A-M Law attorneys recently obtained a successful Court of Appeals decision in the case Dustin Wenkel v Farm Bureau General Insurance Company, Docket No. 358526 (December 1, 2022), with the opinion designated “For Publication.” In Wenkel, the parties had resolved a lawsuit seeking PIP benefits, entering a stipulated order of dismissal without prejudice, that expressly waived both the one-year statute of limitations and the one-year-back damage limitation provisions of MCL 500.3145, as long as plaintiff re-filed his lawsuit by April 3, 2020. Plaintiff did not re-file litigation until June 8, 2020. Defendant Farm Bureau brought a motion for partial summary disposition, which did not challenge plaintiff’s standing to bring the lawsuit, but argued that plaintiff’s damages incurred prior to June 8, 2019 should be barred by 3145(2). Plaintiff opposed the motion, arguing that the Executive and Administrative COVID tolling orders should bar the application of the one-year-back rule. The trial court granted Farm Bureau’s motion, and plaintiff appealed.
The Court of Appeals held that, as a matter of first impression, “the administrative and executive orders at issue did not toll deadlines that were set forth in stipulated court orders that were unrelated to the commencement of actions.” This conclusion was based on the well-established case law defining the “one-year-back rule” as only a limitation on damages, and not a statute of limitations. The panel also agreed with Farm Bureau’s position that the orders did not apply to deadlines imposed by a stipulated order. They concluded that despite the challenges during the COVID-19 state of emergency, the trial court was not closed for filing, and the plaintiff and his attorney “proceeded at their own peril” by ignoring the deadline they had agreed to in the stipulated order.