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Insurance issues and the courts

October 26, 2010
By Richard Clark

ESCANABA - In August Grayling resident Judge Alton Davis was appointed to fill the Michigan Supreme Court seat vacated by 15 year veteran Justice Elizabeth Weaver of Traverse City. Nominated for the Supreme Court by the Republican Party three times, Justice Weaver asked the governor to appoint Justice Davis to her position.

In this election the former prosecutor who has served as a judge for 26 years, Justice Davis is running to keep his seat on the Supreme Court.

Apparently Justice Weaver felt that it was important to someone on the court who lives north of the Detroit-Lansing-Grand Rapids corridor.

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By Richard Clark

Justice Weaver has been troubled by the direction court has taken over the past 10 years, "The open discord on this court over the last 10 years is not really about strong clashes of personality but rather the formation of power blocs of justices to promote agendas, agendas of political parties and special interests ... and agendas of bias and prejudices."

Justice Weaver's comments were directed at justices on the court who had also been nominated by the Republican Party, one of whom stands for election this year, Justice Young.

Young has sided with insurance companies and against consumers 80 percent of his time on the court. Not surprising, as he was general counsel for an insurance company prior to being appointed to the Supreme Court.

When a person is hurt in a motor vehicle accident the Michigan No-Fault Law says that a No Fault insurance company must pay all medical medical bills. It isn't free, consumers pay for it. The law also also says that if a year passes without payment on a medical bill the insurance company does not have to pay it.

On its face this "one-year-back" makes sense. But a child is legally incapable of bringing a suit until 18. It would be unfair to stick the child with the bill.

For the first 20 years of the No-Fault law the court used a long standing statute to hold that children had one year after they reached adulthood (19) to bring their own claim.

Once on the court, Young tossed precedent aside and supported a ruling that said that one year is one year, child or not. The decision would make sense to an insurance lawyer, but not to a child.

Insurance companies and large businesses hire attorneys that analyze court opinions. If those lawyers anticipate the Supreme Court will support denying claims, they will deny claims.

It is not a coincidence that motor vehicle insurance companies now refuse to pay medical bills that 10 years ago they would have paid in timely manner.

Michigan's Consumer Protection Act was one of the nation's best.

For 23 years the act empowered the Attorney General's office to protect consumers from unfair practices like grossly excessive prices, using forms that confused consumers about legal rights, or portraying used goods as new.

72 percent of consumer complaints compiled by the attorney general are found in 10 areas of business.

During Young's tenure in office the court issued decisions that gutted the Consumer Protection Act. A report from the Consumer Law Section of the Michigan Bar Association says that because of the Supreme Court's rulings a large majority of the business formerly regulated by the Consumer Protection Act are no longer regulated.

The Consumer Law Section said, "The danger to consumers is obvious. Consumers are left without a viable remedy for most unfair or deceptive practices. There is also a danger to businesses as well. Less than honorable business people may adopt unfair or deceptive practices with impunity in order to obtain a competitive advantage."

When you vote for Michigan Supreme Court you will need to go to the nonpartisan portion of the ballot. It may be on the back of the ballot.

A decent, well reasoned, sensible person, Justice Davis will make your proud of your vote. Oh yes, like former U.P. Supreme Court Justice John Voelker, Justice Davis enjoys fly fishing, especially with his grandson.

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EDITOR'S NOTE - Richard Clark, Escanaba, practices personal injury law throughout the Upper Peninsula. He can be reached at uppermichiganlaw.com/richard-clark.html

 
 

 

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