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A Better Partnership
July 16, 2015

COA: Tort claimant suing transit authority cannot satisfy statutory requirement of timely written notice of claims by filing application for no-fault benefits

In Clay v. Doe, No. 321008, the Court of Appeals held that a tort claimant bringing suit against a transportation authority must provide the authority with written notice of the claim no later than 60 days from the injury occurrence pursuant to Michigan’s Metropolitan Transportation Authorities Act of 1967, MCL 124.419.  Additionally, the Court of Appeals reaffirmed that an application for no-fault benefits from a transit authority’s insurance administrator does not comply with the 60-day notice requirement.  
Clay slipped and fell on the wet floor of a SMART bus aisle.  He filed a claim for no-fault benefits from SMART’s insurance administrator 78 days after the injury occurred. Nearly two years later, Clay filed a complaint against Defendants, SMART and the bus driver, alleging that Defendants committed negligence when the bus driver accelerated too quickly, causing Clay to slip and fall. SMART moved for summary disposition, alleging that a statutory notice requirement under MCL 124.419, which requires a tort claimant to file written notice of a claim within 60 days of the occurrence, barred Clay’s claim. Further, in Atkins v. SMART, 492 Mich 707 (2012), the Michigan Supreme Court held that a claimant who files an application for no-fault benefits from a transit authority’s insurance administrator  does not comply with the 60-day notice requirement of MCL 124.419 because a no-fault application does not constitute written notice of a tort claim. Thus, the trial court granted SMART’s motion for summary disposition, holding that Clay failed to comply with MCL 124.419, because he did not serve SMART with written notice of his tort claim within 60 days from the occurrence of his injury.  On appeal, Clay claimed that he complied with MCL 124.419 when he mailed a claim for no-fault benefits to SMART’s insurance administrator and that Atkins postdated the events that led to his suit and should not apply retroactively.
The Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s decision granting summary disposition in favor of SMART.  The Court of Appeals reasoned that Atkins applied retroactively because judicial decisions are generally given retroactive effect, and Atkins did not create a new principle of law or overrule binding case law—it merely interpreted MCL 124.419.  Additionally, even if the court assumed Atkins did not apply, Clay did not submit written notice of his claims for personal injury to SMART within 60 days. Rather, he a submitted a claim for no-fault benefits 78 days after his injury.  Not only is notice of a claim for no-fault benefits not the equivalent of notice of a third-party tort claim, but Clay also failed to comply with 60-day notice provision of MCL 124.419 under his preferred but incorrect version of the statute.  Thus, Clay’s claims failed.

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