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Florida repairers re-file lawsuit against 39 insurers

Monday, June 30, 2014 - 07:00
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The attorneys for dozens of Florida collision repairers have refiled a suit against 39 insurers for their alleged attempts to control and depress repair costs.  

The initial filing was dismissed, but Judge Gregory A. Presnell, United States District Judge for the U.S. Court for the Middle District in Florida, allowed the plaintiffs to re-file an amended complaint to provide more detailed information relative to the specific actions by each insurer and specifying the related damages which led to the multi-litigation lawsuit.

The requested changes and clarifications were made and the modified complaint was re-filed to comply with the Judge’s recommendations.

“We’re excited to have this interruption behind us,” stated Ray Gunder of Gunder’s Auto Center, one of the plaintiff repairers represented in the lawsuit. “In reading the complaint, everyone in this industry knows it to be the truth…I am looking forward to bringing the issues to a jury and exposing the insurer’s egregious practices and ending the suppression that has been so harmful to our industry and to the consumers we serve. All repairers want is to serve our customers in an unencumbered manner and to see our employees earn a fair wage for their efforts” stated Gunder.

The Honorable Judge Gregory A. Presnell, Senior United States District Judge for the U.S. Court for the Middle District has filed an order in an effort to attain more specific information relative to the lawsuit initially filed by twenty-plus Florida auto body repair shops against dozens of insurers.

This lawsuit is similar those filed in Mississippi and other states by attorney John Eaves earlier this year who on behalf of a group of body shop owners against more than three dozen insurance companies who purportedly, through direct repair programs, conspired to manipulate labor rates and other shop charges to reduce their claim costs. 

The suit alleges State Farm is at the heart of an effort by the insurers to suppress labor rates, to coerce shops into accepting less than actual or market costs for materials, to refuse to pay for many required procedures and to punish non-compliant shops through steering. The suit alleges these actions constitute tortuous interference, unjust enrichment and violation of Sherman Act price-fixing and boycotting prohibitions. These actions, the suit states, places the shops in "the indefensible position of either performing incomplete or substandard repairs and thus breaching their obligations to automotive owners to return vehicles to pre-accident condition, or performing labor and expending materials without proper compensation."

The suit also seeks an injunction prohibiting the insurers from "directing, advising or otherwise suggesting that any person or firm do business or refuse to do business" with any of the named shops; from using boycott, coercion or flat rate manuals to establish or control repair shop pricing; and from requiring the shops to participate in any parts procurement program (i.e. Parts Trader) and unspecified compensatory and punitive damages suffered by the represented shops.

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