LAWRENCE W. WALRATH, Plaintiff-Appellant,
WITZENMANN USA LLC, Defendant-Appellee.
Circuit Court LC No. 2015-148982-NO
Before: Jansen, P.J., and Murphy and Borrello, JJ.
appeals by right an order granting defendant's motion for
summary disposition pursuant to MCR 2.116(C)(10). We affirm.
is a Michigan limited liability company and has maintained a
worker's compensation insurance policy since it began
operations in 2000. In 2013 and 2014, defendant obtained its
policy through Star Insurance (Star). Defendant's 2014
policy period began on January 1, 2014, providing coverage
for a term of one year pending timely premium payments.
Defendant missed the premium payment due on May 1, 2014, and
on May 6, 2014, Star mailed defendant a notice of pending
cancellation. Star did not receive a payment and canceled
defendant's policy three weeks later, on May 29, 2014. On
June 14, 2014, plaintiff was operating a "10-ton
hydraulic burst tester, " at one of defendant's
facilities when the material being tested flew out of the
tester and struck plaintiff in the face. Plaintiff suffered
multiple fractures, sinus damage, brain injury, and
post-traumatic stress disorder related to the incident.
Defendant was made aware of Star's cancellation of the
worker's compensation policy when defendant attempted to
file a claim on plaintiff's behalf. On June 18, 2014,
defendant wired a premium payment to Star and Star reinstated
defendant's policy with "no lapse in coverage."
Star then opened a claim for plaintiff's injury and
plaintiff began receiving medical and wage-loss benefits
pursuant to defendant's policy.
brought a one-count complaint in the circuit court against
defendant for negligence. Plaintiff sought to hold defendant
liable for all economic and noneconomic losses stemming from
the injury because, on the date of the accident,
"defendant did not have any workers' compensation
insurance coverage, as required by MCL 418.611."
moved for summary disposition under MCR 2.116(C)(8) and
(C)(10), arguing that because defendant had obtained
reinstatement of the worker's compensation insurance
policy, it had "secured" coverage for plaintiff and
complied with Section 611 of the Michigan Worker's
Disability Compensation Act (WDCA), MCL 418.101 et
seq. Therefore, defendant argued, under MCL 418.131, the
WDCA provided the exclusive remedy for plaintiff's
work-related loss. The circuit court agreed with defendant,
and granted defendant's motion pursuant to MCR
appeal, plaintiff argues that the trial court erred in
concluding that defendant complied with the WDCA's
coverage requirements and plaintiff's negligence claims
were barred by the WDCA's exclusive remedies provision.
review a trial court's decision on a motion for summary
disposition de novo. Bernardoni v. City of Saginaw,
499 Mich. 470, 472; 886 N.W.2d 109 (2016). Defendant sought
summary disposition under MCR 2.116(C)(8) and (C)(10).
However, the circuit court explicitly stated that its
decision to grant summary disposition was made pursuant only
to MCR 2.116(C)(10). Summary disposition is proper under MCR
2.116(C)(10) if "there is no genuine issue as to any
material fact, and the moving party is entitled to judgment .
. . as a matter of law." West v. Gen Motors
Corp, 469 Mich. 177, 183; 665 N.W.2d 468 (2003). We
consider the affidavits, pleadings, depositions, admissions,
and other documentary evidence in the light most favorable to
the nonmoving party. Liparoto Const, Inc v. Gen Shale
Brick, Inc, 284 Mich.App. 25, 29; 772 N.W.2d 801 (2009).
A party opposing summary disposition under MCR 2.116(C)(10)
may not rely on mere allegations or denials in pleadings, but
must go beyond the pleadings to set forth specific facts
showing that a genuine issue of material fact exists.
Oliver v Smith, 269 Mich.App. 560, 564; 715 N.W.2d
case requires this Court to interpret the provisions of the
WDCA. Questions of law in a worker's compensation case
are reviewed de novo, as are questions requiring statutory
interpretation. Smitter v. Thornapple Tp, 494 Mich.
121, 129; 833 N.W.2d 875 (2013). "[T]he WDCA is in
derogation of the common law, and its terms should be
literally construed without judicial enhancement."
Paschke v. Retool Industries, 445 Mich. 502, 511;
519 N.W.2d 441 (1994). "Rights, remedies, and procedure
thereunder are such and such only as the statute provides,
" and "[i]f the statute is short of what it should
contain in order to prevent injustice, the defects must be
cured by future legislation and not by judicial
pronouncement." Id., quoting Luyk v.
Hertel, 242 Mich. 445, 447; 219 N.W. 721 (1928).
material facts of this case are not in dispute. The propriety
of the trial court's order for summary disposition in
favor of defendant under MCR 2.116(C)(10) therefore turns on
whether defendant was entitled to judgment as a matter of
law. Defendant argued, and the trial court agreed, that
Star's reinstatement of defendant's worker's
compensation policy, backdated to provide coverage from the
date of cancellation "with no lapse, " brought
defendant into compliance with the coverage mandates for
employers under the WDCA. Thus, plaintiff was limited to the
remedies provided under the Act. Plaintiff argues to the
contrary, insisting that the trial court erred when it
determined that his negligence claims were barred. Plaintiff
submits that the plain language of the WDCA permits an
injured employee to sue an employer whose insurance coverage
has been canceled before the date of the injury, regardless
of whether the policy is subsequently reinstated and the
injured employee receives benefits under the policy.
succinctly, the question this Court must answer is whether an
employer whose worker's compensation policy has been
canceled maintains compliance with the coverage mandate of
MCL 418.611, avoiding civil suit for injuries sustained by an
employee during the cancellation period, by securing
reinstatement of the policy to cure the lapse. Resolution of
this issue is a matter of first impression in Michigan.
this Court interprets a statute, its goal is "to give
effect to the Legislature's intent, focusing first on the
statute's plain language." Ronnisch Construction
Group, Inc v. Lofts on the Nine, LLC, 499 Mich. 544,
552; 886 N.W.2d 113 (2016). Statutes must be examined as a
whole, and individual words and phrases are read in the
context of the entire legislative scheme. Id. Unless
otherwise defined in the statute or accepted as terms of art,
words of a statute are assigned their plain and ordinary
meaning. Alvan Motor Freight, Inc v. Dep't of
Treasury, 281 Mich.App. 35, 40; 761 N.W.2d 269 (2008).
Further, an individual statute "must be read in
conjunction with other relevant statutes to ensure that the
legislative intent is correctly ascertained." Potter
v. McLeary, 484 Mich. 397, 411; 774 N.W.2d 1 (2009).
"When a statute's language is unambiguous, the
Legislature must have intended the meaning clearly expressed,
and the statute must be enforced as written."
Ronnisch, 499 Mich. at 552.
WDCA substitutes statutory compensation for common-law tort
liability founded upon an employer's negligence in
failing to maintain a safe working environment."
Herbolsheimer v. SMS Holding Co, Inc, 239 Mich.App.
236, 241; 608 N.W.2d 487 (2000) (quotation marks and
citations omitted). "Under the WDCA, employers provide
compensation to employees for injuries suffered in the course
of employment, regardless of fault." Id. Under
MCL 418.301, an employer is required to compensate an
employee who "receives a personal injury arising out of
and in the course of employment, " as provided in the
Act. Section 611 of the WDCA governs worker's
compensation coverage ...