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Court of Appeals Decision Represents Major Victory for Survivors of Catastrophic Crashes and their Families

Decision has binding effect on retroactive application of benefit reductions

Friday, August 26, 2022

In a major victory for survivors of catastrophic crashes and their loved ones, the Michigan Court of Appeals today ruled that benefit reductions passed as part of 2019 auto insurance reforms could not be applied retroactively.
The Court ruled 2-1 in favor of the plaintiffs in the case of Andary et al. v USAA Casualty Insurance Company et al. The  lawsuit was filed in 2019 by guardians of two catastrophically injured auto accident victims — along with the nationally renowned brain injury rehabilitation clinic Eisenhower Center — and names Citizens Insurance Company of America and USAA Casualty Insurance Company as the defendants. The victims, on whose behalf the lawsuit was filed, are Ellen Andary, of East Lansing, and Philip Krueger, of Ann Arbor.
“The decision will enable thousands of severely injured accident victims to continue receiving medical expense and home care reimbursement at the benefit levels that were legally enforceable under insurance policies that those victims bought and paid for for years before the new laws went into effect,” said George Sinas, lead counsel for the plaintiffs in Andary. Mr. Sinas is also general counsel for CPAN. “In addition, the decision will prevent insurance companies from reaping windfall profits by retaining premiums they collected to pay benefits they would no longer be required to provide,” said Mr. Sinas.
Most significantly, the ruling determined that:

  • The legislation did not contain specific and sufficient language confirming that the legislature intended to apply these changes retroactively.
  • Even if the legislation contained sufficient provisions intending to apply benefit reductions retroactively, such an application would have been an unconstitutional violation of the Contracts Clause of the Michigan Constitution.
  • The trial court improperly dismissed the plaintiffs’ constitutional equal protection and due process challenges, which alleged that such benefit reductions would violate these constitutional provisions if applied to future accident victims, for the reason that such allegations required factual development in the trial court.

Under the Michigan Court Rules, this published opinion has immediate, binding, precedential effect unless it is overturned by the state Supreme Court.
State Rep. Julie Brixie (D-Meridian Township), along with the late State Rep. Andrea Schroeder (R-Independence Township), submitted a bipartisan, bicameral amicus brief in the Andary case, along with a document signed by 73 current and former lawmakers stating that they did not intend for the law to be applied retroactively. Brixie said she was pleased with the court’s decision.
“This is justice for some of Michigan’s most vulnerable,” Brixie said. “It was heartbreaking to hear the stories of those who paid for their auto insurance premiums every year with the understanding that they would receive lifetime care should they ever get into an accident, only to have it ripped away. That was never the Legislature’s intention, and I am grateful that auto insurance companies will no longer be able to deprive survivors of needed care.”
State Rep. Julie Rogers (D-Kalamazoo), another longtime defender of catastrophic crash survivors, lauded the decision: “As a physical therapist, ensuring access to health care is what inspired me to become a public servant. The benefits these crash survivors paid for and received under the old law allowed them to live productive and happy lives—lives that have been thrown into chaos since the new law went into effect. I am so grateful for the Court’s decision.”


CPAN is a broad bi-partisan, Michigan based coalition, whose mission is to be the consumer advocate for auto insurance policyholders, those who have been injured in a motor vehicle crash and the medical providers caring for them, representing them at the Capitol, in the courts, and in the public forum. For more information, please visit www.CPAN.us.
 

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