PIP Reforms in Effect (Again)
The off-again, on-again Personal Injury Protection (PIP) reforms from 2012 are in effect again. The First District Court of Appeal ruled this week that the plaintiffs challenging the PIP reforms lack standing to question the new law’s constitutionality. Accordingly, the court reversed the effect of an earlier non-final order temporarily enjoining the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation from enforcing the PIP reforms.
The case began when chiropractors, acupuncturists and massage therapists challenged portions of the PIR reforms that eliminate coverage for their services or restrict payments to them. At the trial court level, a circuit judge found that the 2012 PIP reforms eroded consumer protections to a degree that PIP law no longer provides consumers an alternative remedy that is adequate to offset their reduced access to the court system.
The current issue on appeal centered on whether the plaintiffs have standing to bring their challenge. The trial court found that the plaintiffs had standing because they are health care providers who derive a significant percentage of their revenues from PIP payments. However, the appellate court pointed out that when challenging the constitutionality of a statute, a plaintiff must show that its constitutional rights are being abrogated. In this context, the First DCA observed that the health care providers’ own constitutional rights are not affected by an alleged reduction in the access to courts suffered by consumers at large. Thus, they did not have standing to bring the constitutional claims.
It is important to note that the First DCA’s decision does not address the merits of the underlying issue– whether the cumulative effect of PIP reforms over the years has resulted in the PIP law’s no longer being an adequate alternative remedy to the court system. This most recent decision on standing likely only prolongs the time in which stakeholders obtain a final determination on the merits of the reforms.