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," alleges Gunder.

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 condition."

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 was 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.

Need more info and analysis about the issues?
Subscribe to AGRR Magazine.