I was sitting at the back of the courtroom, close to center and from my view point I saw 50 plus attorneys who were there representing the 40 plus defendant insurers, all in dark suits, sitting side by side, row after row along the entire right side of the court room.
In the center, on an elevated bench were the two Honorable Judges (Presnell and Smith) who sat facing the court room, and then to my left were 5 attorneys sitting at the plaintiff’s table who were there representing hundreds of collision repairers from various states. To the far left, in spectator’s area were 15 or more shop owners who were plaintiffs in the lawsuits to witness this first step in what will prove to be, no doubt, a pivotal and historical event for the entire collision repair industry.
When provided the opportunity to speak and ask quotations, few came from the defending attorneys. John Eaves Jr. mentioned to the courts that since the litigation, some repairers have experienced various levels of abuse from some insurers as and asked of the court to consider rendering a ruling to prohibit steering and retaliatory efforts against those repairers who are named as plaintiffs in the litigation and to enjoin them from efforts to harm them by making disparaging comments about them and to steer consumers away from them. The judge stated in so many words that he would not render an order at that time as he anticipated the insurers would not make it necessary to do so... but he would consider it if indeed their behavior warranted it. This was pivotal as it placed the concern in the judge's minds as well as became part of the record. Repairers will be documenting any such instances and share them with their legal counsel.
The five attorneys representing the repairers were Mississippi attorneys John Eaves Sr. John Eaves Jr. Allison Fry, Hal Wilkins and Florida’s own Brent Geohagan, who, as most know, has represented Ray Gunder in his ongoing legal quests.
Because this was a pretrial hearing, the judges were cordial yet to the point regarding their conveying the court’s expectations for the attorneys. The judges made it clear to all that frivolous filings and unnecessary delays and such would not be tolerated, and due to the sheer volume of the issues and evidence that was to be presented, that the court would be quick to discourage and stop such behavior. Based upon the limited questions posed by the insurer attorneys, the judge’s message had been received clearly and duly noted.
Upon conclusion, as the court rose to its feet and the judges left the bench, while it was quiet and subdued, there was a sense of relief along with excited expectations by the repairers who were there. They knew that this was the beginning of long overdue changes in the automotive collision repair and casualty insurance industries normal behavior and practices.
It wasn't a day of reckoning… but I firmly believe it is the first day of its beginning!
Here’s prior articles regarding the lawsuit: