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Conservatives on Court of Appeals express opposing view on Conservator expenses

Last month, one panel of the Court of Appeals responded to the Michigan Supreme Court's Johnson decision by limiting the expenses that a court-appointed Conservator may recover from an auto insurer as Personal Injury Protection (PIP) benefits.  In short, the Johnson case involved the conservative element of the Court re-interpreting the 1974 no fault law to limit the expenses an injured party may recover.  The Republican majority ruled that the expenses related to the needs of an injured person which preceded the injury cannot be recovered if they exceed $20,00 per day in expense or lasted longer than three years. 

The Court imposed this limitation even where the injured person could no longer address the need and must now procure help.  (For example, a spouse who worked only in the home, raising multiple children, if rendered a quadrilplegiac, is limited to three years of $20.00 per day as "replacement household services"...regardless of the number of hours the household requires from someone else after the injury--or its permanence.)

The first Court of Appeals panel to apply this decison to Conservatorship fees held that a conservator may not charge to the PIP insurer any expenses incurred to manage the injured party's property.  It preserved coverage, however, for the hours expended by a conservator in arranging medical treatment, accompanying the victim to medical appointments, and pursuing, if necessary, insurance payment for medical care.

This week, a more conservative panel including Kirsten Kelly--perhaps the Court's most conservative, insurance-oriented judge--reached an even broader decision.  In Fullmer v. Auto Club, it reversed its prior decision on behalf of the Conservator, and held that the conservator of a woman who suffered "significant injuries" and was rendered incompetent could not be reimbursed for managing "purely economic affairs."  While that conclusion is compatible with the Johnson decision and the prior Court of Appeals' decision, the Fullmer panel went on e step further to include within its ruling the costs incurred in connection with no fault benefits.  Certainly securing payment for medical services--and the right to continue to treat with (otherwise unpaid) medical providers--is an expense related to the victim's medical care and treatment.  Hopefully, the language suggesting otherwise in Fullmer is either sloppy drafting or not widely accepted by other judges.

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