Court awards chiropractor bills; needs more information to determine attorney's fees
Auto Owners Insurance Company paid two of the chiropractic bills incurred by Juanita Lueker after a car accident and then stopped payment. After 20 months, Lueker sued AutoOwners to collect some $27,000.00 in unpaid bills. In the meantime, AutoOwners sent Lueker or her records to two "IME" chiropractors, Kenneth Lockwood and Bruce Servern, who belatedly offered the opinion that AutoOwners was reasonable in refusing to pay Lueker's chiropractor. The jury disagreed and awarded Lueker about $14,000.00 in "overdue" chiropractic bills and interest. The trial court then awarded Lueker her attorneys' fees, deeming Auto Owner's conduct "unreasonable".
On appeal, the Court determined that it didn't have enough information to assess whether the award of attorneys' fees could be affirmed: it sent the case back to decide whether AutoOwners got timely notice of the billings and refused to pay, or whether it did not get notice of the bills until after the IME chiropractors had evaluated Lueker. The Court concluded that if it had Lockwood's report in hand before rejecting the bills, it acted reasonably. On the other hand, if it simply rejected the bills without an IME analysis, the subsequently-rendered opinion could not justify the adjuster's failure to make timely payment.