Zausmer Wins Key Rulings on Assignments

Jonathan Freshour and Nathan Scherbarth secured pivotal rulings from the Court of Appeals, shaping the course of Michigan’s No-Fault insurance law. These wins reinforce Zausmer’s leadership in appellate law.

In a series of recent cases—Farrar v Focus Imaging, Robinson v Szczotka, and Wallace v Suburban Mobility Authority for Regional Transportation—the Michigan Court of Appeals clarified how assignments function in Michigan no-fault litigation. Specifically, the court examined the legality of transferring the right to collect insurance benefits from the injured party (the plaintiff) to healthcare providers.

Understanding the Farrar Case: A Focus on Medical Benefits

In the Farrar case, the plaintiff filed a claim for medical benefits after a car accident that occurred in February 2019. Prior to filing his lawsuit, the plaintiff transferred his right to collect these benefits to his healthcare providers. When one of his providers, Focus Imaging, later sought to become part of the first-party  lawsuit, Zausmer’s team successfully argued two main points: first, that Focus Imaging’s intervention in the case was untimely, and its claims were barred by the one-year-back-rule; second, that the Farrarcould not represent this medical provider in the lawsuit because he had transferred his rights to them.

In a published opinion, the Michigan Court of Appeals agreed. The Court of Appeals held that Focus Imaging could not invoke the relation-back doctrine to save its untimely claim and that the plaintiff could not recover benefits on behalf of medical providers to whom he had assigned his rights.

The Robinson Case: Can Assignments Be Reversed?

The Robinson case presented a similar scenario. Here, the plaintiff also transferred her right to collect insurance benefits to her medical providers who later filed a lawsuit. However, the providers  did not file suit in a timely manner. To address this, the plaintiff tried to undo the assignments retroactively.

Zausmer’s team successfully argued that you can’t simply cancel a rights transfer to circumvent legal timing rules. The Court of Appeals agreed with this view, stating that while the individual might have found a creative way to handle her claim, it didn’t change her right to these claims when she first filed the lawsuit.

The Wallace Case: Reaffirming Robinson‘s Ruling

The Wallace case reaffirmed the Court’s stance on the illegitimacy of retroactively canceling the assignment of rights to medical providers. It also underscored the importance of medical providers timely filing their own claims to be considered valid.

Broader Implications for No-Fault Litigation and Beyond

The outcomes of these cases not only benefit Zausmer’s clients but also serve as critical guides in the ever-evolving landscape of no-fault litigation. The decisions offer clarity on the transfer of legal rights and the limitations on who can file a lawsuit, extending their relevance beyond no-fault insurance cases.

For more information, please contact Nathan Scherbarth, who leads the firm’s appellate department.

Jonathan Freshour focuses his practice on appeals, complex commercial, and real estate disputes, drawing upon his background in appellate research and writing to distill intricate legal and factual issues.