John Eagle Collision Center, a Texas auto body shop, is in the midst of a $1 million lawsuit for alleged negligence due to a repair of a 2010 Honda Fit roof. According to court documents, the collision center neglected to use Honda’s OEM repair specifications, which required the roof to be welded in place and, instead, used a 3M adhesive to allegedly cut down on insurance costs. Boyce Willis, the director of John Eagle, stated in his deposition that State Farm Insurance dictated how the repair would be performed, or else the insurer wouldn’t foot the bill, bringing attention to the influence an insurer can have on an automotive repair. The outcome of the case has implications for the auto glass industry.
In 2013, Matthew and Marcia Seebachan purchased the used Honda Fit from a Texas Kia dealership. But, according to the couple, they were not told of any repairs the car had received, and the CarFax report didn’t contain any repair work or damage the vehicle had sustained. (It later came to light that the dealership would not have known about the adhesive being used as opposed to Honda’s specifications.)
Four months after purchasing the vehicle, the Seebachans were in an accident, and both sustained serious burn injuries after the roof collapsed and doors jammed, trapping the couple inside as the vehicle caught fire. They alleged this was due to the repair work of John Eagle Collision Center, as well as a missing fuel tank cover, though, it’s still unclear as to who was responsible for the latter.
In his July 7th deposition, questioned by the plaintiffs’ attorney Todd Tracy, Willis illustrates the power insurance companies can have over auto repair shops—repair the vehicle according to the insurer’s specifications, or the insurer may not pay the repair bill.
“Q. All right. Do you know the — when you say that it was a 3M 8115 product, is that because that’s what was customary within John Eagle Collision Center back in the 2012 time period?
A. It is — it is a [sic] accepted repair alternative, based on our cars and insurance certifications.
Q. All right. And let’s have an agreement today that we don’t use the word ‘insurance.’ Can we — is that cool?
A.Well, unfortunately we’re guided by insurance. So — the — if you brought your car into my shop, right, the insurance company’s going to dictate what — how we’re going to repair your car.
Q. I understand. But the — but you — your — as a certified body shop, you have to — you — the — the insurance company cannot trump the OEM specifications, correct, sir?
A. Yes, they can.
Q. Where does it say that?
A. By not paying the bill.”
It’s important to note in this case that there’s no evidence as of yet that suggests State Farm advised the use of the adhesive. However, Tracy, on behalf of the Seebachans, has filed a lawsuit against the insurance company for negligence, following Willis’ statements in his deposition.
“The day of reckoning is here—certified body shop facilities better stop listening to the insurance companies they get paid by and start listening to the OEM that spent hundreds of millions of dollars developing, designing, manufacturing and testing vehicles to provide maximum protection in foreseeable accidents,” Tracy wrote in an email to RepairerDrivenNews.com. “Insurance companies don’t repair vehicles and don’t develop, design, manufacture and test vehicles. As such, they should stay out of the way of those who are charged with protecting our family should an accident happen.”
In the court document, which was filed on August 2, Tracy states, “Vehicle insurance companies like State Farm sell insurance. They are not in the business of designing vehicles, or testing vehicles, or repairing vehicles. No insurance company should ever dictate to a collision repair center or body shop how to repair a vehicle. To do so is extremely negligent, and shows a wanton disregard for human life and the safety of others.
“Collision repair centers/body shops should always follow the vehicle manufacturer’s procedures/OEM repair specifications and should never be coerced or enticed by an insurance company to cut corners, take safety shortcuts, or do anything that jeopardizes members of the motoring public,” he continues.
Tracy states State Farm is liable for “authorizing, approving, ratifying, and/or dictating the conduct of John Eagle.”
Additionally, the Seebachans have also sued the insurance giant for breach of warranty, claiming the company was more worried about increasing its bottom line than it was about ensuring the safety of the vehicle.
The document reads, “State Farm controls body shop revenues and profits by forcing body shops to take shortcuts that jeopardize the safety of not only their customers, but also unsuspecting third parties who may later own and/or ride in these vehicles. In effect, State Farm secretly and covertly plays Russian Roulette with its customers and the public by forcing body shops to choose their profits over the safety of the motoring public.”
State Farm has yet to respond to the lawsuit, but glassBYTEs.com will continue to follow the story as it unfolds.
To read the lawsuit against John Eagle Collision, click here.
To read Boyce Willis’ deposition, click here.
To read the lawsuit against State Farm, click here.