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Wednesday, 08 June 2016 22:14

Tennessee “Steering” Lawsuit Against Progressive Insurance Dismissed

A lawsuit filed by a Tennessee body shop against Progressive Hawaii Insurance Corporation for alleged “steering” and underpayment of claims has been dismissed.

In 2011, Price’s Collision Center sued the insurance company for tortious interference of business relationships and breach of contract. A court date had been set for this fall.

The case was dismissed in April with prejudice, which means it cannot be refiled. There was no reason given for the ruling, and William Ramsey of Neal & Harwell, the lead attorney for the Plaintiff, declined to comment on the case. Progressive Insurance also declined to comment. Each party will pay their own attorney fees and other costs related to the case.

Based in Brentwood, Williamson County, TN, Price’s Collision Centers was established in 2000 and currently operates nine full-service collision center locations in Tennessee and Kentucky.

Price’s Collision, owned by Bobby Price, originally filed the claim on behalf of two of its customers, Anne Crockett and Nicole Crosby. Both customers brought in their vehicles to be repaired following two separate accidents that occurred in June 2011. While repairing the vehicles, auto body technicians at Price’s identified additional repairs that were not on the original estimates written up by Progressive.

The body shop requested that the supplemental repairs be approved. Despite repeated requests, the Plaintiff alleged that Progressive refused to pay for the charges, which were $693.01 for the 2007 Honda Accord and $927.04 for the 2010 Honda Civic LX.

Crockett and Crosby both asked the body shop to file a claim on their behalf and the cases were eventually consolidated. Price’s sued for breach of contract, violations of the Tennessee Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) and tortious interference with business relationships in 2011. After the court ruled against Price’s Collision, the body shop appealed the case in November of that year. In 2013, the court dismissed the claim of TCPA.

In court documents, Price’s Collision claimed that “…the Defendant’s refusal to pay for the supplemental repairs is part of a broader campaign waged against the Plantiff’s business.”

They further stated, “… in an effort to damage the Plaintiff’s business and ultimately drive the Plaintiff from the marketplace, the Defendant ‘steers’ customers away from the Plaintiff’s shop either by actively discouraging its customers from having repairs done at the Plaintiff’s shop and/or by discouraging customers from returning to the Plaintiff’s shop by refusing to pay for the total amount of the repair and leaving the customer ultimately responsible for the balance of the cost of the repair.”

David Edwards, a former of employee of Progressive, provided a sworn affidavit in 2014. Edwards worked as an estimator, supervisor, network manager and expert process property damage specialist during the 17 years he was employed at the insurance company.

His final job was as a managed repair representative, assisting in writing estimates in areas with high volume. In 2014, he worked exclusively with claimants or insureds who brought their vehicles to Price’s.

“In my opinion, Progressive employees did intentionally steer insureds and claimants way from Price's Collision Center,” Edwards said in the affidavit. “Progressive employees would do so by saying derogatory things about Price's Collision Centers to the insureds and/or claimants. For example, Progressive employees would tell claimants or insureds that repairs at Price's would take an inordinate amount of time, would cost too much, and would leave the insured potentially liable for the cost of a repair that was not ‘guaranteed.’ At the same time, the Progressive employees would be talking positively about network shops to induce the insured or claimant to bring his or her vehicle in network.”

Edwards also further stated that, “In instances where a Progressive insured or claimant would bring his or her car to Price’s despite the steering, Progressive routinely denied payment on supplements. Despite these supplements being for required repairs, Progressive regularly refused to pay for supplemental repairs requested by Price’s and did so both to save money and to also discourage insureds and claimants from ever returning to Price’s.”

Price’s Collision filed a similar complaint in 2014 against GEICO Insurance Company and Bob Taylor, a GEICO motor vehicle claims adjustor, for tortious interference with existing and prospective business relationships and slander. The parties have agreed to an order to attend mediation in 2016.

Autobody News will continue to follow these cases.

 

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