A U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation has ruled that lawsuits filed by collision repairers in five different states (Mississippi, Indiana, Florida, Utah and Tennessee) against multiple insurers for antitrust violations can be consolidated, and the chosen venue will be a U.S. District Court in Florida.
Although some collision repairers were displeased at the panel’s choice of Florida as the location for the trial, they’ve decided to take a positive outlook on the matter.
“We would rather have had it in Mississippi; however, Florida will be a good place for this,” said John Mosley, owner of Clinton Body Shop in Clinton, Miss. “As far as I’m concerned, the only drawback to Florida is that it’s further for the core attorneys to travel to. Other than that, to me it doesn’t matter which federal court. I believe the facts of law will be presented and, of course, heavily debated, and we will get a ruling based on the merits of the case.
“We all have to have faith in the judicial system. John Eaves summed it up pretty good when he said, ‘Get your sunscreen and Mickey Mouse ears, and let’s go fight in Orlando.’”
The one thing Mosley hopes the courts will do is make rulings based on consumer rights and fair business practices.
“Maybe the 1963 Consent Decree will be acknowledged and respected as the instrument of law that represents the proper balance of business practices between the insurance industry and the repair industry,” he said. “That will be the true victory for the consumers and the shops.”
Tony Passwater, director of the Indiana Auto Body Association, viewed the trial being held in Florida as only a minor setback as well.
“Mississippi would have seemed to be the logical choice, but Florida will be fine,” he said. “We’re pleased after doing additional research with the Florida venue, and the appeals court if and when needed. We’re looking forward to our opportunity to correct the manipulation, steering, intimidation and unjust enrichment that the insurers have exercised upon our industry for the last 50-plus years.”
Mosley continued to call on more shops to get involved in the suit.
“It’s time for the shops to get involved. This is the first time our industry has had a chance to make a difference. We can’t stress enough to shops all over the country that now is the time to get involved.”
Repairers in 35 other states are expected to file a suit on similar grounds within the next few months.