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Federated Mutual Insurance Company v Empire Fire and Marine Insurance Company and Corrigan Oil Corporation; (COA-UNP, 1/12/2006, RB #2658)


Michigan Court of Appeals; Docket #264553; Unpublished
Judges O’Connell, Smolenski, and Talbot; unanimous; per curiam
Official Michigan Reporter Citation: Not applicable, Link to Opinion courthouse image

General Rule of Priority [3125]
Limitations Period for PPI Claims [3145(2)]

Not applicable

In this unanimous unpublished per curiam opinion decided without oral argument, the Court of Appeals affirmed summary disposition for defendants, finding plaintiff’s claim for property protection benefits filed 18 months after the accident was barred by the one year statute of limitations. The plaintiff in this case insured defendant Corrigan Oil’s building which was damaged when defendants’ employee crashed into it with an oil truck. Defendants’ no-fault insurer, Empire Fire and Marine Insurance Company, admitted it had first priority in the matter and agreed to accept plaintiff’s investigation and liability evaluation. Nearly 18 months after the incident, defendant Empire denied the claim based on the one-year-statute of limitations. In affirming the trial court’s decision granting defendants summary disposition, the Court of Appeals rejected plaintiff’s claim that defendant Empire was equitably estopped from denying coverage after admitting it had first priority. In this regard, the court stated:

To hold otherwise would discourage insurers from commendably and conscientiously admitting liability for fear that the admission might subject them to interminable delay while a claimant roots out every possible basis for loss or patiently waits for its losses to develop. To avoid this uncertainty, insurers would more readily deny liability or stand mute at the outset and force the increased expenses and delays of litigation onto claimants. The statute reflects that the Legislature prefers a policy that fosters efficient claims processing over inestimably prolonged investigations and bureaucratic shuffling, and plaintiff fails to demonstrate any deceptive practice by Empire that would compel us to override that policy decision. As the trial court stated, ‘Rather than acting to forestall the plaintiff, the defendant gave the plaintiff the ability to control how and when the total claim would be determined.’ Because plaintiff delayed the pursuit of its claim for reasons not attributable to Empire, the trial court correctly allowed Empire to invoke the statute of limitations.”

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