Michigan Court of Appeals; Docket #352441 Unpublished
Judges Murray, Fort Hood, and Rick; Per Curiam
Official Michigan Reporter Citation: Not Applicable; Link to Opinion
In this unanimous unpublished per curiam decision, the Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s summary disposition order dismissing Plaintiff Janet Hauanio’s first-party action against the Michigan Automobile Insurance Placement Facility (“MAIPF”), as well as the trial court’s denial of Hauanio’s motion to amend her complaint to substitute Farmers Insurance Exchange (“Farmers”) as a party in place of the MAIPF. The Court of Appeals held that Hauanio could not proceed with a direct action against the MAIPF because an injured person claiming benefits through the MAIPF can only sue the MAIPF for PIP benefits directly if it fails to assign his or her claim, and in this case, the MAIPF did not fail to assign Hauanio’s claim. Additionally, the Court held that Hauanio could not amend her complaint to substitute Farmers for the MAIPF because MCL 500.3174 requires that an injured person seeking benefits through the MAIPF commence an action against the assignee insurer within 30 days of assignment, and in this case, Hauanio failed to do so.
Hauanio was injured in a motor vehicle collision and subsequently sought no-fault PIP benefits from Progressive, believing that Progressive was the highest priority insurer responsible for paying her benefits. Presumably more than one year later (although this is unclear from the opinion), Hauanio discovered that Progressive was not, in fact, a priority insurer at all, and thus moved to amend her complaint to add the MAIPF as a defendant. In the amended complaint, Hauanio requested both that the trial court order the MAIPF to assign her claim and that the MAIPF pay her benefits directly. The MAIPF moved for summary disposition, arguing that it is not an insurer and therefore had no obligation to pay Hauanio’s benefits directly, and also that Hauanio failed to submit an application for benefits within one year of the subject collision, thereby barring assignment of her claim. The trial court granted the MAIPF’s motion with respect to the first issue, but denied the MAIPF’s motion with respect to the second, instead giving Hauanio one week to file her application. Hauanio then filed her application for benefits and the MAIPF assigned her claim to Farmers. The MAIPF then moved for summary disposition again, and Hauanio moved to amend her complaint to substitute Farmers for the MAIPF under MCR 2.202(B). The trial court denied her motion, because “[s]ubstitution under MCR 2.202(B) is appropriate only if there has been a transfer of interest between two parties, and no transfer of interest occurred” in this case, and also because any amendment to Hauanio’s complaint would not relate back to the original filing date of her lawsuit against the MAIPF, thereby rendering her claims against Farmers barred by the one-year-back rule. Ultimately, the trial court dismissed the case altogether because Hauanio had no more claims to pursue against the MAIPF.
The Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s dismissal, noting at the outset of its decision that Hauanio’s claim was governed by the version of the no-fault act in place before the 2019 amendments went into effect. This is because, as the Court confirmed, those amendments do not have a retroactive effect.
The Court then held, firstly, that a plaintiff can only pursue PIP benefits from the MAIPF directly if the MAIPF has failed to assign a claim to an insurer. In this case, the MAIPF did, in fact, assign Hauanio’s claim to an insurer, and thus Hauanio could not proceed with any direct action for PIP benefits against the MAIPF.
The Court of Appeals did not discuss the applicability of the one-year-back rule to Hauanio’s claims in its analysis, focusing instead on the fact that Hauanio did not comply with MCL 500.3174’s requirement that a plaintiff commence his or her action against an assigned insurer within 30 days of assignment. Due to this failure, Hauanio’s amendment would have been futile and the trial court, therefore, reached the correct result, albeit for a different reason.
"In this case, no cause of action or property interest belonging to MAIPF was at issue in the litigation below, and no interest was exchanged between MAIPF and Farmers. Although MAIPF designated Farmers as the servicing insurer for plaintiff’s claim, in doing so MAIPF did not actually transfer anything to Farmers; MAIPF simply directed plaintiff who to sue for PIP benefits. As such, because plaintiff failed to commence an action against Farmers within 30 days of receiving notice of assignment any action against Farmers would have been time barred. For that reason, her amendment would have been futile. Although the trial court concluded plaintiff’s motion to amend was futile for reasons different than our own, the trial court nonetheless reached the correct result. See Lewis v Farmers Ins Exch, 315 Mich App 202, 216; 888 NW2d 916 (2016) (noting that this Court will not reverse when the trial court reaches the correct result for an incorrect reasons)."