Prop 213 Uninsured Motorist

"It seems clear that a primary aim of the Proposition 213, was to limit automobile insurance claims by uninsured motorists. The electorate wanted to ensure that uninsured motorists, who contribute nothing to the insurance pool, would be restricted in what they receive from it. This principle of fairness fueled the initiative. the right to recover fully for an injury caused by a design defect, even by an uninsured motorist, has no bearing on any principle of fairness having to do with the financial responsibility laws. It is not clear that anyone either the sponsors of the measure or the voters intended to protect from products liability claims manufacturers who do not contribute to that pool and whose other insurance rates are not affected by the existence of uninsured motorists. "Proposition 213's statement of legislative purpose supports this view, identifying the principal intended beneficiaries of the measure as Californians who obey the financial responsibility laws. Thus, section 2 states the following 'Findings and Declaration of Purpose': '(a) Insurance costs have skyrocketed for those Californians who have taken responsibility for their actions. Uninsured motorists . . . are law breakers and should not be rewarded for their irresponsibility and law breaking. However, under current laws, uninsured motorists . . . are able to recover unreasonable damages from law-abiding citizens as a result of . . . accidents . . . . (b) Californians must change the system that rewards individuals who fail to take essential personal responsibility to prevent them from seeking unreasonable damages or from suing law-abiding citizens. (c) Therefore, the People of the State of California do hereby enact this measure to restore balance to our justice system by limiting the right to sue of . . . uninsured motorists.' (Ballot Pamp., text of Prop. 213 as presented to the voters, Gen. Elec. (Nov. 5, 1996), at p. 102.) "With regard to uninsured motorists, the 'system' in need of change in order to 'restore balance to our justice system' is the one that permits those who do not contribute to the insurance pool and thereby drive up the costs of premiums for automobile insurance to reap the benefits of the coverage paid for by law-abiding motorists. There is no suggestion that the proposed law would also change the 'system' with regard to products liability claims, or that any such change is needed. Moreover, use of the words 'Californians' and 'law-abiding citizens' indicates that the initiative was aimed principally at providing balance for those who obey the financial responsibility laws, not benefiting manufacturers whose design and manufacturing processes are not subject to those laws. "Proposition 213's summary of arguments 'pro' and 'con' also indicates that the statute was primarily intended to limit awards against insured drivers. It explains: 'A yes vote on this measure means: . . . uninsured motorists involved in collisions could recover only medical and out-of-pocket expenses but would be prohibited from recovering "pain and suffering" awards from insured drivers.' (Ballot Pamp., summary of arguments for and against ballot measures, as presented to the voters, Gen. Elec. (Nov. 5, 1996), at p. 7, second italics added.) It summarizes the arguments against the measure as follows: 'The Insurance Lobby's newest No-Fault scheme rewards reckless drivers who hit innocent poor people. Proposition 213 lets reckless drivers avoid responsibility. No-Fault for reckless drivers. the No-Faulters say we save millions. But nothing in Proposition 213 No-Fault lowers our insurance rates.' (Ibid.) "The ballot arguments, considered as a whole, similarly indicate that voters were being urged to distinguish between law-abiding motorists who pay for liability insurance, on the one hand, and law-breaking uninsured motorists who refuse to pay for such insurance, on the other. By limiting the amount of damages available to uninsured motorists, the law-abiding motorists would receive some savings in the form of reduced premiums. the arguments for and against the measure refer principally to remedying an imbalance in the justice system that resulted in unfairness when an accident occurred between two motorists--one insured and the other not. There is no suggestion that it was intended to apply in the case of a vehicle design defect. "The ballot arguments thus emphasize that Proposition 213 was designed primarily for the benefit of 'law-abiding citizens'--i.e., drivers who obey the financial responsibility laws: 'Uninsured motorists can sue law-abiding citizens for huge monetary awards in addition to being compensated for medical and other expenses. These huge awards cost Californians who play by the rules and obey the law $ 327 million every year! That's not fair!' (Ballot Pamp., argument in favor of Prop. 213 as presented to the voters, Gen. Elec. (Nov. 5, 1996), at p. 50.) 'Law-abiding drivers pay additional premiums to protect themselves from uninsured drivers. Eliminating huge monetary awards for irresponsible drivers will save $ 327 million each year!' (Id., rebuttal to argument against Prop. 213 as presented to the voters, Gen. Elec. (Nov. 5, 1996), at p. 51.) "It is true that the ballot arguments also demonstrate that the measure was intended to punish and deter scofflaws, i.e., drivers who do not obey the financial responsibility laws. By imposing heavy costs on disobeying the law, it would create an economic incentive for drivers to obey the law and to hold accountable those who do not. (See Yoshioka v. Superior Court (1997) 58 Cal. App. 4th 972, 983 [describing the purposes of Proposition 213 as including 'increasing the costs of . . . disobeying California's Financial Responsibility Law' and 'avoiding unreasonable damages being awarded to the uninsured'].) Thus, proponents of the measure argued: 'PROPOSITION 213 SAYS PEOPLE WHO BREAK THE LAW SHOULD NOT BE REWARDED, WHILE LAW ABIDING CITIZENS PICK UP THE TAB. Law-abiding citizens already pay higher insurance premiums to cover uninsured motorists. Law-abiding citizens should not be punished for living responsibly! the system needs to be fixed. Illegal behavior shouldn't be rewarded. People who break the law must be held accountable for their actions. . . . STOP LAWBREAKERS FROM PROFITING FROM THEIR CRIMES. VOTE YES FOR PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY.' (Ballot Pamp., argument in favor of Prop. 213 as presented to the voters, Gen. Elec. (Nov. 5, 1996), at p. 50, italics and all capitals in original.) The rebuttal to the argument against the initiative measure, similarly, urges: 'PROPOSITION 213 REFORMS AN UNFAIR SYSTEM THAT REWARDS LAWBREAKERS AND PUNISHES THOSE WHO PLAY BY THE RULES. . . . VOTE YES FOR PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY.' (Id., rebuttal to argument against Prop. 213 as presented to the voters, Gen. Elec. (Nov. 5, 1996), at p. 51, all capitals in original.) "But the express goal of the initiative statute was restoring balance to the system, not simple retribution. Its stated purposes of punishing illegal behavior and encouraging personal responsibility are emphatically directed at 'reforming an unfair system' with respect to law-abiding drivers who 'pick up the tab'--i.e., those who 'play by the rules' and take 'personal responsibility' (Ballot Pamp., argument in favor of Prop. 213 and rebuttal to argument against Prop. 213 as presented to the voters, Gen. Elec. (Nov. 5, 1996), at pp. 50, 51) but have been required to 'pay additional premiums to protect themselves from uninsured drivers' (id., rebuttal to argument against Prop. 213 as presented to the voters, Gen. Elec. (Nov. 5, 1996), at p. 51). There is no suggestion that such punishment or incentive was also intended--or should be permitted--to benefit manufacturers of defective vehicles, which are not reasonably included among 'those who play by the rules' or 'take personal responsibility' or 'pick up the tab' for the 'sky-rocketing' costs of automobile insurance. Thus, although it might theoretically also punish illegal behavior to limit recovery against all tortfeasors, neither the statutory language nor the ballot materials reflect an intent to reform a system 'unfair' to law-abiding insured motorists by providing a windfall to manufacturers of defective vehicles. "Indeed, such a windfall would appear inconsistent with the long-standing public policy goal of requiring manufacturers to bear the costs of injuries from defective products. (See Greenman v. Yuba Power Products, Inc. (1963) 59 Cal. 2d 57, 63, 27 Cal. Rptr. 697, 377 P.2d 897.) As Insurance Commissioner Chuck Quackenbush, a proponent of Proposition 213, urges in an amicus curiae letter: 'California motorists have a vital and ongoing interest in deterring manufacturers from shipping dangerous and unsafe products into California and in fairly compensating persons injured by defective products. That interest would not be well served by applying Proposition 213 to product liability claims.' Nor does limiting damages against manufacturers of dangerous vehicles, which do not contribute to the insurance pool, appear to serve the core purpose of Proposition 213 of restoring balance to the insurance system by reinforcing the financial responsibility laws.