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Beckett-Buffum Agency, Inc. v. Allied Property & Casualty Insurance Co.

Court of Appeals of Michigan

June 9, 2015

BECKETT-BUFFUM AGENCY, INC., Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
ALLIED PROPERTY & CASUALTY INSURANCE COMPANY, Defendant-Appellee

Kent Circuit Court. LC No. 12-007629-CZ.

For BECKETT-BUFFUM AGENCY INC, Plaintiff-Appellant: TIMOTHY D. VANDENBERG, ROBERT E. ATTMORE, GRAND RAPIDS, MI.

For ALLIED PROPERTY & CASUALTY INSURANCE COMPANY, Defendant-Appellee: GARY L. STEC, GRAND RAPIDS, MI.

Before: HOEKSTRA, P.J., and O'CONNELL and MURRAY, JJ.

OPINION

Page 118

[311 Mich.App. 42] PER CURIAM.

Plaintiff Beckett-Buffum Agency, Inc., appeals as of right the trial court's order granting defendant Allied Property & Casualty Insurance Company's motion for summary disposition under MCR 2.116(C)(10). Because plaintiff submitted fewer than 25 applications for insurance during the relevant time period, defendant could cancel plaintiff's Agency Agreement under MCL 500.1209(2)(e) and therefore, we affirm.

On January 7, 2010, plaintiff entered into an Independent Agency Agreement with defendant under which plaintiff was to serve as an agency for defendant in the insurance industry. On December 6, 2011, defendant sent plaintiff a letter terminating the Agency Agreement based on plaintiff's lack of production. In particular, under MCL 500.1209(2)(e) of the Insurance Code of 1956, MCL 500.100 et seq., an insurer may terminate an insurance producer's authority to represent the insurer with respect to automobile insurance or home insurance, when the insurance producer submits " less than 25 applications for home insurance and automobile insurance within the immediately preceding 12-month period."

[311 Mich.App. 43] In response to its termination, plaintiff filed this action, alleging that defendant breached its contractual and statutory duties to plaintiff when it terminated the Agency Agreement because plaintiff had submitted to defendant 29 applications for insurance policies in the applicable 12-month period. After the close of discovery,

Page 119

defendant moved for summary disposition under MCR 2.116(C)(10). Defendant argued, in relevant part, that 6 of the 29 policies were policy renewals, not applications, meaning that plaintiff had not reached the statutory threshold of 25 applications, and termination was therefore appropriate. The trial court granted defendant's motion on this basis, and plaintiff now appeals as of right.

On appeal, plaintiff argues that the trial court erred by granting summary disposition to defendant because plaintiff submitted more than 25 applications to defendant within the relevant 12-month time period. Specifically, consistent with its arguments in the trial court, plaintiff maintains that the disputed six renewals of lapsed policies should be counted as " applications for home insurance and automobile insurance" within the meaning of MCL 500.1209(2)(e). If these six renewals constitute applications, the parties agree that plaintiff submitted more than 25 applications in the relevant 12-month period.

We review de novo a trial court's grant of summary disposition. Comerica Bank v Cohen, 291 Mich.App. 40, 45; 805 N.W.2d 544 (2010). " A motion under MCR 2.116(C)(10) tests the factual sufficiency of the complaint" and is properly granted as a matter of law when there is no " genuine issue regarding any material fact." Corley v Detroit Bd of Ed, 470 Mich. 274, 278; 681 N.W.2d 342 (2004) (quotation marks and citation omitted). When reviewing a motion for summary disposition [311 Mich.App. 44] under MCR 2.116(C)(10), we consider the pleadings, affidavits, depositions, admissions, and other documentary evidence submitted in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Id. " There is a genuine issue of material fact when reasonable minds could differ on an issue after viewing the record in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party." Allison v AEW Capital Mgmt., L.L.P., 481 Mich. 419, 425; 751 N.W.2d 8 (2008).

In this case, whether the six policy renewals credited to plaintiff constitute applications involves a question of statutory interpretation. We review de novo issues of statutory interpretation. Hoffman v Boonsiri, 290 Mich.App. 34, 39; 801 N.W.2d 385 (2010). " The primary goal of statutory interpretation is to give effect to the Legislature's intent," and it is well-recognized that " [t]he words of a statute provide the most reliable evidence of its intent[.]" Klooster v City of Charlevoix, 488 Mich. 289, 296; 795 N.W.2d 578 (2011) (quotation marks and citations omitted). Consequently, we focus on the statute's plain language. Id. " Unless statutorily defined, every word or phrase of a statute should be accorded its plain and ordinary meaning, taking into account the context in which the words are used." Krohn v Home-Owners Ins Co, 490 Mich. 145, 156; 802 N.W.2d 281 (2011). A dictionary may be consulted to determine a word's common and ...


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