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Candler v. Farm Bureau Mutual Insurance Co. of Michigan

Court of Appeals of Michigan

October 24, 2017

KALVIN CANDLER, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
FARM BUREAU MUTUAL INSURANCE COMPANY OF MICHIGAN, Defendant-Appellant. and PAIN CENTER USA, PLLC, Intervening Plaintiff,

         Wayne Circuit Court LC No. 15-011245-NF

          Before: Saad, P.J., and Cavanagh and Cameron, JJ.

          Saad, P.J.

         In this action to recover personal injury protection (PIP) benefits, defendant appeals the trial court's denial of its motion for summary disposition.[1] In this case of first impression, we are asked to provide the proper interpretation of MCL 500.3173a(2), which imposes consequences for supplying false information "in support of a claim to the Michigan automobile insurance placement facility." Because plaintiff knowingly made false and material statements that were used to support a claim which was submitted to the Michigan automobile insurance placement facility (MAIPF), a fraudulent insurance act was committed, and plaintiff is precluded from recovering on his claim. Accordingly, we reverse the denial of defendant's motion for summary disposition.

         I. BASIC FACTS

         On September 12, 2014, plaintiff was struck by a hit-and-run driver. Because plaintiff was uninsured at the time of the accident, and because the driver of the other vehicle could not be identified, plaintiff made a claim for PIP benefits through the Michigan Assigned Claims Plan (MACP), which is maintained by the MAIPF.[2] The MAIPF assigned defendant to handle plaintiff's claims in accordance with the provisions of the Michigan no-fault act, MCL 500.3101 et seq.

         While defendant paid over $150, 000 in PIP benefits to plaintiff, it refused to pay other PIP benefits, including any for attendant or replacement-care services. Among the documentation submitted to defendant in support of a claim for PIP benefits were replacement-services calendars for the months of August, September, and October 2015. The calendars purportedly were signed by Andrew Candler, plaintiff's brother, and showed that Andrew provided care to plaintiff during these three months. However, during discovery, it was learned that Andrew last provided services to plaintiff in July 2015. After this time, plaintiff moved from Rochester to Detroit to live with his girlfriend, who took over providing replacement services for plaintiff. Plaintiff's counsel at the trial court conceded that plaintiff had signed his brother's name to these calendars.[3]

         Plaintiff filed the instant suit to recover the owed PIP benefits. Defendant moved for summary disposition and argued that MCL 500.3173a(2) precluded plaintiff from recovering any PIP benefits because of the false statements that were provided. After accepting supplemental briefs from the parties, the trial court denied defendant's motion.

         II. STANDARDS OF REVIEW

         Defendant moved for summary disposition pursuant to MCR 2.116(C)(8) and (10), but because the resolution of the motion required consideration of evidence outside the pleadings, we will treat the motion as having been decided under MCR 2.116(C)(10). See Travis v Dreis & Krump Mfg Co, 453 Mich. 149, 183-184; 551 N.W.2d 132 (1996). We review a trial court's decision on a motion for summary disposition under MCR 2.116(C)(10) de novo. See Maiden v Rozwood, 461 Mich. 109, 118; 597 N.W.2d 817 (1999). A motion under this court rule "tests the factual sufficiency of the complaint." Id. at 120. "In evaluating a motion for summary disposition brought under this subsection, a trial court considers affidavits, pleadings, depositions, and admissions, and other evidence submitted by the parties in the light most favorable to the party opposing the motion." Id. (citation omitted). The motion is properly granted "if there is no genuine issue concerning any material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Hazle v Ford Motor Co, 464 Mich. 456, 461; 628 N.W.2d 515 (2001).

         Resolution of this issue also involves questions of statutory interpretation, which are questions of law that we review de novo. Szpak v Inyang, 290 Mich.App. 711, 713; 803 N.W.2d 904 (2010).

         III. ANALYSIS

         Defendant argues that the trial court erred when it denied its motion for summary disposition because MCL 500.3173a(2) dictates a different result. We agree.

         The goal in interpreting statutes is to give effect to the intent of the Legislature. Titan Ins Co v Farmers Ins Exch, 241 Mich.App. 258, 261; 615 N.W.2d 774 (2000). "In determining the intent of the Legislature, this Court must first look to the language of the statute." Bush v Shabahang, 484 Mich. 156, 166-167; 772 N.W.2d 272 (2009). "If the language is clear and unambiguous, we assume the Legislature intended its plain meaning, and the ...


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