Twenty-one Florida body shops filed a lawsuit against a long list of insurance companies on Feb. 21, essentially replicating the suit filed by shops in Mississippi on Jan. 7 but tailoring it to the state of Florida and including more insurers who the shops deemed to be the worst offenders in that state.
The suit was filed by Brent Geohagan, the attorney for Ray Gunder of Gunder’s Auto Center in Lakeland, Fla., who has a long history of litigating against insurers for short pays, tortious interference and other alleged offenses.
“Florida has made so many crucial decisions in our nation’s history, and I think it’s a symbolic victory that Ray Gunder and Brent Geohagan and their team have now filed this action,” said John Eaves Jr., the lead attorney in the PartsTrader injunction and Mississippi filing. “I think they have been fighting the fight for a long time, and I think it’s only appropriate that they are one of the first states to file.
"I found a sign in a shop in Italy that I bought and gave to Ray that
says, ‘Accidere ex una scintilla incendia passium,” which is Latin for,
‘From a small spark grows many great flames.’ I give that credit to Ray
because he incited a spark and inspired the Mississippi shops to take
action, and now others will across the United States.”
The suit accuses the insurers of “engaging in an ongoing, concerted and intentional course of action and conduct with State Farm acting as the spearhead to improperly and illegally control and depress automobile damage repair costs.”
As it pertains to DRP shops, the suit also accuses the insurers of “engaing in an ongoing pattern and practice of coercion and implied threats to the pecuniary health of the individual plaintiff businesses in order to force compliance with unreasonable and onerous concessions.”
“There will be more states filing very soon. John Eaves is following a very organized and strategic plan to maximize the effect of the lawsuit for our industry,” said John Mosley of Clinton Body Shop, one of the shops named as a plaintiff in the Mississippi filing. “It’s amazing how fast the repair industry is changing. Shops now realize they are not fighting alone. Some of the top tobacco litigators in the country are now included as legal counsel for many states. Former attorney generals are counsel for many members. The fight is beginning to shift to a more even playing field.
"Right is right, wrong is wrong, and the insurance industry will soon answer for the years of hardship and wrongdoing they have dominated our industry with. It’s refreshing to go out and meet these shops and associations and leave knowing the shops now understand they should not be afraid to join this fight for justice they should be afraid not to join. They now realize the repair industry is fighting for survival. When we went to Texas, the Texas guys were fired up, and each one wanted to be the first to sign up to fight.”
Mosley and Eaves are currently touring the country and informing the industry of their efforts and answering questions concerning parts procurement and recovering short pays.