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Supreme Court Says No To No-Fault Case

Apr 23, 2014

The Florida Supreme Court won't hear a challenge by acupuncturists and massage therapists who sought to overturn a 2012 law that supporters said would cut fraud from the state's no-fault auto insurance system.

Monday's decision effectively ends the case, which focused during appeals on whether unnamed plaintiffs had legal "standing" to pursue the challenge. But Adam Levine, an attorney for the challengers, has said in the past he could re-file the case with named plaintiffs.

With the decision, Insurance Commissioner Kevin McCarty said the law proceeds, "nothing changes."

The court decision only further delays a desire by Senate Banking and Insurance Chairman David Simmons to move forward with a proposal to scrap the personal-injury protection insurance system, also known as "no-fault." Simmons' proposal would use bodily-injury coverage as a replacement.

"Many people have suggested, 'Let's give it one more year'," the Altamonte Springs Republican said. "I believe there is an opportunity to have more information and gauge then what to do."

The 2012 law, considered a last-ditch effort to maintain the no-fault system, set benchmarks for insurers to lower rates on personal-injury protection coverage. It required people involved in motor vehicle crashes to seek treatment within 14 days and allowed up to $10,000 in benefits for emergency medical conditions, while putting a $2,500 cap on non-emergency conditions.

Gov. Rick Scott and Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater pushed for the law, saying that fraud primarily in the Tampa and Miami regions had resulted in the cost of auto-insurance coverage to spike for Floridians.

Leon County Circuit Judge Terry Lewis ruled in March 2013 that the law illegally prevented accident victims from using PIP coverage to pay for treatment by acupuncturists and massage therapists and limited the services from chiropractors.

Lewis also found fault with the law's lower limit on coverage for non-emergency medical care.

But the 1st District Court of Appeal in October reversed the ruling, saying challengers needed a "factual" motorist who had been harmed by the law, rather than a hypothetical "Jane Doe" as listed in the lawsuit.

Levine wasn't immediately available for comment on Tuesday.

Simmons, an attorney, said Tuesday he expects the law to eventually be overturned.

"I think the 1st DCA made it clear … that as far as they were concerned, if the plaintiffs could find real people to prosecute the lawsuit, that there was a violation of constitutional rights," Simmons said.

Donovan Brown, state government relations counsel for the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America, which supported the 2012 law, called the court decision a "step forward" in reducing fraud.

"Recent evidence reveals implementation of the 2012 PIP reforms led to reduced fraud and suppression of the PIP portion of auto rates, yet certain individuals still sought to put the brakes on the reforms benefiting Florida’s drivers," Brown said in a prepared statement.

"PCI and its members will continue to support full implementation of the PIP reforms for the benefit of consumers. However, we believe those challenging the PIP laws will continue their attempts to wipe away consumer benefits for personal gain by pursuing efforts to strike down the PIP law in every available forum."