No-fault one-year-back rule unaffected by tolling provision

A no-fault plaintiff who invoked the statutory minority/insanity tolling provision to seek additional benefits many years after her accident is subject to the no-fault act’s one-year-back rule, a divided Michigan Supreme Court has ruled.

The Court overruled University of Michigan Regents v. Titan Ins. Co., 487 Mich. 289 (2010), which held that the minority/insanity tolling provision, MCL 600.5851(1), also tolled the one-year-back rule, MCL 500.3145(1).

The rule limits recovery of no-fault benefits to those losses occurring no more than one year before suit is filed.

The Court’s latest pronouncement on the issue, the third in six years, came in Joseph v. Auto Club Ins. Ass’n (Lawyers Weekly No. 06-78514, 26 pages).

The Joseph decision reinstated Cameron v. Auto Club Ins. Ass’n, 476 Mich. 55 (2006).

“We once again hold that the minority/insanity tolling provision, which addresses only when an action may be brought, does not preclude the application of the one-year-back rule, which separately limits the amount of benefits that can be recovered, ” said Justice Mary Beth Kelly, writing for the Joseph majority.

“These distinctions were recognized in Michigan law both in Cameron as well as several decisions of this Court that predate Cameron.

“Yet this Court’s decision in Regents conflated these distinct concepts in order to effectuate what the Regents majority believed was a broader social good served by expanding the right to recover benefits beyond those allowed by law,” Kelly continued.

Mary Beth Kelly was joined by Chief Justice Robert Young Jr. and Justices Stephen Markman and Brian Zahra.

Justice Marilyn Kelly, joined by Justices Michael Cavanagh and Diane Hathaway, dissented.

Marilyn Kelly, who authored the majority opinion in Regents, noted, “That the Legislature wanted to grant a minor or insane person the right to prove his or her damages in a court of law while lacking any opportunity to be awarded them defies common sense.”

Marilyn Kelly continued, “Yet under the Cameron regime restored today, many claims supposedly ‘saved’ by MCL 600.5851(1) will be disposed of in precisely that fashion.”

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