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Haksluoto v. Mt. Clemens Regional Medical Center

Supreme Court of Michigan

June 27, 2017

JEFFREY HAKSLUOTO and CAROL HAKSLUOTO, Plaintiffs-Appellants,
v.
MT. CLEMENS REGIONAL MEDICAL CENTER, a/k/a McLAREN MACOMB, GENERAL RADIOLOGY ASSOCIATES, PC, and ELI SHAPIRO, D.O., Defendants-Appellees.

          Argued April 12, 2017

          Chief Justice: Stephen J. Markman Justices: Brian K. Zahra Bridget M. McCormack David F. Viviano Richard H. Bernstein Joan L. Larsen Kurtis T. Wilder

         Syllabus

         Jeffrey and Carol Haksluoto filed a medical malpractice claim in the Macomb Circuit Court against Mt. Clemens Regional Medical Center, General Radiology Associates, PC, and Eli Shapiro, DO, for injuries Jeffrey sustained after he was misdiagnosed in Mt. Clemens's emergency room on December 26, 2011. Plaintiffs mailed a notice of intent (NOI) to file a claim on December 26, 2013, the final day of the two-year statutory period of limitations. Plaintiffs filed their complaint on June 27, 2014, which was 183 days after service of the NOI. Defendants moved for summary disposition under MCR 2.116(C)(7), arguing that the suit was barred by the two-year statute of limitations. The court, Peter J. Maceroni, J., denied defendants' motion. Defendants appealed, and the Court of Appeals, Cavanagh, P.J., and Riordan and Gadola, JJ., reversed, holding that MCR 1.108-the rule concerning the calculation of time-was best understood to signify that the 182-day notice period began on December 27, 2013-the day after plaintiffs served the NOI-and expired on June 26, 2014, which meant that the notice period did not commence until one day after the limitations period had expired, and therefore filing the NOI on the last day of the limitations period failed to toll the statute of limitations. 314 Mich.App. 424 (2016). The Supreme Court granted plaintiffs' application for leave to appeal to consider whether plaintiffs' NOI tolled the statute of limitations and whether plaintiffs' complaint filed the day after the notice period ended was therefore timely. 500 Mich. 892 (2016).

         In a unanimous opinion by Chief Justice Markman, the Supreme Court held:

         The limitations period for medical malpractice actions set forth in MCL 600.5805(6) is tolled when the NOI is filed on the last day of the limitations period. A timely NOI preserves the whole day the NOI is filed as a day to be used once the limitations period begins running after the notice period ends.

         1. Under MCL 600.5805(6), the limitations period for a medical malpractice action is two years. MCL 600.2912b(1) requires that a prospective medical malpractice plaintiff provide a potential defendant at least 182 days of notice prior to filing suit. MCL 600.5856(c) provides that mailing an NOI tolls the statute of limitations at the time notice is given in compliance with the applicable notice period under MCL 600.2912b if during the notice period a claim would be barred by the statute of limitations. Therefore, the NOI only tolls the statute of limitations if there is time remaining in the limitations period to toll. However, as a general proposition, Michigan rejects fractions of a day, and because the NOI in this case was filed on the final day of the limitations period-which meant that only a fraction of a day was left in the limitations period-the determination of whether any time remained to toll the statute of limitations depended on the determination of whether to round the fraction of a day up to a whole day remaining or round down to no days remaining in the limitations period.

         2. The law of fractional days has two relevant strands: how time periods are counted and how fractional days are rounded off. With regard to how time periods are counted, MCL 8.6 and MCR 1.108(1) provide that, in computing a period of time, the first day is excluded and the last day is included. The method of excluding the first day and including the last in calculating a period of time is tantamount to a common-law principle given its consistent application in all contexts since Michigan's origins; the rationale for this method is to ensure that parties receive the entire amount of time to which they are entitled. Because only whole days are counted so as to ensure that the amount of time being provided to the "user" of the time consists of the entire amount of time the law allows, the user of the time receives as many whole days as are allowed under the statute-in this case, 182 days-plus the fractional day that initiates the time period. Accordingly, in this case, once the NOI was filed on December 26, 2013, "day 182" was June 26, 2014; the notice period ran for 182 whole days plus whatever fraction of the day was left on December 26, 2013, when the NOI was placed in the mail.

         3. However, the law of counting time provided no answer as to whether the limitations period should be treated as having any time left to toll when there was only a fraction of a day remaining in the limitations period. The law relating to the rounding off of fractional days was used to resolve this question. The touchstone of the common law is that fractional days must be rounded off in a way that accords with common understanding and is consistent with prevailing social customs, practices, and expectations. Because the Court of Appeals' conclusion would leave a plaintiff who filed an NOI before the expiration of the limitations period "deadlocked, " such a conclusion could not be countenanced. Consequently, a timely NOI preserves the day the NOI is filed as a day to be used once the limitations period begins running after the notice period ends. This applies to any NOI that triggers tolling under MCL 600.5856(c), whether filed on the final day of the limitations period or on some earlier day. Once the notice period ends and the time for the plaintiff to bring a claim once again begins to run, it will run for the number of whole days remaining in the limitations period when the NOI was filed, plus one day to reflect the fractional day remaining when the NOI itself was filed. Therefore, when an NOI is filed on the final day of the limitations period, the next business day after the notice period expires is an eligible day to file suit.

         4. In this case, plaintiffs filed the NOI on the final day of the limitations period, December 26, 2013, which preserved that entire day for use when the 182-day notice period finally expired. Consequently, the NOI tolled the limitations period, leaving one day for plaintiffs to file their complaint after the notice period ended. Plaintiffs had to wait the entire 182 days of the notice period so as to provide defendants the entire 182 days of notice to which they were entitled. In this case, plaintiffs had to wait 182 days as calculated by MCR 1.108(1), meaning that plaintiffs had to wait until June 26, 2013, was over before using whatever time remained in the period of limitations-in this case, one day, June 27, 2013-to file their complaint. Because plaintiffs filed their complaint on June 27, 2013, plaintiffs' complaint was timely filed.

         Reversed and remanded.

         BEFORE THE ENTIRE BENCH

          OPINION

          Markman, C.J.

         The Revised Judicature Act (RJA), MCL 600.101 et seq., requires that a prospective medical malpractice plaintiff provide a potential defendant at least 182 days of notice prior to filing suit. If a plaintiff files a notice of intent (NOI) to file a claim before the limitations period for the malpractice action expires, but the limitations period for the malpractice action would otherwise expire during the 182-day notice period, the statute of limitations for the malpractice action is tolled for the duration of the notice period. In this case, we consider whether the limitations period is tolled when the NOI is filed on the last day of the limitations period, leaving no whole days of the limitations period to toll. We conclude that the limitations period is tolled under such circumstances. As a result, we further conclude that plaintiff's complaint, which was filed the day after the notice period ended, was timely, and we reverse the contrary decision of the Court of Appeals.

         I. FACTS AND HISTORY

         On December 26, 2011, plaintiff Jeffrey Haksluoto[1] went to the emergency room at defendant Mt. Clemens Regional Medical Center, complaining of abdominal pain and various forms of gastrointestinal distress. He was given a CT scan that was interpreted by defendant Dr. Eli Shapiro as being unremarkable, and plaintiff was sent home. Plaintiff went back to the emergency room on January 6, 2012, at which time, he asserts, he was correctly diagnosed, prompting emergency surgery. Plaintiff now alleges that Dr. Shapiro misinterpreted the CT scan on December 26 and that if it had been properly interpreted, his condition would have been detected sooner and addressed rather than worsening.

         It is undisputed that the end of the limitations period for plaintiff's medical malpractice claim was December 26, 2013. Plaintiff served his NOI on that very date, the final day of the limitations period. After waiting 182 days from December 26, 2013, plaintiff then filed his complaint on the "183rd day, " June 27, 2014. Shortly after he filed his complaint, defendants filed a motion for summary disposition, arguing that the suit was time-barred, but the trial court denied the motion.

         The Court of Appeals reversed. Haksluoto v Mt Clemens Regional Med Ctr, 314 Mich.App. 424; 886 N.W.2d 920 (2016). The panel held that MCR 1.108-- the rule concerning the calculation of time-- is best understood to signify that "the 182-day notice period began on December 27, 2013-- the day after plaintiffs served the NOI on December 26, 2013-- and expired on June 26, 2014." Id. at 432. Because this meant that "the notice period did not commence until one day after the limitations period had expired, " the Court felt "constrained to conclude that filing the NOI on the last day of the limitations period was not sufficient to toll the statute of limitations . . . ." Id. at 432-433. The Court acknowledged "that [its] analysis means that a plaintiff who serves an NOI on the last day of the limitations period is legally incapable of filing a timely complaint and is, in effect, deadlocked from timely filing a suit in compliance with both the statutory notice period and the statute of limitations." Id. at 433. We granted leave to appeal to consider whether plaintiff's NOI tolled the statute of limitations and whether the instant complaint filed the day after the notice period ended was therefore timely. Haksluoto v Mt Clemens Regional Med Ctr, 500 Mich. 892 (2016).

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         This Court reviews motions for summary disposition de novo. Maiden v Rozwood, 461 Mich. 109, 118; 597 N.W.2d 817 (1999). Defendants' motion for summary disposition in the trial court was brought under MCR 2.116(C)(7). All well-pleaded allegations are viewed in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party unless documentary evidence is provided that contradicts them. Patterson v Kleiman, 447 Mich. 429, 434; 526 N.W.2d 879 (1994). Substantively, this case requires us to interpret the meaning of statutes and court rules, which are reviewed de novo. See McAuley v Gen Motors Corp, 457 Mich. 513, 518; 578 N.W.2d 282 (1998). Similarly, "[t]he applicability of a legal doctrine [constitutes] a question of law. This Court reviews questions of law de novo." James v Alberts, 464 Mich. 12, 14; 626 N.W.2d ...


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