Michigan Court of Appeals; Docket #357422; Unpublished
Judges Jansen, O’Brien, and Hood; Per Curiam
Official Michigan Reporter Citation: Not Applicable; Link to Opinion
One-Year Back Rule Limitation – tolling under 2019 amendments [§3145(3)]
In this unanimous, unpublished, per curiam decision (Hood, concurring), the Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s summary disposition order dismissing Plaintiffs Great Lakes Pain & Injury Chiropractic Center (“Great Lakes”), Live Well Health, LLC (“Live Well”), and Red Wing Medical Transportation, LLC’s (“Red Wings”) action for no-fault PIP benefits against Defendant Falls Lake National Insurance Company (“Falls Lake”). The Court of Appeals held, first, that Great Lakes, Live Well, and Red Wings’ intervening complaint would not relate back to the filing date of Vivian Johnson’s (the providers’ patient/assignee) complaint against Falls Lake. The Court of Appeals then held that although the post-amendment version of MCL 500.3145 applied to this case—because the providers obtained their respective assignments after the effective date of the 2019 amendments to the No-Fault Act, June 11, 2019—their claims were barred because they failed to file within one year of the date Falls Lake formally denied coverage.
Vivian Johnson was injured in a motor vehicle accident that occurred on February 5, 2019. In the ensuing months, Johnson received treatment for her injuries from Great Lakes, Live Well, and Red Wings, each of whom proceeded to seek payment for the treatments rendered from the priority no-fault insurer, Falls Lake. Falls Lake formally denied coverage on June 13, 2019—two days after the Michigan Legislature enacted 2019 PA 21 and 2019 PA 22—and then in June, October, and November 2019, Johnson assigned her right to pursue PIP benefits related to the treatments she received to Live Well, Red Wings, and Great Lakes, respectively. On January 14, 2020, Johnson filed her own lawsuit against Falls Lake, and in August of 2020, Great Lakes, Live, Well, and Red Wings moved to intervene, each asserting its assigned claims. In September of 2020, Falls Lake filed a motion for partial summary disposition, arguing that the pre-amendment version of MCL 500.3145 (which did not include “formal denial” tolling) applied to this case; that the intervening plaintiffs’ complaint would not relate back to the filing date of Johnson’s complaint; and that the intervening plaintiffs’ claims were barred regardless of which version of the one-year-back rule applied, because the intervening plaintiffs did not file their complaint within one-year of the date Falls Lake formally denied the claims at issue. The trial court disagreed with Falls Lake regarding which version of MCL 500.3145 applied to this case—finding that the post-amendment version applied because the providers obtained their respective assignments after the 2019 amendements’ effective date—but agreed with Falls Lake that the providers’ intervening complaint would not relate back to the filing date of Johnson’s complaint, and that, regardless of which version of MCL 500.3145 applied, the providers’ claims were barred because they filed to file their intervening complaint within one year of June 13, 2019.
The Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s summary disposition order, holding first that the providers’ intervening complaint would not relate back to the filing date of Johnson’s complaint. In Farrar v Suburban Mobility Auth for Regional Transp, ___ Mich App ___ (2023), the Court of Appeals held that an assignee’s claim did not relate back because the relation-back doctrine does not apply to the addition of new parties asserting the same claims. Applying Farrar to this case, the Court held that the providers’ intervening complaint would not relate back to the filing date of Johnson’s complaint.
“Recently, in Farrar v Suburban Mobility Auth for Regional Trans, ___ Mich App ___; ___ NW2d ___ (2023) (Docket Nos. 358872 and 358884), slip op at 4-5, this Court held that an assignee’s claims did not relate back. There, the insured plaintiff assigned her claims to treatment providers, including Focus Imaging, following an accident in February 2019. Id. at ___; slip op at 2. The plaintiff filed suit for PIP benefits on February 11, 2020. Id. at ___; slip op at 2. Focus Imaging moved to intervene and filed an intervening complaint on February 11, 2021. Id. at ___; slip op at 2. The defendant moved for summary disposition against Focus Imaging, arguing that its claims were barred by the one-year-back rule, MCL 500.3145, and did not relate back. Id. at ___; slip op at 2-3. The trial court denied the motion for summary disposition, and this Court reversed. Id. at ___; slip op at 2-5. In reversing, this Court stated the principle from Miller that the relation-back doctrine generally does not apply to the addition of new parties. Id. at ___; slip op at 4, citing Miller, 477 Mich at 105. It then applied the analysis from an unpublished decision that it found persuasive to conclude that Focus Imaging’s assignee claims did not relate back. Farrar, ___ Mich App at ___; slip op at 4-5, citing Lakeland Neurocare Ctrs v Everest Nat’l Ins Co, unpublished per curiam opinion of the Court of Appeals, issued October 8, 2019 (Docket Nos. 340346 and 340349). This conclusion binds us. See MCR 7.215(J)(1) (precedential effect of published decisions). Applying Farrar to this case, we conclude that intervening plaintiffs’ assignee claims do not relate back to Johnson’s original filing date.”
The Court of Appeals then held that the trial court correctly determined that the post-amendment version of MCL 500.3145 applied to this case. However, because the providers failed to file their intervening complaint by June 13, 2019, their claims were still barred, even with the benefit of formal denial tolling.
Judge Hood concurred in the result because based on Farrar, he concluded that the trial court did not err in holding that intervening plaintiffs’ claims did not relate back to Johnson’s initial filing date. Judge Hood also reasoned that the trial court did not err in finding that MCL 500.3145 did not apply retroactively. Judge Hood further explained, however, that but for Farrar, he would conclude that intervening plaintiffs’ claims relate back and that because relating the intervening complaint back to Johnson’s filing date would permit intervening plaintiffs to recover all their claims under the one-year-back rule, regardless of which version of MCL 500.3145 were applied, analysis of the tolling provision in the postamendment version of MCL 500.3145, or the trial court’s application of it, would be unnecessary.