Dozens of Florida collision repair companies have filed an amended-complaint against State Farm and dozens of other insurers, which alleges the insurers use their direct repair programs to “illegally control and depress rates and if the shops don’t comply, customers are steered away. The action comes after U.S. District Judge Gregory Presenell ruled their earlier complaint “suffers from a host of problems” and gave them permission to re-plead their case.
Independent automotive glass repair shops allege similar issues with third-party administrators (TPAs), which handle automotive glass claims for insurers, so this case has potential implications for the AGRR industry. Similar legal efforts by collision repair shops have been filed against insurers in Indiana, Mississippi and Pennsylvania.
“The complaint fails to identify which plaintiffs have direct-repair program agreements with which (if any) defendants. If the plaintiffs choose to re-plead, this must be corrected,” wrote the judge for the U.S. Middle District of Florida, Orlando division.
With limited exceptions, the allegations of wrongdoing are attributed, collectively, to every defendant and alleged to have been perpetrated upon every plaintiff,” the judge wrote in his decision. “While there may be situations in which such collective descriptions are sufficient, at least some of the claims asserted here require individualized allegations. For example, if plaintiffs’ counsel were able to establish that defendant A was unjustly enriched by shortchanging plaintiff B, it would not entitle any other plaintiff to a judgment against defendant A (or any other defendant). However, that is the way the action has been pleaded. If the plaintiffs choose to re-please this must be corrected.”
One of the most noticeable changes in the amended complaint is that rather than refer to the insurance companies collectively as “defendants” in each allegation, the companies are now listed in full by the attorneys representing the collision repair companies.
“Over the course of several years, the defendants have engaged in an ongoing, concerted and intentional course of action and conduct with State Farm acting as the spearhead to improperly and illegally control and depress automobile damage repair costs to the detriment of the plaintiffs and the substantial profit of the defendants,” the collision repair attorneys allege. “The individual defendants specifically included within the use of the term ‘the defendants’ in this paragraph include [more than a dozen insurers. Click here to view a full list.]”
The judge has not issued any new decisions at press time.
To read the full amended complaint, click here.