Joellan Huntley insurance clawback case defended by province

Nova Scotia's community services minister is defending the province's court case to try to clawback an insurance settlement from a severely brain-damaged woman.

Nova Scotia tries to clawback insurance settlement from woman with catastrophic brain injury

Joellan Huntley was injured in a 1996 traffic accident, which left her unable to talk or walk. She has to be fed through a tube. (CBC)

Nova Scotia's community services minister is defending the province's decision to try to clawback an insurance settlement from a 33-year-old severely brain-damaged woman.

When Joellan Huntley was 15 she was injured by a car, whose driver had swerved to avoid a dog on the road.

In Supreme Court Wednesday, Justice James Chipman grilled the lawyer for the province. He questioned why anyone in the situation faced by the Huntleys would bother to fight for an insurance settlement, only to have it taken away.

“It just seems rather perverse, doesn’t it?” he said.

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.

Province says it's entitled to money 

Community Services Minister Joanne Bernard says the province is entitled to the money in order to pay for Huntley's care.

“This is not a situation that anybody wants to see themselves in, whether it be the department or the government, and certainly not the family. But this is case law at this point in time and it’s public policy and it’s been on the books for many, many years in this province,” she said.

The family has 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, like physiotherapy.

Her parents say the extra comforts have helped her bronchitis.

“The last time she had bronchitis, she recovered in two weeks, without having to go into the hospital because she's having this therapy," said her mother, Louise Misner.

A ruling in the case is expected early in the new year.

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.