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Allstate Insurance Co. v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co.

Court of Appeals of Michigan

October 3, 2017

ALLSTATE INSURANCE COMPANY, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
STATE FARM MUTUAL AUTOMOBILE INSURANCE COMPANY, Defendant-Appellee, and LORENZO CAUSEY, Defendant.

         Wayne Circuit Court LC No. 14-014964-NF

          Before: Beckering, P.J., and Markey and Riordan, JJ.

          Markey, J

         Plaintiff Allstate Insurance Company, an assigned claims insurer, appeals by right the trial court's order granting defendant State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company (defendant), the insurer of the at-fault driver, Lorenzo Causey, summary disposition under MCR 2.116(C)(7) (statute of limitations) and MCR 2.116(C)(10) (no genuine issue of a material fact). [1]Because plaintiff's reimbursement action was timely under MCL 500.3175(3), and it was entitled to reimbursement from defendant for all of the no-fault benefits, we reverse and remand.

         On October 31, 2012, Causey was driving a motor vehicle when he struck Amanda Pettaway as she was crossing the road at an intersection, causing her injuries. Pettaway applied for personal protection insurance (PIP) benefits through the Michigan assigned claims plan. In a letter dated April 10, 2013, the assigned claims plan informed Pettaway's attorney that Pettaway's claim had been assigned to plaintiff.

          Plaintiff retained Data Surveys, Inc. (Data Surveys), to investigate Pettaway's claim. Data Survey's report dated May 10, 2013 confirmed that Causey was the owner of the vehicle involved in the accident but that the company had not been able to directly contact him. The According Data Survey report stated that Causey "refused to come to the front door and was conveying information through his daughter to the investigator." Specifically, "that the involved vehicle reportedly was his only automobile" and that the vehicle was not insured.

         On November 20, 2014, plaintiff brought suit against Causey seeking to recover under MCL 500.3177(1)[2] for all the no-fault benefits it had paid to or no behalf of Pettaway. On February 25, 2015, Causey's counsel filed an appearance and plaintiff learned that Causey was in fact insured by State Farm on the date of the accident. On May 27, 2015, an order was entered reflecting the parties' stipulation to plaintiff's filing an amended complaint identifying State Farm as a party defendant, which was filed with the stipulation. Plaintiff asserted in the amended complaint that it was entitled under MCL 500.3175 and MCL 500.3177 to recover $40, 974.42 from defendant as the amount of no-fault benefits it had paid to or on Pettaway's behalf.

         Defendant asserted that plaintiff's claim was untimely and barred by MCL 500.3175(3). This statute, which pertains to insurers assigned claims under the assigned claims plan, states in part that "[a]n action to enforce rights to indemnity or reimbursement against a third party shall not be commenced after the later of 2 years after the assignment of the claim to the insurer or 1 year after the date of the last payment to the claimant." MCL 500.3175(3).

         Causey also moved for summary disposition under MCR 2.116(C)(10) on the basis that plaintiff could not recover benefits from him because it was undisputed that his vehicle was insured by defendant State Farm on the date of the accident; therefore, he was not an "uninsured" motorist under MCL 500.3177. Plaintiff opposed Causey's motion, asserting that Causey was a necessary party to the action because Causey "fraudulently concealed the identity of his insurer" and that the tolling provisions of MCL 600.5855 should be applied to its claim. On September 14, 2015, after hearing oral argument, the trial court granted Causey's motion and dismissed Causey from the case without prejudice.

         On November 18, 2015, defendant moved for summary disposition under MCR 2.116(C)(7) and MCR 2.116(C)(10) on the ground that the amended complaint did not comply with MCL 500.3175(3) because it was filed more than two years after the assignment of Pettaway's claim and had not brought within "1 year after the date of the last payment to the claimant[.]" Defendant argued that the only payments plaintiff made relating to Pettaway's claim within one year of the amended complaint were made on July 3, 2014 ($814.92) and August 11, 2014 ($2037.30) to Van Dyke Spinal Rehabilitation. Defendant further asserted that it had "issued payments" in those amounts to plaintiff's attorneys and the MACP. Thus, defendant argued, no controversy existed because defendant had already reimbursed plaintiff for the payments plaintiff had made within the year before filing the amended complaint.

         In response to defendant's motion, plaintiff asserted that it rather than defendant was entitled to summary disposition under MCR 2.116(I)(2). Plaintiff maintained that the limitations period was tolled because Causey fraudulently concealed that State Farm provided insurance coverage for Causey and his vehicle. Plaintiff also argued that the payments to it had made to Pettaway's medical providers within one year of filing its amended complaint satisfied the requirements of MCL 500.3175(3). Plaintiff asserted that defendant's position-that a one-year-back rule applies to an assigned insurer's right to reimbursement-was without merit.

         On January 8, 2016, the trial court heard oral argument on defendant's motion. The first part of the hearing focused on whether the statute of limitations could be tolled because of Causey's purportedly "fraudulent" behavior. The parties argued over whether plaintiff could prove its allegations because plaintiff had not attached any affidavits to its motion. The trial indicated it "begrudgingly" have to grant defendant's motion, apparently based on plaintiff's failure to present evidence that would be admissible to prove fraud. The parties then argued the limitations period found in MCL 500.3175(3). Plaintiff argued that because defendant had reimbursed plaintiff for the payments to VanDyke Spinal Rehabilitation made in July and August 2014 that defendant also was obligated to reimburse plaintiff for all of the payments that plaintiff had made on Pettaway's PIP claim. The trial court disagreed with this argument and granted defendant's motion for summary disposition "for the reasons stated on the record." An order to that effect was entered on January 8, 2016.

         Plaintiff moved the trial court to reconsider, arguing that under Farm Bureau Ins Co v. Chukwueke (Chukwueke I), unpublished opinion per curiam of the Court of Appeals, issued January 17, 2013 (Docket No. 306827), plaintiff was entitled to reimbursement of the other payment it made to Van Dyke Spinal totaling $20, 495.55. Defendant responded by arguing, in part, that, according to Farm Bureau Ins Co v. Chukwueke (Chukwueke II), unpublished opinion per curiam of the Court of Appeals, issued June 16, 2015 (Docket No. 320600), plaintiff was only entitled to reimbursement for payments made after May 27, 2014, which defendant had already tendered. In denying plaintiff's motion for reconsideration, the trial court ruled that "[b]ased on the rationale in [Chukwueke I], Plaintiff is only entitled to reimbursement for payments made after May 27, 2014; these payments have been reimbursed by Defendant."

         Plaintiff now appeals by right.

         I. ANALYSIS

         A. STANDARD OF REVIEW / PRINCIPLES OF LAW

         This Court reviews de novo a ruling on a motion for summary disposition. Nuculovic v. Hill, 287 Mich.App. 58, 61; 783 N.W.2d 124 (2010). We also reviewed questions of statutory interpretation de novo. Dextrom v. Wexford Co, 287 Mich.App. 406, 416; 789 N.W.2d 211 (2010).

         MCR 2.116(C)(7) "permits summary disposition where the claim is barred by an applicable statute of limitations." Nuculovic, 287 Mich.App. at 61. When addressing such a motion, a trial court must accept as true the allegations of the complaint unless contradicted by the parties' documentary submissions. Patterson v. Kleiman, 447 Mich. 429, 434 n 6; 526 N.W.2d 879 (1994). Although not required to do so, a party moving for summary disposition under subrule (C)(7) may support the motion with affidavits, depositions, admissions, or other admissible documentary evidence, which the reviewing court must consider. Maiden v. Rozwood, 461 Mich. 109, 119; 597 N.W.2d 817 (1999). If no material ...


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