The opinion of the court was delivered by: GASCH
This is an action challenging the District of Columbia Compulsory/No-Fault Motor Vehicle Insurance Act of 1982, D.C. Law 4-155, D.C. Code § 35-2101 et seq. (1984 Supp.) (Insurance Act). The plaintiffs include both residents and nonresidents of the District of Columbia. The defendants are the District of Columbia and individual officials of the District of Columbia Government.
Plaintiffs assert that the Insurance Act violates the District of Columbia Self-Government and Governmental Reorganization Act (Self-Government Act), D.C. Code 1-201 et seq., and the United States Constitution. Specifically, they urge the Court to declare the Insurance Act unconstitutional because it violates due process and equal protection rights protected by the fifth amendment, impermissibly burdens interstate commerce, and interferes with plaintiffs' rights to contract, to travel an to petition the government.
Defendants have moved to dismiss plaintiffs' second amended complaint or in the alternative for summary judgment. Plaintiffs also have filed for summary judgment.
For the reasons set forth below, the Court grants defendants' motion to dismiss many of plaintiffs' claims for lack of standing and grants defendants' motion for summary judgment as to the constitutionality of the compulsory insurance requirements of the Insurance Act (Sections 4(a), 4(b)(1), and 7(c), D.C. Code §§ 35-2103(a), 35-2103(b)(1), 35-2106(c)). The Court further holds that plaintiff Harley is entitled to summary judgment as to the Insurance Act's provision barring recovery for noneconomic loss unless medical expenses exceed $ 5,000 (Section 6(b)(6), D.C. Code § 35-2105(b)(6)).
The threshold issue is whether any of the plaintiffs has standing to challenge the Insurance Act in federal court. The Supreme Court recently summarized the constitutional requirements for standing in Valley Forge Christian College v. Americans United for Separation of Church and State, Inc., 454 U.S. 464, 70 L. Ed. 2d 700, 102 S. Ct. 752 (1982):
Art. III requires the party who invokes the court's authority to "show that he personally has suffered some actual or threatened injury as a result of the putatively illegal conduct of the defendant," and that the injury "fairly can be traced to the challenged action" and "is likely to be redressed by a favorable decision. . . ."
454 U.S. at 472.
The plaintiff's injury or threat must be "distinct and palpable,"
and "real and immediate," not "conjectural or hypothetical."
Applying the foregoing analysis to the particular facts in this case, the Court concludes that plaintiff Harley has standing to challenge Sections 6(a) and 6(b)(6) of the Insurance Act, which bar suits against tortfeasors for noneconomic loss unless the victim's medical expenses exceed $ 5,000 or other specified exceptions apply. Plaintiff Harley, a resident of the District of Columbia, purchased motor vehicle insurance as required by the Insurance Act. He alleges that he sustained physical injuries in a motor vehicle accident in the District of Columbia after the Insurance Act became effective. He avers that his medical expenses will likely not exceed the $ 5,000 threshold and that he likely does not qualify under any other exceptions to the Act which would allow him to sue the alleged tortfeasor for pain and suffering which is described as noneconomic loss. Plaintiff Harley's apparent inability to sue constitutes injury in fact, is traceable to Sections 6(a) and 6(b)(6) of the Insurance Act, and is likely to be redressed by a favorable decision.
Plaintiff Lisa Van Susteren is a resident of the District of Columbia and a licensed driver. As a District of Columbia motor vehicle owner, she is required under Section 7(c) of the Insurance Act to purchase no-fault coverage for accidents that may occur outside of the District of Columbia. Plaintiff Van Susteren has standing to challenge the constitutionality of this compulsory requirement of the Insurance Act. The required purchase of no-fault insurance is a discernible and definable economic injury sufficient to satisfy the injury-in-fact test, it can be traced to Section 7(c) of the Insurance Act, and it can likely be redressed by a decision rendering that provision invalid. Furthermore, as a motor vehicle owner residing in the District of Columbia, plaintiff Van Susteren clearly falls within the zone of interests to be regulated by the Insurance Act.
Plaintiffs claim that the Insurance Act is null and void because the District of Columbia City Council failed to comply with the procedural requirements of the Self-Government Act, which requires the City Council to read a bill twice in substantially the same form before passage. Section 412(a), D.C. Code § 1-229(a). None of the plaintiffs has standing to challenge the Insurance Act on this ground. As the Supreme Court recently explained, "an asserted right to have the Government act in accordance with law is not sufficient, standing alone, to confer jurisdiction on a federal court." Allen v. Wright, 468 U.S. 737, 104 S. Ct. 3315, 3326, 82 L. Ed. 2d 556 (1984). Plaintiffs' claim is nothing more than a generalized grievance alleging abstract injury in nonobservance of the Self-Government Act. See ...