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A Better Partnership
August 31, 2016

COA again determines that the claims records of the Michigan Catastrophic Claims Association are not subject to disclosure

On remand from the Michigan Supreme Court, in Coalition Protecting Auto No-Fault v. Michigan Catastrophic Claims Association, No. 314310, the Michigan Court of Appeals held that the Michigan Catastrophic Claims Association (MCCA) is a public body for purposes of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).  It further held that the enactment of MCL 500.134(4)—which provides a statutory exemption to FOIA—did not violate the state constitution and that MCCA’s records are exempt from disclosure under MCL 500.134(4) and (6)(c). 
In 2011, several groups sought access to the MCCA’s claims data pursuant to the state’s FOIA and other legal theories.  In the previous Court of Appeals’ decision, it determined that these groups were not entitled to the information.  First, the Court of Appeals concluded that there was an express statutory exception providing that these records were not subject to disclosure under FOIA.  The Court also concluded that this statutory exception did not violate the state constitution.  Finally, the Court concluded that there was no common-law right to these records as the legislature’s enactment of FOIA clearly preempted any such common-law right. 
Plaintiffs appealed to the Michigan Supreme Court, which vacated the portion of the Court of Appeals’ opinion holding that MCL 500.134(4), does not violate Article 4, § 25 of the state constitution.  The Supreme Court stated that the Court of Appeals had improperly reached this conclusion because it assumed, without analysis, that the MCCA is a “public body” subject to FOIA.  Accordingly, the Michigan Supreme Court remanded the case for reconsideration of this issue and, in light of its resolution of the issue, reconsideration of whether MCL 500.134(4) violates the state constitution. 
On remand, the Court of Appeals held that (1) because the MCAA was created by statute it is a product of state authority and qualifies as a “public body” for purposes of FOIA; and (2) because MCL 500.134(4) did not alter, amend, change of dispense with any provisions of FOIA the Legislature was not required to reenact FOIA.  Therefore, the MCAA’s records are exempt from disclosure under MCL 500.134(4) and (6)(c).  The Court reversed and remanded the case for entry of summary disposition in favor of defendant. 
Judge Gleicher entered a partial concurrence and dissent in this case. as she would have held that because MCL 500.134(4) offends the state constitution’s reenact-publish clause, the statute cannot be enforced.

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