Captive Insurance and Risk Retention

The concept behind captive insurance companies is based on the principle that rewards are derived from the assumption and retention of risk. Traditional insurance vehicles purchased through third-party agents is directed at shifting definable risks onto insurance companies that assume such risks based on weighing the statistical probability that, when viewed in the aggregate, the costs to the insurance company for paying claims will be less than the premiums the insurance company charges for assuming those risks. In that sense, insurance companies operate on the business model that they generate revenue, and ultimately profit, by assuming risk. A captive insurance company operates on a similar principle with the main difference being that rewards are the result of retaining risks by the parent company rather than shifting those risks to traditional insurance companies. In short, captive insurance companies are formed as part of a risk management strategy to take advantage of the economic benefits derived from risk retention. One of the more notable benefits of captive insurance models relates to the tax benefits provided to so-called micro captives. Under I.R.C. Section 831(b), micro captives can elect to only be taxed on investment income and avoid tax on income derived from the collection of up to $2.2 million in insurance premiums. As a result, incorporating captive insurance concepts as part of a risk management strategy can provide opportunities to go beyond simply planning for catastrophic and non-catastrophic losses.

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Michigan Prevailing Wage Update

Michigan’s prevailing wage law faces potential repeal in 2017. The first three bills proposed by the Michigan Senate are directed at repealing the laws that require labor on Michigan public construction projects be paid at prevailing wage rates akin to union-level wages. This is not the first time this issue has surfaced in Michigan and in other states across the country.

Proponents of repealing prevailing wage contend that requiring higher labor costs is passed through to the taxpayers whereas the opposition claims that prevailing wage results in higher-quality public improvements and a fair wage for the people of Michigan that perform the improvements. The debate over these issues is expected to be heated and continue throughout the year. Check back for additional updates about this issue and the future of Michigan’s prevailing wage legislation on public construction projects.

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Court Enforces Subcontractor’s Obligation to Indemnify Contractor

The Michigan Court of Appeals recently affirmed a contractor’s right to defense and indemnity from its subcontractor under the plain language of the parties’ subcontract. Provenzino v Macomb County Department of Roads, et al (January 2017).

In this case, Mr. Provenzino alleged that he was injured when he fell from his motorcycle after encountering a disparity in height between adjacent milled and unmilled lanes of traffic in a construction zone. Provenzino sued multiple parties including Florence Cement Company, the general contractor, and Lois Kay Contracting Company (LKCC), the subcontractor who milled the roadway surfaces. Florence filed a cross claim against LKCC seeking indemnity based upon the indemnification provision in the parties’ subcontract. That provision stated:

Subcontractor agrees, and shall bind all sub-subcontractors to agree to indemnify Contractor, Owner and all other parties the Contractor is obligated to indemnify pursuant to the Prime Contract (hereinafter “Indemnitees”), and to defend and hold Indemnitees forever harmless from and against all suits, actions, legal and administrative proceedings, claims, demands, damages, interest, attorney fees, costs and expenses of whatsoever kind or nature whether arising before or after completion of Subcontractor’s work and in any manner directly or indirectly caused or claimed to be caused by any action or negligence of Subcontractor or Sub-subcontractor, and regardless whether directly or indirectly caused or claimed to be caused in part by a party indemnified hereunder or by anyone acting under their direction, control or on their behalf, until such time as a judgement [sic] is entered against Contractor by a court of law. …[emphasis added].

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Improperly Licensed Architect Firm Not Liable On Licensing & Malpractice Claims

In Center Street Lofts Condominium Association v AZD Associates, Inc., et al (Mich. Ct. App. Dec. 2016), a condominium association sued an architectural firm, AZD Associates, claiming that AZD’s deficient design of the condominium project caused multiple units to leak. The Association also claimed that AZD was not properly licensed because less than 2/3 of AZD’s principals were licensed architects, contrary to the requirements of the Michigan Occupational Code (MOC).

The trial court dismissed the Association’s claims as to improper licensure, ruling that the Michigan Occupational Code does not give a private person the right to sue an architect to enforce the licensing requirements of the MOC. Instead, the MOC gave enforcement authority only to prosecutors and the Attorney General. The only exception given to private persons is the right to seek an injunction (an order to stop) against an unlicensed practice. The Court of Appeals agreed with the trial court and affirmed dismissal of the claim.

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