LANSING, Mich. (Legal Newsline) -- The Michigan Court of Appeals has upheld a decision awarding workers' compensation benefits to a trucker who was injured while making a delivery and reimbursement to two no-fault insurers for benefits they paid.
In its unpublished opinion Tuesday, the appeals court sided with the state Workers' Compensation Appellate Commission, or WCAC, in the case of plaintiff William Baird.
Defendant Travelers Insurance Company appealed WCAC's decision, which affirmed a magistrate's open award of benefits to Baird.
Fellow defendant AKA Trucking Inc. filed a cross-appeal, also raising challenges to WCAC's determination.
Baird worked for AKA as a truck driver from April 2004 through July 24, 2004, when he was injured in a single-vehicle accident as he was making a delivery.
Travelers had been AKA's workers' compensation insurer for several years. At the time of the accident, AKA had no-fault insurance with intervening plaintiff Northland Insurance Company.
In addition, Baird was the named insured on a personal no-fault insurance policy with intervening plaintiff Safeco Insurance Company of America.
Travelers contends that its policy expired before Baird's accident, but acknowledges that it did not file the requisite notice of termination until after the accident.
Travelers does not dispute that because the required notice was not filed until after Baird's accident, its policy remained effective with respect to the plaintiff.
It argues, however, that because the no-fault insurers, Northland and Safeco, are not "employees of the insured employer," the WCAC erred in ruling that they were entitled to reimbursement from Travelers for benefits they had paid with regard to Baird's injuries under the theory of equitable subrogation.
The WCAC rejected Travelers' argument in light of the state Supreme Court's decision in Auto-Owners Ins. Co. v Amoco Prod. Co.
In that case, the Supreme Court applied the doctrine of equitable subrogation, which it explained is "a legal fiction through which a person who pays a debt for which another is primarily responsible is substituted or subrogated to all the rights and remedies of the other."
The three-judge panel of the appeals court said Travelers only "briefly" addressed Auto-Owners Ins. Co. on appeal.
"Travelers has not presented a persuasive reason for this Court to reject the WCAC's conclusion that the no fault insurers were entitled to reimbursement from Travelers under the theory of equitable subrogation," the appeals court's per curiam opinion states.
In its cross-appeal, AKA sought reversal of the open award of benefits in the event the appeals court determined that Travelers is entitled to relief on appeal.
"In light of our decision affirming the WCAC's determination of Travelers' liability, including its liability to reimburse the no-fault insurers, it is unnecessary to address AKA Trucking's alternative arguments on cross-appeal," according to the appeals court's four-page ruling.
From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.