UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA
March 16, 1987
FRANKLIN McCRAE, Plaintiff,
FILIPE MARQUES, Defendant
The opinion of the court was delivered by: HARRIS
STANLEY S. HARRIS, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
This matter is before the Court upon defendant's motion to strike claims for medical bills and lost wages. Upon consideration of the motion, the opposition thereto, and the entire record herein, the Court concludes that the motion must be granted.
This case arises from an automobile accident in the District of Columbia on September 26, 1985, between plaintiff Franklin McCrae, a bus driver for the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA), and defendant Filipe Marques. Plaintiff's complaint alleges that Marques negligently struck the bus plaintiff was driving, causing plaintiff to suffer permanent disability and to incur medical bills in excess of $ 5,000. WMATA has paid workers' compensation benefits to McCrae and has indicated it intends to pursue a lien against any recovery in this suit.
The Compulsory/No-Fault Motor Vehicle Insurance Act of 1982 (No Fault), D.C. Code §§ 35-2101 through 35-2115 (1985 Supp.), bars plaintiff's recovery for medical bills and lost wages.
Section 35-2105 of the D.C. Code provides, in part:
Except as provided in subsection (b), no person may maintain a civil action based on liability against any other person, with respect to an injury as to which personal injury protection benefits are payable under this Act.
(b) EXCEPTIONS TO RESTRICTION.
The provisions of subsection (a) do not apply if:
* * *
(4) A person may be liable for noneconomic loss, in accordance with otherwise applicable law, caused a victim and arising from the maintenance or use of a motor vehicle if the victim suffered an injury directly resulting in substantial permanent scarring or disfigurement; substantial and medically demonstrable permanent impairment which has significantly affected the ability of the victim to perform his or her professional activities or usual and customary daily activities; or a medically demonstrable impairment that prevents the victim from performing all or substantially all of the material acts and duties which constitute his or her usual and customary daily activities for more than 180 days;
* * *
(6) A person may be liable for any noneconomic loss if medical expenses of a victim or his or her survivors exceeds $ 5,000, inclusive of diagnostic x-rays costs . . . . *fn2"
Under the clear language of the statute, plaintiff may maintain a civil action only for noneconomic loss. Plaintiff's claims for medical bills and lost wages are, therefore, stricken. This does not mean, however, that plaintiff out of his civil action recovery must reimburse WMATA for payments it made to plaintiff under workers' compensation for medical bills and lost wages.
WMATA's right to reimbursement stems from D.C. Code § 36-335, which provides, in part:
(b) Acceptance of such compensation under an award in a compensation order filed with the Mayor shall operate as an assignment to the employer of all rights of the person entitled to compensation to recover damages against such third person unless such person shall commence an action against such third person within 6 months after such award. *fn3"
The statute limits WMATA's rights to plaintiff's rights. As just discussed, plaintiff may not recover medical bills and lost wages from defendant through a civil action. It follows, then, that D.C. Code § 36-335 does not provide WMATA with a right to recover from defendant the workers' compensation benefits WMATA paid to plaintiff for medical bills and lost wages.
Although D.C. Code § 36-335 does not provide WMATA with a means to recover workers' compensation payments, WMATA does have a right to reimbursement where third parties are liable. The No-Fault Act provides WMATA with a means to obtain reimbursement. Section 35-2111 provides, in part:
(1) An insurer shall have a right of reimbursement from any other insurer, based upon a determination of fault, for any personal injury protection benefits paid or obligated to be paid by that insurer as a result of an accident that involved 2 or more motor vehicles, at least 1 of which was of a type other than a passenger motor vehicle. *fn5"
Because WMATA is required to pay PIP benefits and the accident which is the subject of this action involved two motor vehicles, one of which was not a passenger vehicle, the Court concludes that WMATA has a right of reimbursement for all of what effectively were PIP payments, regardless of source, subject to a determination of fault.
Date: March 16, 1987