State Farm Files Notice of Appeal to Overturn Class Action Certification in Repair-Based Lawsuit
April 9, 2012

by Katie O'Mara, komara@glass.com

An Ohio windshield repair-based class action lawsuit is back in the news after State Farm has filed a notice to appeal with the Supreme Court of Ohio. The suit, filed in February 2005, alleges that by including language in insurance policies that "has been used in at least some of the insuring agreements offering to waive the deductible if the windshield is repaired," State Farm failed to meet its contractual obligation. The allegations hinge on the long-standing industry debate: does windshield repair restore the glass to its pre-loss condition? In this case, the plaintiff doesn't think so.

Among the arguments presented to prove breach of contract, Plaintiff Michael E. Cullen and his attorneys state that by repairing the windshield that the insurer "has avoided paying numerous insureds for the cost of replacing the glass (less applicable deductibles)." The Plaintiff also argues that "[t]he insuring agreements do not afford State Farm the unilateral right to elect to conduct repairs or replacements at its own expense" and that "all persons who paid premiums to State Farm with the reasonable expectation that State Farm would fully compensate them for their loss, thereby making them whole except for any applicable deductible."

The plaintiffs further allege that State Farm "has engaged in a course of conduct in establishing claims practices designed to conceal its contractual obligations and avoid paying for the full restoration of its policyholders' windshield glass."

The court appointed Cullen as the representative of a class of 100,000 Ohio policyholders whose windshields were repaired over the course of the last 20 years. State Farm took the case to the Court of Appeals of Ohio where the certification was confirmed. State Farm has now, with the support of a variety of groups, filed a notice of appeal with the Supreme Court of Ohio.

“If Plaintiffs cash option claim is not colorable under the unambiguous language of the policies (and it is not), it does not give rise to common factual issues and cannot support class certification,” read documents filed by State Farm. “As State Farm argued, the policies do not require that windshield repair return a vehicle to its pre-loss condition. Accordingly, the purported failure to return a windshield to its preloss condition cannot support a colorable breach of contract claim and does not give rise to common issues for trial.”

State Farm goes on to say that the decision was not based on facts, but the Plaintiff’s theory of what happened and that, if class certification was not reversed, the calculation of damages would be complicated and time-consuming.

“In short, the Eighth District did not base its determination of commonality and predominance on a reasoned analysis of the elements of Plaintiffs claims and the showings required to establish those elements, but simply accepted Plaintiffs "theory" of his case. The result is certification of a case that cannot be tried without sacrificing fairness and due process,” read State Farm’s documents. “Even if there were no disputed individual issues of fact as to actual injury, the calculation of damages for 100,000 class members would be neither simple nor manageable. State Farm's cost for a replacement varied not only with the particular windshield, but also based upon a system of adjustments to windshield prices that differed from county to county and changed frequently and significantly over time.”

Stay tuned to glassBYTEs.com™ for more updates to this case as they become available.

This story is an original story by AGRR™ magazine/glassBYTEs.com™. Subscribe to AGRR™ Magazine.
Subscribe to receive the free e-newsletter.