In this unanimous, unpublished, per curiam decision, the Court of Appeals reversed the trial court’s summary disposition order dismissing Plaintiff C-Spine Orthopedics, PLLC’s (“C-Spine”) action for No-Fault PIP benefits against Defendant Progressive Marathon Insurance Company (“Progressive”). Relying on C-Spine Orthopedics, PLLC v Progressive Marathon Ins Co, ___ Mich App ___ (2022) (“C-Spine I”), the Court of Appeals held that C-Spine could sue Progressive for PIP benefits it assigned to various factoring companies, even before (or without) obtaining counter-assignments from the factoring companies. Under MCR 2.201(B)(1), ‘a person authorized by statute may sue in his or her own name without joining the party for whose benefit the action is brought,’ and under MCL 500.3112, providers can assert direct causes of action against insurers. Thus, even if C-Spine filed suit before obtaining counter-assignments from the factoring companies, it could still sue Progressive for the assigned benefits in its own name, without joining the factoring companies.
Albert Jackson was injured in a motor vehicle accident, after which he received treatment from C-Spine. He assigned to C-Spine his right to pursue PIP benefits related to his treatment, but before C-Spine could recover said benefits, it began experiencing cash flow issues. As a result, C-Spine (1) sold Jackson’s debts to various factoring companies, and (2) assigned to the factoring companies C-Spine’s right to pursue PIP benefits related to Jackson’s claim. After selling Jackson’s debts, C-Spine filed suit against Progressive, seeking the very PIP benefits it had by then assigned to the factoring companies. Progressive promptly moved for summary disposition, arguing that C-Spine was not the real party in interest with respect to the benefits it sought to recover, and C-Spine argued, in response, that it had obtained counter-assignments from the factoring companies, and that it was, therefore, the real party in interest. The trial court denied Progressive’s motion, after which additional discovery ensued, and Progressive discovered that at least three of the counter-assignments were obtained after C-Spine filed suit, but were backdated “to mislead the court and to disguise that C-Spine had filed suit without any genuine legal interest.” This time, the trial court granted Progressive’s motion for summary disposition.
The Court of Appeals reversed the trial court’s summary disposition order in favor of Progressive, and it did so by applying its analysis in C-Spine I held that C-Spine could sue Progressive in its own name and without joining the factoring companies, regardless of if or when it obtained any counter-assignments. The Court observed that under MCR 2.201(B)(1), ‘a person authorized by statute may sue in his or her own name without joining the party for whose benefit the action is brought.’ C-Spine was such a ‘person,’ because under MCL 500.3112, a medical provider is authorized to ‘assert a direct cause of action against an insurer . . . to recover overdue benefits payable for charges for products, services, or accommodations provided to an injured person.’ Thus, the issues of when the counter-assignments were obtained and whether C-Spine backdated the counter-assignments were immaterial.
“Standing is not a barrier to C-Spine’s case because MCL 500.3112 grants C-Spine the right to ‘assert a direct cause of action against an insurer . . . to recover overdue benefits payable for charges for products, services, or accommodations provided to an injured person.’ As a provider, C-Spine has statutory standing to bring a claim on its own behalf. ‘Statutory standing, which necessitates an inquiry into whether a statute authorizes a plaintiff to sue at all, must be distinguished from whether a statute permits an individual claim for a particular type of relief.’ Miller v Allstate Ins Co, 481 Mich 601, 608; 751 NW2d 463 (2008). Whether C-Spine has an actionable claim for relief is a different question than whether it has a right to litigate its current grievance in our courts.
The real-party-in-interest rule does not preclude C-Spine’s suit, either. The court rule anticipates that situations such as this one might arise. MCR 2.201(B)(1) provides:
A personal representative, guardian, conservator, trustee of an express trust, a party with whom or in whose name a contract has been made for the benefit of another, or a person authorized by statute may sue in his or her own name without joining the party for whose benefit the action is brought. [Emphasis added.]
C-Spine is authorized by statute to bring a first-party no-fault claim, and the plain language of the court rule permits it to do so despite that the action was brought for the benefit of the factoring companies, or for the joint benefit of C-Spine and the factoring companies.”