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Flint Region ASC, LLC v Hartford Accident & Indemnity Co (COA – UNP 1/19/2023; RB #4533) 


Michigan Court of Appeals; Docket #360950; Unpublished 
Judges Cavanagh, O’Brien, and Rick; Per Curiam
Official Michigan Reporter Citation: Not Applicable; Link to Opinion

Not Applicable

Collateral Estoppel and Res Judicata
Assignments of Benefits – Validity and Enforceability

In this unanimous, unpublished, per curiam decision, the Court of Appeals reversed the trial court’s summary disposition order dismissing Plaintiff Flint Region ASC, LLC’s (“ASC”) action for No-Fault PIP benefits against Defendant Hartford Accident & Indemnity Company (“Hartford”).  The Court of Appeals held that under Mecosta Co Med Ctr v Metro Group Prop & Cas Ins Co, ___ Mich ___ (2022), ASC’s claim was not barred by res judicata, which Hartford sought to invoke based on the fact that ASC’s patient/assignor, Thomas Fields, settled his separate lawsuit against Hartford, releasing Hartford from liability for any past and future PIP benefits related to the accident.  ASC obtained its assignment before Fields and Hartford settled Fields’s separate lawsuit, and thus, under Mecosta, ASC could not be said to have been in privity with Fields at the time of settlement for purposes of res judicata.

Thomas Fields was injured in a motor vehicle accident, after which he filed a lawsuit against Hartford.  In March of 2021, while Fields’s case was pending, he assigned his right to certain of his PIP benefits to ASC, but then on September 8, 2021, he settled his lawsuit against Hartford.  As part of the settlement, Fields executed a release encompassing ‘any and all claims and demands for No-Fault insurance benefits, of any kind whatsoever, for any and all expenses incurred to date and/or which may be incurred at any time in the future.” ASC then filed its own lawsuit against Hartford on September 8, 2021, seeking the benefits to which it had been assigned, and Hartford moved for summary disposition, asserting that ASC’s claim was barred by res judicata.  The trial court agreed and granted Hartford’s motion.

The Court of Appeals reversed the trial court’s summary disposition order, holding that, under Mecosta, ASC’s action was not barred by res judicata.  In Mecosta, the Supreme Court held that ‘a judgment entered after [an] assignment does not bind the assignee because the assignee is not in privity with the assignor with respect to that judgment.’  In this case, the settlement occurred after ASC obtained its assignment, and thus ASC could not be bound by Fields’s release.

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