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MI judge calls part of no-fault auto reform 'unconstitutional'

Many survivors view the ruling "as a win," but say change still needs to happen by lawmakers.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich — Last week, a Washtenaw County judge ruled in favor of an accident survivor. He granted a motion, ordering the insurance company to process and pay all of the plaintiff's home-care bills from July 2, 2021. That is when the no fault auto reform went into effect. 

The judge also found "the new fee scheduled found under no fault reform is unconstitutional." 

West Michigan auto accident survivor Melissa Springsteen called the ruling, "a win for all of us."

"For a judge to agree that the home health care aspect of it is is something that should not have been touched," said Springsteen, "I don't think that it was meant to be. I don't think that that home health care was meant to be included in the reform. But unfortunately, it has been. And it has just been a hard blow to all of us."

No-fault auto insurance was originally reformed to save drivers money. 

Those calling for a change say the no-fault auto reform had unintended consequences that stripped survivors of their care. Two of the major issues are a fee schedule, reimbursement cap and a limit on paid in-home care hours.

This ruling is giving some hope to survivors. 

"It's not binding precedent, it's a lower court case," said Stephen Hulst, attorney for the plaintiff in the case. "Having said that, though, I feel like these types of decisions are persuasive and meaningful for other judges who are going to see these types of motions."

Hulst said he has other similar motions and cases, and expects to see more in months to come. 

While it's progress, Springsteen said it is not enough. She said change needs to come from state lawmakers. 

"They're the ones that can make the reform," said Springsteen, "make a bill, make an amendment to it, get it passed through the Senate, the House, get it passed through the Senate on to the governor. Let's sign it, and let's get it going."

Multiple bills have been introduced to both the state House and Senate to fix portions of the no fault reform. All have stalled in Lansing. 

In March, House Speaker Jason Wentworth said "it's time to move on," about proposals to fix the 2019 law that brought down auto insurance payments. It came as $400 rebate checks made their way into Michiganders' mailboxes.

"He's obviously not hearing his constituents," said Springsteen. "He's not hearing the struggles that people are having because of this reform."

One of the major consequences accident survivors say the reform created was a lack of home health care. The reform not only pays the providers less, but also limits reimbursement for family members doing the care. 

"In my case, my company gets just enough money to pay for the caregivers, but there's no money to run the business," said Kathye Kubica, an auto accident survivor from Holland. "And that's unconstitutional."

Kubica said her caregivers allow her to live her life and not live in a nursing home.

"I'm hoping that it will just stir up more controversy about this," said Kubica about the ruling, "or more clarity maybe about this, so that we can move on."

RELATED VIDEO: Crash survivors rally for no-fault auto insurance fix at state capital

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