The four attorneys representing VIP Auto Glass (VIP) in the case against Geico General Insurance Company for underpaying auto glass shops withdrew their representation of the plaintiff, claiming “irreconcilable differences” and “serious ethical concerns” as reasoning behind the action.
VIP was seeking class-action status against the insurer for allegedly violating Florida law by underpaying auto glass shops not affiliated with Safelite Retail facilities or participants in the Safelite Network. The case is being heard in the U.S. District Court Middle District of Florida.
Presiding Judge Mary S. Scriven approved the representation withdrawal, but gave VIP only 21 days to find new counsel or judgement would automatically be filed against it.
The differences and concerns expressed by the former counsel were not delineated in the court document, with the attorney’s arguing that there is “no need for this counsel to explain why he wishes to withdraw in more detail, as such an explanation could be detrimental to the client or protected by the attorney-client privilege.”
Geico originally opposed the motion, stating it would only delay the ruling and no “compelling ethical considerations” existed. Scriven, upon reviewing the sealed reasoning for withdrawal, disagreed and granted the motion.
The insurer also alleges VIP forged the assignment of benefits it used to make standing in the case.
“Mr. Jones himself recently confirmed that he never signed an assignment, and that the purported assignment that VIP has repeatedly put before this court is a forgery,” Geico attorneys argue. “Since VIP actually has no valid assignment, it has no standing to bring any claims, much less any class claims.”
In July, VIP motioned to dismiss the case without prejudice, but Scriven denied the motion.
“This case has been pending for over a year and has been extensively litigated up the point of class certification, causing GEICO to expend considerable time and expense. Moreover, it has now come to light that VIP Auto Glass has persisted with this class action case despite the fact that it lacks a valid assignment of benefits to support its individual claim,” the court wrote in the motion to deny dismissal. “Even worse … it appears that VIP Auto Glass has submitted a forged assignment to this Court, caused numerous false statements and assertions to be made in its pleadings and other filings with this Court, submitted false discovery responses, and testified falsely under oath in this case.”