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Thursday, 19 December 2013 00:30

Second Injunction Filed Against PartsTrader and State Farm in Florida

Florida collision repairers, suppliers and vendors came together in Lakeland, FL, on November 20 to discuss State Farm’s controversial PartsTrader program and identify solutions to combat “short-pays” in the industry. Ray Gunder, owner of Gunder’s Auto Center, filed an injunction against PartsTrader at the Polk County Courthouse on Nov. 20 on behalf of other Florida collision repairers with assistance from attorneys John Eaves, Jr. and Brent Geohagan. Florida follows Mississippi as the second state to file such an injunction.

“This is just another attempt by State Farm to intrude into our business and further cut into our profits,” said Gunder. “What I have been fighting the whole time is that, by taking profits away, it’s forcing good men to do bad things which ultimately affects the consumer with poor, unsafe and shoddy repairs, putting their families in harm’s way.”

Eaves said he is selectively targeting states where the injunction is most needed and where he feels repairers will get a fair hearing. Florida is one of those states.

“Plus, Florida is a key state in national politics,” Eaves said. “Everybody across the nation watches what happens in Florida. Even in the court system, this is a campaign to take back this industry from insurance companies and campaign for safety. Also, Florida has some very influential legal precedents and very influential politicians, and we think it is a very symbolic place for this to be filed.”

Although the Florida injunction is similar to Mississippi’s, the laws are slightly different and thus the suit has taken a different approach, according to Eaves.

“Brent (Geohagan) has adapted it and focused it a lot on precedent or public policy behind the 1963 Consent Decree,” said Eaves.

Eaves estimated there were 75 different shops and vendors who gathered at his law office the day they filed to show support for the effort. He estimates that roughly 40 shops will ultimately back the injunction.

While a court date for a hearing is hoped for soon, Eaves said he expects State Farm to use stall tactics like in Mississippi.

“This is the second state to file an injunction, and there will be more,” said Eaves. “We will continue to take this fight across the country. State Farm has committed to rolling [PartsTrader] out to 50 states, so the injunction is to prevent damage before it occurs. Our belief is that this is like a virus—once it takes hold in a state, it causes irreparable damage because it destroys those relationships between shops and vendors.”

As to rumors of an organized protest in Washington, DC., early next year, Eaves would only say that a comprehensive, national, multi-dimensional campaign is underway.

“We want this industry to return its loyalty to the customer and protect public safety, and that will include many facets.”

Commenting on the action was, Barrett R. Smith of AAM, an industry advocate, “I was at the meeting yesterday and there was great interest by all in attendance, repairers and vendors alike and they were lined up to sign up after the meeting.

“Interesting times to say the least for the collision repair industry and a collective defeat of PartsTrader will be huge for the fragmented industry and will illustrate that together, repairers can indeed make a difference!

“This is the perfect storm...with insurer’s strangle hold on the repairers and profits dwindling while costs increase... the time is perfect for the collision repair industry to band together to take back their industry. One must ask themselves: If not now...When?

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