Perfect is the Enemy of Good: Michigan Supreme Court Decision in Griffin v. Trumbull Part Two
As discussed in our last alert, the Michigan Supreme Court reinforced the principle that no-fault insurers cannot deny payment of a claim based on priority. However, the importance of a claimant’s initial investigation to locate the proper insurer cannot be overemphasized. Although a claimant’s initial investigation need not be perfect, failing to exercise due diligence can result in loss of payment of a claim.
The main issue in Griffin v. Trumbull Ins. Co., involved a priority dispute between insurers. It was unclear who insured the responsible vehicle, a truck, which was involved in the accident. Griffin, in effort to determine the proper insurer retained an attorney. The attorney sent a letter to the truck driver to obtain insurance information, as the insurer of the truck would be first in priority to pay Griffin’s claim. The truck driver failed to respond. Griffin and his attorney also retained the services of a third-party vendor to determine the truck’s insurer. The vendor’s investigation also failed to obtain the proper insurance information. Griffin then turned to the next insurer in the line of priority, his own insurer, Trumbull. Trumbull ultimately failed to pay Griffin’s claim and forced him to file a lawsuit before the expiration of the one-year statute of limitations. During the lawsuit it was discovered the truck that was involved in the accident was insured with Harleysville Insurance. Due to the statute of limitations, Harleysville could not be brought into the lawsuit.
On appeal to the Michigan Supreme Court analyzed whether Griffin had exercised the requisite degree of diligence in the search for the proper insurer. The Court emphasized that due diligence does not require a claimant to conduct a perfect and flawless investigation, but does require some degree of investigation in a timely manner. Nor does the law require a claimant to file a lawsuit immediately to obtain additional investigation tools like subpoena power. The Court found that Griffin’s efforts, to include, retaining an attorney and a third-party vendor to investigate insurance coverage was enough.
This case emphasizes the importance of investigating and locating the proper insurer as early as possible and with the resources available to a claimant. Although the law doesn’t require a claimant’s investigation to determine the impossible or even be perfect, failure to exercise due diligence in a timely manner can result in loss of payment of claim.
If you have questions about this or any other medical reimbursement issue, please contact any one of our provider reimbursement counsel at mjmedrecovery.com.