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Dodd, et al v Allstate Fire and Cas Ins Co (COA – UNP 12/16/2021; RB #4364)  

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Michigan Court of Appeals; Docket #355066; Unpublished  
Judges Sawyer, Riordan, and Redford; Per Curiam 
Official Michigan Reporter Citation: Not Applicable; Link to Opinion


STATUTORY INDEXING: 
Entitlement to Benefits for Out of State Accidents (§3111)
Duplicate Recovery [§3109a]

TOPICAL INDEXING: 
Interpretation of Insurance Contracts


SUMMARY: 
In this unanimous unpublished per curiam decision, the Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s summary disposition order regarding certain aspects of Plaintiffs Donna Dodd’s and Kelly Oliver’s claims for no-fault benefits from Defendant Allstate Fire and Casualty Insurance Company (“Allstate”) arising out of injuries the two sustained while occupying a motorcycle that struck a motor vehicle in Ohio.  The Court of Appeals held that, under the terms of Oliver’s no-fault policy, Oliver and Dodd could not “double dip,” or receive duplicate payments for the same medical expenses, from both their health insurers and Allstate.  The Court of Appeals further held that, under the plain language of MCL 500.3111, Dodd could recover no-fault benefits under Oliver’s Allstate policy because the motorcycle constituted a “vehicle” for purposes of entitlement under that statutory subsection.

Dodd and Oliver sustained injuries in Ohio when the motorcycle they were traveling on crashed into a motor vehicle in front of them.  Oliver owned the motorcycle and maintained a policy of Michigan no-fault insurance through Allstate.  Oliver apparently did not have her own no-fault insurance coverage and sought no-fault benefits under Dodd’s policy. 

After the crash, Dodd and Oliver received considerable medical treatment, some of which was paid by their health insurance.  Dodd and Oliver then submitted claims for the expenses that were already paid by their health insurance to Allstate, arguing that Oliver’s policy was uncoordinated and allowed them to “double dip.”  Allstate disagreed and denied the claims, citing to a “nonduplication of payments provision” in Oliver’s policy, which provided, in pertinent part:

“Oliver’s no-fault insurance policy specified the following nonduplicate payment provision: 

Regardless of the number of motor vehicles insured, or the number of insurers or self-insurers providing security under the provisions of Chapter 31 of the Michigan Insurance Code, or the provisions of any other law providing for no-fault benefits for motor vehicle accidents, no person may recover duplicate benefits for the same expenses or loss. 

If the injured person is entitled to recover benefits under more than one policy, the maximum recovery under all policies will not exceed the amount payable under the provisions of the policy providing the highest dollar limit.”

In Dodd and Oliver’s subsequent first-party lawsuit against Allstate, the parties disagreed as to the scope of the above provision.  Allstate argued that, under the plain language of the provision, Dodd and Oliver were precluded from receiving a “double dip.”  Dodd and Oliver argued, conversely, that the provision at issue only barred them from receiving duplicate payments in PIP benefits for the same loss, but that, since they were seeking to “double dip” under their health insurance and Oliver’s no-fault policy, the provision did not apply.  The trial court ultimately agreed with Allstate and granted its motion for summary disposition.

The Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s summary disposition order, holding that there was nothing about the “nonduplication of payments provision” to limit its scope to only PIP benefits.  The Court further rejected Dodd and Oliver’s reliance on Haefele v Meijer, Inc, 165 Mich App 485 (1985), because, in Haefele, the policy at issue did have language in a similar “nonduplication of payments provision” which limited its scope to only bar double recoveries under like policies.

“Contrary to plaintiffs’ arguments, nothing in the provision limits the nonduplication requirement exclusively to PIP benefits. The prefatory language that begins the provision does not, as plaintiffs suggest, entitle them to duplicate payments so long as the benefits are not PIP benefits. The plain language of the policy stated that ‘no person may recover duplicate payments,’ regardless of the number of vehicles insured or number of no-fault insurers. The policy’s language does not limit defendant’s ability to deny payment for a benefit that had been already paid and we decline to read into the policy such limitation. 

Plaintiffs contend that Haefele v Meijer, Inc, 165 Mich App 485; 418 NW2d 900 (1987), supports their interpretation that the nonduplication provision does not prevent them from double recovery. In that case, the plaintiff already received benefits under an uncoordinated automobile insurance policy for damages suffered as a result of a motor vehicle accident and sought duplicate payment from her health insurer. Haefele, 165 Mich App at 488-489. This Court reversed the trial court’s order granting summary disposition in favor of the defendants, reasoning that the coordination of coverage provision in the health insurance policy’s plain language limitation only applied to other ‘group health plans’ and not privately purchased automobile insurance. Id. at 498-499. 

Contrary to plaintiffs’ arguments, Haefele is inapposite. The relevant provision in that case had been ‘apparently directed only toward other ‘group health plans.’ ’ Id. at 498. In contrast, the nonduplication provision in defendant’s policy in this case lacks such similar limitation. The policy prevents any duplicate payments for the same loss, regardless of the other insurance obtained by the insured. Without limitation, defendant’s policy caps recovery to ‘the amount payable under the provisions of the policy providing the highest dollar limit.’ ” 

Notably, the Court also rejected Dodd and Oliver’s argument that they had a right under MCL 500.3109a to recover duplicate payments of the no-fault benefits at issue.  The Court emphasized that Dodd and Oliver did not plead this as the basis of their right to recover duplicate payments.  Furthermore, the Court noted that, even if they had plead MCL 500.3109a as the basis of their right to recover duplicate payments, there is mothing in the plain language of MCL 500.3109a that confers such a right.  

Additionally, the Court of Appeals rejected Allstate’s argument on appeal: that Dodd was barred from recovering PIP benefits altogether by MCL 500.3111 because (1) she was not a named insured or a spouse or relative of a named insured at the time of the collision, and (2) she was not an occupant of a motor vehicle at the time of the collision.  The Court of Appeals observed, preliminarily, that MCL 500.3111 provides that “[p]ersonal protection insurance benefits are payable for accidental bodily injury suffered in an accident occurring out of this state . . . if . . . the person whose injury is the basis of the claim was at the time of the accident . . . an occupant of a vehicle involved in the accident whose owner or registrant was insured under a personal protection insurance policy . . . ” (emphasis added).  In other words, MCL 500.3111 does not use the statutorily-defined term “motor vehicle” to limit entitlement to PIP benefits.  Thus, the Court of Appeals held that a motorcycle did constitute a “vehicle” as that term is used in MCL 500.3111.

“Defendant claims Dodd is not entitled to any statutory benefits under MCL 500.3111 because she was not a named insured or spouse or relative of the insured, and was not an occupant of a motor vehicle. While defendant is correct that Dodd was not named in the policy with Oliver, and while there is no contention by plaintiffs that Dodd constituted Oliver’s spouse or relative, defendant is incorrect in suggesting that Dodd cannot recover benefits under MCL 500.3111. Defendant misreads the applicable section by arguing that because Dodd was not an occupant of a motor vehicle, she cannot recover. The term ‘motor vehicle’ does not appear in MCL 500.3111. Instead, MCL 500.3111 entitles a claimant to benefits if they were the occupant of a ‘vehicle’ whose owner or registrant had insurance. 

While the term ‘motor vehicle’ is defined in the statute to specifically exclude motorcycles, see MCL 500.3101(3)(i), the term ‘vehicle’ is not so defined. Thus, this Court may look to dictionary definitions to interpret its meaning. See Sands Appliance Servs, Inc v Wilson, 463 Mich 231, 240; 615 NW2d 241 (2000). Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary defines ‘vehicle’ as ‘a means of carrying or transporting something’ or ‘a piece of mechanized equipment.’ Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary (11th ed). The dictionary definition of ‘vehicle’ is more expansive than the statute’s definition of motor vehicle and would include a motorcycle as a ‘vehicle’ since it is a mechanized piece of equipment that transports or carries individuals and cargo. Defendant’s argument that Dodd is not entitled to benefits, therefore, is unfounded because the statute does not limit recovery to out-of-state claimants to only those involved in motor vehicle accidents.” 

The Court of Appeals further held that while Dodd was entitled to PIP benefits under Oliver’s policy pursuant to MCL 500.3111, nothing in the No-Fault Act entitled her to duplicate payment of benefits from Allstate.  


Lansing car accident lawyer Stephen Sinas is the lead editor of the appellate case summaries published on this site regarding the Michigan auto insurance law. To learn more about how Stephen Sinas and how the Sinas Dramis Law Firm can help you if you have been injured in a Michigan auto accident, visit SinasDramis.com.

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