News: Consolidator Report
Legal proceedings began when the insurer contested Three-C Body Shop’s billing on a total loss.
Three-C Body Shop in Ohio announced that it recently won a lawsuit against American Family Insurance.
On September 29, 2014, during a bench trial in the Court of Common Pleas of Franklin County, Ohio, Civil Division, American Family, the plaintiff levied a complaint against the defendant, Three-C Body Shop.
On April 10, 2013, American Family Insurance filed a lawsuit for replevin against Three-C Body Shop due to a dispute arising from Three-C Body Shop’s billing. On January 21, 2015, the magistrate ruled in favor of the insurer.
Three-C’s legal team immediately filed a motion for reconsideration, which was granted, and on April 29th, the magistrate reversed his earlier judgment and ruled in favor of Three-C Body Shop.
The case involved a vehicle owner who had their vehicle towed to Three-C Body shop for repair. During the repair process, American Family Insurance, recognizing they had not properly evaluated the cost to repair, and after reviewing Three-C’s blueprint, elected to total the vehicle. On September 19, 2011, the insurer settled with the vehicle owner (their policyholder), took title/ownership of the vehicle and, on October 5, 2011, the insurer took possession of the vehicle. Prior to doing so, Three-C Body Shop deducted their billing for services rendered from the monies they had received for the repair. Because the final billing was the same as the initial payment for repair, no monies were left for reimbursement to the insurer. The insurer contested Three-C Body Shop’s billing, which prompted the legal proceedings.
American Family filed a motion for replevin against Three-C Body Shop to argue the charges and take possession of the vehicle, which they already obtained from Three-C Body Shop one year, six months and 24 days earlier.
When asked why the insurer would attempt litigation to seize a vehicle they already possessed, Bob Juniper, owner and president of Three-C Body Shop, said, “It’s either one hand didn’t know what the other hand was doing and it was a false action, which is unlikely; we have been to court a number of times with American Family and find them to be quite inept in that venue; or it’s more probable that the insurer used the action as a predatory practice to use the legal system as a means to fight us on our charges, and it was with intent that the insurer filed a motion with the court for a writ of replevin.” A writ of replevin is a prejudgment process ordering the seizure or attachment of alleged illegally taken or wrongfully withheld property.
Juniper added, “Some insurers have used and abused the legal system and employed a replevin in an effort to dare the repairer into filing a lawsuit against their customer to recover their billing. This generally results in a lengthy legal battle (as was ours) which the insurer will make as costly as possible. The insurers know that most shop owners are ill-prepared and don’t want to file a lawsuit against their own customers and incur the legal costs, and as a result, the repairers often cave to the insurer’s pressures and reduce their billings. This often times results in the shop merely accepting what they can for their billing and foregoing or ‘eating’ the rest to avoid a replevin. Thereafter, the repairers accept what they’re given to avoid similar issues in the future. The insurer wins and the repairer loses. At Three-C, we don’t play that game; we charge what’s competitive and reasonable and will do what is necessary to collect it and stop such behavior.”
In this instance, the court initially sided with the insurer and then reversed itself when the magistrate learned that Three-C had relinquished the vehicle and American Family Insurance had taken possession of it well before the replevin was filed. The court found on behalf of Three-C Body Shop, and that American Family was not entitled to any award. There was also a claim made by American Family against Three-C Body Shop for violation of the Consumer Sales Practices Act that the court ruled in Three-C’s favor and dismissed it.
American Family had 14 days to appeal the decision, but they did not do so.
“It is rare for a court to grant a motion to reconsider, so it was a good win. We are happy that our customer (the vehicle owner) did not need to come out of pocket for work that was clearly owed by American Family,” said Juniper.
To read more on Three-C Body Shop, click here.