is consistent with defendant's assertion that the "taxicab" exemption refers only to the mandatory insurance requirement and not to the limitation on civil liability.
Second, the legislative history also supports this reading of the exemption. As defendant points out, the District of Columbia City Council Committee on Public Services and Consumer Affairs, which reported favorably on the No-Fault Act, stated in its report to the Council that the taxicab exemption "is based on the fact that taxicabs are already required to carry liability insurance as a condition of doing business in the District." See Defendant's Memorandum of Points and Authorities in Support of Motion for Summary Judgment at 2. Furthermore, the bulk of the testimony at the public hearing focused on whether the cost of no-fault insurance would be too great for the taxicab industry. Id. at 3. Plaintiff has pointed to no legislative history that would support his understanding of the exemption.
Third, plaintiff's reading of the Act is inconsistent with any arguably valid policy concerns of no-fault. Plaintiff has not attempted to articulate a rational basis for exempting taxicab drivers from the limitation on civil suits, and this Court does not believe such a basis exists. If one accepts the limitation of tort claims as the quid pro quo of the "automatic" personal injury protection, it is inconceivable that cab drivers, who are presumably entitled to the benefits of no-fault protection, would be released from the burden of the Act's limitation on non-economic damages.
In the alternative,
one could construe the "exemption" to allow taxicab drivers to bring civil claims but to exclude them from entitlement to personal injury benefits under the Act. Aside from any conflict with the language
of the Act, such a result would be inconsistent with the no-fault policy of providing quick and adequate compensation and eliminating the time-consuming and expensive litigation process. Whether or not one agrees with the policy, it is difficult to imagine why cab drivers would be treated as a favored -- or disfavored -- class with respect to compensation under the Act. Unlike the taxicab exemption from the mandatory insurance provisions, which is based upon a legislative judgment of economic necessity, the suggested cab drivers' exemption from the limitation on tort liability has no apparent rational basis.
Finally, the decision of the Court on this issue is consistent with that of the Office of Insurance Superintendent of the District of Columbia. Letter from Acting Superintendent Marguerite C. Stokes to John A. King (July 16, 1984) (discussing taxicab exemption). The Superintendent's Office suggests that because personal injury benefits are available to taxicab drivers and the Act restricts civil liability actions "with respect to any injury as to which personal injury protection benefits are payable," D.C. Code § 35-2105(a), the taxicab exemption has been interpreted to apply only to the mandatory insurance requirements. Such an interpretation is not binding, of course, but it is entitled to considerable deference. See e.g., Quern v. Mandley, 436 U.S. 725, 56 L. Ed. 2d 658, 98 S. Ct. 2068 (1978); Moon v. United States Dept. of Labor, 234 U.S. App. D.C. 216, 727 F.2d 1315 (D.C. Cir. 1984).
Although there is no precedent on point in this circuit, the result reached here is indirectly supported by the case law of other jurisdictions. In cases involving a "motorcycle exemption" similar to the taxicab exemption, state courts have held that although the exemption relieves the motorcycle owner of purchasing no-fault insurance, such persons are nevertheless entitled to no-fault benefits and are therefore limited in bringing civil actions for damages. See Underhill v. Safeco Ins. Co., 407 Mich. 175, 284 N.E.2d 463 (1979); Braden v. Spencer, 100 Mich. App. 523, 299 N.W.2d 65 (1980); New York Transit Authority v. Smith, 382 N.Y.S.2d 355, 52 A.D.2d 624 (1976). In summary, this Court holds that the "exemption" of taxicabs from the D.C. No-Fault Law applies only to the mandatory insurance provision, D.C. Code § 35-2103. The exemption does not prevent a taxicab owner or driver from claiming benefits under the No-Fault Law, nor does it entitle him to avoid the limitations on civil liability set forth in D.C. Code § 35-2105. In addition, it is apparent on the facts before the Court that plaintiff does not qualify for any of the exceptions to the restriction on civil liability suits, and he is therefore precluded from bringing this action.
An appropriate Order will issue in accordance with the terms of this opinion.
In accordance with the Memorandum Opinion issued in the above-captioned case, it is hereby this 13th day of February, 1985,
1) Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment is granted;
2) Judgment shall be, and is, entered for defendants.