Nova Scotia

Joellan Huntley insurance clawback case settled with Nova Scotia

The mother of a woman whose brain was damaged in a car accident says a settlement with the province of Nova Scotia in her daughter's insurance clawback case will "definitely" help other families in similar situations.

Nova Scotia claimed it was entitled to insurance money from brain damaged woman

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

The mother of a woman whose brain was damaged in a car accident says a settlement with the province of Nova Scotia in her daughter's insurance clawback case will "definitely" help other families in similar situations.

Nova Scotia's Department of Community Services announced Wednesday it had reached an agreement with Joellan Huntley, a Nova Scotia woman who suffered a catastrophic brain injury in 1996.

Community Services Minister Joanne Bernard, on Wednesday, called the settlement "historic" and says it caused her department to take a harder look at their policies.

"It was settled and negotiated agreement over the last couple of months that really put into motion and highlighted the fact that this policy needed to be updated, it needed to be looked at from a family centric point of view," she said.

"No other family should have to go to court over this situation again in this province."

No details of the settlement will be released, but Bernard says Huntley will be taken care of.

"She will continue to get the care that she has always gotten through the negotiated part of the agreement," Bernard said. "She will continue to get the care her caregiver and her family and her case managers have all decided are in the best interest of her for the rest of her life."

Huntley was in a traffic accident in April 1996 that left her unable to talk or walk. She was 15 years old at the time. As a result fo the accident, she has to be fed through a tube.

"She's very bright and she knows us and responds to us and she'll laugh out loud and smile," Lousie Misner, Huntley's mother, told CBC's Maritime Noon.

The accident was caused when a driver swerved to avoid a dog on the road. The insurance companies for both the car owner and the dog owner settled with Huntley's family for almost $1.5 million.

When the province learned of the settlement, it launched legal action to claw back the money, taking Huntley's family to court last May.

Misner said the money from the settlement is used for Huntley's rehabilitation treatments and special equipment that has added to her quality of life.

Bernard admits an agreement could have been reached sooner.

"This family, on top of the tragedy of Joellan, have been dealing with this for eight years with the department and certainly a policy review was long overdue," she said. "

"At some point in time, legislators, bureaucrats have to say 'Ok, is this truly in the best interest of this family?' and clearly it was not."

'You had to relive everything'

"The rehab gives wonderful care. If she had just been in a nursing home she wouldn't have had the care that she has there," says Misner.

Misner said when she learned of the government's attempt to claw back money, it was emotional.  

"It was hard because you had to relive everything and it made you more scared for her because you didn't know if you'd be able to continue this special care," she said.

"Without that, her lungs would fill up and she would have a terrible time to breathe and to live."

While the agreement with Huntley's family was announced on Wednesday morning, the Department of Community Services said the details are confidential. 

"This case has weighed heavily on my mind and the minds of staff," said Joanne Bernard, the Minister of Community Services. "We are pleased to have a settlement, and we'll continue to partner with the family in caring for their daughter's long-term needs."

Misner says she's relieved. 

'It's not her fault her life was destroyed'

"That gave me hope that the government would have some compassion and would look into the case and realize what Joellan really needed — that she just wasn't a number … that she wasn't brain dead and we had the right to fight for her quality of life," she said. 

"It's not her fault her life was destroyed when she was only 15. As parents, you always fight for your children, as long as you live."

The department says it is reviewing policies to provide more clarity in these situations so other families don't have to go through a drawn-out legal process.

Wagner's law firm, who represented the family, urges the province "to continue to review its approach to the care needs of injured persons in long-term care, and hopes any changes will take into account the tremendous physical and financial disadvantages faced by severely injured victims in long term care facilities."

"I am thankful that we had a good lawyer and that the media and all the reporters have been so kind and good," says Misner.

"I thank all of Nova Scotia, all the people in Nova Scotia that have spoken out to help us. Joellan thanks them, too, because this is her life and she deserves this."


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Member

Join the conversation  Create account

Already have an account?