We hold that the New York no-fault automobile accident compensation law is not unconstitutional. This case comes to us on direct appeal (NY Const, art VI, § 3, subd b, par ; CPLR 5601, subd [b], par 2) from a judgment at Special Term which, on cross motions for summary judgment, declared article 18 of the Insurance Law in violation of the due process and equal protection clauses of the Federal and
The New York No-Fault Act
We first describe this insurance program.
Under the title, "Comprehensive Automobile Insurance Reparations Act", article 18 of the Insurance Law (as added by L 1973, ch 13, in full effect Feb. 1, 1974) provides a plan for compensating victims of automobile accidents without regard to fault. In essence, it is a two-pronged, partial modification of the pre-existing system of reparation for personal injuries suffered in automobile accidents under which system liability was grounded in negligence under classic principles of tort law. One prong deals with compensation; the other with limitation of tort actions.
The first prong lays down the requirement that every owner of a motor vehicle provide himself, members of his household, operators, occupants and pedestrians with compensation for "basic economic loss" resulting from injuries occasioned by the use or operation of that vehicle in this State, regardless of fault (§ 672, subd 1). "Motor vehicle" is defined to exclude motorcycles from the act's coverage (§ 671, subd 6). "Basic economic loss", subject to a maximum of $50,000 per person, is defined to include:
Compensation for basic economic loss is payable as "first
The right to first-party benefits accrues to the injured person regardless of fault or negligence on the part of the covered person, except that the insurer may exclude from coverage a person who intentionally causes his own injury, is injured as a result of operating a motor vehicle while in an intoxicated condition or while his ability to operate such vehicle is impaired by the use of a drug, or is injured while committing an act which would constitute a felony, seeking to avoid lawful apprehension or arrest, participating in a race or speed test, or operating or occupying a vehicle he knows to be stolen (§ 672, subd 2).
The second prong of the act imposes two limitations on tort recovery for personal injuries, applicable, however, only to actions between "covered persons" (as defined in § 671, subd 10): (1) there can be no duplicate tort compensation for "basic economic loss" (§ 673, subd 1); and (2) damages for noneconomic loss (i.e., pain and suffering) are not recoverable in tort unless the plaintiff can establish that he has suffered a "serious injury" (§ 673, subd 1). Serious injury is defined in subdivision 4 of section 671 as a personal injury:
Thus, an injured party may bring a third-party tort action and may recover therein for economic loss over $50,000, for
Plaintiffs, each of whom was injured in a separate automobile accident occurring after February 1, 1974, the effective date of article 18, joined together in this action against their respective alleged tort-feasors and insurers seeking a declaration that article 18 is unconstitutional and void in its entirety. Plaintiffs allege in each case that because the reasonable and customary charges for medical treatment for their respective injuries will not exceed $500, they are barred under the challenged law from commencing an action for their injuries and particularly for the pain and suffering allegedly occasioned thereby. Plaintiffs' constitutional attack on article 18 is multifaceted and can be summarized as follows:
Plaintiffs' assertions of unconstitutionality focus, of course, on the details of article 18. We note, however, that to a very large extent the methodology of their assault would be equally applicable (or as we hold inapplicable) to any no-fault plan whatever its specifics. The techniques of their attack are those which are always available to challenge any statute in which lines of demarcation must be laid down — contentions predicated, at least implicitly, on the assumption that to draw any line involves an element of the arbitrary, that wherever the line is drawn instances can be suggested which appear to involve inequitable inclusion or exclusion (see, infra, p 64). The ineluctable projection of plaintiffs' arguments is that our Legislature does not have authority to adopt any no-fault plan.
Prepassage Studies and Proceedings
Before turning to an analysis of the constitutional claims advanced, it will be helpful to review some of the studies and proceedings which preceded enactment of article 18.
Debate over the efficacy of the tort system of compensating automobile accident victims has raged for over 40 years.
The first infirmity was the acknowledged fact that exposure to the risk of tort liability did not function as a significant factor in motivating drivers to operate their vehicles carefully or prudently. (DOT Report, at pp 53-57; Insurance Department Report, at pp 12-13;
Secondly it was urged that the tort system was excessively and needlessly expensive and inefficient. Keeton and O'Connell (at p 70, n 190) and the DOT Report (at p 51) both concluded that half or perhaps less than half of the automobile liability insurance premium dollar was paid in actual compensation to accident victims. The Insurance Department Report stated (at p 35) that only 44 cents of the premium dollar reached the injured claimants.
Thirdly it was urged that the distribution of compensation
As a fourth major inadequacy of the fault system of reparation, it was argued that the system placed an inordinate strain on the State's court systems and judicial resources. (See, generally, Insurance Department Report, at pp 19-24; DOT Report, at pp 70-79; and Keeton and O'Connell, at pp 13-15.)
In March, 1970 the Governor sent the first proposed legislation for implementing no-fault concepts in this State to the Legislature accompanied by a special message (reprinted in 111th Annual Report of the Superintendent of Insurance to the Legislature for 1969 , at pp 329-331). Public hearings were held on the proposed bill, but no action was taken that year. In 1971 the Governor followed a similar procedure (see 112th Annual Report of the Superintendent of Insurance to the Legislature for 1970 , at pp 155-157) and more hearings were held, but again no action was taken on any of
It is additionally worth noting that prior to February 1, 1974, the effective date of article 18, 13 other jurisdictions had enacted various forms of no-fault insurance laws.
In this instance, perhaps more than in most, in the light of the exhaustive and vigorous public discussion of no-fault insurance in this State and elsewhere and the extended legislative consideration which preceded adoption of article 18, it would be a demonstration of judicial arrogation and highly inept and inapt to express any opinion as to the factual predicate for this legislation, its philosophical justification or the ultimate wisdom of its enactment. It is not our office to rejoice or to lament. A fair regard for the basic polity of separation of powers dictates judicial respect for the proper role of the legislative branch, and pride in the uniquely and essentially neutral role of the judicial branch. That judicial role is both a privilege and a limitation.
Due Process Issues
We turn then to consideration of the several arguments advanced to support the contention that article 18 is unconstitutional.
We conclude that the partial abolition here of an accident victim's right to sue for damages caused by another's negligent action does not deprive the victim of a right or interest protected by the due process clause of either our State or the Federal Constitution.
Thus this aspect of plaintiffs' challenge is to be viewed as presenting two inquiries: in enacting article 18 was the Legislature acting in pursuit of permissible State objectives and, if so, were the means adopted in article 18 reasonably related to the accomplishment of those objectives? We conclude that each inquiry must be answered in the affirmative.
Within the police powers of a State is the power to regulate the use of the motor vehicle as well as liability which may arise out of such use. In sustaining Connecticut's power to enact a "guest statute" abrogating the common-law right of a guest in an automobile to recover for the negligence of his host, the United States Supreme Court stated: "Whether there has been a serious increase in the evils of vexatious litigation in this class of cases, where the carriage is by automobile, is for legislative determination and, if found, may well be the basis of legislative action further restricting the liability. Its wisdom is not the concern of the courts." (Silver v Silver, 280 U.S. 117, 123.)
Likewise, we reject plaintiffs' argument that there is no reasonable basis between reform as undertaken in article 18 and the objective of remedying the defects perceived by the Legislature to inhere in the fault-based tort system for compensating automobile accident personal injury claimants. On the contrary we conclude that, by eliminating recovery for pain and suffering in relatively minor cases and by simultaneously guaranteeing prompt and full compensation for economic losses up to $50,000 without the necessity of recourse to the courts, the Legislature acted reasonably to eliminate much of the wasted expenditures of premium dollars on expenses extraneous to treatment of injury (e.g., legal and investigative costs involved in determining fault and in establishing the value of the alleged pain and suffering). Such action may further be viewed as reasonably related to guaranteeing full and fair recovery to all victims by reducing pressure on a seriously injured person to compromise down his claims in order to obtain funds for treatment while at the same time eliminating pressure on insurers to compromise up claims by persons suffering minor injuries in order to avoid the expense of investigating and defending against such minor claims. Finally, it cannot be said that by partially obviating recourse to the courts the statute was unreasonable in relation to its purpose to reduce the long delays in the payment of
In so holding it is not necessary for us to conclude that article 18 represents the only or necessarily the wisest response which the Legislature could have taken to accomplish the objectives sought. "Assuming that there were other effective methods by which to accomplish the same end, this court should not substitute its judgment for that of the Legislature in determining the particular method to meet a given need". (Matter of Taylor v Sise, 33 N.Y.2d 357, 365, supra.) Nor is it necessary to conclude that article 18 will surely accomplish the ends sought to be achieved, for "only time will tell whether the course pursued will prove effective or will fail" (People v Broadie, 37 N.Y.2d 100, 118, supra). We hold only that article 18 is reasonably related to the promotion of the public welfare and thus represents a legitimate exercise of our State's police power.
Plaintiffs posit another due process claim on the argument that article 18 unconstitutionally abrogates their common-law right to sue in tort without providing an adequate substitute remedy. This "adequate substitute remedy test" derives from dictum found in the United States Supreme Court opinion of 1917 in New York Cent. R. R. Co. v White (243 U.S. 188, 201) where in rejecting challenges to our State's new workmen's compensation law, the court wrote: "it perhaps may be doubted whether the State could abolish all rights of action on the one hand, or all defenses on the other, without setting up something adequate in their stead." The court went on to state, however: "No such question is here presented, and we intimate no opinion upon it."
Serious question exists as to whether this "adequate substitute test" is any test at all. In Munn v Illinois (94 U.S. 113, 134) the court had been unequivocal in its statement that: "A person has no property, no vested interest, in any rule of the common law. That is only one of the forms of municipal law, and is no more sacred than any other. Rights of property which have been created by the common law cannot be taken away without due process; but the law itself, as a rule of conduct, may be changed at the will, or even at the whim, of the legislature, unless prevented by constitutional limitations. Indeed, the great office of statutes is to remedy defects in the common law as they are developed, and to adapt it to the changes of time and circumstances." In Arizona Employers' Liab. Cases (250 U.S. 400, 421)
It should also be noted that our State Constitution expressly recognizes the power of the Legislature to alter the common law. Section 14 of article I in adopting the common law in effect on April 19, 1775 goes on to add explicitly, "subject to such alterations as the legislature shall make concerning the same".
Many States have abolished common-law causes of action by statute without providing any substitute remedy at all, e.g., the common-law right of a guest in an automobile to recover for the negligence of his host,
For the purposes of disposing of this appeal we conclude, however, that it is unnecessary to decide when, if ever, due process requires that a Legislature in abrogating causes of action under the common law must provide an adequate substitute remedy. If adequacy of the replacement were to be required, a systemic comparison would be appropriate — the measure of the new system as an adequate substitute for the common-law system. It would be immaterial that a particular claimant might have fared significantly better under the former system. As the United States Supreme Court concluded
Finally under the due process heading, we find no merit in plaintiffs' additional claim that the term "significant disfigurement", as used in section 671 (subd 4, par [a]) to define a "serious injury", is unconstitutionally vague. While it is true that civil as well as penal statutes can be tested for vagueness under the due process clause (Giaccio v Pennsylvania, 382 U.S. 399, 402), we find the words "significant disfigurement" well within that test. "While these are abstract words, they have through daily use acquired a content that conveys to any interested person a sufficiently accurate concept". (Kovacs v Cooper, 336 U.S. 77, 79.) The challenged phrase is no less vague than that found in our State's Workmen's Compensation Law (§ 15, subd 3, par t, cl 1) which provides that the "board may award proper and equitable compensation for serious facial and head disfigurement" — a provision which has been interpreted and applied without constitutional difficulty. (See, e.g., Matter of Sweeting v American Knife Co., 226 N.Y. 199, affd sub nom. New York Cent. R. R. Co. v Bianc, 250 U.S. 596; Matter of Erickson v Preuss, 223 N.Y. 365; Matter of Hildreth v Ford Motor Co., 14 A.D.2d 963.) Similarly, the Longshoremen's and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act (US Code, tit 33, § 901 et seq.) states in section 908 (subd [c], par ) that
Equal Protection Claims
In addressing plaintiffs' equal protection arguments there is a threshold issue which must first be resolved, namely, what standard of review is to be applied. Plaintiffs argue that the challenged provisions of article 18 can be sustained only if the State can demonstrate that such statutory provisions are necessary to the advancement of a compelling State interest and additionally only if it can then be shown there are no less restrictive means by which the advancement of such an interest could be achieved. We reject plaintiffs' argument in support of this strict scrutiny test and choose rather to apply the traditional rational basis test to the equal protection claims made herein.
The strict scrutiny test is to be invoked only where a challenged law can be said to create classifications drawn along suspect lines or which impair some fundamental constitutional right.
Article 18 certainly does not interfere with any right to "security of the person" as that right was recognized by the United States Supreme Court in Griswold v Connecticut (381 U.S. 479) or Eisenstadt v Baird (405 U.S. 438) cases cited by plaintiffs. Rather than depriving plaintiffs of legal protection to their persons, article 18 has simply altered the economic remedy available for injury to their persons.
Likewise plaintiffs' reliance on Boddie v Connecticut (401 U.S. 371) for the claim that article 18 unconstitutionally denies to them a fundamental right of "access to the courts" is misplaced. In Boddie and in subsequent cases clarifying Boddie (e.g., Ortwein v Schwab, 410 U.S. 656; United States v Kras, 409 U.S. 434) the Supreme Court has made it clear that access to the courts in and of itself is not an independent constitutional right. The right to access to the courts will be accorded special constitutional protection only where the right sought to be asserted through such access is a right recognized in the constitutional sense as carrying a preferred status and so entitled to special protection and then only where there is no alternative forum in which vindication of that constitutionally protected right may be sought. In Boddie, the court found that access to the courts was "the exclusive precondition to the adjustment of a fundamental human relationship" (p 383) — that of marriage — and concluded that a State may not "preempt the right to dissolve this legal relationship without affording all citizens access to the means it has prescribed for doing so" (p 383). By contrast the Supreme Court has held that access to the courts for the resolution of other claims (involving rights not subject to special constitutional protection) may be denied if there is a rational basis therefor; no proof is required of any compelling State interest or that the legislative choice of means of accomplishment was the least restrictive. (Ortwein v Schwab, 410 U.S. 656, supra [$25 filing fee which operated to deprive appellants of opportunity to obtain appellate review of agency determination reducing welfare benefits]; United States v Kras, 409 U.S. 434, supra [filing fee as precondition to petition court for discharge in bankruptcy].)
Conceptualized differently, article 18 denies no one access to the courts; it merely alters the substantive law, partially eliminating the right of an automobile accident victim to judicial recovery for injuries suffered.
There is here then no occasion to apply the strict scrutiny standard of review. Nor, indeed, is there any occasion to determine the details of the standard for testing constitutionality where the right sought to be vindicated might be found to call for a test somewhere along the sliding scale between strict scrutiny at one end and rational basis at the other (cf. San Antonio School Dist. v Rodriguez, 411 U.S. 1, 70-135 [dissenting opn of Mr. Justice MARSHALL]; Vlandis v Kline, 412 U.S. 441, 458 [concurring opn of Mr. Justice WHITE]; Jimenez v Weinberger, 417 U.S. 628, 632; Stanton v Stanton, 421 U.S. 7; see Gunther, The Supreme Court, 1971 Term — Forward: In Search of Evolving Doctrine on a Changing Court — A Model for a Newer Equal Protection, 86 Harv L Rev 1). We here apply the traditional equal protection test as expressed in Dandridge v Williams (397 U.S. 471, 485): "In the area of economics and social welfare, a State does not violate the Equal Protection Clause merely because the classifications made by its laws are imperfect. If the classification has some reasonable basis, it does not offend the Constitution simply because the classification `is not made with mathematical nicety or because in practice it results in some inequality.'" The decisions of our court have adopted the same test. (Gleason v Gleason, 26 N.Y.2d 28, 41; Bauch v City of New York, 21 N.Y.2d 559, 607, cert den 393 U.S. 834; Bucho Holding Co. v Temporary State Housing Rent Comm., 11 N.Y.2d 469, 477.) Thus it becomes apparent that the scrutiny to be applied to plaintiffs' equal protection claims here is similar to that which we have applied to the claims which they ground in due process, and many of the considerations and conclusions which there obtained are equally applicable here.
Plaintiffs first contend that the operation of section 673 creates an arbitrary and capricious classification as between covered and noncovered persons. Subdivision 1 of that section
There was a rational basis for the exclusion of motorcycles from the definition of motor vehicle. The Legislature had before it evidence that the premium cost to motorcyclists, should they have been required to purchase first-party coverage under the no-fault plan, would have been prohibitively high. (See statement of David S. Kaplan, President of the National Motorcycle Plan, Inc., before the Joint Legislative Committee on Insurance Rates, Regulation and Recodification of the Insurance Law [March 3, 1972]; 1972 NY Legis Doc No. 21, p 17.) As one of the legislative purposes in enacting a no-fault plan was to reduce the cost of premium insurance, exclusion of motorcycles was certainly rationally related to that purpose.
Similarly it was not unreasonable for the Legislature to have excluded persons operating uninsured vehicles from coverage under article 18. Such persons operate their vehicles in violation of the law of our State (Vehicle and Traffic Law, arts 6, 8) and further make no contribution to the automobile injury compensation system designed to spread the risk of loss among all who drive.
Finally with respect to this contention, we find no infirmity
Still urging their claim of denial of equal protection plaintiffs next challenge the legislative definition of "serious injury" (§ 671, subd 4) by which it is determined whether or not a party shall or shall not have a right to sue for pain and suffering (§ 673), as creating an arbitrary and capricious classification. Serious injury is defined to mean a personal injury:
Plaintiffs argue that certain injuries such as a simple fracture to the skull or vertebrae, while not included within the statutory list of serious injuries, are capable of producing pain and suffering to a far greater degree than other injuries such as comminuted fractures to the little fingers which the Legislature did include in the list. Plaintiffs further argue that the $500 threshold amount is not related to any rational basis.
We have already expressed our views as to the reasonableness of the Legislature's conclusion that the tort system of recovery for nonserious injuries resulting in minimal economic losses was beset with deficiencies and inequities which were within the Legislature's power to address. Having therefore decided to limit tort recovery to pain and suffering associated with serious injury, the Legislature was confronted with the problem of establishing a line of demarcation between serious and nonserious injury and between large and small claims — a line which would be marked by rules easily and readily applied to avoid the expenditure of time and money in investigation and determination on which side of the line each particular claim would fall.
We find the classifications created by the Legislature to be reasonably related to the end of establishing a rational line of distinction and of eliminating the evils which that body perceived to exist. True it may be that certain injuries not listed might well have been included within the class of serious injuries or that the threshold amount might more wisely have been set at $400 or $600. But such decisions are not of determinative concern to this court. "[E]very line drawn by a legislature leaves out some that might well have been included. That exercise of discretion, however, is a legislative, not a judicial, function." (Village of Belle Terre v Boraas, 416 U.S. 1, 8; and see Metropolis Theatre Co. v Chicago, 228 U.S. 61, 69-70;
Nor can we accept plaintiffs' contention that it was irrational to base the computation of the $500 amount on treatment expenses alone rather than on "basic economic loss". To have utilized the latter standard would clearly have been to favor those in higher earned income brackets.
Plaintiffs' attack on the $500 threshold amount on the grounds that particular charges for medical services vary from one locality to another and in operation might discriminate against the poor is not persuasive.
Right to a Jury Trial
Finally plaintiffs argue that article 18, in limiting their right to recover in tort, infringes on their right to trial by jury, protected by section 2 of article I of our State Constitution.
Article 18 does not replace the jury as trier of fact with some other trier of fact. Rather it modifies the substantive law and redefines the rights of those personally injured in automobile accidents. The Constitution guarantees the right to trial by jury if the plaintiff has a claim to assert. If, as here, the Legislature otherwise properly abrogates the claim in part, to
The United States Supreme Court, in interpreting the proscription of the Seventh Amendment of the Federal Constitution (preserving the right to trial by jury in language similar to that of our State Constitution), reached the same conclusion as that which we reach. (Mountain Timber Co. v Washington, 243 U.S. 219.) In that case the court considered challenges made under the Seventh Amendment to the enactment of a workmen's compensation law abrogating an employee's right at common law to recover in negligence from his employer. In rejecting the challenge, that court stated: "We find nothing in the act that excludes a trial by jury. As between employee and employer, the act abolished all right of recovery in ordinary cases, and therefore leaves nothing to be tried by jury". (243 US, at p 235; see, also, New York Cent. R. R. Co. v White, 243 U.S. 188, 201; Arizona Employers' Liab. Cases, 250 U.S. 400, 421, 430-431.)
Plaintiffs' argument that where a cause of action triable by jury exists today, the Legislature can do nothing tomorrow to limit or to abolish that cause of action, carried to its logical extension, would seriously handicap the Legislature in carrying out its most basic function — "to remedy defects in the common law as they are developed, and to adapt it to the changes of time and circumstances" (Munn v Illinois, 94 U.S. 113, 134 supra; cf. NY Const, art I, § 14). We are obliged to reject this argument. "A decision to the contrary, if carried to its logical conclusion, would result in a stagnation of law and be directly in conflict with many decisions of this court." (Hanfgarn v Mark, 274 N.Y. 22, 26, supra.)
We find no merit to the extended argument advanced by plaintiffs based on what the Court of Appeals decided and wrote nearly 65 years ago in Ives v South Buffalo Ry. Co. (201 N.Y. 271) and on the consequent amendment of our State Constitution to authorize enactment of workmen's compensation laws. In our view Ives would not be similarly decided by our court today. The doctrine of substantive due process with which the Ives opinion is pregnant was relegated to obscurity in Nebbia v New York (291 U.S. 502). Jurisprudence has marched many strides in the intervening years. Reliance on Ives is misplaced.
Finally we conclude that there is no merit to plaintiffs'
The judgment of Supreme Court should be reversed, summary judgment granted to defendants, and the case remitted to Supreme Court for a declaration consistent with the views expressed in this opinion.
If I were acting in the capacity of legislator, I would vote against article 18, for I believe that the concept that the individual is the basic and ultimate unit in society must be supported by recognition of the value of one's physical, mental and emotional integrity, including freedom from pain and suffering and the ability to live an uncrippled life.
The automobile, a modern bane and boon, daily threatens that integrity for millions of people. And article 18, while not in any way alleviating that threat, strips a class which includes most automobile accident victims of the right to be fairly compensated for injuries and pain and suffering, no matter how genuine and how clearly the result of negligence by others. In so doing, I believe it does not operate in the public interest, and I cannot view with equanimity the emasculation of common-law principles whose long-developing emphasis on personal and human rights promised full and fair compensation for all such individuals.
But I do not sit here as a legislator or even in the capacity of citizen alone. As a Judge, my role and my obligation is a different one. It requires me to respect and uphold a reasonable exercise of the legislative power to deal with the public health, safety, morals and welfare of my fellow citizens of this State, regardless of whether that exercise is, in my judgment, wise or unwise. Laws are passed, amended and repealed all the time, and whether they are the best or even desirable means to accomplish their intended purposes is not subject to judicial review. It is not our business to choose from among "the earnest conflict of serious opinion". (Chicago, Burlington & Quincy R. R. Co. v McGuire, 219 U.S. 549, 569.) However, at least in theory, we are not powerless when the legislation lacks a rational purpose.
Accordingly, while I agree with the accuracy of the scholarly
To demonstrate a rational basis, the majority opinion has focused on four so-called infirmities of the pre-existing tort system as it applied to automobile accident reparations.
It is conceded that the first of these, increased safety, which is very likely the public's greatest concern, is not sought to be remedied by article 18. Indeed, while there is not much empirical evidence that the prospect of being held at fault and subject to a financial burden, especially in an age of insurance, is a deterrent, data does exist to support the idea that such sanctions do affect human behavior. (Barmack & Payne, The Lackland Accident Countermeasure Experiment, Accident Research 665; California Department of Motor Vehicles, Report of the Relationship Between Concurrent Accidents and Citations ; Andenaes, General Preventive Effects of Punishment, 114 U Pa L Rev 949.)
As to the second infirmity, the allegedly high cost of distributing the premium dollar under the tort system, article 18 does not in any way change the essential commissions, overhead and administration system under which tort liability insurance was written. In actual experience, no-fault results in the delivery of a smaller portion of the premium dollar to the injured person. (Brainard, Impact of No-Fault on the Underwriting Results of Massachusetts Insurers, 44 Mass LJ 174; A Comparison of the Florida and Massachusetts Experience, Journal of Risk and Insurance, March 1974, pp 31-38; Conard, Live and Let Live: Justice in Injury Reparation, 52 Judicature 105 .)
The third infirmity is that there was allegedly overcompensation for people with lesser injuries and undercompensation for those more seriously injured. In fact, the studies on which the claim of "overpayment" relies make clear that their definition of overpayment means compensation in excess of economic loss; in other words, they criticize all payments for the personal effects of injuries and pain and suffering. As to major victims being underpaid, that results chiefly from inadequate compulsory liability insurance limits and the former harsh doctrine of contributory negligence, problems to which article 18 does not address itself and which continue to affect seriously injured persons, save for special damages, which, for
The fourth infirmity is the alleged need to unclog court calendars. In fact, tort litigation occupies only a minor portion of overall court time. (Automobile Accident Litigation, A Report of the Federal Judicial Center to the Department of Transportation, April, 1970; Twentieth Annual Report of the NY Judicial Conference, 1975, pp 54-55, 60-61; see, also, Zeisel, Kalven and Buchholz, Delay in the Court, p 29 ; Green, Basic Protection and Court Congestion, 52 ABAJ 926 .) Interestingly, the courts in which were brought the lesser cases which article 18 would remove had been brought up-to-date by effective court administration before its enactment (1973 Report of Supreme Court Justice EDWARD THOMPSON, Administrative Judge of the Civil Court of the City of New York, entitled Justice Never Rests). The courts where the more serious cases are brought are not reached by article 18 at all.
Much of what has been noted derives from the fact that article 18 is not in fact a true "no-fault" law. A true no-fault law, based on the conclusion that the automobile is a sufficiently dangerous instrumentality, while it would impose the concept of strict liability for injuries resulting from automobile accidents and thus eliminate the need to determine fault, would provide for full and fair compensation for all damages, including general damages for injuries as well as special damages for monetary losses. Seven other States, in enacting their own forms of hybrid no-fault legislation, have come closer to the ideal of full recovery by providing for compulsory, first-party benefit insurance, as does New York's article 18, while at the same time permitting nonduplicative recovery by suit against tort-feasors at common law. (Arkansas [Ark Stat Ann., § 66-4108]; Delaware [Del Code Ann., tit 21, § 2118, subd (g)]; Maryland [Md Ann. Code, art 48A, § 542]; Oregon [Ore Rev Stat, §§ 743.830, 743.835]; South Dakota [SD Comp Laws Ann., § 58-23-8]; Texas [14 Vernon's Tex Insurance Code Ann., § 5.06-3, subds (c), (h)]; Virginia [Va Code, § 38.1-380.1]. In addition, it should be noted that Kentucky's statute permits optional rejection by the insured of the limitation upon tort liability [Ky Rev Stat, § 304.39-060].)
The rational basis test is indeed undemanding. Under it, legislation must be upheld as constitutional "if any state of facts reasonably may be conceived to justify it." (McGowan v Maryland, supra, at p 426, citing Kotch v Pilot Comrs., supra, at p 552.) Were that test one which lent itself to degrees rather than to dichotomies, I believe that the outcome of this litigation would have to be different. However, since West Coast Hotel Co. v Parrish (300 U.S. 379) heralded the demise of Lochner v New York (198 U.S. 45), courts have observed an almost total dichotomy between legislation which affects those rights characterized as "property" or "contract" rights and that which affects those characterized as "personal" rights. The former need meet merely the rational test we use here; the latter are accorded the stringent protection of the compelling interest test. I find such a dichotomy difficult to draw when serious and very basic consequences to individuals are involved, even when those consequences can be labeled economic. (See Tribe, The Supreme Court, 1972 Term — Foreword: Toward a Model of Roles in the Due Process of Life and Law, 87 Harv L Rev 1; San Antonio School Dist. v Rodriguez, 411 U.S. 1, 98 et seq. [MARSHALL, J., dissenting]; see, also, Gunther, The Supreme Court, 1971 Term — Foreword: In Search of
Whatever movement there may have been toward more flexibility in this area, it has not reached the economic issues involved here today. I am, therefore, constrained to agree that, under a test which requires the court not only to search the record for reasons but also to ask itself whether it can "conceive" of any, article 18 is constitutional.
Judgment reversed, without costs, summary judgment granted to appellants and case remitted to Supreme Court, Kings County, for entry of judgment declaring the rights of the parties in accordance with the opinion herein.
We, of course, express no judicial view as to the conclusions reached by any of these studies for, in determining whether or not the Legislature's response to this issue was constitutionally permissible, it is not within the judiciary's province to pass on the wisdom, propriety or even correctness of that legislative response. (People v Broadie, 37 N.Y.2d 100, 117-118; James v Strange, 407 U.S. 128, 133.)
The DOT Report (at pp 94-95) found: "For those whose economic losses were more than $25,000, only about a third was usually recovered. Those with relatively small economic losses, by contrast, fared much better; if they recovered from tort and had losses less than $500, their recovery averaged four and a half times actual economic loss."
No-fault laws have become effective in 10 States since February 1, 1974. See Ark Stat Ann., §§ 66-4014-66-4021 (eff July 1, 1974); Col Rev Stat, §§ 10-4-701-10-4-723 (eff April 1, 1974); Ga Code Ann., §§ 56-3402b-56-3413b (eff March 1, 1975); Hawaii Rev Stat, §§ 294-1-294-41 (eff Sept. 1, 1974); Ky Rev Stat, §§ 304.39-010-304.39-340 and 304.99-050 (eff July 1, 1975); Minn L 1974, ch 408; Minn Stat Ann., § 65B.41-65B.71 (eff Jan. 1, 1975); Nev Rev Stat, §§ 698.010-698.510 (eff Feb., 1974); ND L 1974, ch 265 (eff Jan. 1, 1976); Pa Stat Ann., tit 40, §§ 1009.101-1009.701 (eff July 19, 1975); SC Code, §§ 46-750.101-46-750.154 (eff Oct. 1, 1974).