U.S. District Court Judge Janet Bond Arterton issued a ruling denying Safelite’s motion for a preliminary injunction, writing in her ruling, “because the court concludes that PA 13-67(c)(2) is rationally related to the state’s goal of protecting consumer choice and preventing steering, plaintiffs have not demonstrated that they are likely to succeed on the merits of their First Amendment claim.”
Safelite had claimed the law, set to go into effect January 1, is unconstitutional because it restricts the company’s right to free speech. Company attorneys had claimed Safelite was the only entity covered by the law. Connecticut’s attorneys, meanwhile, claimed the law is intended “to protect consumer choice.”
In her ruling, Judge Arterton writes, “Although there are over 70 non-affiliated repair shops in Connecticut that are part of Safelite’s network, from January 1, 2012 to June 30, 2013, insureds selected Safelite AutoGlass for their repairs approximately 55 percent of the time. Some of Safelite’s insurance company clients require Safelite to provide policyholders with the name of a non-Safelite affiliated repair shop in addition to Safelite AutoGlass. In such instances, the rate at which customers utilize Safelite AutoGlass drops to as low as 41 percent.”
“… Indeed, PA 13-67(c)(2) does not restrict what Safelite can say regarding it’s own shops and the state represented that Safelite could explicitly inform callers that it is mandated by law to also provide the name of a non-affiliated repair shop and could even say that Safelite did not recommend that shop and instead recommend using Safelite AutoGlass,” the judge wrote in court documents.
“Safelite’s latitude to expressly inform consumers that it does not recommend the non-affiliated repair shop it is compelled to name mitigates any risk that providing the name could be seen as an implied endorsement of that business. The name of a business is a far cry from an encroachment upon the First Amendment values discussed in Zauderer, i.e., an attempt to ‘prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics nationalism, religion or other matters of opinion.’ … Similarly, the fact that Safelite would prefer to not make the required disclosure is insufficient to make it ‘controversial.’”
She goes on to write, “… Whatever might have been the motivation of some legislative proponents, there is ample basis in the record for the court to conclude that PA 13-67(c)(2) is rationally related to the state’s interest in promotion consumer choice and preventing steering.”
Safelite is expected to appeal the decision to the Second Circuit Court.
“We are disappointed that Judge Arterton denied our motion for preliminary injunction, which would have delayed the effective date of Public Act 13-67: An Act Concerning Auto Glass Repair,” writes Safelite’s senior corporate counsel Brian DiMasi in a statement released this morning. “We continue to feel very strongly that Public Act 13-67 violates the First Amendment of the United States Constitution and we will be filing an appeal with the Second Circuit Court of Appeals on this very important constitutional commercial free speech issue.”
The Connecticut Assistant Attorney General office’s issued this statement: “We are pleased with the District Court’s thorough decision. The state has a long-standing interest in protecting consumer choice in automobile glass repairs covered by insurance. We will continue to vigorously defend the statute.”
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Public court records are available.
To view a copy of the judge’s decision, click here.
To view a copy of Safelite’s complaint, click here.
To view a copy of Safelite’s request for an injunction, click here.
To view Connecticut’s response, click here.