Florida Body Shop Owner Files Suit Against
State Farm Alleging Breach of Contract, Tortious Interference, Relating
to Repair Costs
March 30, 2011
Ray Gunder, owner of Gunder's Auto Center in Lakeland, Fla., has
filed a suit against State Farm and two of its employees alleging
that they have committed breach of contract and tortious interference.
The suit was filed on behalf of a customer, Dewey Walker, who has
granted Gunder a limited power of attorney to "institute, prosecute,
defend, compromise, settle, appeal or terminate any administrative
proceedings, civil claims, litigation or other proceedings
against [State Farm]."
In the complaint, which could have implications for the auto glass
industry, Gunder alleges that around February 3 of this year, Walker,
a State Farm insured, entered into a contract with Gunder's Auto
Center to provide him "certain repair materials and/or labor
for his 2002 Mercedes Benz SLK230 in exchange for payment to Gunder's
Auto Center for the repair materials and/or labor used in repairing
the damaged vehicle."
One of the State Farm employees named in the suit, Larry Swearengin,
who was allegedly supervised by State Farm's Robert Davis, then
is alleged to have inspected the damaged vehicle in order to prepare
an estimate for its repairs.
"Swearengin, under the direction of Davis, knowingly underestimated
the amount necessary, reasonable and 'competitive in the market
area' to bring the damaged Mercedes back to pre-loss condition,"
Gunder goes on to allege that the company "would not pay for,
and/or reimburse Mr. Walker
for the repair charges associated
with numerous repair procedures that were necessary and reasonable
for the purposes of bringing the damaged Mercedes back to pre-loss
The complaint further alleges that these alleged actions were a
breach of Walker's insurance policy/contract on behalf of State
Farm, and that Swearengin and Davis "intentionally and unjustifiably
interfered with Walker's contract/relationship with State Farm by
intentionally and unjustifiably directing the refusal of payment/reimbursement
for the repair charges associated with Gunder Auto Center's repair
of Mr. Walker's damaged Mercedes."
Gunder has requested a jury trial in the suit, and is represented
by Brent Geohagan of Geohagan P.A.
This is the second time Gunder has been involved in litigation
related to State Farm. His company, Gunder's Auto Center, filed
a suit against State Farm in March 2009 alleging that the Bloomington,
Ill.-based insurer tortiously interfered with at least three of
its customers and made "slanderous and/or tortious statements
to those identified prospective customers." While the suit
dismissed in April 2010, Gunder's has
appealed, and the case currently is under review in the U.S.
Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit.
State Farm officials were not available for comment at press time.
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