AutoOwners' attempt to avoid attorney fees after refusing payment of overdue PIP benefits is rejected
Juanita Lueker sued AutoOwners Insurance to compel it to pay overdue PIP Medical benefits after she was hurt in a car accident. She eventually won her case and the trial court ruled that AutoOwners must pay her attorneys' fees. AutoOwners appealed and the Court of Appeals sent the case back to the trial judge because it could not determine whether the attorney's fees were based on a finding of "unreasonable" delay. (An insurer owes punitive interest in the event of a delay in payment, but does not owe fees unless the Court makes an express finding that the insurer's delay was unreasonable.)
The trial court made an explicit finding that the evidence showed that AutoOwners had reasonable proof of the medical expenses incurred and failed to make payment within 30 days as required by statute. AutoOwners appealed again, arguing that the evidence didn't support the lower court's decision. This time the appellate panel affirmed the lower court, finding ample evidence confirming the receipt by AutoOwners of reasonable proof, despite its claim that it did not get the subject billings. In part the court relied upon documentation of the activities of Corvel, a third-party utilized by AutoOwners to scrutinize medical expenses.