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
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
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 proceedings
II. STANDARD OF REVIEW
This Court reviews de novo a circuit court's decision whether to grant or deny summary disposition.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
B. CAMERON AND ITS PROGENY
We first considered the interplay between the one-year-back rule and the minority/insanity tolling provision in Cameron.
In reaching this conclusion, we overruled the Court of Appeals' decision in Geiger v. Detroit Auto. Inter-Ins. Exch.,
After our decision in Cameron, the Court of Appeals in Liptow
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.
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."
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
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:
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.
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.
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. Detroit
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."
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."
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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."
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.