Articles Posted in Injury Law

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Plaintiff Clifton Arbuckle sustained a work-related back injury while working for General Motors Corporation (GM), and in May 1993 began receiving a disability pension. He retired that month and was subsequently awarded workers’ compensation benefits. Later, he also received Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits. GM and the International Union, United Automobile, Aerospace and Agricultural Implement Workers of America (UAW) had executed a letter of agreement in 1990 in which GM agreed not to coordinate workers’ compensation and disability pension benefits for its employees under MCL 418.354. This letter of agreement was incorporated into the 1990 collective-bargaining agreement (CBA) between GM and the UAW and was intended to remain in place until termination or amendment of the CBA, which expired in November 1993. When the CBA expired, however, the provision against coordination was continued in subsequent letters of agreement and incorporated into subsequent CBAs. In 2009, GM and the UAW adopted a formula (incorporated into the 2009 CBA) by which GM would coordinate benefits, using disability pension benefits to reduce the amount of workers’ compensation benefits for all workers and retirees, regardless of when they had retired. GM advised Arbuckle that effective January 1, 2010, his benefits would be reduced using the formula in the 2009 agreement. Arbuckle appealed to the Workers’ Compensation Agency, which ultimately concluded that GM was improperly using Arbuckle’s SSDI benefits to offset his workers’ compensation benefits, in violation of MCL 418.354(11). A workers’ compensation magistrate reversed the director’s ruling but nevertheless concluded that GM was prohibited from reducing Arbuckle’s workers’ compensation benefits by his disability pension benefits because Arbuckle had never agreed to coordination of benefits and no evidence established that the UAW had the authority to bargain on Arbuckle’s behalf after his retirement. The Michigan Compensation Appellate Commission (MCAC) reversed in part, holding that irrespective of the UAW’s authority to bind retirees, GM was permitted to coordinate Arbuckle’s disability pension benefits. Arbuckle sought leave to appeal, but after the Court of Appeals granted his application, he died. Robert Arbuckle, the personal representative of the estate, was substituted as plaintiff. The Court of Appeals reversed in an unpublished opinion per curiam and remanded the case for further proceedings. GM then appealed. The Supreme Court concluded after its review that the Court of Appeals erred in holding that GM lacked the authority to coordinate Arbuckle’s benefits under the 2009 CBA. The Court reversed and reinstated MCAC's order. View "Arbuckle v. General Motors, LLC" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff was walking on a sidewalk in defendant city when she was injured after tripping on a 2.5-inch vertical discontinuity between adjacent sidewalk slabs. She sued defendant, alleging inter alia that the sidewalk’s hazardous condition had existed for more than 30 days before her fall. However, in her deposition, she stated that she did not know for how long the discontinuity had existed. The only relevant evidence she submitted was three photographs of the defect taken by plaintiff’s husband about 30 days after the accident. Defendant moved for summary disposition pursuant to MCR 2.116(C)(7), (C)(8), and (C)(10). The trial court found plaintiff’s photographs insufficient to establish the defect’s origin and duration and granted summary disposition without specifying under which rule it had granted the motion. On appeal, the Court of Appeals noted that the trial court had reviewed material outside of the pleadings and therefore concluded that the trial court could not have granted summary disposition under MCR 2.116(C)(8). The issue this case presented for the Michigan Supreme Court's resolution was whether for purposes of the “highway exception” to governmental immunity from tort claims, MCL 691.1402, plaintiff’s photographs of a sidewalk defect taken about 30 days after plaintiff’s accident were sufficient evidence to establish a genuine issue of material fact regarding whether the defect existed at least 30 days before the accident. The Court concluded that such evidence alone was not probative of a sidewalk’s past condition and was thus insufficient, without more, to avoid summary judgment. Consequently the Court reversed the Court of Appeals judgment and reinstated the trial court’s dismissal of plaintiff’s action. View "Bernardoni v. City of Saginaw" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Barbara Kozak alleged she was injured while crossing Kings Highway in Lincoln Park when she tripped over a three-inch elevation differential between the two slabs of concrete that met at the centerline of the street. Kozak and her husband filed suit against defendant, the city of Lincoln Park, pursuant to the “highway exception,” alleging that defendant failed to “maintain the highway in reasonable repair so that it is reasonably safe and convenient for public travel.” Defendant moved for summary disposition under MCR 2.116(C)(7) (governmental immunity) and (C)(10) (no genuine issue of material fact). The trial court granted defendant’s motion, and the Court of Appeals, in a divided unpublished opinion, affirmed, concluding that plaintiffs did not provide evidence to counter defendant’s assertions that the road was reasonably safe and convenient for public travel. Because the Supreme Court concluded that plaintiffs presented sufficient evidence to avoid summary judgment, it reversed the judgment of the Court of Appeals and remanded this case back to the circuit court for further proceedings. View "Kozak v. City of Lincoln Park" on Justia Law

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Linda Hodge filed suit against State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company for first-party no-fault benefits related to injuries she sustained when she was struck by a car insured by State Farm. Hodge’s complaint indicated that the amount in controversy was $25,000, which was within the district court’s jurisdiction. During discovery, State Farm came to believe that Hodge would present at trial proof of damages in excess of the district court’s $25,000 jurisdictional limit. The trial court denied State Farm’s motion in limine to prevent Hodge from presenting evidence of claims exceeding $25,000, and to prevent the jury from awarding damages in excess of $25,000. At trial, Hodge did present proof of injuries exceeding $25,000, and the jury returned a verdict of $85,957. The district court reduced the verdict to the jurisdictional limit of $25,000, and it awarded $1,769 in no-fault interest. State Farm appealed, claiming that the amount in controversy exceeded the district court’s jurisdictional limit and that capping Hodge’s damages at $25,000 could not cure the defect. The circuit court agreed and reversed the district court’s order of judgment. The Court of Appeals affirmed the circuit court’s decision that the district court was divested of jurisdiction when pretrial discovery, counsel’s arguments, and the evidence presented at trial pointed to damages in excess of $25,000. The Supreme Court held "what the jurisprudence of this state has long established:" in its subject-matter jurisdiction inquiry, a district court determines the amount in controversy using the prayer for relief set forth in the plaintiff’s pleadings, calculated exclusive of fees, costs, and interest. Hodge’s complaint prayed for money damages “not in excess of $25,000,” the jurisdictional limit of the district court. Even though her proofs exceeded that amount, the prayer for relief controlled when determining the amount in controversy, and the limit of awardable damages. Because there were no allegations, and therefore no findings, of bad faith in the pleadings, the district court had subject-matter jurisdiction over the plaintiff’s claim. View "Hodge v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Ins. Co." on Justia Law

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In September 2008, plaintiff Dustin Rock fractured his right ankle while changing the brake pads on a truck. Defendant K. Thomas Crocker, D.O., a board-certified orthopedic surgeon, conducted surgery and provided postsurgical care. In October 2008, defendant allegedly told plaintiff that he could start bearing weight on his leg, though plaintiff did not start doing so at the time. In November 2008, another doctor, Dr. David Viviano, performed a second surgery on plaintiff’s ankle, purportedly because the surgery performed by defendant had failed to unite all the pieces of the fracture. At the time of the surgery performed by defendant, Viviano was a board-certified orthopedic surgeon. In June 2010, plaintiff filed this lawsuit, alleging that defendant had committed 10 specific negligent acts during the first surgery and over the course of postsurgical care. The issues this case presented for the Michigan Supreme Court's review involved: (1) the admissibility of allegations of breaches of the standard of care that did not cause the plaintiff’s injury; and (2) the time at which a standard-of-care expert witness must meet the board-certification requirement in MCL 600.2169(1)(a). First, the Supreme Court vacated that portion of the Court of Appeals’ judgment ruling on the admissibility of the allegations in this case and remanded for the circuit court to determine whether the disputed evidence was admissible under MRE 404(b). Second, the Supreme Court affirmed the Court of Appeals’ conclusion that a proposed expert’s board-certification qualification was based on the expert’s board-certification status at the time of the alleged malpractice rather than at the time of the testimony. View "Rock v. Crocker" on Justia Law

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In 2008, Feridon Pirgu sustained closed head injuries after he was struck by a car driven by an insured of defendant, United Services Automobile Association. Plaintiff, Feridon’s wife Lindita, was appointed as his guardian and conservator. Shortly thereafter, plaintiff sought various personal protection insurance (PIP) benefits for Feridon. Because Feridon was uninsured, the claim was initially assigned to the Michigan Assigned Claims Facility, which then assigned the claim to Citizens Insurance Company. Following a priority dispute between Citizens and defendant, defendant was determined to have first priority for payment of PIP benefits. Defendant began adjusting the claim in 2010, and immediately discontinued payment of the benefits. The issue this case presented for the Michigan Supreme Court's was whether the framework for calculating a reasonable attorney fee set forth in "Smith v Khouri" applied to attorney fee determinations under MCL 500.3148(1) of the no-fault insurance act. The Court of Appeals’ majority affirmed the trial court’s calculation of the attorney fee award, concluding that the Smith framework did not apply to attorney fee determinations under section 3148(1). The Supreme Court disagreed with this conclusion and instead held that the Smith framework applied to attorney fee determinations under section 3148(1). Therefore, in lieu of granting leave to appeal, the Court reversed the judgment of the Court of Appeals, vacated the fee award, and remanded to the trial court for reconsideration of its attorney fee award. View "Pirgu v. Unived Services Automobile Ass'n." on Justia Law

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Alan Jesperson was injured in a motor vehicle accident when his motorcycle was struck from behind by a vehicle owned by Mary Basha and driven by Matthew Badelalla while Badelalla was making deliveries for Jet’s Pizza. Auto Club Insurance Association (ACIA) was notified of Jesperson’s injuries and that it was the highest-priority no-fault insurer. It began making payments to Jesperson shortly after it received that notice. Jesperson brought an action against Basha, Badelalla, and Jet’s seeking damages for the injuries he had sustained. He later moved to amend his complaint to add a claim against ACIA after it stopped paying him no-fault benefits. The trial court entered a default judgment against Badelalla and Basha, entered an order allowing Jesperson to amend the complaint, and entered an order severing Jesperson’s claims for trial. A jury returned a verdict of no cause of action with regard to Jesperson’s claims against Jet’s. Before trial on the remaining claim, ACIA moved for summary judgment, arguing that Jesperson’s claim against it was barred by the statute of limitations in MCL 500.3145(1). The court agreed that the statute of limitations barred Jesperson’s claim and granted ACIA’s motion for summary disposition. On appeal, the Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that the exception in MCL 500.3145(1) to the one-year limitations period when the insurer has previously made a payment applied only if the insurer has made a payment within one year after the date of the accident. Jesperson appealed, and the Supreme Court reversed. The Supreme Court found that the insurer's payment of no-fault benefits more than a year after the date of the accident satisfied the second exception to the one-year statute of limitations in MCL 500.3145(1). The Court vacated the trial court's order granting summary judgment in favor of the insurer and the case was remanded for further proceedings. View "Jesperson v. Auto Club Insurance Association" on Justia Law

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During an attempted apprehension of an armed-robbery suspect, defendant-police officer Jake Liss shot a fellow officer, plaintiff Michael Lego. Lego and his spouse Pamela filed suit against defendant, asserting gross negligence. The trial court denied defendant’s motion for summary judgment, and the Court of Appeals affirmed. The issue this case presented on appeal to the Supreme Court centered on the scope of the immunity provision of the firefighter’s rule for governmental entities and employees, MCL 600.2966. The Supreme Court disagreed with the Court of Appeals majority that the applicability of MCL 600.2966 could not be decided at this time as a matter of law under the facts presented in this case. "The majority essentially determined that the defendant might not be entitled to immunity if his actions were especially egregious; in other words, if the defendant were grossly negligent, he would not be entitled to immunity because the injury resulting from his actions would not 'arise[] from the normal, inherent, and foreseeable risks of [Michael Lego’s] profession.'" The Court felt this interpretation of the language “normal, inherent, and foreseeable risks” contravened MCL 600.2966, especially when it was read in conjunction with the general firefighter’s rule, MCL 600.2967. The Court therefore held that the Court of Appeals erred by holding that defendant would not be entitled to immunity if he acted with gross negligence. Accordingly, defendant was entitled to immunity as a matter of law. The Court of Appeals judgment was reversed in part; the case was remanded to the Circuit Court for entry of an order granting summary judgment to defendant. View "Lego v. Liss" on Justia Law

Posted in: Injury Law

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In 2007, plaintiff Lisa Tyra received a kidney transplant at defendant William Beaumont Hospital, with a kidney made available by defendant Organ Procurement Agency of Michigan. Plaintiff allegedly suffered complications because the kidney did not constitute a proper match, and she filed suit asserting defendants should have identified this fact before the surgery. When plaintiff filed her complaint, the 182-day notice period set forth in MCL 600.2912b(1) had not yet expired. Organ Procurement moved for summary disposition on the basis that plaintiff’s complaint was filed prematurely, and the period of limitations had since expired. The hospital and Dr. Steven Cohn, the transplant surgeon, joined the motion and the trial court later granted the motion. The trial court reasoned that, under "Burton v Reed City Hosp Corp," (691 NW2d 424 (2005)), the prematurely filed complaint failed to toll the running of the period of limitations and plaintiff could not cure the error by refiling the complaint. The legal issue before the Supreme Court in this case was whether the controlling caselaw authority governing this case, "Zwiers v Growney," (778 NW2d 81 (2009)), was overruled by the Michigan Supreme Court in "Driver v Naini," (802 NW2d 311 (2011)). The Court of Appeals held that Zwiers was not overruled in Driver. Because the Supreme Court concluded to the contrary, it reversed the judgment of the Court of Appeals in part in both "Tyra v Organ Procurement Agency of Mich," (850 NW2d 667 (2013)), and "Furr v McLeod," (848 NW2d 465 (2014)). In "Tyra," the Court reinstated the trial court’s order granting defendants’ motion for summary disposition, and in "Furr," the Court remanded the case back to the trial court for entry of an order granting defendants’ motion for summary disposition. View "Tyra v. Organ Procurement Agency of Michigan" on Justia Law

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The issue this case presented for the Supreme Court's consideration was whether defendant lifeguard's failure to intervene in the deceased's drowning was "the proximate cause" of his death. While governmental agencies and their employees are generally immune from tort liability under the governmental tort liability act (GTLA), MCL 691.1407(2)(c) provided an exception to this general rule when a governmental employee's conduct is both (1) grossly negligent and (2) "the proximate cause" of an injury, which the Michigan Supreme Court interpreted to mean the "most immediate, efficient, and direct cause". Plaintiff sued defendant, a governmental employee, arguing that governmental immunity did not apply because defendant's grossly negligent behavior while lifeguarding and resulting failure to rescue plaintiff's drowning son was the proximate cause of his death. Subsequently, defendant moved for summary judgment on immunity grounds, but the trial court denied defendant's motion. The Court of Appeals, in a split opinion, affirmed, concluding that a jury could reasonably find that defendant's failure to intervene constituted the proximate cause of the deceased's death. The Court of Appeals dissent instead concluded that defendant was immune from liability. After review, the Supreme Court held that the trial court erred by denying summary judgment to defendant, because the exception to governmental immunity articulated in MCL 691.1407(2) was inapplicable in this case. View "Beals v. Michigan" on Justia Law