Ind. Gov. Daniels Heeds Request for Veto of Defective Seat Belt Defense Bill

May 16, 2005

The National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies (NAMIC), Insurance Institute of Indiana and Defense Trial Counsel of Indiana (DTCI) prevailed on Indiana Gov. Mitchell Daniels recently to veto what it reported is a defective seat belt defense bill passed during the last hours of Indiana’s General Assembly. NAMIC had previously requested that Gov. Daniels veto Senate Enrolled Act (SEA) 218.

“Governor Daniels has demonstrated strong leadership by vetoing this bill. It came out of the conference committee so convoluted that it did not achieve its stated purpose of allowing juries to hear evidence on the nonuse of seat belts in a workable manner,” said NAMIC State Affairs Manager Tami Stanton.

Additionally, Stanton said, “Governor Daniels’ veto sends an undeniable message to the trial bar that had a strong hand in crafting the conference committee report. The DTCI and the Insurance Institute of Indiana were the key veto forces on the ground countering the efforts of plaintiff attorneys urging the governor to sign the bill.”

NAMIC’s objections focused on two areas. First, although some states’ seat belt defense statutes have caps, SEA 218’s four percent cap coupled with the expert testimony requirements reportedly renders it useless. Secondly, SEA 218 reportedly invalidates the positive effect of a March 2005 Indiana Supreme Court ruling, Kocher v. Getz, which states that non-use of a safety device such as a seatbelt constitutes fault. Language inserted into SEA 218, by plaintiff lawyer representatives, reverses the ruling by stating that failure to wear a seat belt is not fault.

“NAMIC strongly supports passage of a seat belt defense bill in the state of Indiana. Unfortunately, NAMIC’s members, cannot support SEA 218 in the transmutative form endorsed by the trial lawyers,” wrote Stanton in NAMIC’s letter to Gov. Daniels.

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