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142956 - DeFrain v State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company

Nancy Jane DeFrain, Personal Representative of the Estate of William DeFrain,
Robert S. Drazin
(Appeal from Ct of Appeals)
(Wayne – Drain, G.)
State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company,
Andrew D. Sugerman
W. Daniel Troyka


​William DeFrain was walking in Florida on May 31, 2008, when he was struck by a hit-and-run driver. DeFrain suffered a brain injury that required hospitalization and surgery; he died on November 11, 2008. DeFrain’s State Farm auto insurance policy included uninsured motorist coverage; the insured’s duties under the policy included providing notice of an accident to State Farm “as soon as reasonably possible.” The policy contained a separate provision about the insured’s duties with regard to uninsured motorist coverage and hit-and-run accidents. Under this provision, a “person” making a claim under “Uninsured Motor Vehicle Coverage must report an accident, involving a ‘hit-and-run’ motor vehicle to the police within 24 hours and to us within 30 days.”

DeFrain, or someone acting on his behalf, notified State Farm of the hit-and-run accident on August 25, 2008, 86 days after the accident. When State Farm refused to pay his claim, DeFrain sued, seeking uninsured motorist benefits for the hit-and-run accident. After DeFrain’s death, Nancy DeFrain became the named plaintiff, as personal representative of DeFrain’s estate. State Farm moved for summary disposition, arguing that DeFrain did not comply with the 30-day notice provision for hit-and-run accidents, and that DeFrain’s lawsuit should be dismissed. To support its argument, State Farm relied on the peremptory order entered by the Michigan Supreme Court in Jackson v State Farm, 472 Mich 942 (2005), in which the Supreme Court reinstated the trial court’s order dismissing a lawsuit against State Farm due to the claimant’s failure to provide notice of a claim for uninsured motorist benefits within 30 days of a hit-and-run accident. DeFrain responded that the insurance policy was ambiguous regarding who was required to provide notice and when, and that State Farm was required to show that it suffered actual prejudice as a result of DeFrain’s failure to comply with the notice provision. The circuit court agreed with DeFrain, and denied State Farm’s motion.

State Farm appealed to the Court of Appeals, which affirmed the circuit court in a published opinion. The Court of Appeals ruled that the 30-day notice provision did not control because State Farm did not show that it was prejudiced by DeFrain’s failure to comply with the provision. The Court of Appeals did not reach the question of whether the trial court erred in finding an ambiguity in the policy. State Farm appeals.