A Leon County judge has again blocked part of the landmark auto insurance overhaul enacted last year by the Florida Legislature and Gov. Rick Scott.
Judge Terry Lewis upheld a temporary ban on the law, after a lawsuit by chiropractors, massage therapists and acupuncturists. Lewis approved the ban last month, indicating that the overhaul of Florida’s Personal Injury Protection laws was unconstitutional.
Gov. Rick Scott appealed the decision, in effect putting the ban on hold and leaving the law intact. But the plaintiffs asked a judge to uphold the ban, saying that allowing the law to remain in place would put many out of business.
Lewis said he agreed to “vacate the stay,” not because of the harm that would be done to the plaintiffs, but because of potential harm to those injured in car accidents.
“The reason for issuing the injunction was to protect this constitutional right and prevent the potential harm to citizens injured in automobile accidents who, under the PIP statute, may not receive necessary care,” he wrote.
Scott's office said it would again challenge the decision, and attempt to keep the law in place.
The 2012 PIP overhaul targeted chiropractors, massage therapists and acupuncturists, restricting their ability to provide covered treatment for people injured in auto accidents. The bill also limited covered medical care to $2,500 if the injured person does not have “an emergency medical condition.” The typical policy limits under Florida’s no-fault law are $10,000. The law was aimed at cracking down on fraud within the PIP system.
Lewis found those changes likely violate the part of the Constitution that provides for access to courts. The case remains pending.
The PIP overhaul was a top priority of Gov. Rick Scott in 2012, and is another example of a law the governor pushed, only to see a judge rule it unconstitutional months later. The Legislature floated the idea of doing away with PIP this year after Lewis’ ruling, but ultimately decided to allow the court battle to play out.
The chiropractors had a better outcome in state court than they did in federal court, where a judge denied the plea for an injunction in December.
Scott's office said the state has filed a lawsuit to challenge Lewis' decision.
"The solicitor general filed a challenge to the circuit court's decision to lift the stay," said a spokesperson for the governor.
Scott indicated in a statement last month that he would fight to keep the PIP changes in place.
“Our reforms are working to lower insurance costs for Florida families and we will continue to fight special interest groups to keep them in place,” he said.