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Where a right of access to the courts for redress for a particular injury has been provided by statutory law predating the adoption of the Declaration of Rights of the Constitution of the State of Florida, or where such right has become a part of the common law of the state pursuant to Fla. Stat. ch. 2.01, the legislature is without power to abolish such a right without providing a reasonable alternative to protect the rights of the people of the state to redress for injuries, unless the legislature can show an overpowering public necessity for the abolishment of such right, and no alternative method of meeting such public necessity can be shown.
Appellant's car was damaged when a car owned by appellee car owner collided with appellant's car. Although there were no injuries, the damage to appellant's car exceeded the value of her car, which was less than $ 500. Appellant sued appellees for damages. The trial court ruled that under Fla. Stat. ch. 627.738, appellant had no right of action against appellees because appellant had no property damage insurance and her damages did not exceed $ 550. Appellant sought review.
Did the trial court err in holding Fla.Stat. § 627.738, F.S.A. to be constitutional and denying appellant a cause of action?
The court held that ch. 627.738 was unconstitutional because it violated Fla. Const. art. I, § 21, which guaranteed the right to have access to the courts. The court determined that Fla. Stat. ch. 627.738 was unconstitutional because ch. 627.738 was enacted after the adoption of the state constitution, and appellant would have had a right of action at the time the constitution was adopted. The court found the state legislature removed a right without good reason and without providing an alternative.