Court Reaffirms One Year Back Rule, Rejects Use of Consent to Treat Forms as Assignments

The Michigan Court of Appeals recently issued a two-pronged ruling in an auto No-Fault case that reinforces the one year back rule and shuts down the use of consent to treat forms as assignments.

The ruling, in VHS of Michigan, INC. v Everest National Insurance Company, et al, was an unpublished per curiam opinion issued by the appellate court  on May 9 No. 341190, addressing MCL 500.3145(1) as it relates to assignments and consent to treat forms.

In VHS, the Detroit Medical Center provided medical treatment to Steve Ellis, who did not have an automobile insurance policy of his own and did not reside with anyone who had an applicable No-Fault policy. He was driving a vehicle owned by Rhonda Finnister, who allegedly had purchased a policy of No-Fault Insurance from Everest. Ellis received treatment at Detroit Medical Center (DMC) on March 15, 2016 and April 13, 2016.

Upon admission to the DMC, Ellis signed only a “Consent to Treat” Form, but part of the form had language typically used when a medical provider is attempting to gain an assignment of rights. Both Everest and co-defendant the Michigan Automobile Insurance Placement Facility (MAIPF) moved for summary disposition pursuant to Covenant Medical Ctr, Inc v State Farm Mut Auto Ins Co, 500 Mich 191; 895 NW2d 490 (2017), contending that the “Consent to Treat Forms” were not valid assignments and that DMC could not maintain a statutory cause of action against either Everest or the MAIPF. In response to same, DMC and Ellis signed and executed an assignment on June 11, 2017. 

The appellate court upheld the trial court’s decision, namely that MCL 500.3145(1), the one year back provision, barred the DMC from recovering benefits for any portion of the loss incurred one year before the date of assignment. The appellate court reinforced its holding in Shah, 324 Mich App at 204, which held that the DMC, as an alleged assignee, could not acquire any rights greater than Ellis and was subject to all defenses that could be used against Ellis.

Specifically,  on June 11, 2017, Ellis no longer had a right to payment of benefits for medical services obtained in March and April 2016, and as such the June 2017 assignment could not confer upon DMC the right to recover benefits. The appellate court again reinforced that the one-year date was the date of the assignment and the assignment did not relate back to date of the filing of the original pleadings.

Finally, the appellate court noted that “Consent to Treat” Forms could not be used as a valid assignment. Although the language of a “Consent to Treat” Form may have language similar or identical to an assignment, the forms themselves were for future services as they were signed before any treatment was rendered. As such, it would be an assignment for future benefits, which is prohibited under MCL 500.3143.

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