Washington Body Shop Wins Tortious Interference Case Against Safeco - BodyShop Business
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Washington Body Shop Wins Tortious Interference Case Against Safeco

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Stroud’s Auto Rebuild, Inc., a Tacoma, Wash., collision
repair facility, announced today that it prevailed in an arbitration proceeding
against Safeco Insurance Company on a claim that the insurer tortiously interfered
with a repair contract Stroud’s had with a consumer. 

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In the matter of Stroud’s Auto Rebuild, Inc. v. Safeco
Insurance Company, Stroud’s convinced the arbitrator that it had a valid
business expectancy in performing the work, but lost the job and the profit it
would have generated after Safeco actively pressured Stroud’s customer, Mr. Miller, to remove his vehicle from
Stroud’s and have it repaired at one of Safeco’s "preferred"
collision repair shops.

Although the arbitrator awarded Stroud’s the entire lost
profit requested – $9,462.23 – on December 6, 2010, Safeco elected to appeal
the arbitration award. Not long after the appeal was filed, however, Stroud’s
and Safeco were able to settle the matter in the amount of the entire
arbitration award as well as Stroud’s attorney’s fees.

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"I’m so pleased that the arbitrator understood the
real issues in this matter," said Mike Harber, owner of Stroud’s Auto
Rebuild, Inc. "I’m a small businessperson trying to perform quality
services and take care of my customers in the process. To have an insurance
company put my business and my customers at risk because it wants to save money
and increase its own profits is reprehensible."

Added Allen Shabino, attorney for Stroud’s,
"Prevailing in a tortious interference case can be very difficult because
the legal standard is vague and difficult to meet, particularly the requirement
that the defendant either be shown to have had an improper objective of
affirmatively harming the plaintiff, or that the defendant employed ‘improper
means’ to accomplish the interference. By rendering the award that she did, the
arbitrator agreed that Safeco either was actuated by an improper motive or had
used inappropriate means to induce the consumer to move his vehicle to their
preferred shop."

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Harber and Shabino both hope that this outcome will
discourage Safeco and other insurers from interfering with consumers’ choices
of collision repairers. 

"People need to feel comfortable with the facility
that will repair their damaged vehicles," said Harber. "The safety of
anyone who rides in that vehicle is in the hands of the repairer. Consumers need to know they can have
their vehicles repaired at the shops of their choice and not feel forced by
insurers to have someone they don’t know or trust fix their damaged
vehicles."

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