Usually when a car accident leads to a windshield replacement, the victim contacts his or her insurance provider. From there, he or she goes through a series of steps in order to get their vehicle back on the road. Recently, State Farm has come under fire following several lawsuits requesting the company share its methods for fair pricing to replace windshields in Florida. State Farm claims it can’t reveal that information because it falls under a protected trade secret category.
For the past decade the Sunshine State has seen a spike in auto glass claims. Numbers climbed from about 400 in 2006 to just under 20,000 within ten years. Knowing if the insurer’s system pricing is fair was a reference point in the State Farm v. Shazam case. It involved Christine Jennings, a State Farm policyholder, who needed her 2013 Kia Optima’s windshield replaced. She went to Shazam Auto Glass where the repair shop billed $984 dollars to her insurance company; but State Farm paid only $568, leaving $400 short pay. Shazam claimed it needed to see State Farm’s national glass program’s details to justify if the insurers’ reimbursement amount was reasonable. “That’s why we’re pushing so hard to try to get a positive result in this one. Because if we can get it here, we’ll be able to use it in all the others,” Plaintiffs attorney Rob Hayes, of Christopher Ligori & Associates said in the court documents.
There was minor success following Hillsborough County Judge Herbert Berkowitz’s order that State Farm turn over its information regarding its system pricing. State Farm appealed the ruling. “Eighteen cases (lawsuits) against the insurance company will go to trial in July – presuming the appeal is resolved by then,” Hayes said.
In light of the lawsuit, State Farm released this statement: “The sole breach of contract issue framed in Shazam’s complaint is whether State Farm timely paid the claim. This issue can be resolved without information regarding the proprietary business contracts or the methodology and data used by State Farm, in its investigation and adjustment of a claim, to determine payment amounts.”
Shazam still maintains it bases its repair prices off of the National Auto Glass Specification (NAGS) standard. Meanwhile, State Farm claims its price for Jennings was fair. Though other insurance companies can follow various sets of specification standards it seems like this is the first case to bring trade secrets into question.
“Normally, these cases were resolved via settlements — since State Farm insisted on going to trial, we had to take the next step and do our best to protect our clients,” Hayes said.