Oklahoma “pay to play” law prohibiting recovery of special damages in auto negligence cases when plaintiff is uninsured, struck down as unconstitutional.
Oklahoma enacted a law in 2011 designed to incentivize drivers to purchase and maintain liability insurance. The statute provides “in any civil action to recover damages arising out of an accident involving the operation of a motor vehicle or for any claim against the motor vehicle liability insurance coverage of another party, the maximum amount that a plaintiff or claimant may receive, if the plaintiff or claimant is not in compliance with the Compulsory Insurance Law, shall be limited to the amount of medical costs, property damage, and lost income and shall not include any award for pain and suffering.” 47 O.S.2011, § 7-116. The Oklahoma Supreme Court found that the law addressed a particular class: all plaintiffs with bodily injury who, by law, have the ability to recover damages for pain and suffering. The Court then found that the “pay to play” law targeted specific individuals within that class (those not in compliance with Oklahoma’s Compulsory Insurance Law) to receive special treatment in the form of limited remedies, regardless of whether the plaintiff was at fault in causing the accident or not. Because the statute holds uninsured drivers to different and much stricter standards than other plaintiffs in automobile negligence cases, a unanimous Court held that the statute is constitutionally infirm because it is a special law under art. 5, § 46 of the Oklahoma Constitution. Montgomery v. Potter, 2014 OK 118, December 16, 2014. The unanimity of the Court on this opinion sends a strong signal to the legislature that the flaws of this law cannot be cured.