Thousands of pages of documents have been filed with the U.S. District Court of the Middle District of Florida concerning more than 3,000 windshield damage claims in the case of the Allstate Insurance and its related entities (Allstate) vs. Auto Glass America and its owner, Charles Isaly (AGA). In addition to building a case for each side, those documents provide interesting details about how each side functions and how it believes the other side does as well. For example, Allstate’s trial brief of March 8, 2021 contends that several years ago, Isaly decided that AGA would no longer follow Allstate’s claims reporting procedures. Rather, the brief says, AGA calls either an Allstate agent or Allstate’s 800 customer service number to confirm that the insured has comprehensive coverage. It also alleges that AGA’s technicians request an insured’s signature on a work order that does not include the prices to be charged for parts or labor but does include an assignment of benefits (AOB).
Allstate also says that AGA does not currently nor has it performed windshield repairs since 2014, a fact later confirmed by Charles Isaly. The brief goes on to say that AGA charges Allstate more than it charges any other insurance company and that AGA’s invoices to the insurer reflect a discount of -47% of the NAGS list price. A discount of a negative number is actually an up charge, and Allstate’s brief argues that “there is no viable argument that a 47% up charge for the windshield part is competitive, reasonable or market rate.”
The trial brief filed by Allstate asks for more than monetary damages. It asks for equitable relief in the form of a declaratory judgement deploring AGA’s practices as deceptive, unfair, unconscionable and in violation of Florida law and FTC rules. It further asks the Court to require that AGA follow Allstate’s procedures by providing the first notice of loss to the insurer before repairing or replacing any windshield for its insured. Allstate also wants the Court to require that AGA refrain from telling Allstate’s insured that they do not need to report the windshield claim to Allstate or that windshield repairs cannot safety be made, or that Allstate prefers replacement over repairs for all windshield damage. It wants AGA to also provide a written explanation of what an AOB is before the insured is asked to sign one.
On February 5, Allstate’s attorney’s had also filed a number of motions in limine, the first to preclude some of the testimony of Charles Isaly. A motion in limine is one that needs to be decided before the trial takes place. This motion argues that statements Isaly made regarding calls among AGA’s customer service, its insured and its reps, as well as statements about Safelite Solutions and Safelite Autoglass should be excluded. At issue is a declaration by Isaly about such calls and one statement in which he said, “It is common knowledge that Safelite Solutions is a related company to Safelite Autoglass, the largest windshield replacement company in the United States and AGA’s biggest competition. It is also common knowledge that Safelite Solutions runs a network of glass shops who agree to charge and accept discounted rates in exchange for job referrals from Safelite Solutions.” Allstate’s attorneys content that Isaly lacks personal knowledge of these issues and, because of this, should be precluded from testifying about them at trial.
AGA’s response filed with the Court says that Allstate has overlooked the fact that Isaly is the owner and officer of AGA and is permitted to testify to his business practices and his dealings with both Allstate and Safelite, as well as industry standards and practices.
The second motion in limine seeks to keep AGA from accusing Allstate and/or Safelite Solutions from “accusing or suggesting in any way that [they] “steer” Allstate’s insureds to auto glass shops other than AGA. “There is no admissible evidence of any so-called ‘steering’, reads the motion, “and the term itself is prejudicial.” Allstate further wants the court to order that neither the defendants nor their witnesses ever use the term “steering” in their testimony.
“Allstate fails to demonstrate any real risk of jury confusion or prejudice,” said AGA’s lawyers in their response to the motion. “Allstate may feel prejudiced because the evidence of steering is overwhelmingly harmful to Allstate’s case …” The response also says that the most probative evidence of steering resides in evidence currently deemed confidential because “they reveal Allstate and Safelite Solutions secret agreements and business arrangements, telephone scripting, telephone recordings and agreements between Allstate and other independent shops that all contain specific evidence of steering.
The third motion in limine seeks to keep defendants from offering any arguments based on financial documents that AGA did not produce for the case. The defendant’s requirement to production financial documents has been the subject of a number of hearings in the case. AGA’s attorneys dismisses this argument as an attempt to re-litigate a different motion called a compel.
The fourth motion in limine seeks to exclude argument regarding the lack of evidence that specific windshields should have been repaired rather than replaced. “Allstate … plans to introduce into evidence at trial, statistical evidence demonstrating that AGA should have been performing windshield repairs instead of replacements at least 20-30 percent of the time.”
AGA responds by saying that Allstate itself admits it is unable to present evidence of specific windshields that should have been repaired, and that this is an attempt to introduce irrelevant discovery issues and “vague oblique implications of spoliation into the trial…”
Allstate asks the Court to exclude evidence of its new policy language in a fifth motion in limine. The motion details what the policy’s limits of liability were at the time the complaint was filed, versus how they, the insurer, changed them in September 2019. The motion argues that the new endorsement is not relevant to this claim.
Allstate’s limit of liability changed in September 2019. As detailed in court documents:
Allstate Limits of Liability Prior to September 2019
Limit of Liability
Our limit of liability is the least of:
1. The actual cash value of the property at the time of the loss, which may include a deduction for depreciation;
2. The cost to repair or replace as determined by us, the property or part to its physical condition at the time of loss using parts produced by or for the vehicle’s manufacturer, or parts from other sources subject to applicable state laws and regulations; or
3. $500 if the loss is to a covered trailer not described on the Policy Declarations.
Allstate’s New Limits of Liability Language September 2019
Limit of Liability
Unless otherwise agreed to by us and your shop of choice, our limit of liability for losses involving only glass breakage or damage will be:
For Windshield Replacements:
—Windshield Glass: 50% of the pricing for like kind and quality windshield glass as set forth in the National Auto Glass Specification (NAGS) on the date the approved windshield installation occurred.
—Windshield Replacement Labor Rate: $40 per recommended hour as set forth in the National Auto Glass Specifications (NAGS) on the date the windshield installation occurred.
—High Modulus/Non-Conduction Urethane: $20 for 1.0 kit, $30 for 1.5 kits, $40 for 2.0 kits.
—All Other Urethanes: $15 per kit.
—Moulding: 80% of the manufacturer list pricing for like kind and quality molding on the date the approved windshield installation occurred.
For Windshield Repairs: $60 single payment per windshield.
You have the right to choose any glass repair facility or location. At your request, we will identify a glass repair facility that will perform the repairs at the price shown on the schedule.
All other policy terms and conditions apply.
AGA argues in its response that Allstate’s motion should be denied because it is irrelevant and because the insurer’s new policy language establishes that it could have avoided “the harm it complains of and that there is no threat of future harm.”