Wayne Circuit Court LC No. 12-010295-NF
Before: Wilder, P.J., and Owens and M. J. Kelly, JJ.
In this dispute over first-party benefits under Michigan's no-fault act, defendant, HomeOwners Insurance Company, appeals by leave granted the trial court's order denying its motion for partial summary disposition under MCR 2.116(C)(10). On appeal, Home-Owners argues the trial court erred when it determined that plaintiff, John Agnone, was entitled to work-loss benefits under the no-fault act even though the undisputed evidence showed that his income after the accident exceeded the statutory maximum. We conclude the trial court erred when it determined that the statutory maximum applied to the difference between Agnone's income before the accident and his income after the accident. With MCL 500.3107(1)(b), the Legislature provided that the maximum applies to the loss of income incurred in a single 30-day period plus the income that the injured person earned in that same period. Because the undisputed evidence showed that Agnone earned more than the applicable maximum, he was not entitled to any work-loss benefit under MCL 500.3107(1)(b), and the trial court should have granted Home-Owner's motion. Accordingly, we reverse and remand for entry of an order granting Home-Owners motion for partial summary disposition.
I. BASIC FACTS
Agnone testified at his deposition that he and his wife went out to purchase a Christmas tree in December 2009. On their way home, he stopped before merging onto another road and another driver drove into the rear of Agnone's car. Referring to a previous accident that he had in 2005, Agnone said he immediately knew that his neck and back had been hurt again.
Agnone owns and operates his own insurance agency. Prior to the 2009 accident, Agnone earned between $183, 000 and $200, 000 per year in gross income, which amounted to an average of more than $196, 000 per year in gross income. Agnone admitted that his income increased to more than $222, 000 in 2010, but explained that the increase arose from work he performed prior to the accident. Although he continued to work after the accident, Agnone said he was no longer able "to put forth the effort to continue to go to the extra appointment." As a result of the reduced client contact, he was unable to generate as many sales and suffered a wage loss in the following years. His gross income dropped to around $140, 000 in 2011, and to around $135, 000 in 2012.
In January 2012, Agnone sued Home-Owners for breach of the motor vehicle insurance policy that it issued to him. Agnone alleged that Home-Owners breached the agreement by refusing to pay certain personal protection insurance benefits. He later asserted that HomeOwners should pay him a work-loss benefit equal to the difference between his average annual income in the preceding years and his actual annual income in the years after the accident. He claimed approximately $48, 000 in lost income for 2011 and approximately $52, 000 in lost income for 2012.
In October 2013, Home-Owners moved for partial summary disposition under MCR 2.116(C)(10). Home-Owners presented evidence that Agnone made substantially more than the $4, 878 per month limit provided under MCL 500.3107(1)(b). Because his actual income exceeded the limit, Home-Owners further maintained, Agnone's lost income was not compensable under the policy. Home-Owners asked the trial court to dismiss Agnone's claim to the extent that it included a request for wage-loss benefits.
In response, Agnone argued that the limit stated under MCL 500.3107(1)(b) applied to the difference between the income that he would have earned and his actual income. Because his wage-loss for each of the 30-day periods at issue was less than the applicable maximum of $4, 878, he argued Home-Owners was responsible for all his lost income.
The trial court agreed with Agnone's interpretation of the limit on work-loss benefits and denied Home-Owners' motion for partial summary disposition.
After the trial court denied Home-Owners' motion for reconsideration, it applied for leave to appeal in this Court. This Court granted leave to appeal in March 2014.
II. SUMMARY DISPOSITION
A. STANDARDS OF ...