Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) will appear prominently in the ballot arguments against California Propositions 30 and 31 — as they have in insurance industry funded advertisements against the referenda — despite the recently released official state analysis that drunk drivers have no right to sue under the new laws. Consumer advocates have questioned MADD for joining with insurance companies in opposition to the propositions, asserting that their position is based on a faulty analysis of the laws.
The official analysis of Propositions 30 and 31 by the Attorney General states that “A third-party lawsuit could be filed … only if the third party was not driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs at the time of the accident that caused injury.”
The California chapter’s opposition to the propositions does not comport with MADD’s mission of ending drunk driving and protecting the victims of DUI. Documentation of MADD’s policy positions as well as their close financial ties with the insurance industry can be found on their website at http://www.madd.org. Their contention that the law would allow drunk drivers to sue is contradicted by the clear wording of the law and the Attorney General’s analysis.
“Because the propositions bar any suits by drunk drivers and only provides protection to victims of at-fault drivers, never to drivers who cause an accident, MADD’s position does not fit with their organizational objectives. ” said Douglas Heller, consumer advocate with The Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights (FTCR). “At the same time that MADD is setting up checkpoints to stop drunk driving they are setting up barriers to those hurt by drunk drivers. ”
FTCR has not received a response to a December 17, 1999 letter sent to MADD National President, Karolyn Nunnallee, seeking an explanation for the conflict between the MADD policy and MADD-California’s involvement in this campaign.
In conflict with their public position on the propositions, MADD’s national policy position states that:
“MADD opposes any measures which will restrict or in any way limit the rights of victims of impaired driving crashes to seek and recover punitive damages in any cause of action arising out of impaired driving crashes.”
Propositions 30 and 31 are on the March ballot as referenda to enact 1999 legislation signed by Governor Davis. The laws, if passed by the voters, would allow innocent accident victims to sue insurance companies that unfairly deny, delay or low-ball legitimate insurance claims. The insurance companies that are paying for the opposition campaign, which highlights MADD, seek a NO vote in their effort to undo the laws.
Insurance Lobbyist Expresses Obscenity-Laden Disdain for Davis, Legislature:
“The total key to everything we do from now on regarding what we do with the governor and Democrats is going to be based on dollars. The message we’re going to send is ‘You will either leave us the hell alone, or you better have pockets so deep you won’t have room for your balls.'”
–A Sacramento insurance industry insider speaking about Propositions 30 and 31, quoted in Smart’s Insurance Bulletin 12/10/99.