Michigan Court of Appeals; Docket Nos. 123193 and 137222; Published
Judges Doctoroff, Michael Kelly, and Brennan; Unanimous; Per Curiam
Official Michigan Reporter Citation: 195 Mich App 463; Link to Opinion
Reasonable Proof Standard [§3142(1)]
12% Interest Penalty on Overdue Benefits – Nature and Scope [§3142(2), (3)]
In this unanimous per curiam Opinion, the Court of Appeals held that a no-fault insurer is barred, under the doctrine of res judicata, from filing a declaratory judgment action seeking a declaratory judgment that it had no further liability to pay no-fault benefits to plaintiff, after it had lost a jury trial to plaintiff, wherein the jury found that plaintiff’s disability was related to the automobile accident and awarded plaintiff no-fault benefits for the disability.
The court noted, "ACIA's action for a declaratory judgment involved the same parties as plaintiff’s claim for no-fault disability benefits. The first action included a claim for judgment regarding ACIA's ongoing liability to plaintiff’s. Lastly, a judgment was rendered on the merits in the first action proving that [plaintiff’s] disability arose out of the 1984 automobile accident. In the first action, the [plaintiff’s] sought, litigated and received a judgment providing for ACIA's ongoing responsibility to cover [plaintiff’s] disability. ACIA never objected to the judgment rendered in the first action or sought to appeal it. Instead, ACIA sought a declaratory judgment that is in direct conflict with the judgment entered against it. The doctrine of res judicata bars ACIA from relitigating its responsibility to plaintiffs."
The court also held that plaintiff’s' right to recover no-fault interest under §3142 of the statute is dependent upon the plaintiff presenting the insurer with reasonable proof of the claim and the passage of 30 days without payment of the claim after such proof has been presented. Where such proof is not presented to the insurer prior to trial, it certainly is presented to the insurer no later than the close of plaintiff’s' proofs. Therefore, at a minimum, interest under §3142 is payable 30 days after the date of the verdict.