Fla. Supreme Court Upholds 30-day Deadline for Doctors to File Auto Policy No-Fault Claims

April 1, 2005

A State Farm customer and his doctor, who challenged a 30-day deadline for doctors to file claims on a patient’s no-fault auto policy, have lost their claim in the Florida Supreme Court that the provision is unconstitutional.

In 1998, lawmakers added a provision to Florida’s no-fault insurance law establishing a 30-day deadline for doctors and health care providers to file claims. Hospitals were exempt.

The State Farm customer and his doctor challenged the deadline in court, arguing it violated the constitutional rights of health care providers to equal protection, due process and access to the courts.

The Tallahassee Democrat reported the Florida Supreme Court’s unsigned opinion rejecting those claims and agreeing with the 5th District Court of Appeal that the law was constitutional.
“The statute is not discriminatory, arbitrary or oppressive,” the majority wrote.

Chief Justice Barbara Pariente and Justices Charles Wells, Harry Lee Anstead and Kenneth Bell made up the majority. Justice Raoul Cantero was recused from the case and Justices R. Fred Lewis and Peggy Quince both dissented.

Lewis wrote that that majority deprived doctors from being paid for their services even when there’s a valid reason. He said the law made billing practices more important that good medical care.

He also said the majority was using two different standards to judge whether constitutional rights were violated by a state law – and argued that the court was far more careful and strict when it ruled in 2003 that a parental notice abortion law was unconstitutional.

“Ultimately, the failure to apply constitutional standards equally creates the impression of a judicial preference for certain fundamental rights over others,” Lewis wrote.

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