The latest news in Michigan no-fault,
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Volume I, Issue 2
March 2017       
Honors & Awards

Jim Graves Recognized As A "Leader In The Law"

Sinas Dramis shareholder Jim Graves has been named a "Leader in the Law" by Michigan Lawyers Weekly, an honor that recognizes Jim's achievements during his 40-year career.

“It is truly an honor, and humbling, to be recognized with this award,” Jim says.

Leaders in the Law are chosen for their significant achievements in the practice of law; outstanding contributions to the practice of law; leadership in improving the justice system; improving the legal community and their communities at large; and setting an example for other attorneys.

Jim will receive his award at the March 23 Leaders in the Law luncheon.

Learn more.

Jackie Dupler Named "Top 5 Under 35" Attorney


Lansing attorney Jackie Dupler has been recognized as a “Top 5 Under 35” lawyer by the Ingham County Bar Association.

Jackie is an associate in the Sinas Dramis Family Law Division. She received the award for her exemplary character, integrity, judgment and legal scholarship; her service to the profession and the bar; her service to the community; and her reputation for, and advancement of, the highest legal standards and professional responsibility.

Jackie will receive her award on March 23 during the Ingham County Bar Association's 8th Annual Barristers Night.

Auto No-Fault News & Information

You Are What You Plead
By Tom Sinas
Although all Michigan lawyers use the same set of court rules, sometimes we are reminded there are different norms of practice around the state.

An appellate case recently shined light on a practice, largely on the state's east side, where plaintiffs' attorneys file cases involving no-fault PIP benefits in district court, rather than circuit court, even though they know the damages exceed the district court's subject-matter jurisdiction limit of $25,000. The reason for this tactic is speculative. But an educated guess is that it's an attempt to secure a better forum for purposes of getting penalty interest and/or attorney fee sanctions under the No-Fault Act.

From a procedural standpoint, this practice presents some vexing questions. What happens when the proofs clearly show that the amount in controversy exceeds $25,000? Is the plaintiff's recovery "capped" at the $25,000 jurisdictional limit? Or is the district court divested of its subject-matter jurisdiction?

The Michigan Supreme Court addressed the issue in Hodge v State Farm Mutual Automobile Ins Co, ___ Mich  ___ (2016), where plaintiff's PIP case was filed in Detroit's 36th District Court. The jury awarded plaintiff $85,957, which clearly exceeded the district court's jurisdictional limit. The trial judge then reduced the verdict to $25,000.

The Supreme Court held that, if a plaintiff's pleading alleges damages that do not exceed $25,000, then the district court has subject-matter jurisdiction. The Court said, "[I]n its subject-matter jurisdiction inquiry, a district court determines the amount in controversy using the prayer for relief set forth in the plaintiff’s pleadings, calculated exclusive of fees, costs, and interest."

Despite a lengthy concurrence by Justice Stephen Markman, the Court elected not to address whether there is a "bad faith" exception to the rule. So it seems this issue may be reserved for another day.

Attention lawyers: Hodge says that Michigan courts will take you at your word. So when you say that damages are less than $25,000, the district court is bound to believe you — even if your evidence proves otherwise.

Reducing Unnecessary No-Fault Litigation
As the Legislature continues to debate Michigan's auto no-fault law, there is one simple change that, if made, will vastly improve the system: extending the one-year-back rule.

The one-year-back rule in the No-Fault Act (MCL 500.3145) says that, for any medical expense that goes unpaid by an insurance company, if a lawsuit is not filed against the company within one year from the date the medical service was rendered, the company will not have to pay the expense. This is true even if the expense was properly submitted to the insurance company and satisfies all other requirements under the No-Fault Act.

However, if people are given more time to resolve these payment disputes with their insurance companies, it will help reduce unnecessary no-fault litigation. In turn, it will also help decrease the growing number of no-fault suits being filed in Michigan courts.

Find out more.

Response To Detroit Mayor's Call For No-Fault Reform

On February 21 during his "State of the City" address, Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan encouraged state lawmakers to support major reforms to Michigan's no-fault coalition-protecting-auto-no-fault-logosystem, as way to help reduce auto insurance rates.

In response to the Mayor's comments, John Cornack, president of the Coalition Protecting Auto No-Fault (CPAN), issued this statement:

“We all agree that Detroiters are paying far too much for auto insurance. However, to blame Michigan’s no-fault system is completely misleading. The medical benefits provided by Michigan’s no-fault law make up roughly one-third of the cost of a policy, so to say no-fault is the main problem behind the cost of auto insurance is simply untrue.

“The mayor’s suggestion that Michigan use Ohio, which does not have no-fault, as an example of an auto insurance system is also extremely misguided. First, dropping no-fault in favor of Ohio’s model would not significantly reduce rates. What it would do is cause major delays in care for catastrophic accident victims and result in a massive cost-shift onto the backs of Michigan taxpayers – just like it did in Colorado when their Medicaid expenses tripled after changing from a no-fault to a tort system. Michigan can’t afford the expenses and accident victims can’t afford to wait for care.

“We hope Mayor Duggan will join us in standing up for accident victims in Detroit and across the state by working toward comprehensive solutions that will reduce auto insurance costs in Michigan and at the same time provide accident victims with access to the quality care and rehabilitation benefits they need for their recovery.”

The Sinas Dramis Law Firm supports CPAN's position that everyone must work together to find balanced, longstanding reforms that will not only save money for Michigan drivers, but will also ensure that accident survivors get the medical care they need.

Bike Law Michigan Update

Safe Passing, Driver's Ed Bills Reintroduced

A 5-foot safe passing proposal and a measure to include more bicycling law instruction in driver's education courses have been reintroduced in the Michigan Legislature.

Similar bills were considered in the fall of 2016, but were not passed before the legislative session ended in December.

5-foot-passing-lawThe 5-foot safe passing proposal is Senate Bill 123; the House version of the bill is House Bill 4185. The driver's education measure is Senate Bill 124; the House version of the bill is House Bill 4198.

Lansing personal injury attorney Bryan Waldman, who leads the Sinas Dramis Bicycle Law Group, is keeping a close eye on the legislation and will provide updates as they become available.
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