Michigan Court of Appeals; Docket #359204; Unpublished
Judges Murray, Cavanagh, and Cameron; Per Curiam
Official Michigan Reporter Citation: Not Applicable; Link to Opinion
Revised Judicature Act – Arbitration (MCL 600.5001, Et Seq.)
In this unanimous, unpublished, per curiam decision, the Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s order granting judgment of an arbitration award in favor of Plaintiff Michael Clark, after the parties to Clark’s action for no-fault PIP benefits against Defendant Suburban Mobility Authority for Regional Transportation (“SMART”) submitted to arbitration. The Court of Appeals held that there was no basis for reversing the trial court’s order because the arbitration award was based on the arbitrator’s factual findings regarding Clark’s claim for PIP benefits, which are not reviewable by courts.
Michael Clark was injured when the SMART bus he was traveling in rear-ended another vehicle. Clark received treatment for his accident-related injuries from numerous medical providers, to each of whom he assigned his right to pursue no-fault PIP benefits related to the respective treatments they rendered. He also filed a first-party complaint against SMART, and both he and SMART eventually agreed to resolve his claim in arbitration. At some point during the arbitration process, Clark’s assignments became an issue, with SMART moving the trial court to strike from arbitration any previously assigned claims. The trial court denied SMART’s motion, and the arbitration panel eventually issued an award in Clark’s favor ‘for all past, present and future benefits and on the remaining PIP claims.’ After the trial court entered an order granting judgment of the arbitration award to Clark, SMART appealed, arguing that the arbitrator erred by granting Clark an award that was based on benefits he had already assigned, and to which he no longer maintained the right to pursue in his personal capacity.
The Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s order, noting, preliminarily, that appellate review of an arbitration award is “extremely limited,” and that courts “may not review an arbitrator’s factual findings or decision on the merits.” In this case, it was unclear whether the arbitration award was for no-fault PIP benefits Clark had assigned or whether it was for other benefits to which Clark was entitled, which he had not assigned. To determine whether the arbitrator erred by including in its award PIP benefits only Clark’s assignees could now pursue would be to “review the arbitrator’s factual findings,” which the Court cannot do.
“SMART argues that the arbitrator erred by awarding Clark PIP benefits. SMART notes that Clark executed a number of assignments to various medical providers and that, by doing so, Clark divested himself of any claim for these expenses. SMART is correct that the record contains a number of apparently valid assignments to Clark’s medical providers. What is not certain, however, is whether the portion of the arbitration award relating to Clark’s PIP benefits represents monies that were owed under the assignments. Importantly, it is unclear from the record whether Clark assigned all of his PIP benefits. Thus, the alleged error is not readily apparent on the face of the award. To determine whether the award pertained to Clark’s assigned PIP benefits would require this Court to consider the arbitrators’ factual considerations—which this Court cannot do. Eppel, 322 Mich App at 572. Thus, the award for PIP benefits is not a basis for reversal of the trial court’s order.”