ST. JOSEPH. Berrien County Judge Donna Howard said she is willing to order another insurance company to pay 100 percent of the costs of a person who sustained a catastrophic injury in a car accident before the state’s auto insurance reform went into effect on July 1, 2021.
This time it’s the care of 29-year-old Kira Ogburn of St. Joseph, who could only blink her eyes since she was hit by two cars while walking in Benton in June 2010.
During Tuesday’s hearing, Howard said she had no choice because of the Michigan Court of Appeals’ recent decision in a similar case, Andari v. USAA Accident Insurance Company. The Court of Appeal ruled that the state’s wage cuts are not – The Guilt Insurance Reform Act cannot be applied retroactively. The case is expected to be heard by the Michigan Supreme Court in March 2023.
On Tuesday, Howard said she was ready to sign the order as soon as she received it from lawyer Steve Hulst.
He represents Ogburn’s grandmother and guardian, Josephine Wooden, and Private Duty Home Healthcare St. Joseph, who takes care of Ogburn 24/7. Hulst said he would have the order ready next week at the latest.
After the hearing, Lori Costanza, owner of Private Duty, said Auto-Owners Insurance Co. owes Private Duty over $150,000 for Ogburn’s care.
This is at least the second time Howard has ordered the auto insurance company to pay out more money.
In October, she ordered Michigan Mutual Insurance Company Farm Bureau to pay 100 percent of the costs of caring for Joyce Yerington of Bainbridge, who suffered catastrophic injuries in a 2019 car crash.
During Tuesday’s hearing, Laurie McAllister, an attorney for Auto-Owners Insurance Co., said she understood Howard’s hands were tied, but she wanted to make sure language was included in the order to protect the insurance company in future litigation.
The Ogburn case continues with a possible jury trial to decide whether car owners should pay fines and legal fees for the plaintiffs.
McAllister said she is also involved in the Andari case, which will be heard in Michigan Supreme Court next spring. She said she does not expect a decision on the case to be made until at least June.
The state’s Auto Reform Act was intended to lower auto insurance rates for Michigan drivers.
It only requires auto insurance companies to reimburse service providers for 55% of what they paid in 2019 for services not covered by Medicare, which includes most home health care. This fell to 54 percent in July and should fall to 52.5 percent after July 1, 2023.
However, people affected before the law went into effect said they should not be affected by the reduction in payments.
The Michigan Catastrophic Claims Association says more than 17,000 people suffered catastrophic injuries before auto insurance reform went into effect in the state.