fault benefits to plaintiff; Nationwide was still at its initial investigatory stage when it discovered that Allstate was the higher-priority insurer.” Further, unlike the plaintiff in Spencer, the Plaintiff in the case at bar “immediately learned who struck him” and “possessed information form which he could have identified applicable personal protection insurance.” Thus, the Court concluded that “[b]ecause a higher-priority insurer was readily identifiable at the time plaintiff filed his claim for no-fault benefits with the MACP, the trial court did not err in granting summary disposition to Nationwide.”

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