Supreme Court Rules Against Hartford in Anti-Steering Case; Decision
The Connecticut Supreme Court recently ruled in favor of several
auto body shops in a case alleging that Hartford Fire Insurance
Co. was engaging in steering practices. The ruling in Artie's
Auto Body Inc. Et Al. vs. Hartford Fire Insurance Co. notes
that when Hartford insureds are seeking auto body repairs, "customer
care team specialists are instructed to direct the insureds to the
closest preferred shop through The Hartford's customer repair service
The opinion continues, "The specialists are trained to 'sell'
the repair service program aggressively by informing insureds that,
if they utilize the recommended preferred shop, they will receive
$100 off of their deductible and a lifetime guarantee for the repair."
The specialists are then rewarded based on the number of successes
they have in selling this program, according to court documents.
An economic consultant, Frederick B. Jennings Jr., testified on
behalf of the plaintiffs, and proposed a method to calculate the
effect of the aforementioned policy on non-preferred shops in Connecticut.
First, Jennings looks at "the percentage of claims that would
have flowed to preferred shops in the absence of any steering."
He then compared the numbers of specialists and their success rates,
to determine that "approximately 40 percent of all referrals
to preferred shops would have gone to those shops without steering."
However, he argued, "Correspondingly, approximately 60 percent
of all referrals to preferred shops would have gone to non-preferred
shops without steering," according to the ruling. By applying
this percentage to the number of repair service jobs performed in
2003 by Connecticut shops, he argued "approximately 2,200 jobs
were diverted to preferred shops because of steering."
The court writes, "We conclude that the trial court was well
within its discretion in finding that the plaintiffs satisfied their
burden of demonstrating that generalized, class-wide evidence may
be used to prove that The Hartford engaged in unfair or deceptive
practices that caused each of the putative class members to suffer
an ascertainable loss."
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