Appellate Court Upholds Repair-Based Class
Action Certification Against State Farm
March 11, 2013
by Jenna Reed, email@example.com
A State Farm customer who argued he and other customers should
have received checks for full windshield replacement rather than
be given repairs had his class action certification upheld by the
Eighth District Court of Appeals in the County of Cuyahoga, Ohio,
with slight modification, according to court documents.
Michael Cullen, who is the class representative, claims he reported
windshield damage to State Farm in 2003 and that his claim was handled
by the company's subcontractor Lynx Services, as described in court
documents. After talking with this agent, Cullen agreed to a repair
instead of replacement, but later brought
suit against State Farm arguing he should have received a check
in full for the replacement value of his windshield, minus the deductible.
In the case, Cullen v. State Farm, filed in 2005, Cullen's attorneys
alleged State Farm created a script that Lynx used to steer claimants
to opt into windshield repair rather than replacement. Cullen claimed
the Lynx agent did not volunteer all options, and in particular,
did not share a "pay-out" option where claimants could
get a check for the entire amount of the windshield, minus the deductible,
and then repair the windshield at their own expense.
Cullen alleged breach of contract, bad faith and breach of fiduciary
duty against State Farm. He sought monetary and declaratory relief
as well as class certification for others similarly situated.
After the trial court decided that Cullen met all the requirements
of class certification, State
Writing the appellate court's prevailing opinion, Judge Frank Celebrezze
Jr., says, "For claims handled using a common script or word
track, the trial court did not err in certifying the class in this
case. Individual questions do not predominate because the script
used by Lynx and developed by State Farm establishes class-wide
treatment under Cullen's theory that State Farm breached its contracts
with insureds by dissuading individuals from replacing their windshields
and not informing them of their option to receive a check for the
value of the windshield less their deductible.
"For claims made prior to the use of a common script, Cullen
argues that the policy language simplifies the case to a showing
that the policy in question required State Farm to restore vehicles
to their pre-loss condition and that a windshield repair cannot
do so. The theory, while dubious, does provide a means to resolve
the case on a class-wide basis for these members. Therefore, the
trial court did not err in certifying this class. However, the class
definition must be restricted to exclude those who had their windshields
replaced after repair. Finally, State Farm has provided nothing
to indicate that the trial court did not fulfill its duty to analyze
the issues in the case when rendering its judgment," the judge
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