New York Auto Glass Shop Owner Files Suit Against 14 Insurers, Along with Safelite, PGW and LYNX, for Restraint of Trade
May 24, 2011

David Harner, owner of Auto Glass of Westchester Windshield Doctor, has filed a suit against 14 different insurers, along with two third-party glass claims administrators (TPAs) and their owners alleging breach of contract,  fraud, unfair claims settlement practices, restraint of trade, anti-trust, and coercion, among other charges. Though the suit originally was filed in the Supreme Court of the State of New York in April, it was moved to a federal district court at the end of April.

Harner names a number of insurers in the complaint, including Allstate, GEICO, Hanover, Travelers and others, along with their TPAs, Safelite and LYNX Services. In addition, Safelite parent Belron US and LYNX parent company Pittsburgh Glass Works (PGW) also are named in the suit.

Harner alleges that “all the defendants actions, individually, combined, and in concert, are unreasonable under the circumstances, [and] have denied [him] the right to earn income, his ability to create a sound business reputation, and have denied him his right to continue to operate his business without interference, in a free, unfettered, and profitable manner, within the framework of the law.”

He further claims that the TPAs noted “together, through planning and foresight, have created a contract an/or combination and/or conspiracy in the form of trust or otherwise, amongst and between those defendant insurers, by using the defendant PGW and/or the defendant LYNX, or the defendant Belron and/or the defendant Safelite, as intermediaries in an attempt to restrain trade or commerce, and to enforce a mandate to set and/or fix and/or stabilize prices, and/or to restrain trade, and/or whereby a monopoly is or may be established or maintained … ”

Harner catalogs each of the insurers listed in the complaint, along with each’s respective TPA, and alleges that each has “wrongfully, without license, and/or right, and/or authority, and/or justification … delegated the responsibility of handling insurance claims to a third-party subcontractor insurance claims management agent … ”

He then lists specific complaints about each. For example, he alleges that PGW/LYNX utilize “a series of scripted statements … which are specifically, purposefully, intentionally designed and prepared in advance, in preparation to cause a lack of faith, and/or a perception of uncertainty, and/or a lack of confidence, and/or a mistrust, and/or a false belief the insured is required to use another repair shop, and/or an unfounded fear toward the plaintiff’s business.”

Scripted comments that are included in the PGW/LYNX allegations are items such as:

  • “They are not on our list;”
  • “We … don’t guarantee their work;”
  • “You will be responsible for partial charges if you choose to use the [plaintiff’s] repair shop;” and
  • “Your policy will be changed in some fashion if you use [the plaintiff’s] repair shop to perform repairs.”

A series of similar statements are cataloged in the allegations made against Safelite as well.

Harner also alleges that he “does not recognize the defendant PGW and/or the defendant LYNX or the defendant Belron and/or the defendant Safelite as legitimate insurance claims handling agents,” and that he is under no obligation, contract, or duty to conduct business with them.

The plaintiff is seeking $2 million in injunctive relief, along with court costs and attorneys’ fees.

The complaint notes that Harner’s company also operates as Novus Windshield Repair (as part of the Novus franchise system) and as Auto Glass of Westchester.

Both Safelite spokesperson Melina Metzger and PGW spokesperson Robert McCullough declined to comment.

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