Justia Consumer Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Michigan Supreme Court
Estate of Nickola v MIC General Ins. Co.
In 2004, George and Thelma Nickola, were injured in a car accident. The driver of the other car was insured with a no-fault insurance policy provided the minimum liability coverage allowed by law: $20,000 per person, up to $40,000 per accident. The Nickolas’ (acting through their attorney) wrote to their insurer, defendant MIC General Insurance Company, explaining that the no-fault liability insurance policy was insufficient to cover the Nickolas' injuries. The letter also advised MIC that the Nickolas were claiming UIM benefits under their automobile policy. The Nickolas’ policy provided for UIM limits of $100,000 per person, up to $300,000 per accident, and they sought payment of UIM benefits in the amount of $160,000; $80,000 for each insured. An adjuster for defendant MIC denied the claim, asserting that the Nickolas could not establish a threshold injury for noneconomic tort recovery. The matter was ultimately ordered to arbitration, the outcome of which resulted in an award of $80,000 for George’s injuries and $33,000 for Thelma’s. The award specified that the amounts were “inclusive of interest, if any, as an element of damage from the date of injury to the date of suit, but not inclusive of other interest, fees or costs that may otherwise be allowable.” The trial court affirmed the arbitration awards but declined to award penalty interest under the UTPA, finding that penalty interest did not apply because the UIM claim was “reasonably in dispute” for purposes of MCL 500.2006(4). The Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court, holding that the “reasonably in dispute” language applied to plaintiff’s UIM claim because a UIM claim “essentially” places the insured in the shoes of a third-party claimant. The Michigan Supreme Court held that an insured making a claim under his or her own insurance policy for UIM benefits cannot be considered a “third party tort claimant” under MCL 500.2006(4). The Court reversed the Court of Appeals denying plaintiff penalty interest under the UTPA, and remanded this case back to the trial court for further proceedings. View "Estate of Nickola v MIC General Ins. Co." on Justia Law
Hill v. Sears, Roebuck & Co.
Marcy Hill, Patricia Hill, and Christopher Hill brought an action against Sears, Roebuck & Co., Sears Logistic Services, Inc., Merchant Delivery, Inc., Exel Direct, Inc., Mark Pritchard, Timothy Dameron, and others, seeking to recover damages for injuries and property damage incurred when Marcy Hill released natural gas through an uncapped gas line and plaintiffs’ home burned down following Patricia Hill’s attempt to light a candle. Defendants were prior owners of the home and the parties who sold, delivered, and installed an electric washer and dryer purchased by Marcy Hill in 2003. Hill’s mother had directed the installers to place the washer and dryer in the same location where the prior owners’ gas dryer had been situated. The prior owners had turned off the gas to the line supplying their dryer, but had not capped off the line when they moved, taking their dryer with them. In 2007, four years after the electric dryer’s installation, during which time it had functioned without incident, Hill inadvertently opened the valve on the gas line. Marcy and Patricia Hill smelled gas throughout the day but did not act on this information, despite both women’s knowledge that the smell of natural gas required safety precautions. Plaintiffs’ home exploded that night when Patricia Hill attempted to light the candle with a lighter. Plaintiffs asserted that the installers had negligently installed the dryer and failed to discover, properly inspect, cap, and warn plaintiffs about the uncapped gas line. The court denied the retailers’, delivery companies’, and installers’ motions for summary judgment. The installers, Mark Pritchard and Timothy Dameron, appealed. The Court of Appeals affirmed. The retailers, delivery companies, and the installers filed separate applications for leave to appeal. Upon review of the matter, the Supreme Court concluded that the delivery and installation of the washer and dryer did not create a new dangerous condition with respect to the uncapped gas line or make an existing dangerous condition more hazardous. The hazard associated with the uncapped gas line was present when the installers entered the premises and when they left; the danger posed by the uncapped gas line was the same before and after the installation. Any liability of the retailers or the delivery companies would have resulted from their agency relationship with the installers. The circuit court erred by denying the summary judgment motions. The case was reversed and remanded for entry of an order granting defendants summary judgment. View "Hill v. Sears, Roebuck & Co." on Justia Law