Court snatches fee and cost award from injury victim who had to sue State Farm for PIP benefits
DeEtta Gardner was hospitalized at Botsford Hospital for 3 days after she was rear-ended in a car accident. Doctors diagnosed a bulging disc in her neck and ordered various forms of therapy. The State Farm adjuster, Karen Winters, vacillated between approving payment and delayed a decision for several months before hiring an "Independent Medical Examiner," Dr. Neil Friedman. Friedman issued a report on the day of his examination concluding that Gardner suffered no injury in the collision, period. (His standard conclusion, by the way: that's how "IME" doctors get hired.)
Gardner was forced to sue for Personal Injury Protection medical benefits and Therapy First, LLC, joined her suit, seeking compensation for the services it provided her. Jurors concluded that Gardner had suffered real injury, that her medical expenses were "reasonable and necessary," and that payment was overdue. The trial judge then added attorney fees, holding that State Farm unreasonably delayed payment. State Farm appealed.
The Court of Appeals overturned the latter fee award, concluding that the Judge erred by failing to make a factual analysis of the reasons and extent of the delay and whether it was caused by others than State Farm. The case was remanded to the lower court for further findings.