Tuesday, 29 July 2014 00:00

Shop Filing RICO Case Against Insurers Wants to be Excluded from Multidistrict Antitrust Litigation

In an Interested Party Response filed Monday, July 14, Crawford’s Auto Center, Inc. is opposing consolidation of Crawford’s Auto Center, Inc., v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance, Co, et al., a “RICO class action” with several antitrust lawsuits seeking multidistrict litigation (MDL) consolidation.

The RICO Class Action plaintiff, Crawford’s Auto Center, is a Pennsylvania-based automobile collision repair facility who alleges that the defendants conspired amongst themselves and/or others to “suppress compensation to repair facilities for automotive collision repairs covered by insurance.”

The RICO Class Action Complaint asserts that Defendants set certain “prevailing rates” for collision repair work; that those rates are “comprised of flawed and rigged data,” and that Plaintiff and the classes were “defrauded” into accepting those rates for automobile repair services.

Now the plaintiffs have filed a motion to consolidate five Federal lawsuits filed by repair facilities against insurance companies. The request to the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) asks to have the five, essentially identical suits to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi for consolidated pretrial proceedings.

 

Allstate identified the RICO lawsuit filed by Crawford’s as a potential “tag along” suit. In their response to the motion filed by the Plaintiff’s for consolidation of the five suite, Allstate’s filing stated, “The RICO Class Action alleges essentially the same conduct as the Antitrust Actions, but seeks relief for a number of nationwide classes under RICO.”

Explaining their opposition to the motion, Crawford’s response states, “Like the majority of defendants who have filed responses to the proposed MDL, however, Crawford’s opposes consolidation of the RICO Class Action with the Antitrust Actions.” If the panel were to conclude that the litigation should be consolidated with the antitrust suits, Crawford’s would prefer they were located in the Northern District of Illinois, Easter Division, “given that the RICO Class Action is the case that seeks the broadest relief on behalf of the largest number of potential claimants and the Northern District of Illinois is the most convenient forum, on balance, for the parties and witnesses.”

Crawford’s filed the RICO Class Action in the Northern District of Illinois on April 30. The lawsuit names State Farm, Allstate, GEICO, Progressive, Farmers, Liberty Mutual and Nationwide and defendant insurers alleging they illegally conspire to control the collision repair process and the cost of repairs. The suit also names USAA, Travelers and American Family as conspirator insurers, though not as defendants.

According to Crawford’s interested party filing, at an initial status conference held on its suit July 10, the Judge assigned to the case ordered that if the suit is “not selected for MDL treatment or if an MDL is created in this district, the Court will set this matter of status promptly after JPML issues its ruling.” The plaintiffs and defendants in the cases will have the opportunity to present their opinions at a hearing of the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation on Thursday, July 31, 2014, in Kansas City, Kansas.

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