Woman's right to attendant care under no fault is rejected
Charlotte Chalko sued State Farm for 24 hour attendant care. Chalko is obese and has other health problems, and suffered a severe ankle fracture in a motor vehicle collision. She claimed that the ankle fracture compounded her existing physical problems, resulting in respiratory failures and the need for full-time attendant care. She presented the testimony of her doctor in support of her claim, but State Farm hired two doctors who testified that any need for attendant care was solely the result of her other health problems and unrelated to her ankle injury.
After a trial, the jury awarded Chalko only two hours of attendant care per day, and her attorneys appealed. They argued that the judge should have granted 24 hours of attendant care because there was no genuine issue of material fact regarding Chalko's need for care and the fact that the motor vehicle accident-related injuries were a "significant contributing factor." They also argued that the jury should have been instructed that if it could not distinguish the impact of the ankle fracture from Chalko's pre-existing conditions, it should award all related damages, consistent with Standard Jury Instruction 50.11.
All three Court of Appeals judges held that since State Farm presented medical evidence that Chalko's need for 24 hour attendant care was unrelated to her motor vehicle accident, the case was properly submitted to the jury. Two of the judges also held that failing to give the requested instruction on aggravation of a pre-existing condition was not error because Chalko's lawyers did not request the instruction in a proper and timely manner. The dissenting judge disagreed with the latter holding and would have ruled that Chalko had properly invoked the Court's duty to give an instruction that accorded with the existing law.