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A Better Partnership
May 22, 2015

COA finds that the No Fault Act limits work loss benefits to a specified income level, not a specified income loss.

In Agnone v. Home-Owners Insurance Co., No. 320196, the Michigan Court of Appeals held that the statutory limit on work loss benefits in MCL 500.3107(1)(b) applies to an injured person’s total combined income following an accident in addition to the work loss benefit.  If the income an injured person actually earns for work performed during the relevant period after an accident exceeds the statutory maximum monthly benefit, the work loss benefit is reduced to zero.
 
While driving home from purchasing a Christmas tree in 2009, plaintiff Agnone’s car was struck by another driver.  Referencing a previous accident, Agnone testified that he immediately knew he had reinjured his neck and back.  These injuries forced Agnone to forego business appointments, ultimately resulting in a loss of business.  Agnone testified that because of the accident, his income was ultimately reduced by $48,000 in 2011 and $52,000 in 2012.

At trial, Agnone sought to recover the then-statutory maximum work loss benefit of $4,878 for each thirty-day period following the accident.  Home-Owners moved for partial summary disposition, arguing that Agnone was ineligible to recover any work loss benefits under his policy because his actual post-accident income exceeded the statutory maximum under MCL 500.3107(1)(b).  Agnone argued that the statutory limit on work loss benefits served only to limit the benefits to the difference between the income he would have earned but for the accident and his actual income after the accident, regardless of his actual income.  The trial court agreed with Agnone.

The Court of Appeals held that the trial court erred in finding Agnone was entitled to work loss benefits even though his post-accident income exceeded the statutory maximum.  Rather, where post-accident income exceeds the statutory maximum, the work loss benefit is reduced to zero—the precise situation in this case.  It was evident, the court held, that the Legislature intended a dollar-for-dollar work loss benefit up to a specified income floor, not up to a specified income loss.  The court held that the Legislature’s intent was plain, and that while reasonable minds could disagree about the wisdom of the statutory limit, the Legislature had plainly intended that the work loss benefit is limited to work losses below a specified income level.

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