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Sha'Ron James


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Judge Hears Arguments, but again Dismisses Suit Seeking Block of Fla. PIP Law

1/17/2013

By: Phil Gusman

PropertyCasualty360.com

A Florida district-court judge again denied an injunction that would halt implementation of Florida’s personal injury protection reform law signed in May last year. 

Judge Richard Lazzara, in the United States District Court, Middle District of Florida, in Tampa, issued the order after a group of chiropractors, massage therapists and acupuncturists asked him to reconsider an earlier order he issued on Dec. 12, 2012 denying the group’s motion.Lazzara called the plaintiffs’ motion “passionate,” but said that “no matter to what degree this court may sympathize with Plaintiffs’ plight of suffering potential economic loss by virtue of this newly enacted legislation, the court must be guided by the rule of law....”

To that end, Lazzara says the plaintiffs’ contention is “that they possess a fundamental property right in their professional licenses to practice chiropractic medicine, acupuncture medicine, and massage therapy by virtue of their licensure by the State of Florida to practice those healing arts.” Therefore, according to Lazzara, plaintiffs argue that “amendments to the PIP Act which constrain, in the case of a chiropractic physician, and eliminate, in the case of an acupuncture physician and a massage therapist, their ability to seek reimbursement for professional services rendered to a person injured in a motor vehicle collision under the personal injury protection provisions of an automobile insurance policy deny them due process of law and the equal protection of the laws under the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments.”

But he adds, “What Plaintiffs fail to grasp is that although they do have a state-created property interest in their professional licenses, that interest is only subject to procedural due process protection and not substantive due process protection.”

Responding to the decision, R Street Florida Director Christian R. Cámara says, “[Florida Governor Rick] Scott and the Florida Legislature heard the calls from Florida consumers about their runaway auto-insurance costs and took action to cut out the fraud and unscrupulous claims that were driving up rates. The federal court did the right thing in upholding those cost-saving, pro-consumer reforms by throwing out this lawsuit. It is unfortunate that opponents of reform who couldn’t get their way in the Capitol last year insist on using the courts to legislate on their behalf.”

R Street notes that Lazzara’s decision allows the plaintiffs to proceed with a separate suit in Florida state court. That suit, says R Street, is Myers, et al vs. Kevin McCarty, and was filed Jan. 9 in Tallahassee in the Second Judicial Circuit Court for Leon County.