Regulating Insurance for Commercial and Private Vehicles As Regards Liability

In Dealers Insurance Co. v. Jon Hall Chevrolet Co., 547 So. 2d 325 (Fla. 5th DCA 1989), the Fifth District also expressed disagreement with the Third District's holding in Farm Bureau Mutual Insurance Co. v. Tropicana Products, Inc., 456 So. 2d 549 (Fla. 3d DCA 1984). The Fifth District upheld the constitutionality of section 627.7405, in part because it concluded that the statute's different treatment of commercial and private vehicles was rationally related to a legitimate state purpose: Because of its quasi-public nature and statewide effects, insurance is an appropriate subject for legislative control. . . . We perceive a rational basis for the legislature to have determined the need for the instant distinction between commercial and personal vehicles in the economics of who can best afford to bear the burden of injuries and damage sustained when a commercial vehicle is used by individuals having private passenger insurance. Were the employee's PIP carrier required to bear such costs, the financial risk of insuring that individual would increase and, accordingly, so would the employee's PIP premium rates. If, however, the employee's PIP carrier is able to recoup its outlay from the commercial vehicle owner or its insured sic, the PIP carrier will be less susceptible to liability and can reduce its rates for individual coverage. . . . Payment of the premiums is a known cost of doing business, and we think the legislature could rationally determine that the burden properly rests with the commercial vehicle owners. . . . the statute bears a reasonable relationship to the legitimate state interest of regulating insurance. We think the legislature could reasonably believe that this measure would properly allocate the risks of insurance, and the attendant burden of increased premiums, to businesses which are better able to absorb the cost than private individuals. Further, we think elimination of the need to establish fault is consistent with the no-fault insurance concept. Id. In Amerisure Insurance Co. v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co., 865 So. 2d 590 (Fla. 2d DCA 2004), the Second District indicated its agreement with this rationale for denying Amerisure's constitutional claims. Amerisure, 865 So. 2d at 593. More recently, in Tucker Transportation Co. v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co., 883 So. 2d 357 (Fla. 1st DCA 2004), the First District Court of Appeal rejected similar constitutional claims. The First District approved a trial court's conclusion that "section 627.7405 did not require a finding of fault and did not violate the Appellant's equal protection rights, citing Dealers." Id. at 358.