Michael F. Schmidt And Nate Peplinski Defeat Claims For Utpa Penalty Interest And Sanctions
Joseph G. Nickola, Personal Representative of the Estate of George and Thelma Nickola v MIC General Insurance Corporation, Mich App (2015), a claim for underinsured motorist benefits, following an arbitration award plaintiff sought recovery of sanctions for MIC’s denial of the initial request for arbitration and also sought UTPA penalty interest of 12% totalling in excess of $149,000 for the delay of seven years in proceeding with the arbitration and payment of underinsured motorist benefits, and in addition sought pre-judgment interest. We argued that the plaintiffs had no claim for sanctions because they had waived the claim by failing to present any proofs of the alleged attorney fees and expenses incurred in the trial court for over seven years. The Court of Appeals agreed and held that this claim was waived. In regard to the claim for UTPA penalty interest, we argued that an underinsured motorist claim is not a first party claim but rather in the nature of a third party claim because the plaintiffs have to prove liability of the underinsured motorist, lack of fault on their part, that they have a threshold injury, and if so, the amount of the damages. We argued that this claim was reasonably in dispute and thus there could be no sanctions for any penalty interest for delay in payment. The Court of Appeals agreed with our argument and held that an underinsured motorist claim is in the nature of a third party claim and “fundamentally different” from a typical first party claim. The court thus held that penalty interest could not be awarded if the claim was reasonably in dispute and found that this claim was reasonably in dispute. On the pre-judgment interest issue, the court held that there had been no judgment entered and remanded for entry of a judgment and for the trial court to determine whether pre-judgment interest should be awarded. The court further agreed with our argument that the court could consider the delays in the case caused by the plaintiffs in determining how much pre-judgment interest should be awarded.