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Oklahoma Supreme Court Strikes Down “No Pay, No Play” Law, Montgomery v. Potter, 341 P.3d 660 (Okla. 2014)

Section 7–116, known as the No Pay, No Play law, prohibits uninsured drivers from the recovery of damages for pain and suffering in automobile accident cases.

Plaintiffs asserted § 7–116 violated the special law proscription of art. 5, § 46 of the Oklahoma Constitution which provides that the Legislature may not create a local or special law involving specific activities enumerated therein. Among the prohibited activities, the constitutional provision forbids a special law “[r]egulating the practice or jurisdiction of, or changing the rules of evidence in judicial proceedings or inquiry before the courts.” Okla. Const. art. 5, § 46.

Plaintiffs contended the statute was an impermissible special law which affected only victims of auto accidents who are uninsured, carving out this special class from the more general class of all victims of auto accidents. The defendant insisted that the statute applied to all uninsured drivers equally and was general in its application. The Oklahoma Supreme Court disagreed with the defendant’s characterization of the class and found § 7–116 to be an unconstitutional, special law.

The Court held it was clear that § 7–116 “sets aside a subset of negligence plaintiffs for different” treatment based on the status of a plaintiff’s automobile insurance coverage. Zeier v. Zimmer, 2006 OK 98, 152 P.3d at 868. Section 7–116 created an impermissible special class by restricting damages in civil negligence actions for victims who also happen to be uninsured drivers while the general class of automobile accident victims was not prevented from the recovery of damages for pain and suffering. Because 47 O.S.2011, § 7–116 impacted less than an entire class of similarly situated claimants it was under-inclusive and, therefore, the Court found it to be an unconstitutional special law prohibited by art. 5, § 46 of the Oklahoma Constitution.