Court addresses the PIP carrier's duty to pay for Conservator's services
Darren Findling sued the "Auto Club" to collect fees he earned as the Conservator of Carol Kowalski, who was catastrophically injured in a car accident. The insurer refused to pay Findling's fees, arguing that under recent decisions of the Republican manjority of Michigan's Supreme Court, most of the expenses Findling was forced to incur where not "causally related" to the car accident injuries.
Prior to the Supreme Court's recent Carroll case, if no fault injuries necessitated the creation of a conservatorship to protect a brain-injured or otherwise mentally incompetent accident-victim, the PIP carrier was obligated to cover those conservatorship costs. For several decades, the judiciary and the entire industry had confirmed that since a Conservatorship had become necessary for the "care and treament" of the accident victim, and since this need was caused by the car wreck, the no fault act applied. In Carroll, however, the Republican majority (selected and elected with insurance industry support) overturned this line of decisions and held that an insurer was not obligated to pay the fees incurred by a Conservator who was forced to liquidate the injury victim's home and property after he was forced into a convalescent home. The Carroll Republicans held that these services to the injury victim's "household" were not caused by a car accident, even though it was the accident disability that resulted in the need for the services. The Justices didn't address the issue of who would pay these fees if a court officer-Conservator was obligated to provide the service and there was no money in the injury victim's estate to pay for the service.
In Findling's case, two of the appellate judges voted to overturn the trial judge's award of Conservatorship fees, finding that most of the fees, although appropriate, were not directly related to providing "care and treatment" for the victim's injuries. Thus, the Court held that under Carroll, the Conservator must be paid by the insurer for maintaining the Conservatorship and filing annual accountings, but he could not be paid for managing the incompetent person's household bills or unrelated legal expenses. He could be compensated for his time involved in pursuing PIP claims against the Auto Club, but only if the Auto Club had denied benefits payable under Carroll. One judge dissented, noting that some services provided by the Conservator, while not directly related to treatment of the car wreck injuries, were incurred only because the victim was rendered mentally incompetent by her injuries.