Nova Scotia's Department of Community Services is looking into the policies behind the province's decision to try to claw back an insurance settlement from a 34-year-old severely brain damaged woman.
When Joellan Huntley was 15 years old, she was injured by a car, whose driver had swerved to avoid a dog on the road. Insurance companies for both the dog owner and the car owner have paid Huntley's family almost $1.5 million.
When the province learned of the settlement, it launched legal action to take some of that money back.
Community Services Minister Joanne Bernard said Monday the case has been on her mind and she's directed her staff to review the province's policies.
"We are committed and I have directed staff to look at the policies and procedures around this, come back with options in terms of way forward," she said.
"We are also waiting for the decision on Jan. 9 — the court case — because that decision, quite frankly, will help inform the way forward in terms of reviewing policy and processes."
Lawyers have until Jan. 9
Bernard's comment struck a different tone last week, when she told reporters the province was entitled to the money in order to pay for Huntley's care.
In the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia last Wednesday, Justice James Chipman grilled the lawyer for the province and questioned why anyone in the situation faced by the Huntleys would bother to fight for an insurance settlement, only to have it taken away.
Chipman gave lawyers for both sides until Jan. 9 to supply any extra documentation to support their arguments. He's promising a written decision after that.
The Huntleys had been using the settlement money to obtain extra care beyond the basics provided by the Kings Regional Rehabilitation Centre, where Huntley — who has to be fed through a tube — has been living since 1997.
They say the insurance money helps pay for things the province doesn't cover, such as physiotherapy.
'This is an individual with a spirit'
Louise Misner, Huntley's mother, said Monday she's overwhelmed by the public support since last week's court appearance.
"I think it's wonderful that people understand what's going on," she said.
Bernard admits the public support has played a role in the decision to review the process.
"Let me be very clear here that this case has weighed very heavily on my mind, on the premier's mind, on the mind of my colleagues who work in this department and it is not a situation that we want to see any family in," she said.
As for the government, Misner thinks they need to have more compassion.
"They need to realize this is an individual with a spirit. She's alive. She's not a vegetable. She's alive and she's trying to communicate," she said.