JOSEPH v. AUTO CLUB INS. ASS'N

Docket No. 142615.

815 N.W.2d 412 (2012)

491 Mich. 200

Doreen JOSEPH, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. AUTO CLUB INSURANCE ASSOCIATION, a/k/a A.C.I.A, Defendant-Appellant.

Supreme Court of Michigan.

Decided May 15, 2012.


Attorney(s) appearing for the Case

Law Offices of Paul Zebrowski & Associates (by Thomas A. Biscup) , Shelby Township, for Doreen Joseph.

Siemon Huckabay, P.C. (by James W. Bodary) , Southfield, and Gross & Nemeth, P.L.C. (by James G. Gross ), Detroit, for Auto Club Insurance Association.

Amici Curiae:

Speaker Law Firm, PLLC (by Liisa R. Speaker ), and Sinas, Dramis, Brake, Boughton & McIntyre, P.C. (by George T. Sinas ), Lansing, for the Coalition Protecting Auto No-Fault.

Dykema Gossett PLLC (by Jill M. Wheaton and Joseph Erhardt ), Ann Arbor, for the Michigan Defense Trial Counsel.

Anselmi & Meirzejewski, P.C. (by Mark D. Sowle ), Bloomfield Hills, for Titan Insurance Company.


Opinion

MARY BETH KELLY, J.

We granted defendant Auto Club Insurance Association's bypass application for leave to appeal in this case to determine whether the minority/insanity tolling provision of MCL 600.5851(1) applies to toll the one-year-back rule in MCL 500.3145(1) of the no-fault act. The one-year-back rule is designed to limit the amount of benefits recoverable under the no-fault act to those losses occurring no more than one year before an action is brought. Plaintiff here is seeking to recover no-fault benefits for losses dating back 32 years before she brought her action. In denying defendant's motion for partial summary disposition, the circuit court relied on Univ. of Mich. Regents v. Titan Ins. Co.1 to hold that the minority/insanity tolling provision tolls the one-year-back rule. In Regents, this Court held that a saving provision that tolls a statute of limitations also prevents application of the one-year-back rule. Regents overruled Cameron v. Auto Club Ins. Ass'n2 and Liptow v. State Farm Mut. Auto Ins. Co.,3 which had held that the saving provisions at issue only tolled a statute of limitations, not statutes limiting damages.

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. 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. We recognize the necessity for, and value of, stability in the law and take no pleasure in overruling a precedent of recent vintage by this Court. But Regents itself simply failed to apply our then recent decision in Cameron, resulting in a decision that patently failed to enforce the requirements of the statutes that it interpreted. Because the holding in Regents contravened the Legislature's clear and unambiguous language in MCL 500.3145(1) and MCL 600.5851(1), Regents is overruled and we reinstate Cameron. Accordingly, we remand this case to the circuit court for entry of an order granting defendant's motion for partial summary disposition on the basis of the one-year-back rule.

I. FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

In June 1977, then 17-year-old plaintiff, Doreen Joseph, was involved in an automobile accident in which she suffered traumatic brain injury and quadriplegia. At the time of the accident, plaintiff had automobile insurance coverage through the Detroit Automobile Inter-Insurance Exchange, defendant's predecessor. Defendant later assumed responsibility for paying plaintiff's personal protection insurance (PIP) benefits. Since the date of plaintiff's injury, defendant has paid more than $4 million in PIP benefits for plaintiff's care.

On February 27, 2009, plaintiff filed a complaint seeking additional PIP benefits for allegedly unpaid case-management services provided by plaintiff's family members. The period for which plaintiff seeks recovery dates back to the date of plaintiff's accident in 1977. Defendant moved for partial summary disposition pursuant to MCR 2.116(C)(10), arguing that the one-year-back rule in MCL 500.3145(1) barred plaintiff's claim with respect to benefits sought for any period more than one year before the February 27, 2009, commencement date of plaintiff's action. Plaintiff responded that her "insanity" over the past 32 years had operated to toll the one-year-back rule pursuant to the minority/insanity tolling provision of MCL 600.5851(1).4

The circuit court denied defendant's motion for partial summary disposition, citing Regents for the proposition that the minority/insanity tolling provision tolls the one-year-back rule and, thus, if plaintiff is determined to be "insane," her recovery will not be limited to the year immediately preceding the filing of her complaint. Defendant filed an interlocutory application for leave to appeal in the Court of Appeals and then filed a bypass application for leave to appeal in this Court, arguing that the minority/insanity tolling provision does not apply to the one-year-back rule and that Regents was wrongly decided. We entered orders staying the circuit court proceedings5 and granting defendant's bypass application to consider whether Regents was correctly decided.6

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

This Court reviews de novo a circuit court's decision whether to grant or deny summary disposition.7 Similarly, we review de novo issues of statutory interpretation as questions of law.8 Our primary goal when interpreting statutes is to discern the intent of the Legislature.9 To do so, we focus on the best indicator of that intent, the language of the statute itself.10 The words used by the Legislature are given their common and ordinary meaning.11 If the statutory language is unambiguous, we presume that the Legislature intended the meaning that it clearly expressed, and further construction is neither required nor permitted.12

Defendant moved for partial summary disposition pursuant to MCR 2.116(C)(10). Because a motion under MCR 2.116(C)(10) tests the factual sufficiency of the complaint, the circuit court must consider the affidavits, pleadings, depositions, admissions, and other evidence submitted by the parties, MCR 2.116(G)(5), in the light most favorable to the party opposing the motion.13 If the proffered evidence fails to establish a genuine issue regarding any material fact, the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.14

III. ANALYSIS

A. THE ONE-YEAR-BACK RULE AND THE MINORITY/INSANITY TOLLING PROVISION

This case requires that we again interpret the limitations on recovery of PIP benefits set forth in the no-fault act. The relevant statutory provision of the no-fault act, MCL 500.3145(1), provides in pertinent part:

An action for recovery of personal protection insurance benefits payable under this chapter for accidental bodily injury may not be commenced later than 1 year after the date of the accident causing the injury unless written notice of injury as provided herein has been given to the insurer within 1 year after the accident or unless the insurer has previously made a payment of personal protection insurance benefits for the injury. If the notice has been given or a payment has been made, the action may be commenced at any time within 1 year after the most recent allowable expense, work loss or survivor's loss has been incurred. However, the claimant may not recover benefits for any portion of the loss incurred more than 1 year before the date on which the action was commenced.[15]

As early as 1984, this Court explained that this statutory provision contains separate and distinct limitations periods that relate both to the timing in which an action may be brought and the damages that may be recovered.16 Specifically, we have noted that MCL 500.3145(1)

contains two limitations on the time for filing suit and one limitation on the period for which benefits may be recovered: "(1) An action for personal protection insurance [PIP] benefits must be commenced not later than one year after the date of accident, unless the insured gives written notice of injury or the insurer previously paid [PIP] benefits for the injury. "(2) If notice has been given or payment has been made, the action may be commenced at any time within one year after the most recent loss was incurred. "(3) Recovery is limited to losses incurred during the one year preceding commencement of the action."[17]

Accordingly, a person filing a claim for PIP benefits must do so within a year of the accident unless the insured gives written notice of injury or previously received PIP benefits from the insurer. If notice was given or payment was made, the action can be commenced within one year of the most recent loss. In any case, though, recovery is limited only to losses that have been incurred during the year before the filing of the action.

The final limitation provided in MCL 500.3145(1) is the limitation on damages known as the one-year-back rule. In Devillers v. Auto Club Ins. Ass'n, we discussed the significance of the legislative distinction between statutes of limitations and provisions that limit damages, noting that

although a no-fault action to recover PIP benefits may be filed more than one year after the accident and more than one year after a particular loss has been incurred (provided that notice of injury has been given to the insurer or the insurer has previously paid PIP benefits for the injury), § 3145(1) nevertheless limits recovery in that action to those losses incurred within the one year preceding the filing of the action.[18]

Our Legislature has also independently established, in the Revised Judicature Act (RJA),19 a general tolling provision in order to aid those who are minors or legally insane. The minority/insanity tolling provision of MCL 600.5851(1) extends the time for filing suit by tolling an otherwise applicable statute of limitations.20 MCL 600.5851(1) provides in relevant part:

[I]f the person first entitled to make an entry or bring an action under this act is under 18 years of age or insane at the time the claim accrues, the person or those claiming under the person shall have 1 year after the disability is removed through death or otherwise, to make the entry or bring the action although the period of limitations has run.

Notably, by its unambiguous terms, this provision concerns when a minor or person suffering from insanity may "make the entry or bring the action," and the provision is entirely silent with regard to the amount of damages recoverable once an action has been brought.21

B. CAMERON AND ITS PROGENY

We first considered the interplay between the one-year-back rule and the minority/insanity tolling provision in Cameron.22 In Cameron, the plaintiffs' minor son sustained a closed head injury when an automobile struck his bicycle in 1996. Six years later, in 2002, the plaintiffs filed suit against their no-fault insurer to recover PIP benefits for attendant-care services rendered from 1996 to 1999. The plaintiffs argued that the minority/insanity tolling provision applied to toll the one-year-back rule, rendering recoverable the losses incurred between 1996 and 1999. We disagreed, holding that the minority/insanity tolling provision does not operate to toll the one-year-back rule. We explained in Cameron:

By its unambiguous terms, MCL 600.5851(1) concerns when a minor or person suffering from insanity may "make the entry or bring the action." It does not pertain to the damages recoverable once an action has been brought. MCL 600.5851(1) then is irrelevant to the damages-limiting one-year-back provision of MCL 500.3145(1).[23]

That is,

the minority/insanity tolling provision in MCL 600.5851(1), by its plain terms, only addresses when an action may be brought. Therefore, it does not apply to toll the one-year-back rule in MCL 500.3145(1) because that provision does not concern when an action may be brought but, instead, limits the amount of PIP benefits a person injured in an automobile accident may recover.[24]

In reaching this conclusion, we overruled the Court of Appeals' decision in Geiger v. Detroit Auto. Inter-Ins. Exch.,25 which held that MCL 600.5851(1) applies to toll the one-year-back rule.26 The Geiger panel reasoned that reading the statute in a contrary fashion would "severely limit the utility" of the minority/insanity tolling provision "and could deprive a person of benefits to which he would otherwise be rightfully entitled."27 This Court held that Geiger's conclusion was not supported by the statutory texts and contravened the Legislature's unambiguous directives, compelling its overruling. As Cameron explained:

[W]e must assume that the thing the Legislature wants is best understood by reading what it said. Because what was said in MCL 500.3145(1) and MCL 600.5851(1) is clear, no less clear is the policy. Damages are only allowed for one year back from the date the lawsuit is filed. We are enforcing the statutes as written. While some may question the wisdom of the Legislature's capping damages in this fashion, it is unquestionably a power that the Legislature has under our Constitution.[28]

After our decision in Cameron, the Court of Appeals in Liptow29 applied Cameron's reasoning to hold that separate tolling provisions for state political subdivisions30 do not preclude the application of the one-year-back rule. The panel reasoned that the plain statutory text of MCL 600.5821(4) indicates that the Legislature intended to exempt the state from statutes of limitations when bringing an action to recover public funds. As in Cameron, the Court recognized that the one-year-back rule is not a statute of limitations, but a damages-limiting provision. Accordingly, because MCL 600.5821(4) does not address damages limitations, the Court of Appeals determined that it has no effect on the one-year-back rule.31 Thus, Liptow held that while a political subdivision may bring an action at any time pursuant to MCL 600.5821(4), it cannot recover benefits for any portion of the loss incurred more than one year before the date on which the action was commenced.

C. REGENTS

Four years after Cameron and Liptow, in Regents, this Court again considered whether a saving provision tolling a statute of limitations similarly tolls the one-year-back rule.32 In Regents, the plaintiffs brought an action seeking payment from the defendant insurer for the full cost of medical treatment provided to the defendant's insured who had been treated at the university's hospital following an automobile accident. The circuit court held that the one-year-back rule barred the plaintiffs from recovering any portion of the loss incurred more than one year before commencement of the action, and the Court of Appeals affirmed. In a narrowly divided decision, this Court reversed the decisions of the lower courts and overruled the recent decisions in Cameron and Liptow, holding, in part, that the minority/insanity tolling provision does, in fact, toll the one-year-back rule. The Regents Court, essentially adopting the dissenting position from Cameron, held that "the `action' and `claim' preserved by [the minority/insanity tolling provision] include the right to collect damages" because "the right to bring an action would be a hollow one indeed if a plaintiff could not recover damages."33 According to Regents, the one-year-back rule in MCL 500.3145(1) is inapplicable to a statute that preserves a plaintiff's right to bring an action. That is, because MCL 600.5851(1) preserves the rights of minors and insane persons by granting them one year after their disabilities have been removed to bring their civil actions, MCL 600.5851(1) precludes application of the one-year-back rule.

Three justices strongly dissented from the decision to overrule Cameron and erase the long-recognized distinction between statutes of limitations and the damages-limiting provision of the no-fault statute. The dissenting justices explained that because the one-year-back rule "serves only as a limitation on the recovery of benefits" and "does not define a period within which a claimant may file a cause of action," the one-year-back rule "lies outside the scope of what is affected by the RJA's minority/insanity tolling provision."34 By holding to the contrary, the dissenting justices concluded that the majority had failed to enforce as written the unambiguous language of the one-year-back rule, and had attempted instead to "discern the purpose of the statute from something other than its actual language."35

D. REGENTS WAS WRONGLY DECIDED

We believe that the ruling in Regents was erroneous for the simple reason that the statutory texts of MCL 500.3145(1) and MCL 600.5851(1) plainly do not support it. MCL 600.5851(1) gives minors and insane persons one year after the removal of their disabilities "to make the entry or bring the action." By its very terms, the minority/insanity tolling provision is a timing mechanism specifying when a minor or insane person may bring his or her claim; it places no limitation on, and makes no reference to, the amount of damages that can be recovered after the action has been brought. The one-year-back rule in MCL 500.3145(1), on the other hand, forecloses a claimant from recovering "benefits for any portion of the loss incurred more than 1 year before the date on which the action was commenced." By its very terms, then, the one-year-back rule is a damages-limiting provision because it limits a claimant's recovery to those losses incurred during the year before the filing of the action.

By concluding that the minority/insanity tolling provision of MCL 600.5851(1) operates to toll the one-year-back rule in MCL 500.3145(1), Regents failed to recognize the critical distinction between having the general right to commence an action and the limitation on the right to recover no-fault benefits for losses occurring more than one year before the filing of the action. Indeed, Regents impermissibly interpreted the phrase "bring the action" in MCL 600.5851(1) as conferring on a claimant the right to "bring the action and recover an unlimited amount of damages," an interpretation which cannot be extracted from the plain and unambiguous statutory text. The dissenting justices in Regents recognized this distinction, contrasting the one-year-back rule, which provides that the claimant "may not recover benefits for any portion of the loss incurred more than 1 year before the date on which the action was commenced," with MCL 600.5821(4), which provides that an action by the state or one of its political subdivisions "may be brought at any time without limitation." The dissenting justices in Regents properly observed:

[W]hen these two provisions are read together, it is clear that while a political subdivision may bring an action at any time, it cannot recover benefits for any portion of the loss incurred more than 1 year before the date on which the action was commenced. In other words, MCL 600.5821(4), which pertains only to when an action may be commenced, does not preclude the application of the one-year-back rule, which only limits how much can be recovered after the action has been commenced.[36]

This interpretation is merely an extension of the same legal rationale applied in Cameron, in which the Court distinguished the plain language of the one-year-back rule from the plain language of the minority/insanity tolling provision.

Again, the rules of statutory interpretation mandate that we give effect to the Legislature's intent, relying on the plain language of the no-fault statute itself. If the statutory language is unambiguous, we must presume that the Legislature intended the meaning it clearly expressed and further construction is neither required nor permitted.37 As is evident from its holding, the interpretation advanced by Regents superseded the Legislature's explicit intent that recovery of PIP benefits be limited to losses incurred within one year before the date on which an action is filed. The statutory provision containing the one-year-back rule employs plain, clear, and simple language. The minority/insanity tolling provision sets forth an equally simple concept, tolling the time in which an action may be commenced after a person's disability is removed. This tolling provision, however, is silent regarding the amount of damages a claimant may recover and, accordingly, there is no support for the conclusion that that minority/insanity tolling statute precludes application of the no-fault act's one-year-back rule. Because Regents reached such a conclusion, it was wrongly decided.

Application of the Regents Court's interpretation of the one-year-back rule to this case illustrates how that decision defeats the very purpose of the rule. Under Regents, plaintiff would be permitted to recover PIP benefits for those losses incurred during the 32 years predating the filing of her action on February 27, 2009, in addition to those losses incurred after that date and continuing for the remainder of her life. Permitting recovery in that manner ignores the plain language of the one-year-back rule, which limits plaintiff's recovery to those losses incurred within one year before February 27, 2009, while still allowing additional recovery for all losses incurred after that date. Although the minority/insanity tolling provision may certainly toll myriad statutory provisions that contain a statute of limitations, it cannot toll the one-year-back rule of MCL 500.3145(1) because the one-year-back rule is not a statute of limitations in that it does not limit the period of time within which a claimant may file an action; rather, the one-year-back rule places a limitation on the amount of damages a claimant is entitled to recover. Furthermore, the one-year-back rule does not serve those purposes typically associated with a statute of limitations because it does not operate to cut off a claim or bar the action or the recovery; it simply limits the compensation available to the claimant.38 Because the no-fault act's one-year-back rule and the RJA's minority/insanity tolling provision serve manifestly different purposes and function independently of each other, the one-year-back rule is not the subject of tolling under the minority/insanity tolling provision. And this proper interpretation comports both with the plain language of the statute and the legislative purpose of keeping insurance premiums at affordable rates while providing victims of motor vehicle accidents assured, adequate, and prompt reparation for certain economic losses.39

E. STARE DECISIS

Having concluded that Regents was wrongly decided, we must decide whether stare decisis nevertheless compels our adherence to its holding. The test for determining whether stare decisis compels the continued adherence to a precedent is set forth in Robinson v. Detroit40 and calls for us to examine, among other factors, "(a) whether the earlier decision was wrongly decided, and (b) whether overruling such decision would work an undue hardship because of reliance interests or expectations that have arisen."41

First, as discussed previously, Regents was wrongly decided for the simple reason that it ignored the Legislature's clear and unambiguous directives in MCL 500.3145(1) and MCL 600.5851(1) by failing to enforce these statutory provisions as written. Rather than grounding its analysis on the proper and historically accepted interpretation of the one-year-back rule, the Regents decision appears to have focused on the majority's concern that a plaintiff allowed to bring a suit under the minor/insanity tolling provision would be precluded by the one-year-back rule from recovering all the damages that might otherwise be permitted outside the no-fault context. However, it is the Legislature's enactment of the no-fault act's one-year-back rule that operates to limit the recovery of damages incurred more than one year before an action is commenced, not our interpretation of the minority/insanity tolling provision.

With regard to reliance interests, "the Court must ask whether the previous decision has become so embedded, so accepted, so fundamental, to everyone's expectations that to change it would produce not just readjustments, but practical real-world dislocations."42 In discussing this factor, the Regents Court explained: "Cameron is of recent vintage, having been decided a mere four years ago. Hence, reliance on its holding has been of limited duration."43 Regents is of even more recent vintage than was Cameron, having been decided a mere 21 months ago. Certainly, Regents has not "become so embedded, so accepted, so fundamental, to everyone's expectations that to change it would produce ... practical real-world dislocations"44 such that reliance interests will be disrupted. While we view the duration of a decision from this Court as important, we believe the foremost indicator that reliance interests weigh in favor of overruling Regents is the plain language of the statutes because it is the unambiguous statutory text that guides the citizenry and their behavior. "This is the essence of the rule of law: to know in advance what the rules of society are."45 As we have explained:

[I]f the words of the statute are clear, the actor should be able to expect, that is, rely, that they will be carried out by all in society, including the courts. In fact, should a court confound those legitimate citizen expectations by misreading or misconstruing a statute, it is that court itself that has disrupted the reliance interest. When that happens, a subsequent court, rather than holding to the distorted reading because of the doctrine of stare decisis, should overrule the earlier court's misconstruction. The reason for this is that the court in distorting the statute was engaged in a form of judicial usurpation that runs counter to the bedrock principle of American constitutionalism, i.e., that the lawmaking power is reposed in the people as reflected in the work of the Legislature, and, absent a constitutional violation, the courts have no legitimacy in overruling or nullifying the people's representatives.[46]

Because Regents strayed considerably from the statutory language, it undermined the reliance interest that the people of this state have with regard to that language and with regard to a Court that is committed to upholding such language. As a result, it is this Court's duty to restore such reliance interests by restoring the law to mean what its language plainly states — a no-fault "claimant may not recover benefits for any portion of the loss incurred more than 1 year before the date on which the action was commenced."47

The one-year-back rule codifies an integral part of the legislative compromise that is the no-fault act, and invalidating that compromise will threaten the continued fiscal soundness of our no-fault system. Given that Michigan is the only state with a no-fault automobile-injury reparations scheme with mandatory, unlimited, lifetime medical benefits, the Legislature adopted a unique approach to defining the temporal limitations for filing suit without allowing open-ended liability or time-barring claims before they accrue. The Legislature addressed this problem by enacting the one-year-back rule, which limits recovery to losses incurred within one year before suit was filed. Thus, the creation of MCL 500.3145(1) was the Legislature's reasonable and simple approach to resolving the problem of allowing a reasonable amount of time for pursuing a claim while protecting the fiscal integrity of the no-fault system. However, under the Regents interpretation of the one-year-back rule, not only is a claimant permitted to recover those losses incurred after the date on which the action was filed, but recovery also extends to those losses incurred any number of years before the filing date. Permitting a claimant to recover all losses incurred both before and after an action is filed, without any limitation, would nullify this legislative compromise and render the no-fault system unsustainable.

For these reasons, we overrule Regents and "return the law, as is our duty, to what we believe the citizens of this state reading these statutes at the time of enactment would have understood [them] to mean."48 We are mindful of the importance of stability and continuity in the law and approach with great caution a decision to overrule precedent, but to allow the interpretation of MCL 500.3145(1) and MCL 600.5851(1) set forth in Regents to stand would result in the endorsement of a decision that utterly failed to enforce the requirements of the very statutes it purported to interpret.

Because the plain and unambiguous language of MCL 500.3145(1) can only be interpreted as limiting the amount of PIP benefits recoverable to those losses incurred within one year before the date the lawsuit is filed, which was the same interpretation advanced by the Cameron majority, we reinstate our previous decision in Cameron.

F. APPLICATION

In this case, plaintiff filed her complaint on February 27, 2009, seeking recovery of PIP benefits for losses dating back 32 years. While plaintiff contends that, in light of her alleged insanity, the minority/insanity tolling provision tolls the one-year-back rule, rendering any losses incurred from the date of plaintiff's 1977 accident recoverable, we conclude otherwise. The minority/insanity tolling provision of MCL 600.5851(1), which concerns when an action may be commenced, does not render inoperable the one-year-back rule, which only limits how much can be recovered after the action has been commenced. Consequently, the one-year-back rule does not fall within the purview of what is intended to be tolled by the minority/insanity tolling provision. Accordingly, plaintiff's recovery is limited to losses incurred on or after February 27, 2008.

IV. CONCLUSION

The minority/insanity tolling provision in MCL 600.5851(1) does not apply to toll the one-year-back rule in MCL 500.3145(1) because the one-year-back rule is a damages-limiting provision and does not concern when an action may be brought. These two, distinct statutory provisions serve different purposes and by their express language operate separately. Because the decision in Regents ignored the plain statutory directive, it is hereby overruled and Cameron is reinstated.49 Accordingly, we reverse the decision of the circuit court denying defendant's motion for partial summary disposition and remand this case to that court for entry of partial summary disposition in defendant's favor.

ROBERT P. YOUNG, JR., STEPHEN J. MARKMAN, BRIAN K. ZAHRA, JJ., concur in the result.

MARILYN KELLY, J. (dissenting).

Today's decision is this Court's third ruling on the same issue in six years. Yet nothing accounts for its going back and forth on the issue — no new or revised legislation or social upheaval — except changes in the composition of the Court itself.

The majority overrules Univ. of Mich. Regents v. Titan Ins. Co.1 and reinstates the rule from Cameron v. Auto Club Ins. Ass'n2 Cameron changed 25 years of settled law3 and held that the saving provision in MCL 600.5851(1) for minors and insane persons does not preclude the application of the one-year-back rule in MCL 500.3145(1). I authored the majority opinion in Regents and continue to believe that it correctly decided this issue. Thus, I would reaffirm our decision in Regents and respectfully deplore its demise.

Contrary to the majority's conclusion, MCL 600.5851(1) is not "entirely silent with regard to the amount of damages recoverable once an action has been brought."4 Rather, as I stated in Regents:

MCL 600.5851(1) does not create its own independent cause of action. It must be read together with the statute under which the plaintiff seeks to recover. In no-fault cases, for example, MCL 600.5851(1) must be read together with MCL 500.3145(1). Doing so, the statutes grant infants and incompetent persons one year after their disability is removed to "bring the action" "for recovery of personal protection insurance benefits ... for accidental bodily injury...." On the basis of its language, MCL 600.5851(1) supersedes all limitations in MCL 500.3145(1), including the one-year-back rule's limitation on the period of recovery.[5]

The majority correctly asserts that our decisions predating Cameron recognized that MCL 500.3145(1) contains two limitations on the time for filing suit and one limitation on the period of recovery.6 It attempts to use that uncontroversial point, however, to characterize Cameron as an uncontroversial, predetermined, and straightforward application of our precedent. The characterization is inaccurate.

The significant point is that Cameron was the first decision in which this Court recognized the distinction between the limitations in MCL 500.3145(1) and applied them differently. In so doing, the Cameron majority upended 25 years of settled law and drew a distinction that even the defendant did not initially ask it to draw.7 These simple facts call into doubt the majority's contentions that Cameron was "compelled to overrule nonbinding precedent"8 and that Regents "ignored the Legislature's clear and unambiguous directive[] in MCL 500.3145(1)...."9 If the Legislature's directive were truly so clear and unambiguous, why did the prevailing interpretation of MCL 500.3145(1) go unchallenged for nearly 25 years?

As observed by the dissenting opinions in Cameron, the majority's interpretation of MCL 600.5851(1) and MCL 500.3145(1) in Cameron and this case tends toward the absurd.10 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. Yet under the Cameron regime restored today, many claims supposedly "saved" by MCL 600.5851(1) will be disposed of in precisely that fashion.11 This result creates a false promise. I cannot conclude that the Legislature intended such a promise.

I dissent from the majority's decision to overrule Regents and reinstate the rule from Cameron that MCL 600.5851(1) does not preclude application of the one-year-back rule in MCL 500.3145(1). I would hold that MCL 600.5851(1) saves a minor or insane person's "claim," which includes the right to recover all of his or her personal protection insurance benefits.

MICHAEL F. CAVANAGH, DIANE H. HATHAWAY, JJ., agrees.

FootNotes


1. Univ. of Mich. Regents v. Titan Ins. Co., 487 Mich. 289, 791 N.W.2d 897 (2010).
2. Cameron v. Auto Club Ins. Ass'n, 476 Mich. 55, 718 N.W.2d 784 (2006).
3. Liptow v. State Farm Mut. Auto Ins. Co., 272 Mich.App. 544, 726 N.W.2d 442 (2006).
4. The circuit court held that there exists a question of fact regarding whether plaintiff is "insane" for purposes of MCL 600.5851(1). That determination is not at issue in this appeal.
5. Joseph v. ACIA, ___ Mich. ___, 802 N.W.2d 351 (Mich., 2011).
6. Joseph v. ACIA, 489 Mich. 924, 797 N.W.2d 142 (2011).
7. Nastal v. Henderson & Assoc. Investigations, Inc., 471 Mich. 712, 720, 691 N.W.2d 1 (2005).
8. Id.
9. Wickens v. Oakwood Healthcare Sys., 465 Mich. 53, 60, 631 N.W.2d 686 (2001).
10. Id.
11. MCL 8.3a; Veenstra v. Washtenaw Country Club, 466 Mich. 155, 160, 645 N.W.2d 643 (2002).
12. Sun Valley Foods Co. v. Ward, 460 Mich. 230, 236, 596 N.W.2d 119 (1999).
13. Maiden v. Rozwood, 461 Mich. 109, 120, 597 N.W.2d 817 (1999).
14. MCR 2.116(C)(10) and (G)(4); Quinto v. Cross & Peters Co., 451 Mich. 358, 362, 547 N.W.2d 314 (1996).
15. Emphasis added.
16. Welton v. Carriers Ins. Co., 421 Mich. 571, 576, 365 N.W.2d 170 (1984).
17. Devillers v. Auto Club Ins. Ass'n, 473 Mich. 562, 574, 702 N.W.2d 539 (2005), quoting Welton, 421 Mich. at 576, 365 N.W.2d 170.
18. Devillers, 473 Mich. at 574, 702 N.W.2d 539; see also Howard v. Gen. Motors Corp., 427 Mich. 358, 385-387, 399 N.W.2d 10 (1986) (opinion by BRICKLEY, J.).
19. MCL 600.101 et seq.
20. See Lambert v. Calhoun, 394 Mich. 179, 181, 192, 229 N.W.2d 332 (1975).
21. This is a point that is only relevant to statutes like the no-fault act that contain a unique one-year-back rule, which limits the right of recovery to damages incurred during the year before commencement of the action.
22. Cameron, 476 Mich. 55, 718 N.W.2d 784.
23. Id. at 62, 718 N.W.2d 784.
24. Id. at 72, 718 N.W.2d 784.
25. Geiger v. Detroit Auto. Inter-Ins. Exch., 114 Mich.App. 283, 318 N.W.2d 833 (1982).
26. By overruling Geiger, the dissent contends that "the Cameron majority upended 25 years of settled law...." Post at 425. Aside from the fact that such "settled law" was a Court of Appeals decision and thus not binding on this Court, the dissent disregards the fundamental principle that not all precedents are deserving of equal respect. Geiger ignored the clear and unambiguous language of MCL 500.3145(1) and MCL 600.5851(1) and was, instead, grounded on its own speculative policy considerations. Because Cameron closely analyzed the actual statutory language and did not allow policy considerations to dictate the result, it is simply deserving of more regard. Thus, Cameron did not "upend 25 years of settled law"; stated in more accurate terms, the Cameron majority was compelled to overrule nonbinding precedent premised on a faulty legal analysis.

Contrary to the dissent, our conclusion that Cameron is "better reasoned" is not an altogether subjective determination. Instead, it is based on a straightforward reading of both Cameron and Geiger, which, even the dissent can hardly deny, would lead almost any reader to conclude that Cameron is focused principally on the statutory language in dispute, while Geiger is focused principally on policy considerations. Because such statutory language constitutes the best indicator of legislative intent, we believe that Cameron is "better reasoned." Although we appreciate that our dissenting colleagues are free to disagree with this assessment, judgments nonetheless must be made. And we have sought to exercise our own best judgment in assessing the precedents before us.

27. Geiger, 114 Mich.App. at 291, 318 N.W.2d 833.
28. Cameron, 476 Mich. at 63, 718 N.W.2d 784 (citation omitted).
29. Liptow, 272 Mich.App. 544, 726 N.W.2d 442.
30. See MCL 600.5821(4), which provides in pertinent part: Actions brought in the name of ... any political subdivision of the state of Michigan... for the recovery of the cost of maintenance, care, and treatment of persons in hospitals ... are not subject to the statute of limitations and may be brought at any time without limitation, the provisions of any statute notwithstanding. [Emphasis added.]
31. Liptow, 272 Mich.App. at 555-556, 726 N.W.2d 442.
32. Regents, 487 Mich. 289, 791 N.W.2d 897.
33. Id. at 299, 791 N.W.2d 897.
34. Id. at 333, 791 N.W.2d 897 (MARKMAN, J., dissenting).
35. Id. at 336, 791 N.W.2d 897.
36. Id. at 339, 791 N.W.2d 897.
37. Sun Valley Foods, 460 Mich. at 236, 596 N.W.2d 119.
38. The dissent characterizes our interpretation of MCL 500.3145(1) and MCL 600.5851(1) as "tend[ing] toward the absurd." Post at 426.

There is no need for this Court to address the "absurd results" doctrine in this case because there is simply no result here that is absurd. Indeed, the dissent's argument that this construction produces an absurd result was fully considered and rejected in Cameron. As reiterated by the dissenting justices in Regents, "`[i]n choosing to make no-fault insurance compulsory for all motorists, the Legislature has made the registration and operation of a motor vehicle inexorably dependent on whether no-fault insurance is available at fair and equitable rates.'" Regents, 487 Mich. at 346-347 (MARKMAN, J., dissenting), quoting Shavers v. Attorney General, 402 Mich. 554, 599, 267 N.W.2d 72 (1978) (alteration in original). It therefore bears repeating that it is certainly quite possible that in a system that provides mandatory unlimited lifetime benefits, the Legislature intended to impose a limitation on recovery of no-fault benefits in order to make no-fault insurance affordable. This limitation is not only sensible, but necessary for the survival of the no-fault system.

Insofar as the dissent asserts that it "defies common sense" to think "[t]hat 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," post at 426, we note that the statutory language plainly does not confer on a claimant a right to prove and recover an unlimited amount of damages. Instead, the plain language merely confers a right, under certain circumstances, to bring an action despite the period of limitations having expired. The dissent utterly fails to recognize that the one-year-back rule does not operate to preclude a claimant from recovering any damages; rather, a claimant will find himself or herself without any recovery as a result of the one-year-back rule's operation only if the claimant has not suffered any losses within the one year immediately preceding the filing of the action. Contrary to the dissent, "that this result will occur `only' in some circumstances," post at 426 n. 11, hardly constitutes our only response to its claim of "absurdity." As previously explained, it is possible that the Legislature chose to impose a limitation on the recovery of no-fault benefits to ensure the financial integrity of the no-fault system. See also Regents, 487 Mich. at 346-347, 791 N.W.2d 897 (MARKMAN, J. dissenting).

39. See, e.g., Tebo v. Havlik, 418 Mich. 350, 366, 343 N.W.2d 181 (1984); Celina Mut. Ins. Co. v. Lake States Ins. Co., 452 Mich. 84, 89, 549 N.W.2d 834 (1996); O'Donnell v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co., 404 Mich. 524, 547, 273 N.W.2d 829 (1979).
40. Robinson v. Detroit, 462 Mich. 439, 464-468, 613 N.W.2d 307 (2000).
41. Robertson v. DaimlerChrysler Corp., 465 Mich. 732, 757, 641 N.W.2d 567 (2002), citing Robinson, 462 Mich. at 464-468, 613 N.W.2d 307; see also Mitchell v. W. T. Grant Co., 416 U.S. 600, 627-628, 94 S.Ct. 1895, 40 L.Ed.2d 406 (1974) (Powell, J., concurring).
42. Robinson, 462 Mich. at 466, 613 N.W.2d 307.
43. Regents, 487 Mich. at 305, 791 N.W.2d 897.
44. Robinson, 462 Mich. at 466, 613 N.W.2d 307.
45. Id. at 467, 613 N.W.2d 307.
46. Id.
47. MCL 500.3145(1).
48. Robinson, 462 Mich. at 468, 613 N.W.2d 307.
49. The Regents Court overruled Liptow on the sole basis that it relied on Cameron. Because Cameron has now been reinstated, the justification for overruling Liptow is no longer controlling law.
1. Univ. of Mich. Regents v. Titan Ins. Co., 487 Mich. 289, 791 N.W.2d 897 (2010).
2. Cameron v. Auto Club Ins. Ass'n, 476 Mich. 55, 718 N.W.2d 784 (2006).
3. See Geiger v. DAIIE, 114 Mich.App. 283, 318 N.W.2d 833 (1982).
4. Ante at 417.
5. Regents, 487 Mich. at 298, 791 N.W.2d 897.
6. See ante at 415-16, citing Devillers v. Auto Club Ins. Ass'n, 473 Mich. 562, 574, 702 N.W.2d 539 (2005), and Welton v. Carriers Ins. Co., 421 Mich. 571, 576, 365 N.W.2d 170 (1984).
7. See Cameron, 476 Mich. at 88-90, 718 N.W.2d 784 (CAVANAGH, J., dissenting) (noting that the defendant initially argued that MCL 600.5851(1) should not apply to any of the limitations in MCL 500.3145(1), but that the defendant eventually devised the alternative argument that, even though MCL 600.5851(1) saved the plaintiff's right to file suit, the one-year-back rule nevertheless prevented the plaintiff from recovering any damages that were incurred more than a year before the date of filing suit).
8. Ante at 418 n. 26. The majority also repeats a theme originating from Justice MARKMAN'S concurrence in Rowland v. Washtenaw Co. Rd. Comm., 477 Mich. 197, 226, 731 N.W.2d 41 (2007) (MARKMAN, J., concurring), that "not all precedents are built alike" because some are "better reasoned." See ante at 418 n. 26. I have no doubt the majority believes that all of its decisions overruling previous cases are better reasoned than its predecessors'; otherwise, overruling those cases would seem foolish indeed. But any establishment of a hierarchy of precedents is inherently flawed because whether one decision is better reasoned than another is "undoubtedly in the eye of the beholder." Regents, 487 Mich. at 303 n. 28, 791 N.W.2d 897. Given the subjective nature of this "better reasoned" inquiry, such an approach would serve no purpose other than to shield the majority's allegedly better-reasoned precedents from scrutiny.

The majority claims that this inquiry is not subjective because, given that Cameron focused principally on the statute's language, not "policy considerations," it is objectively "better reasoned" than Geiger. Even accepting the majority's characterization, this assertion is flawed. An objective person reading an absurd decision that is based on a seriously strained reading of statutory language (Cameron) might reasonably find a contrary decision primarily focused on "policy considerations" (Geiger) to be "better reasoned." The majority's disdain for policy considerations in favor of a focus on statutory language that it inevitably determines is "clear and unambiguous" — even when it is not — does not an objective determination make.

Finally, it appears that, unlike the majority, the Legislature did not consider Geiger to be "premised on a faulty legal analysis." Ante at 418 n. 26. It did not supersede Geiger by amending the applicable statutes from 1982 to 2006.

9. Ante at 422.
10. Cameron, 476 Mich. at 103 n. 12, 718 N.W.2d 784 (CAVANAGH, J., dissenting); id. at 109-130, 718 N.W.2d 784 (KELLY, J., dissenting).
11. The majority's response to this obvious absurdity is that it will "only" occur if the injured person has suffered no losses in the year preceding the filing of the action. The majority's speculation that this result will occur "only" in some circumstances does nothing to undercut its absurdity. And it will provide cold comfort for those caught in this judicially created trap.

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