March 16, 2016

Tampa Court Rejects Motion to Dismiss Class Action Involving PIP Payments

3812999850_e2bb2e0d89_bFlorida law requires each motorist to obtain a personal injury protection coverage policy providing a minimum of $10,000 in compensation for emergency medical treatment. In AA Suncoast Chiropractic Clinic, PA v. Progressive America Ins. Co., a number of chiropractors in Florida brought a class action lawsuit against an insurer, alleging that it violated its policy agreement when it declined reimbursement to the chiropractors for care provided to victims of motor vehicle accidents.

The chiropractors contended that the insurance company improperly re-categorized the treatment rendered to the accident victims as non-emergency. They also alleged that, based on this re-categorization, the insurer chose to lower the coverage limits for the personal injury protection limits to $2,500, according to Florida Statutes Section 627.736, and denied the chiropractors' request for payment of the full amount. This statute includes many of the provisions governing personal injury protection benefits.

The insurance company moved to dismiss the case on the basis that the plaintiffs had failed to plead a claim entitling them to relief. In reviewing the motion, the Middle District of Florida first considered the insurer's argument that the plaintiffs' claims did not comport with the policy aims embodied in Florida's personal injury protection statute. The court rejected this argument, finding it premature to evaluate a statutory interpretation claim at such an early stage in the proceeding.

Next, the court turned to the class action allegations in the complaint and determined that the legal precedent upon which the defendant relied in bringing its motion to dismiss did not apply to the legal issues raised by the plaintiffs. The court also indicated that the insurance company's claims challenging the litigation as a class action were premature because the action had not yet been certified.

Although a plaintiff may file a class action, the court must issue an order certifying it as a class action before it can proceed as such. The court will evaluate four different elements in determining whether a class action should be certified:  numerosity, typicality, commonality, and adequacy of legal representation. The first factor ensures that there are enough plaintiffs in the proposed class to warrant treatment of the claims in a universal manner. The second and third elements ensure that the legal and factual issues in each claim are sufficiently similar to lend themselves to disposition in a class action. Finally, the last factor ensures that the attorney representing the plaintiffs has adequate experience with class action cases.

Finally, the court rejected the insurance company's claim that the action should be dismissed because of the plaintiff's purported failure to satisfy certain pre-lawsuit notice requirements provided in Section 627.736(10). According to the court, pre-lawsuit notice was not required because the plaintiffs only sought injunctive relief and a declaratory judgment instead of damages. The court ultimately denied the insurance company's motion to dismiss the action.

If you or someone you love has suffered injuries as the result of a serious accident, a personal injury lawyer can help you assert your right to compensation. At Lusk, Drasites & Tolisano, we have provided seasoned and dedicated legal guidance to numerous accident victims throughout Southwest Florida, including in Fort Myers, Cape Coral, and Naples. We offer a free consultation to help you determine the options and legal remedies that may be available to you. Call us at 1-800-283-7442 or contact us online to set up your consultation.

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