N.S. family takes fight over daughter's settlement to the legislature
A Nova Scotia family’s personal fight made it to the floor of the Nova Scotia legislature on Thursday.
Louise Misner and Byron Huntley are asking the provincial government not to go after the entire settlement their daughter received after a car crash 18 years ago.
Their local MLA, John Lohr, presented a petition at the legislature on their behalf.
“My question to the minister is, why not settle this out of court with the family?” asked Lohr.
Joellan was 15 when she sustained a serious brain injury in a car crash in 1996. The crash also claimed two young lives after the young driver swerved to miss a dog on the road in the Annapolis Valley.
In the years following the crash, Joellan received a nearly $1-million settlement. Her daily care at a provincial rehabilitation centre is paid for by the province, while her family receives about $2,500 a month from the trust fund.
Her parents said they use that money to provide extras, like therapy that isn’t available at the rehab centre where 33-year-old Joellan has lived for 17 years.
“The therapy and the communication are two of the most expensive things that we pay for out of her trust fund now, but they are very important to her life,” said Misner.
However, the provincial government filed papers in May, indicating it is going after that money. Provincial legislation allowing government to pursue these types of settlements was passed in 2003.
Now, Joellan’s family is trying to convince the government not to take them to court to go after her settlement.
“People in government have children, they know how precious their children are,” said Misner. “So hopefully they will think twice about making this decision because they could be making it for their own children.”
“In instances where insurance settlements or other benefits can be contributed to that cost of care, that’s why that particular piece of legislation is there,” said Nova Scotia Community Services Minister Joanne Bernard.
Misner and Huntley don’t dispute that the province should get some money to help with Joellan’s care, and even offered the government a percentage of the settlement in 2008, but their offer was turned down.
Misner said they are offering the same deal to the current government.
“We’ll try to give you back as much as what it has almost cost you, but leave enough for her special needs because, if they don’t, she’ll die a horrible death.”
Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil said it is a public policy position.
“As the minister indicated today, she’s certainly sympathetic to the challenges being faced by this situation, but the department has now made its decision and is moving forward,” said McNeil.
Misner said she will continue to fight the decision.
With files from CTV Atlantic's Jacqueline Foster