Michigan Court of Appeals; Docket #359646; Unpublished
Judges Kelly, Murray, and Swartzle; Per Curiam
Official Michigan Reporter Citation: Not Applicable; Link to Opinion
One-Year Back Rule Limitation [§3145(1)]
Assignments of Benefits – Validity and Enforceability
In this unanimous, unpublished, per curiam decision, the Court of Appeals reversed the trial court’s denial of Defendant Suburban Mobility Authority for Regional Transportation’s (“SMART”) motion for summary disposition, in which it sought dismissal of Plaintiff Tiffany Shantel Robinson’s action for No-Fault PIP benefits that she assigned to her providers before filing suit. The Court of Appeals held that Robinson was not the real party in interest with respect to the assigned benefits at the time she filed suit, and that her suit failed as a result. The Court also held that mutual revocations of the assignments—executed by Robinson and her providers, and which stated that the assignments were revoked nunc pro tunc—were effective only as of the date they were executed, and did not operate to retroactively reinvest Robinson with standing to pursue the subject benefits at the time she filed suit.
Tiffany Robinson was injured in a motor vehicle accident, after which she received treatment from various medical providers. She assigned to her providers the right to pursue PIP benefits related to her treatments, but later filed suit against SMART—the self-insured entity with priority responsibility for her No-Fault claim—in her own name, seeking the benefits she had assigned. After the one-year anniversary of the date she last received treatment, SMART moved for summary disposition, arguing that Robinson was not the real party in interest with respect to the benefits she was claiming in her suit. Robinson and her providers then proceeded to execute “Mutual Revocation[s] of Assignment(s),” which stated that the assignments were being revoked nunc pro tunc. The trial court ruled that the revocations were valid and thus denied SMART’s motion.
The Court of Appeals reversed the trial court’s denial of SMART’s motion, holding that Robinson’s action failed because she was not the real party in interest at the time she filed suit. The Court determined that the retroactive, nunc pro tunc revocation of the assignment did not correct the factual problem that plaintiff assigned her rights before filing suit and, therefore, had no standing to do so at that time. The Court reasoned that the rights of the parties became fixed on the date she filed suit, and that, “although the revocation[s] may have some effect between plaintiff and the medical providers, as to [SMART] and the court, it cannot impact how plaintiff stood at the time the complaint was filed:
“[O]ne must be the real party in interest at the time the lawsuit is filed, and a retroactive, or nunc pro tunc, revocation may not be used to correct a factual problem that existed when the lawsuit was filed. While plaintiff and her medical providers were at liberty to mutually decide to revoke the assignments, the revocations were effective as of the date that the revocations were executed and could not essentially eliminate the fact that the assignments had occurred prior to plaintiff filing suit. And, the medical providers had no timely claims to return to plaintiff as of the date of the revocations because the revocations occurred more than a year after services were rendered. Thus, the mutual revocations did not reassign any timely claims to plaintiff.
Plaintiff further argues that mutual revocation of an agreement returns the parties to the status quo as it existed prior to the assignment. While this may be true in some cases, the same cannot be said when the revocation occurs after the time for performance matures or the rights of the parties become fixed. ‘An assignment may be revoked before the rights of the parties become fixed.’ 6A CJS, Assignments § 71. Thus, although the revocation may have some effect between plaintiff and the medical providers, as to defendant and the court, it cannot impact how plaintiff stood at the time the complaint was filed . . . ”