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May 06, 2016

COA concludes that notice under the No Fault Act does not need to identify a specific injury in order to be effective

In Dillon v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company, No. 324902, the Michigan Court of Appeals held that notice under the No Fault Act does not need to identify a specific injury for which an insured later seeks coverage.  The Court found that simply giving notice of injury within one year of an accident is sufficient to meet notice requirements and recover personal protection insurance benefits.
 
In 2008, plaintiff was injured when she was struck by a vehicle while crossing the road.  Plaintiff gave notice to defendant of injuries to her lower back, left shoulder and various abrasions, but failed to mention an injury to her left hip.  Defendant made payments in connection with the reported injuries.  Then, in 2011, plaintiff sought treatment for and had surgery performed on her left hip.  Plaintiff attributed these injuries to the 2008 accident and sought payment of personal protection insurance benefits from defendant.  Defendant denied the claim because it had not received notice of the hip injury within one year of the accident.  At trial, the trial court denied defendant’s motion for summary disposition and a jury found in favor of plaintiff.  Defendant appealed.
 
On appeal, the Court of Appeals analyzed the language in the last sentence of MCL 500.3145(1), namely, what is meant by “the time, place and nature” of the injury to be included in a written notice of injury.  The Court first dismissed unpublished cases cited by defendant as none clearly resolved the issue in this case.  In its analysis, the Court focused on the definite article “the” and concluded that the fact that the Legislature omitted use of “the” before “injury” in the statute indicates that it was not referring to a definite or particular injury.  Furthermore, the definition of “nature” is “a kind or class,” therefore; an injured person must only reference a general injury and not a specific one.  Here, because the plaintiff gave notice of injury within one year of the accident, she was entitled to personal protection insurance benefits from defendant.  Accordingly, the Court affirmed the lower court decision. 

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