Michigan Court of Appeals; Docket No. 189879; Published
Judges Fitzgerald, MacKenzie, and Hathaway; Unanimous; Per Curiam
Official Michigan Reporter Citation: 222 Mich App 97; Link to Opinion
In this per curiam published Opinion, the Court of Appeals addresses the statute of limitations applicable where one insurer seeks to recover from another insurer amounts mistakenly paid for no-fault first party coverage. The court held that this type of claim was in the nature of subrogation and therefore, subject to the one year limitation period set forth in §3145 of the no-fault act.
Amerisure issued a policy of no-fault insurance to Trucking Services, Inc. On July 21, 1992, an individual named Leroy Rister was injured while descending from a semi-truck tractor. Amerisure believed Rister to be an employee of its insured, Trucking Services, and therefore paid first party benefits to Rister when, in fact, Rister was an independent contractor. Rister had a personal automobile insured by defendant State Farm at the time of the accident. In April, 1993, plaintiff learned that Rister was not an employee of Trucking Services, Inc., but rather an independent contractor. However, Amerisure did not send a notice to State Farm that it intended to seek reimbursement from State Farm until January, 1994. Amerisure, as subrogee of its insured, Trucking Services, Inc. subsequently filed suit on November 22,1994, for reimbursement against State Farm. The trial court granted summary disposition in favor of State Farm on the grounds that the suit was barred by the one year statute of limitations contained in §3145(1) of the no-fault act.
The issue presented to the Court of Appeals was whether the one year statute of limitations in §3145(1) applies when an insurer is suing another insurer on the basis that it paid benefits by mistake for which the defendant insurer was liable. Before deciding the issue, the Court of Appeals discussed two earlier conflicting opinions on point.
In Michigan Mutual Insurance Company v Home Mutual Insurance Company, 108 Mich App 274; 310 NW2d 362 (1981) (Item No. 439), the Court of Appeals held that where one insurer mistakenly pays benefits which is the obligation of another insurance company, it obtains the rights of the insured and may pursue a subrogation action against the insurance company that was obligated to provide the coverage. In this situation, the insurer seeking reimbursement has no greater rights than the insured, and therefore, it is barred by the one year statute of limitations provision set forth in §3145(1) that would be applicable if it were the insured seeking coverage. Michigan Mutual v Home Mutual was followed in Keller v Losinski (Item No. 233), Federal Kemper v Western Insurance (Item No. 320), and Citizens Insurance v American Community (Item No. 1575).
In contrast, a different panel of the Court of Appeals in Madden v Employers Insurance of Wausau, 168 Mich App 33; 424 NW2d 21 (1988) (Item No. 1129) characterized this type of action as one to recover monies paid under a mistaken fact, and therefore is one of indemnity. Under this analysis, the general six year statute of limitations, as set forth in the Revised Judicature Act, governed the claim. Here, the Court of Appeals adopted the reasoning of its previous opinion in Michigan Mutual, supra, and held that the one year statute of limitations in §3145 of the no-fault act governs actions between no-fault insurers for recovery of monies mistakenly paid by a non-liable insurer. The court found that such actions are in the nature of subrogation, and as such, the plaintiff acquired no greater rights than the insured had against the insurer obligated to provide coverage. Since the insured's right against the defendant here would be to maintain a cause of action for payment of personal injury protection benefits, the plaintiffs subrogation action is subject to the one year limitation period as set forth in §3145(1).