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Michigan Court of Appeals Demonstrates How to Calculate No Fault Work Loss Benefit for Teacher Who Missed Work for Full School Year

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Joseph E. Kozely Jr.
Foster Swift No-Fault E-News
February 22, 2011

In a published case handed down on February 15, 2011, the Michigan Court of Appeals unanimously affirmed the trial court's grant of summary disposition in favor of a teacher who was injured in an automobile accident and sought wage loss benefits under MCL 500.3107(1)(b).  Copus v MEEMIC Insurance Co, __ Mich App __; __NW2d __ (2015)(No 295499).

Plaintiff was earning $63,895 annually as a special education teacher. She missed work for the entire school year.   Plaintiff and the trial court computed her wage loss by dividing her yearly salary, less 15%, by twelve months, so that she was entitled to $4,525.90 per month or $54,310.75 for the missed year.

Defendant argued that Plaintiff worked 183 days per year, which after taxes amounted to $296.78 per day.  It then argued that the daily amount should be multiplied by the number of days actually worked in each 30-day period, with allowances for scheduled days off, to arrive at monthly amounts ranging from $3,858.14 to $6,529.16, as well as two months in summer with no payments at all.  Because some months of the computation would exceed the statutory cap ($4,713.00), it argued that Plaintiff's annual entitlement should have been $44,268.64. 

The Court of Appeals described Defendant's computational method as "a fiction, completely unwarranted by anything in the statute . . . ."   While conceding that a teacher who missed work over the summer would not be entitled to benefits unless the teacher, e.g., was scheduled to teach summer school, the Court emphasized that Plaintiff Copus missed a year's work and was entitled to calculate her wage loss on that basis. 

The Court of Appeals did not simply allow the trial court's ruling to stand.  It engaged in its own de novo review and published its opinion.  The case is thus a warning that insurers should avoid artful approaches to calculation of No Fault benefits.