State Farm is asking a federal court to dismiss the lawsuit that Matthew and Marcia Seebachan filed against the insurer for its alleged role in John Eagle Collision Center’s negligent repair of their vehicle.
In its response to the lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas, State Farm “specifically denies that it coerced or forced John Eagle to perform substandard repairs” and “denies that it coerced or enticed any body shop to not follow vehicle manufacturer’s procedures, cut corners, take safety shortcuts or do anything that jeopardizes members of the motoring public.”
The Tracy Law Firm of Dallas filed the lawsuit on behalf of the Seebachans in October, immediately after a Dallas County jury ordered John Eagle Collision Center to pay nearly $31.5 million in damages for a botched repair that exacerbated the Seebachans’ injuries in a 2013 collision.
The lawsuit alleges that State Farm strong-armed John Eagle Collision Center into using an adhesive to replace the hail-damaged roof of the Seebachans’ 2010 Honda Fit before they owned it. Honda’s repair specifications call for the roof to be welded.
Although the lawsuit notes that John Eagle “has admitted that it chose to make money over its safety obligation it owed to customers and other members of the motoring public,” it contends that State Farm “is liable for authorizing, approving, ratifying and/or dictating the conduct of John Eagle.” In a deposition for the Seebachans’ 2017 lawsuit against John Eagle Collision Center, the body shop director asserted that the shop’s repair procedures are “guided by insurance.”
“It was foreseeable to State Farm that accidents involving vehicles it insured or that would later be bought by others would be involved in accidents,” the lawsuit against State Farm contends. “Plaintiff Matthew Seebachan suffered his severe burn and other serious injuries, and plaintiff Marcia Seebachan suffered her severe injuries, because [State Farm] had, prior to the accident, forced the body shop repair facility to use deadly, dangerous, unproven and untested adhesive rather than welds in violation of the OEM requirements.”
‘Like a Good Neighbor’
In State Farm’s response to the lawsuit, the insurance company denies each allegation or answers that it lacks “sufficient information to admit or deny the allegations.” However, the insurer admits that “its advertising has included references to it being “like a good neighbor.”
The Seebachans’ complaint counters that “State Farm’s supposed ‘good neighbor’ policy was nowhere to be seen when it paid John Eagle Collision Center for ignoring Honda’s body repair specifications.”
“State Farm controls body shop revenues and profits by forcing body shops to take shortcuts that jeopardize the safety of not only their customers, but also unsuspecting third parties who may later own and/or ride in these vehicles,” the lawsuit alleges. “In effect, State Farm secretly and covertly plays Russian Roulette with its customers and the public by forcing body shops to choose their profits over the safety of the motoring public. Citizens are mandated by law to have insurance, and, consequently, insurance premiums. Insurance companies should be mandated to not interfere with how a vehicle is repaired so shortcuts that endanger people’s lives are not taken. These safeguards existed with the 2009-2013 Honda Fit body repair manual but [State Farm] forced the repair facility to violate the repair manual.”