607 N.W.2d 73 (Mich. 2000), 4, Lincoln v. General Motors Corp.

Docket Nº:Calendar No. 4.
Citation:607 N.W.2d 73, 461 Mich. 483
Opinion Judge:PER CURIAM.
Party Name:Arthur L. LINCOLN, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. GENERAL MOTORS CORPORATION, Defendant-Appellee, and Second Injury Fund, Defendant-Appellant. Docket No. 113063.
Case Date:March 08, 2000
Court:Supreme Court of Michigan
 
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Page 73

607 N.W.2d 73 (Mich. 2000)

461 Mich. 483

Arthur L. LINCOLN, Plaintiff-Appellee,

v.

GENERAL MOTORS CORPORATION, Defendant-Appellee,

and

Second Injury Fund, Defendant-Appellant.

Docket No. 113063.

Calendar No. 4.

Supreme Court of Michigan

March 8, 2000

Argued Nov. 8, 1999.

Kelman, Loria, Simpson, Will, Harvey & Thompson (by Ann Curry Thompson ), Detroit, MI and Randall K. Caryl, Flint, MI, for the plaintiff-appellee.

[461 Mich. 484] Jennifer M. Granholm, Attorney General, Thomas L. Casey, Solicitor General, Morrison Zack and Ray W. Cardew, Jr., Assistant Attorneys General, and Gerald M. Marcinkoski, Special Assistant Attorney General, Detroit, MI, for Second Injury Fund (Total and Permanent Disability Provisions).

Martin L. Critchell, Detroit, MI and J. Walker Henry, Detroit, MI, amicus curiae, for Michigan Manufacturers Association and Michigan Self-Insurers Association.

Opinion

PER CURIAM.

The plaintiff is a disabled worker whose benefits are in dispute, as the result of a

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series of statutory amendments and judicial decisions. The Court of Appeals affirmed a decision of the Worker's Compensation Appellate Commission, which granted the contested benefits. We affirm the judgment of the Court of Appeals, for the reasons stated by the concurring member of the Court of Appeals panel.

I

In 1966, the plaintiff suffered serious leg injuries in the course of his employment at a General Motors plant in Flint. These injuries left him totally and permanently disabled.

A person who has lost the industrial use of both legs is presumed to be disabled for a period of eight hundred weeks. This presumption, now stated in M.C.L. § 418.361(3)(g), 418.351(1); MSA 17.237(361)(3)(g), 17.237(351)(1), was in effect at the time the plaintiff [461 Mich. 485] became disabled. 1 After the eight hundred weeks had passed, he continued to collect basic weekly benefits from his employer, and also differential benefits from the Second Injury Fund (SIF), as now provided in M.C.L. § 418.521(2); MSA 17.237(521)(2).

In Eva King v. State Second Injury Fund, 382 Mich. 480, 170 N.W.2d 1 (1969), this Court considered the effect of certain statutory amendments on the differential benefits available to persons who were permanently and totally disabled. 2 The plaintiff is one of a group of benefit recipients whose situation was governed by King, and he is thus said to be one of "the Eva King people." 3

The special status of Eva King people was later codified by 1980 PA 357, which added M.C.L. § 418.351(2); MSA 17.237(351)(2). 4 This measure provides:

A totally and permanently disabled employee whose date of injury preceded July 1, 1968, is entitled to the compensation under this act that was payable to the employee immediately[461 Mich. 486] before the effective date of this subsection, or compensation equal to 50% of the state average weekly wage as last determined under [MCL 418.355; MSA 17.237(355) ], whichever is greater.

In 1968, the Legislature enacted a provision that reduces benefits by five percent each year from a person's sixty-fifth birthday until the seventy-fifth birthday. The section took effect July 1, 1968, 5 and is now found in M.C.L. § 418.357(1); MSA 17.237(357)(1). It reads:

When an employee who is receiving weekly payments or is entitled to weekly payments reaches or has reached or passed the age of 65, the weekly payments for each year following his or her sixty-fifth birthday shall be reduced by 5% of the weekly payment paid or payable at age 65, but not to less than 50% of the weekly benefit paid or payable at

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age 65, so that on his or her seventy-fifth birthday the weekly payments shall have been reduced by 50%; after which there shall not be a further reduction for the duration of the employee's life. Weekly payments shall not be reduced below the minimum weekly benefit as provided in this act.

An issue soon arose regarding whether Eva King people were subject to these age-related reductions. Initially, the SIF assumed that the reductions applied only to persons injured on or after the effective date of the new measure (July 1, 1968) and that they were thus inapplicable to the Eva King people. However, the Court of Appeals held in 1982 that the reductions[461 Mich. 487] were applicable. Lopez v. Flower Basket Nursery, 122 Mich.App. 680, 687-689, 332 N.W.2d 630 (1982).

The SIF responded to Lopez by applying the age-related reductions to all surviving Eva King people. It also attempted to recoup a portion of what appeared to have been overpayments to these claimants. 6

Without further appellate guidance, the SIF also concluded that payments to these claimants could not fall below a floor set by M.C.L. § 418.356(3); MSA 17.237(356)(3), which now provides:

The minimum weekly benefit...

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