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Melrose v. Nationwide Mut. Ins. Co., et al. (COA – UNP 10/22/2020; RB #4169)

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Michigan Court of Appeals; Docket # 352843; Unpublished
Judges Stephens, Sawyer, and Beckering; Per Curiam
Official Michigan Reporter Citation: Not Applicable; Link to Opinion


STATUTORY INDEXING:
Not Applicable

TOPICAL INDEXING:
Injunctive and Equitable Relief in PIP Cases


SUMMARY:
In this unanimous unpublished per curiam decision, the Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s grant of a preliminary injunction which maintained the status quo of the payment of the plaintiff’s no-fault PIP benefits until the parties’ dispute over whether to reduce the amount of such benefits was resolved. 

Bethany Melrose was seriously injured in a motor vehicle collision and suffered serious cognitive deficits and disorders as a result.  Her doctor of more than 34 years prescribed various services, including physical therapy twice per week, “high-tech aide care” at least 12 hours per day, and occupational therapy at least six to ten hours per week.  Defendant Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company had its own doctor conduct an examination of Melrose approximately 35 years after the collision, and Nationwide’s doctor opined that the plaintiff did not require attendant care services, or “high-tech aide care,” and that her physical therapy and occupational therapy could be reduced.  Nationwide then notified Melrose that it would be reducing her benefits, including the rate it was willing to pay for the services she received, prompting Melrose to file the underling first-party action.  While the case was pending before the trial court, Melrose sought a preliminary injunction to keep her benefits at their preexisting levels until the dispute was resolved.  The trial court granted a preliminary injunction, finding Melrose “likely to prevail” and finding “that she would suffer irreparable injury if the injunction was not granted.”

The Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s grant of a preliminary injunction, relying on the factors to be considered before granting a preliminary injunction set forth in Alliance for Mentally Ill of Michigan v Dep’t of Community Health, 231 Mich App 647 (1998):

(1) the likelihood that the party seeking the injunction will prevail on the merits, (2) the danger that the party seeking the injunction will suffer irreparable harm if the injunction is not issued, (3) the risk that the party seeking the injunction would be harmed more by the absence of an injunction than the opposing party would be by the granting of the relief, and (4) the harm to the public interest if the injunction is issued.

As to the first factor, the Court of Appeals was “not convinced that the trial court’s conclusion that plaintiff would likely succeed on the merits was a mistake because plaintiff presented extensive evidence that her care was necessary to preserve her health and well-being and that reducing her care would endanger her or cause her health to decline.”  As to the second factor, the Court of Appeals determined “that plaintiff would likely be unable to continue the services at her current level if defendant reduced the amount it was paying for those services, which plaintiff’s providers have opined would result in harm.”  As to the third factor, the Court weighted the potential harm to plaintiff’s physical safety as greater than the potential financial loss that Nationwide would suffer if it had to pay at preexisting rates and was ultimately found to be entitled to a reduction in those rates.  And, as to the fourth factor, “the trial court found that public interests supported not denying plaintiff a continuation of those services based upon market serveys.”

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