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Adanalic v. Harco Nat'l Ins. Co.

Court of Appeals of Michigan

February 5, 2015

SALKO ADANALIC, Plaintiff-Appellee/Cross-Appellant, and SPECTRUM HEALTH HOSPITALS, Intervening Plaintiff-Appellee/Cross-Appellant, and ORTHOPAEDIC ASSOCIATES OF MICHIGAN, Intervening Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
HARCO NATIONAL INSURANCE COMPANY, Defendant-Appellee/Cross-Appellee, and MICHIGAN MILLERS MUTUAL INSURANCE COMPANY, Defendant-Appellant/Cross-Appellee

Page 732

Kent Circuit Court. LC No. 12-004231-NF.

For ADANALIC SALKO, Plaintiff-Appellee-Cross Appellant: JANES J PAUL, GRAND RAPIDS, MI.

For SPECTRUM HEALTH HOSPITALS, Intervening Plaintiff-Appellee-Cross Appellant: RICHARD E HILLARY II, GRAND RAPIDS, MI.

For ORTHOPAEDIC ASSOCIATES OF MICHIGAN, Intervening Plaintiff-Appellee: ROBERT E DICE JR, FARMINGTON HILLS, MI.

For HARCO NATIONAL INSURANCE COMPANY, Defendant-Appellee-Cross Appellee: DANIEL S SAYLOR, DETROIT, MI.

For MICHIGAN MILLERS MUTUAL INSURANCE COMPANY, Defendant-Appellant-Cross Appellee: JONATHAN S DAMON, GRAND RAPIDS, MI.

Before: BORRELLO, P.J., and SERVITTO and SHAPIRO, JJ.

OPINION

Page 733

[309 Mich.App. 176] Douglas B. Shapiro, J.

In this no-fault action, plaintiff Salko Adanalic sought first-party benefits from defendants Harco National Insurance Company (Harco) and Michigan Millers Mutual Insurance Company (Millers). Spectrum Health Hospitals (Spectrum) and Orthopaedic Associates of Michigan (Orthopaedic), who treated Adanalic's injuries, intervened as plaintiffs. Plaintiffs and defendants filed cross-motions for

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summary disposition. The trial court ruled that Millers was liable to plaintiffs for no-fault personal protection insurance (PIP) benefits and, accordingly, awarded damages to plaintiffs. Millers appeals on two grounds. First, it asserts that Adanalic was not entitled to payment of first-party PIP benefits. Second, it asserts that if Adanalic was entitled to PIP benefits, Harco, rather than Millers, was the highest priority PIP insurer.

[309 Mich.App. 177] On cross-appeal, Spectrum argues that either, or both, Millers and Harco are liable for attorney fees and penalty interest because of their unlawful failure to promptly pay PIP benefits. We affirm the trial court's ruling that plaintiffs were entitled to PIP benefits and that Millers was first in priority and so responsible for payment of those benefits and penalty interest. We reverse the trial court's ruling that Millers was not liable for plaintiffs' attorney fees and so remand for the calculation and award of those statutory fees.

I. FACTS

Adanalic was seriously injured while unloading a pallet from a disabled box truck onto a semi-trailer. He had contracted with DIS Transportation (a nonparty to this action) to pick up, haul, and deliver various loads of cargo. On October 1, 2011, he was hauling an empty semi-trailer on his return to Grand Rapids from an out-of-state delivery. He accepted a DIS dispatch to a truck stop in Indiana for the purpose of removing loaded pallets from the disabled box truck and loading them into his semi-trailer.[1] Both the truck and the semi-trailer were insured by defendant Harco under a policy that included Michigan no-fault coverage. The policy was issued to DIS. Adanalic had Michigan no-fault insurance through defendant Millers under a policy issued to his wife.

Upon arriving at the Indiana truck stop, Adanalic parked his semi-trailer approximately nine feet from [309 Mich.App. 178] the disabled box truck, which was of a different height. A ramp was extended from the box truck to the semi-trailer and used as a path for the transfer of the loaded pallets. Adanalic and the driver of the box truck began moving the loaded pallets, one at a time, over the ramp. The other driver pushed the pallets while Adanalic pulled them. Adanalic did so by using straps attached to the pallets for that purpose. While the two men were loading the third pallet onto the truck operated by Adanalic, the loaded pallet fell and it pulled Adanalic, who was attached to the pallet by the straps, down with it, injuring him.

Adanalic sought PIP benefits from Millers and Harco, but each denied his claim. Several months later, on March 12, 2012, he filed suit against defendants, seeking first-party PIP benefits for his injuries. Plaintiffs Spectrum and Orthopaedic subsequently filed intervening complaints against both defendants. Both defendants responded with denials of coverage.

The parties filed cross-motions for summary disposition under MCR 2.116(C)(10). After a hearing, the trial court issued a written opinion ruling that (1) Adanalic was entitled to PIP benefits, (2) Millers was the insurer of highest priority and, therefore, responsible for payment of the PIP benefits, (3) Millers was responsible for penalty interest due to its delay in paying Adanalic's PIP benefits, and (4)

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Millers was not responsible for plaintiffs' attorney fees.

The parties then submitted stipulations of fact regarding damages. The trial court subsequently assessed damages against Millers: $110,560.83 to Adanalic, $96,243.52 to Spectrum, and $8,944.83 to Orthopaedic.[2] This appeal and cross-appeal followed.

[309 Mich.App. 179] II. NO-FAULT PIP BENEFITS

Millers argues that two provisions of the no-fault act, MCL 500.3101 et seq, relieve it of responsibility for payment of Adanalic's PIP benefits. First, it argues that the circumstances of Adanalic's injuries do not satisfy any of the " parked-vehicle exceptions" enumerated in MCL 500.3106(1). Second, it argues that workers' compensation benefits were " available" to Adanalic under MCL 500.3106(2) and, therefore, Millers is not responsible for payment of PIP benefits. We conclude that both arguments fail.

Both of these issues involve questions of statutory interpretation, which we review de novo.[3] Radina v Wieland Sales, Inc, 297 Mich.App. 369, 373; 824 N.W.2d 587 (2012). As our Supreme Court has instructed:

[T]he purpose of statutory construction is to discern and give effect to the intent of the Legislature. In determining the intent of the Legislature, this Court must first look to the language of the statute. The Court must, first and foremost, interpret the language of a statute in a manner that is consistent with the intent of the Legislature. As far as possible, effect should be given to every phrase, clause, and word in the statute. The statutory language must be read and understood in its grammatical context, unless it is clear that something different was intended. Moreover, when considering the correct interpretation, the statute must be read as a whole. Individual words and phrases, while important, should be read in the context of the entire legislative scheme. While defining particular words in statutes, we must consider both the plain meaning of the critical word or phrase and its placement and purpose in the statutory scheme. A statute must be read in conjunction with other relevant statutes to ensure that [309 Mich.App. 180] the legislative intent is correctly ascertained. The statute must be interpreted in a manner that ensures that it works in harmony with the entire statutory scheme. [ Bush v Shabahang, 484 Mich. 156, 166-167; 772 N.W.2d 272 (2009) (quotation marks and citations omitted).]

And, " [g]iven the remedial nature of the no-fault act, courts must liberally construe its provisions in favor of the persons who are its intended beneficiaries." Frierson v West American Ins Co, 261 Mich.App. 732, 734; 683 N.W.2d 695 (2004) (citations omitted).

A. PARKED-VEHICLE EXCEPTION

At the time Adanalic was injured, the relevant vehicles were parked. Under MCL 500.3106(1), PIP coverage does not apply where the relevant vehicle is parked unless one or more of three statutory exceptions applies. For purposes of obtaining no-fault benefits, " [a]ccidental bodily injury does not arise out of the ownership, operation, maintenance, or use of a parked

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vehicle as a motor vehicle unless any of the following occur" :

(a) The vehicle was parked in such a way as to cause unreasonable risk of the bodily ...

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