Progressive Security Insurance Company and LAFAC, Inc. separately petitioned for declaratory judgment against the Governor, the Attorney General,
FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
In 1996, Governor Murphy J. Foster appointed the Louisiana Task Force for Reduction of Automobile Insurance Rates (Task Force) which was staffed by the LIRC. Pursuant to its mandate, the Task Force appointed the Actuarial Subcommittee to analyze the cost of various automobile insurance reform proposals generated from the Task Force. The Actuarial Subcommittee was comprised of the Chairman of the Department of Insurance, together with representatives from CNA Insurance Companies, Allstate Insurance Companies, State Farm Insurance Companies, Louisiana Farm Bureau Insurance Companies, and LAFAC.
Operating with a deadline of March 5, 1997, the Task Force instructed the Actuarial Subcommittee to review the various proposals submitted, select and prioritize the five proposals which provided the greatest estimated actuarial savings, and issue a report on its findings. Although the Task Force referred approximately 43 proposals to the subcommittee for actuarial assessment, the Actuarial Subcommittee analyzed ten proposals. "No pay, no play" was one of the proposals analyzed and was legislatively implemented in Act 1476, the Omnibus Premium Reduction Act of 1997.
Two provisions of Act 1476 are pertinent herein. The first is La.R.S. 32:866, a newly enacted statute, which provides, in pertinent part:
It is this proviso which has been dubbed as "no pay, no play." Succinctly stated, if a motorist fails to pay for liability coverage to protect others, he cannot "play" in the legal system, at least to the collection of his first $10,000 damages.
The second aspect of Act 1476 that is relative to the constitutional challenge before us involves the 10% rate reduction found in Section 5(A) which states:
We observe that two groupings emerge which are affected by the legislation challenged in plaintiffs' petition. Through La. R.S. 32:866(A) the rights of persons who do not have liability insurance, the uninsured, are affected. Likewise, by virtue of Section 5 of Act 1476 insurers who provide automobile liability insurance in Louisiana are mandated to file a plan to reduce the rates they charge their customers.
The two plaintiffs we have before us are Progressive, a domestic insurance company which issues casualty insurance, including automobile liability coverage, and LAFAC, a trade association of domestic insurers.
The NAII, a non-profit property and casualty insurance trade commission, intervened for the purpose of urging a judicial determination of the constitutionality of Act 1476. In its petition, NAII emphasized that the legislature crafted a declaratory action into Act 1476 which was specially designed to test the constitutionality of the Act and to expeditiously resolve such challenge.
Keeping in mind the need for a uniform pronouncement on the constitutionality of Act 1476, the trial court consolidated these cases for hearing on October 28, 1997. After conducting an evidentiary hearing, the trial court upheld the constitutionality of Act 1476 and signed a judgment to that effect on November 4, 1997. To definitively address the merits of the litigation, we granted the joint writ application of all parties to this litigation, and agreed to consider the constitutional issues raised.
In their argument before us, Progressive and LAFAC have honed their contentions down to five constitutional challenges. Plaintiffs contend that Act 1476: (1) excessively punishes an uninsured motorist; (2) effectively allows the legislature to set insurance premium rates; (3) is impermissibly vague, impairs the rights of subrogation, and fails to provide adequate notice of the depth of the statute; (4) violates the equal protection clauses of the United States and Louisiana constitutions; and (5) denies access to the courts, and constitutes a taking without due process.
Progressive and LAFAC argue that Act 1476 excessively punishes an uninsured motorist. They point out that La.R.S. 32:863, 864, and 865 already exist which exact punishment for failing to obtain auto liability insurance. In addition to these penalties, which include suspensions, revocation of license, fines, and community service, the plaintiffs assert that Act 1476 unnecessarily expands the punishments by barring the recovery of the first $10,000 of property damage
Louisiana's requirement for compulsory automobile liability insurance is sketched out in La.R.S. 32:861(A)(1) and La. R.S. 32:900. La. R.S. 32:861(A)(1) provides:
La. R.S. 32:900 provides in pertinent part:
If an owner fails to comply with Louisiana's compulsory automobile liability insurance law, the registration of the vehicle shall be revoked and the vehicle's license plate shall be impounded or canceled. La.R.S. 32:863(A)(1). Additionally, if a person provides false information about his compliance with Louisiana's compulsory automobile liability insurance law, he shall be guilty of a misdemeanor, subject to a fine on not more than $125 or imprisonment of no more than 30 days. La.R.S. 32:864. Likewise, if a person knowingly operates a vehicle without liability insurance, he is subject to a fine of not more than $500. La.R.S. 32:865(A). And, if an uninsured vehicle is involved in an accident in Louisiana, the owner may be fined not more than $500, shall have the registration revoked for a 60-day period, and shall have his driving privileges suspended for 60 days. La.R.S. 32:865(B). Now, with the enactment of La.R.S. 32:866, delineated supra, the uninsured motorist is barred from recovering the first $10,000 of property damage and/or bodily injury regardless of fault.
La. Const. Art. I, § 20 provides that "[n]o law shall subject any person to ... cruel, excessive, or unusual punishment."
In framing the question before us, Progressive and LAFAC, analogizing our state's criminal law and jurisprudence, assert that the partial bar of recovery in La.R.S. 32:866
It is firmly established that the right to drive a motor vehicle in Louisiana is a privilege granted by the State and not a constitutional right. Spencer v. State Dept. Of Public Safety, 315 So.2d 912 (La.App. 4 Cir.1975); Harrison v. State Dept. Of Public Safety, 298 So.2d 312 (La.App. 4 Cir.), writ denied, 300 So.2d 840 (La.1974). As such, the State has enacted numerous conditions on that privilege.
It is of no moment that an owner or operator may also be subject to the criminal provisions recognized in La.R.S. 32:864 and 865. The partial recovery bar enunciated in La. R.S. 32:866 is a separate administrative corollary to the statutes which establish the driving privilege and is unrelated to the potential criminal conduct which may arise from the same factual scenario. See Harrison, 298 So.2d at 318; Whitaker v. State, Dept. of Pub. Safety, 264 So.2d 725 (La.App. 1 Cir.), writ denied, 262 La. 1167, 266 So.2d 447 (1972).
Furthermore, we find that the reliance of Progressive and LAFAC on Austin v. United States, 509 U.S. 602, 113 S.Ct. 2801, 125 L.Ed.2d 488 (1993), is misplaced. In Austin, the Supreme Court held that forfeiture of a mobile home and a body shop to the government under 21 U.S.C. §§ 881(a)(4) and (a)(7) constituted a monetary punishment which violated the Excessive Fines Clause of the Eighth Amendment of the United States Constitution.
UNCONSTITUTIONAL EXERCISE OF LEGISLATIVE POWER
Progressive and LAFAC also contend that by specifying a minimum 10% reduction in premium rates, the legislature has impermissibly exercised the powers granted the Louisiana Commissioner of Insurance in La. Const. Art. IV, § 11 and those provided to the Louisiana Insurance Rating Commission in La.R.S. 22:1401.
La. Const. Art. IV, § 11 provides:
La.R.S. 22:1401, inter alia, creates the LIRC, establishes its membership, designates that the commissioner of insurance shall serve as ex officio chairman of the commission, and authorizes the LIRC to regulate rates of insurance companies doing business in the state. Elaborating on the purpose of the LIRC, La.R.S. 22:1402 provides:
It is well established that none of the three branches of government shall exercise the power which belongs to either of the others. La. Const. Art. II, § 2. Notwithstanding, in State v. All Pro Paint & Body Shop, Inc., 93-1316 (La.7/5/94), 639 So.2d 707, we stated:
Id., 639 So.2d at 711-12.
A close reading of Section 5(A) of Act 1476 shows that the Louisiana legislature did not restrict LIRC's authority to finally determine the insurance rates for this state's citizens. Rather, in light of what was hoped to be accomplished through the enactment of "no pay, no play" legislation, particularly in view of the actuarial assessment provided by the Actuarial Subcommittee, it is clear that Act 1476 set standards of assessment which insurers were asked to apply in proceedings to be held before the LIRC.
Progressive and LAFAC next contend that the inclusion of the term "occasioned by" in La.R.S. 32:866 makes the statute impermissibly vague, impairs the rights of subrogation, and gives inadequate notice of the depth of the statute.
When a law is clear and unambiguous and its application does not lead to absurd consequences, the law shall be applied as written and no further interpretation may be made in search of the intent of the legislature. La.Civ.Code art. 9. When the language of a law is susceptible of different meanings, however, it must be interpreted as having the meaning that best conforms to the purpose of the law, and the meaning of ambiguous words must be sought by examination of the context in which they occur and the text of the law as a whole. Louisiana Smoked Products, Inc. v. Savoie's Sausage and Food Products, Inc., 96-1716 (La.7/1/97), 696 So.2d 1373; Hutchinson v. Patel, 93-2156 (La.5/23/94), 637 So.2d 415. See also, La.Civ. Code art. 10, "When the language of the law is susceptible of different meanings, it must be interpreted as having the meaning that best conforms to the purpose of the law" and La.Civ.Code art. 12, "When the words of a law are ambiguous, their meaning must be sought by examining the context in which they occur and the text of the law as a whole." Where a statute is ambiguous and susceptible of two constructions, the courts will give that construction which best comports with the principles of reason, justice, and convenience, for it is to be presumed that the legislature intended such exceptions to its language as would avoid its leading to injustice, oppression, or absurd consequences. Freechou v. Thomas W. Hooley, Inc., 383 So.2d 337 (La.1980).
Act 1476 provides that there shall be no recovery of the first $10,000 for persons
In the present case, a respectable argument can be made that the term "occasioned by" can be read to mean "caused by." However, as explained below, after utilizing the rules of construction outlined above, it is clear that "occasioned by" means "suffered by."
In Section 1 of the Omnibus Premium Reduction Act of 1997 the legislature enunciated two broad purposes for the legislation: (1) "to reduce otherwise recoverable damages for failure to maintain liability insurance coverage" and (2) to "encourage all persons who own or operate motor vehicles on the public streets and highways of this state to comply with the Motor Vehicle Safety Responsibility Law." It is evident that if "occasioned by" was interpreted to mean "caused by," the legislative purpose would not be effected since such interpretation would only apply if an uninsured motorist caused the accident; thus, an uninsured motorist who did not cause an accident would not be affected by the present legislation. Clearly, based upon the unmistakable pronouncement of legislative purpose in Section 1, no such limitation was enunciated and such an interpretation was not intended. Moreover, since comparative fault has existed in this state for well over a decade, the interpretation advanced by plaintiffs would render Act 1476 meaningless because the fault of persons who cause accidents is already accounted for when their recovery is proportionally reduced. Such an interpretation would render Act 1476 superfluous, would result in no change in the current law, and would produce absurd consequences. As provided in the Civil Code and in well established jurisprudence, absurd interpretations of legislative enactments are impermissible. Freechou, supra.
Additionally, we find that a contextual analysis of Act 1476 shows that "occasioned by" means "suffered by." La.R.S. 32:866(B) provides:
In this provision the legislature has provided an affirmative defense to the insured motorist who caused the accident to be available against the claim of the uninsured motorist. Thus, reading the statute as advanced by plaintiffs, since the uninsured motorist had not caused the accident, the reductional provision of La.R.S. 32:866(A) would not even be called into play. As evidenced by plaintiffs' reading of "occasioned by," such an interpretation would render this subparagraph nonsensical and lead to absurd consequences.
Likewise, La.R.S. 32:866(C) provides:
In this provision the legislature has crafted a penalty assessable against the uninsured motorist, regardless of fault, if his damages are not proven to be greater than $10,000. If, as advanced by plaintiffs, the inability to collect the first $10,000 established in La.R.S. 32:866(A) does not come into play unless the fault of the uninsured motorist causes damages, then the legislature has crafted a penalty for a scenario that can never come into play. Again, plaintiffs' interpretation of the questioned phrase would render a portion of the statute meaningless.
In summation, reading the term "occasioned by" in light of the stated purpose of Act 1476 and within the context of related provisions within the statute, it is clear that "occasioned by" utilized in La.R.S. 32:866(A) can only mean "suffered by." To read the term any other way would render the legislative enactment meaningless and would lead to absurd consequences.
Progressive and LAFAC also contend that Act 1476 impliedly impairs subrogation rights. We disagree. To the extent that the legislature has restricted the uninsured's right of recovery of the first $10,000, there is no right to subrogation for the first $10,000 since no obligation to pay exists. As to damages in excess of the first $10,000, the right to subrogation continues unaffected by Act 1476.
Finally, Progressive and LAFAC question whether the bar to recovery in Act 1476 applies to the post-fault assessment phase of litigation. If it does, then they argue that an uninsured motorist is forced to guess at how a fact finder will assess fault among those found negligent. In this manner, they contend that the statute is vague to the extent that an uninsured motorist cannot foretell its impact.
In essence, the complaint of Progressive and LAFAC addresses the application of Act 1476 in the context of La.Civ.Code art. 2323, not its wording. Notice of the depth of the statute is clearly stated in the words used by the legislature: there shall be no recovery of the first $10,000 for the uninsured owner or operator (La.R.S.32:866(A)); if the uninsured owner of a motor vehicle institutes "an action to recover damages in any amount, regardless of whether such owner or operator is at fault, and is awarded an amount equal to or less than the minimum amount of compulsory motor vehicle liability security," then he shall be liable for all court costs (La. R.S.32:866(C)). As such, it is clear that the statute provides guidance to the uninsured motorist/owner of the implications of his failure to have liability insurance regardless of the issue of fault. Moreover, the plaintiffs misapply comparative fault. As provided in La.Civ.Code art. 2323, the amount of damages recoverable is first ascertained and then it is reduced "in proportion to the degree of percentage of negligence attributable." Thus, we find no merit to this contention in the context herein presented.
EQUAL PROTECTION/DUE PROCESS
Progressive and LAFAC next challenge Act 1476, urging violations under both the Louisiana and United States Constitutions. Since the guarantees of equal protection provided under the two constitutions differ, the
La. Const. Art. I, § 3 provides, in pertinent part:
As noted by us in Soloco, Inc. v. Dupree, 97-CA-1256 (La.1/21/98), 707 So.2d 12,
Soloco, 707 So.2d at 15.
Therefore, under La. Const. Art. I, § 3, laws which classify persons on any basis other than those specifically enumerated therein are subject only to minimal scrutiny.
On the other hand, the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, provides only the following regarding equal protection under state law: "No State shall ... deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws." As revealed by the language employed, the Fourteenth Amendment does not specify which classifications receive particular levels of scrutiny nor does it explain how a particular level of scrutiny operates when it is applied. Instead, the levels of scrutiny have been provided through the development of jurisprudence in the United States Supreme Court. In general, strict scrutiny is applied to governmental action if a classification infringes on a fundamental or express constitutional right or if it discriminates on the basis of a "suspect" classification such as race. In such an instance, the law is presumed unconstitutional and will be struck down unless it is shown to be necessarily related to a compelling state interest. A classification that involves discrimination based on certain classes such as gender or illegitimacy will generally receive intermediate scrutiny. Under this level of review, to be upheld the classification must be substantially related to a legitimate state interest. The lowest level of review is applicable to any other classification and requires the challenging party to prove that the classification is not rationally related to any legitimate government interest. LAGC v. State Through Div. of Administration, 95-2105 at pp. 13-14 (La.3/8/96), 669 So.2d 1185, 1195-96.
In the present case, the plaintiffs argue that Act 1476 unconstitutionally classifies persons on the basis of whether or not they have automobile insurance. Since it is evident that this purported classification fails to implicate any of the traits or characteristics enumerated in La. Const. Art. I, § 3, it was incumbent upon the plaintiffs to show that there was a violation of that provision by establishing that the legislature's classification does not suitably further any appropriate state interest. In a like vein, because the statute's classification on the basis of a person's voluntary decision to remain uninsured does not infringe on a fundamental right or discriminate on the basis of a suspect classification such as race, alienage, or national origin, or on an intermediate scrutiny classification such as gender or illegitimacy, it was incumbent upon the plaintiffs to show that there was a violation of the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution
The general rule is that legislation is presumed to be valid and will be sustained if the classification drawn by the statute is rationally related to a legitimate state interest. Soloco, Inc., supra. Thus, in order for the plaintiffs to prevail it was incumbent upon them to demonstrate that Act 1476 does not "suitably further any appropriate state interest." Id.
Plaintiffs contend that Act 1476 is not reasonably related to a legitimate state interest. Their argument is threefold. First, if the Act was intended to punish uninsured motorist, it is discriminatory to punish uninsured motorists who are not at fault. Second, they argue that if the purpose of the legislation was to lower insurance rates, there is no evidence that there is a link between a person's status as uninsured and injuries/damages caused by an accident. Third, if the legislature intended to deter uninsured motorists from driving, no correlation has been shown between Act 1476 and that purpose.
We observe that even though it was noted that it has been the law in Louisiana since 1978 that every driver must be insured, estimates showed:
Likewise, based upon the implementation of "no pay, no play" legislation, the Actuarial Subcommittee estimated from empirical data available to its members that cost savings would be realized between 4.3% and 10% on basic coverage and between 2.4% and 4.8% on insured who have full liability coverage insurance. Id.
In addition, in his report, Commission of Insurance James H. "Jim" Brown informed the legislature that twelve states have enacted legislation barring uninsured drivers involved in accidents, to some degree, from instituting lawsuits. In particular, the report referenced "no pay, no play" legislation in California which has resulted in a much higher compliance with that state's compulsory liability insurance law and a saving to California insurers of $327 million in annual claims.
In the present case, the legislature cogently and succinctly stated in Section 1 of Act 1476 that the legislation was enacted because of a concern for: (1) the lack of compliance with the Motor Vehicle Safety Responsibility Law; (2) the high incidence of motor vehicle accident claims in the state's courts; (3) reduction of the high cost of motor vehicle insurance through reformation of the civil justice system; (4) an evident imbalance in the state's motor vehicle insurance system which had engendered abuse
After having reviewed the record compiled below, we find no evidence which shows that the "no pay, no play" provision of Act 1476 does not effectuate the state's concern in these matters. It is not the prerogative of the judiciary to disregard public policy decisions underlying legislation or to reweigh balances of interests and policy considerations already struck by the legislature. Soloco, Inc., supra. We find that the "no pay, no play" provisions of Act 1476 promote the state's interest in reducing the number of uninsured motorists on the highways, and lowering automobile liability rates by vesting ownership of the costs of liability insurance in the insured and uninsured alike. Having so found, we further note that it is not our role to consider the legislature's wisdom in adopting a statute. Chamberlain v. State, Through DOTD, 624 So.2d 874. Accordingly, we find that La.R.S. 32:866 is rationally related to the legislature's stated public purpose of promoting compliance with the state's compulsory liability insurance law and in taking the initiative so that the concomitant benefits may flow therefrom. Thus, we find that Act 1476 does not violate the plaintiffs' right to equal protection under either the state or federal constitutions.
We now turn to the issue of due process. As we appreciate the argument of plaintiffs, it is their contention that the statute unconstitutionally limits their causes of action for recovery of the first $10,000 in property damages and the first $10,000 for bodily injury or abolishes them where the uninsured drivers' damages do not exceed $10,000 for each type of damage.
Unlike Louisiana's provision on equal protection which is distinct from that provided in the Fourteenth Amendment, our due process guarantee in La. Const. Art. I, § 2 does not vary from the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. In essence, the crux of due process " is protection from arbitrary and unreasonable action and when the ordinance or statute does not affect fundamental rights, but rather is merely economic or social regulation, it need only have a rational relationship to a legitimate governmental interest." Med Exp. Ambulance Service, Inc. v. Evangeline Parish Police Jury, 96-0543 (La.11/25/96), 684 So.2d 359, 365.
In Burmaster v. Gravity Drainage District No. 2 of the Parish of St. Charles, 366 So.2d 1381 (La.1978), we stated:
Burmaster, 366 So.2d at 1387. (Citations omitted).
Moreover, in Logan v. Zimmerman Brush Co., 455 U.S. 422, 102 S.Ct. 1148, 71 L.Ed.2d 265 (1982), the United States Supreme Court stated:
Logan, 455 U.S. at 432-33, 102 S.Ct. at 1156.
Applying this jurisprudence to the present case, it is clear to us that there is no fundamental due process right to sue in tort or to recover damages because of the tortious acts of another. See also Hoffman v. United States, 767 F.2d 1431 (9th Cir. 1985); Crier v. Whitecloud, 496 So.2d 305 (La.1986); Bazley v. Tortorich, 397 So.2d 475 (La.1981); Stuart v. City of Morgan City, 504 So.2d 934 (La.App. 1 Cir.1987). As such, by restricting or eliminating causes of action which uninsured motorists may have had for these types of damages, the legislature has simply redefined the scope of the causes of action in tort which it will permit. After examining the reasons for the legislature's action as elucidated in our discussion of equal protection, it cannot be said that such action was arbitrary or irrational. As such, we find that Act 1476 is not violative of the plaintiffs' right to due process.
In reaching these conclusions, we find that our decision conforms with the result reached in Yoshioka,
Yoshioka, supra, 58 Cal.App.4th at 989, 991, 68 Cal.Rptr.2d 553.
Likewise, in Quackenbush, another California Court stated:
Quackenbush, 60 Cal.App.4th at 466, 70 Cal.Rptr.2d 271.
After reviewing the Yoshioka and Quackenbush decisions, we find that the same may be said about Act 1476's bar of recovery of the first $10,000 damages.
ACCESS TO COURTS
In the preceding section, we determined that uninsured motorists neither comprise a suspect class nor have a fundamental right to exercise the privilege to drive without insurance. We likewise found that uninsured motorists do not have a fundamental right to tort recovery. We now consider plaintiffs' contention that Act 1476 causes uninsured motorists to forfeit property without the right to judicial review and unduly restricts access to the judicial system.
La. Const. Art. I, § 19 provides, in pertinent part:
It is axiomatic that in order for there to be a violation of § 19, we must find that the statutory preclusion of recovery for the first $10,000 constitutes the loss of a property right. As found by us, uninsured motorists do not have a property right since the legislature has restricted their legal remedy. "[T]he guarantee of due process does not forbid ... the abolition of old [causes of action] ... to attain permissible legislative objectives." Burmaster, 366 So.2d at 1387. Accordingly, we find that no violation of La. Const. Art. I, § 19 has occurred since we already found that the legislature has curtailed a cause of action. Since we have already found that such legislative action is reasonably related to the state's concern in obtaining more complete compliance with the compulsory liability insurance law, we find no merit to the plaintiffs' contention.
La. Const. Art. I, § 22 provides:
This clause does not prohibit legislative restriction of legal remedies. Rather, this clause only ensures that the judicial system will be open to provide remedies that the legislature has fashioned. Williams v. Mumphrey, 95-CA-643 (La.App. 5 Cir. 1/30/96), 668 So.2d 1274, writ not considered, 96-0569 (La.3/29/96), 670 So.2d 1240; Sons v. Inland Marine Service, Inc., 577 So.2d 225 (La.App. 1 Cir.1991); Williams v. Kushner, 524 So.2d 191 (La.App. 4 Cir.1988), amended and affirmed, 549 So.2d 294 (La.1989).
In the case sub judice, the fact that certain uninsured motorists cannot pursue a claim for part or, in some instances, all of their damages does not deny them access to the judicial system. To the contrary, their right to seek redress to the courts is simply curtailed in accordance with the legislative authority to restrict legal remedies.
For the foregoing reasons, we find that the trial court correctly upheld the constitutionality of Act 1476. Accordingly, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.
JOHNSON, J., dissents and assigns reasons.
JOHNSON, Judge, dissenting.
In Sibley, this court rejected and abandoned the United States Supreme Court's
While state constitutions cannot be interpreted to afford less protection than the federal Constitution because such an interpretation would violate the federal supremacy clause, a state constitutional provision can certainly be intended to afford and construed as affording greater protection than its federal counterpart. Spaht, Lorio, Picou, Samuel & Swaim, The Forced Heirship Legislation: A Regrettable "Revolution", 50 La. L.Rev. 409, 420 (1990). La. Associated Gen. Contractors provides the following:
In finding that Act 1476 does not violate the plaintiffs' right to equal protection, the majority has failed to apply the Sibley equal protection analysis, to a significant classification created by Act 1476—the classification based on physical condition. Instead, this court has focused only on the classification of whether or not a motorist is insured. When a court fails to properly analyze a case pursuant to Sibley, significant determinations, such as which party bears the burden of proof and the applicable level of scrutiny, may be misapplied.
As we recognized in Sibley, La Const. Art. I, § 3 imposes limitations regarding classifications based on "birth, age, sex, culture, physical condition, or political ideas." Classifications based on any of these six enumerated grounds are a prima facie denial of equal protection. Moore, 668 So.2d at 1140. The ordinary presumption that statutes are constitutional is inapplicable, and the person seeking to have the law upheld must prove the constitutionality of the law. Moore, 668 So.2d at 1140. See also, Michael Lester Berry, Jr., Equal Protection—The Louisiana Experience in Departing From the Generally Accepted Federal Analysis, 49 La. L.Rev.
In the instant case, the challenged Act 1476 prohibits uninsured motorists from recovering the first ten thousand $10,000 of damages for bodily injuries, as well as the first ten thousand $10,000 of property damages resulting from automobile accidents, regardless of fault.
In the instant case, the proponents' primary purported purpose for the enactment of Act 1476 is the reduction of automobile insurance premiums. A secondary purpose is to insure that motorists will maintain the minimum mandatory automobile liability insurance coverage as required by law. The State maintains that the Legislature passed Act 1476 because of concerns about the following:
The State maintains that Act 1476 is designed to address these concerns and accordingly, Act 1476 will decrease the number of lawsuits filed as a result of automobile accidents, thereby decreasing automobile insurance premiums.
In the instant case, the record reveals that there are several factors that contribute to the status and cost of automobile insurance premiums and civil litigation resulting from automobile accidents. Reforming Automobile Insurance 1997, A Special Report (hereinafter referred to as "Report 1") was prepared by the Louisiana Department of Insurance under the direction of the Commissioner of Insurance, Jim Brown, and submitted into evidence by defendants.
Report 1 provides statistics regarding the impact several of these factors have on the number of automobile accidents in this state. Of the eight factors listed in Report 1 as the reasons policyholders pay higher insurance premiums, Report 1 maintains that one factor alone—the youthful age of drivers, is a major contributing factor to the number of automobile accidents. For example, Report 1 states that although only 5% of licensed drivers are under the age of 19, nearly 12% of all crash deaths are teenagers. Report 1 further cites data by the National Safety Council in noting that sixteen-year-olds have 40 crashes per 100 licensed drivers each year, compared with a rate of nine crashes per 100 licensed drivers who are 45 to 54 years old.
The Louisiana Department of Insurance further notes in Report 1 that in addition to youthful drivers, drunk driving is another major contributor to automobile accidents. The Report states that accidents resulting from drunk driving costs innocent victims $26,000.
The State further notes that "Louisiana is the 5th highest state in the nation with alcohol related traffic fatalities at 53.2%."
Although the State provides statistical evidence of the impact of several factors on the number of automobile accidents, the record is silent as to statistical evidence of the actuarial impact uninsured motorists have on the number of automobile accidents. The State in the instant case provides no corroborating, statistical evidence, or results of studies to support its position as it relates to uninsured motorists.
More specifically and importantly, based on Report 1, if sixteen-year-olds are involved in 40% of automobile accidents, and drunk drivers comprise approximately 50% of traffic
Thus, Act 1476 is contrary to equal protection of the laws under the analysis and principles established by this court in Sibley. Moreover, because Act 1476 fails to "substantially further a legitimate state purpose," I am of the opinion that the classification based on physical condition is arbitrary, capricious and unreasonable.
For the foregoing reasons, I respectfully dissent.