Tap To Call: 727-451-6900

Temporary Injunction Granted in Case Challenging Constitutionality of Florida’s New PIP Statute

The amended Florida PIP statute that went into effect on January 1, 2013 has drawn tremendous scrutiny. On March 15, 2013, Circuit Judge Terry P. Lewis of Florida’s Second Judicial Circuit in Leon County heard arguments over the request for a temporary injunction in the case of Robin A. Myers, D.C. v. Kevin M. McCarty (in his Official Capacity as the Commissioner of the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation). This decision is a huge win for chiropractors, massage therapists and acupuncturists who have been crippled by the new Florida PIP Statute that came into effect on January 1, 2013.

The new statute changed the ability of health care providers to bill a car accident victim’s personal injury protection insurance policy in a number of ways. First, it limited the payout on the $10,000.00 policy to only $2,500.00 unless a Medical Doctor (M.D.) labeled the victim’s injuries as an “Emergency Medical Condition” within fourteen (14) days. Second, the new statute disqualified massage therapists and acupuncturists from collecting anything from a patient’s personal injury protection.

The judge determined that the Plaintiff’s (Chiropractors, Massage Therapists, and Acupuncturists joined together) had standing to request the temporary injunction. In order to have standing they had to prove that they suffered a special injury by the statute that was different than the injury suffered by members of the general public. The judge determined that because these types of healthcare providers received a substantial percentage of their income through PIP, the limitation to their ability to be compensated through PIP was in fact a novel injury.

Judge Lewis then addressed the issue of whether the temporary injunction was appropriate. In order to have the injunction granted, the Plaintiffs had to show that they will suffer irreparable harm if it is not entered, that they have no other (monetary) remedy available, that there is a substantial likelihood that they will succeed in their case challenging the constitutionality of the statute based on the merits, and that the injunction is in the public interest. Judge Lewis determined that the only one of these elements that was questionable was whether the Plaintiffs showed (through evidence) a substantial likelihood of success.

In the end, the plaintiffs won. Specifically, they convinced the Court that their claim that Florida’s new PIP statute violates Article I, Section 21 of the Florida Constitution. That article states “The courts shall be open to every person for redress of any injury, and justice shall be administered without sale, denial or delay.” In 1971, the Florida legislature infringed on this fundamental right to access the courts by severely limiting the right of a person injured in a Motor vehicle accident to recover in court for injuries cause by someone else’s negligence. They instituted the current “no-fault” system that requires all vehicle operators to carry insurance covering their own medical costs caused in an accident.

A number of challenges to this infringement on Article I, Section 21 have occurred as the legislature changed the “no-fault” law through the years. A number of challenges have yielded rulings that the statute was unconstitutional in one way or another, which leads us up to the current challenge. The current challenge claims that the latest changes to the Florida Personal Injury Protection Law go beyond what a previous Florida Supreme Court Justice called the “outer limits of constitutional tolerance”. Judge Lewis ruled that the new PIP law does in fact go beyond those limits based on the fact that the new law severely limits what can be recovered under the PIP policy. He specifically cites the limitation of certain victims to only receive $2500.00 in benefits out of their $10,000.00 insurance policy because of an arbitrary label (emergency medical condition). Judge Lewis also takes issue with the contention that accident victims may no longer recover for medical services provided by Massage Therapists and licensed acupuncturists.

In the end, Judge Lewis granted the temporary injunction and stated that it is his belief that with the current changes, Florida’s PIP law is no longer a “reasonable alternative” to Article I, Section 21 of Florida’s Constitution. Chalk this one up to justice prevailing.