Michigan Court of Appeals; Docket #361473; Unpublished
Judges Swartzle, Cavanagh, and Letica; Per Curiam
Official Michigan Reporter Citation: Not Applicable; Link to Opinion
In this unanimous, unpublished, per curiam decision, the Court of Appeals reversed the trial court’s denial of Defendant Progressive Marathon Insurance Company’s (“Progressive”) motion for summary disposition, in which it sought dismissal of Plaintiff Thalia Ann Brockway-Guidry’s action for no-fault PIP benefits. The Court of Appeals held that Progressive was not in the order of priority for payment of Brockway-Guidry’s PIP benefits, and that, despite reimbursing Auto Club for half the amount Auto Club initially paid in PIP benefits to Brockway-Guidry, Progressive made no enforceable promise to Defendant Auto Club Group Insurance Company (“Auto Club”) that it would pay half of Brockway-Guidry’s PIP benefits in perpetuity.
Thalia Ann Brockway-Guidry was injured in a motor vehicle accident, at the time of which she was domiciled with her father, James Brockway, and covered under his policy of no-fault insurance with Auto Club. After Brockway-Guidry filed a claim for benefits under her father’s policy, Auto Club discovered that Brockway-Guidry’s brother, Jack Brockway, had his own no-fault policy with Progressive that listed Jack’s address as the home where Brockway-Guidry and James were domiciled. Upon discovering the Progressive policy, Auto Club sent a demand letter to Progressive asking that Progressive pay half the amount it (Auto Club) had paid to Brockway-Guidry in PIP benefits by that date. Progressive agreed and paid a pro rata share of the amount. Later, Brockway-Guidry filed an action for unpaid PIP benefits against Auto Club, and subsequently amended her complaint to add Progressive as a defendant. During discovery, Brockway-Guidry testified that she and her father lived together at James’s address and that Jack did not live with them. Based on this testimony, Progressive moved for summary disposition, arguing that Jack Brockway was not domiciled with James Brockway at the time of the accident and that Progressive was therefore not in the order of priority for Brockway-Guidry’s PIP benefits. In response, Auto Club did not argue that Jack Brockway was domiciled with James Brockway at the time of the accident; rather, it argued that Progressive had entered into a binding contract or agreement in which it agreed to pay half of Brockway-Guidry’s PIP benefits going forward. Without holding a hearing or providing any explanation, the trial court denied Progressive’s motion.
The Court of Appeals reversed the trial court’s denial of Progressive’s motion for summary disposition, holding, first, that Progressive was clearly not in the order of priority for Brockway-Guidry’s PIP benefits because Jack Brockway was not domiciled with his father and sister at the time of the accident. As noted above, Auto Club did not present any evidence to the contrary or make any argument regarding Jack Brockway’s domicile.
“Clearly, as required, Progressive came forward with evidence in support of its contention that plaintiff was not domiciled in the same household as Jack. Although the evidence is required to be viewed ‘in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party,’ in the trial court, Auto Club failed to come forward with any evidence ‘that a genuine and material issue of disputed fact exists.’ Reed v Reed, 265 Mich App 131, 141; 693 NW2d 825 (2005), citing MCR 2.116(G)(4). In response to Progressive’s summary disposition motion, Auto Club exclusively relied on the alleged contractual agreement between the insurers, without any effort to dispute or support the location of Jack’s domicile. As such, the trial court erred in denying Progressive’s motion for summary disposition because Auto Club failed to present evidence that there was a genuine issue of fact regarding whether plaintiff was domiciled with Jack at the time of the accident.”
The Court of Appeals held, second, that Progressive was not bound to pay half of Brockway-Guidry’s PIP benefits in perpetuity simply because it paid the amount demanded in Auto Club’s original letter. There was no contractual agreement between the insurers and no promise made by Progressive such as would give rise to a claim of promissory estoppel.
“Progressive promised to pay a specific sum in accordance with the demand sent by Auto Club, but did not a promise to pay half of any and all of plaintiff’s statutory claims for PIP benefits. Moreover, Auto Club cannot claim reasonable reliance because Auto Club did not change its position, or take any action indicating its reliance on Progressive being responsible to pay for half of all plaintiff’s claims for benefits. Further, enforcement of this ‘promise’ would not be necessary to avoid injustice. Auto Club is obligated to pay plaintiff statutory PIP benefits because she was domiciled in the same household as its named insured, James. In fact, Progressive was not obligated to pay any of plaintiff’s PIP benefits because she was not domiciled in the same household as its named insured, Jack. As such, it is not an injustice to allow Progressive to avoid further liability on plaintiff’s claim it was never obligated to pay. Therefore, the trial court erred in denying Progressive’s motion for summary disposition because there was no enforceable contract and Auto Club cannot legitimately assert promissory estoppel.”