Fixed Ops Journal - December 2017 - 9

FIXED OPS JOURNAL

$42 MILLION VERDICT

 Lawyer: Jury award in repair case is 'clarion call' for body shops, insurers

T

A Texas jury
concluded that
substandard
roof repairs to
this used 2010
Honda Fit
aggravated the
effects of a
collision in
December 2013.
Red arrows
show where roof
detached during
the crash.

ERIC FREEDMAN
and DAVID KUSHMA
foj@autonews.com

o Dallas lawyer Todd Tracy, a $42
million jury verdict for substandard
repair work on a 2010 Honda Fit
should sound a clarion call to dealerships, insurers and automakers.
"That's going to cause alarms to go off and
red flags to go off," says Tracy, whose firm represents plaintiffs in vehicle safety and crashworthiness cases, including the owners of the
Fit.
John Eagle Collision Center, a body shop associated with John Eagle Auto Group in Dallas, used glue instead of welds to fix hailstorm
damage to the Fit's roof, although Honda's repair manual calls for 108 roof welds.
The shop took the cheaper (by $3,000) but
unsafe route under pressure from State Farm
Insurance Co., the vehicle's insurer, Tracy told
Fixed Ops Journal. John Eagle's publicist declined to answer questions about the case.
If the allegation can be proved in court, State
Farm could be found liable, says Tom Baker, a
tort and insurance law expert at the University
of Pennsylvania Law School.
"The elements of a tort action are having a
duty of care and then breaching it by action
that's unreasonable," Baker said. "From a tort
law perspective, if you got an automobile insurer that's pressuring dealers to cut corners
in doing repairs in ways that make the cars
unsafe, I'd take that case."

Insurer sued
Tracy's clients, Marcia and Matthew Seebachan, were injured in December 2013,
when a Toyota Tundra struck their Fit headon, trapping them inside the burning wreckage when the roof collapsed. They had bought
the used car four months earlier, and the roof
repair wasn't included in the vehicle history
report, according to legal documents.
The Seebachans filed a federal lawsuit in
October that accuses State Farm of negligence, deceptive trade practices and breach
of warranty for allegedly demanding that the
shop not follow more expensive manufacturer
repair standards.
The suit cites Honda's 2008-13 Fit Body Repair
Manual, which says: "Any person who intends

to use a replacement part, a repair procedure or
a tool that is not recommended by Honda must
determine the risks to their personal safety and
the safe operation of the vehicle."
State Farm hasn't filed an answer in the case.
A company spokesman said in a statement:
"The comments made about State Farm cited
in the lawsuit (against the repair facility) are
not supported by the facts. Additionally, they
are not in line with State Farm's mission to
serve the needs of our customers and our long,
proud history of advancing vehicle safety."
In October, a Dallas County jury decided the
Seebachans' injuries were worth about $42
million and held John Eagle Collision Center
75 percent liable. The jury attributed the remaining liability to the Tundra's driver.
After the verdict, the body shop and the Seebachans reached a confidential settlement for
"a lot of money" says Tracy, who made a presentation about the case at the Specialty
Equipment Market Association trade show
last month in Las Vegas.

Repair shops 'bullied'
Insurer pressure on repair shops is widespread, affecting "millions of vehicles," Tracy
says. "It happens in every shop across the
country numerous times a day."
His firm is handling six similar cases in Texas, three of them wrongful-death suits and
three involving "unbelievably bad catastrophic injury cases," he says.

"I'm trying to get them to trial as quickly as
possible," Tracy says. "Juries don't like repair
facilities getting bullied by the insurance companies."
Repair facilities that don't follow automakers' specifications under pressure from
cost-conscious insurers and claims adjusters
put themselves at risk of liability, Tracy says,
but adds that shops are vulnerable to such demands if they want to do work covered by insurance.
In a joint statement, John Eagle and Tracy
said the dealership is "making a commitment
to encourage the collision repair industry
across the nation to follow OEM bulletins instead of insurance companies' mandates
when they repair vehicles."
The statement also said the dealership
wanted to settle the case before trial, but State
Farm "elected to proceed with the trial."
Tracy argues that automakers should make
their repair specs available online without
charge to every shop that wants them.
"They are the true experts in design and engineering, and they know best how to comply
with all the regulations and be crashworthy,"
he says.
But insurers remain "the big elephant in the
room," Tracy says.
"They're holding a gun to the repair shops'
heads: 'If you don't kowtow, we're not going
to send you any business.'
"That's extortion." 

DECEMBER 2017

PAGE 9



Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Fixed Ops Journal - December 2017

Fixed Ops Journal - December 2017
Contents
Editor’s Letter
Service Counter
Legal Lane
Big verdict
Ho-ho-ho
Battery charge
Price is right
Tomorrow’s techs
Selling accessories
SEMA dreams
To the rescue
Profit Builder
Richard Truett
On the line
Letters
Real time
Feedback
After hours
Efficiency expert
Longer lasting
Shop Talk
Five Minutes With
Fixed in Time
Fixed Ops Journal - December 2017 - Intro
Fixed Ops Journal - December 2017 - Fixed Ops Journal - December 2017
Fixed Ops Journal - December 2017 - Cover2
Fixed Ops Journal - December 2017 - Contents
Fixed Ops Journal - December 2017 - Editor’s Letter
Fixed Ops Journal - December 2017 - 5
Fixed Ops Journal - December 2017 - Service Counter
Fixed Ops Journal - December 2017 - 7
Fixed Ops Journal - December 2017 - Legal Lane
Fixed Ops Journal - December 2017 - Big verdict
Fixed Ops Journal - December 2017 - 10
Fixed Ops Journal - December 2017 - 11
Fixed Ops Journal - December 2017 - Ho-ho-ho
Fixed Ops Journal - December 2017 - 13
Fixed Ops Journal - December 2017 - Battery charge
Fixed Ops Journal - December 2017 - 15
Fixed Ops Journal - December 2017 - 16
Fixed Ops Journal - December 2017 - 17
Fixed Ops Journal - December 2017 - 18
Fixed Ops Journal - December 2017 - 19
Fixed Ops Journal - December 2017 - 20
Fixed Ops Journal - December 2017 - 21
Fixed Ops Journal - December 2017 - Price is right
Fixed Ops Journal - December 2017 - 23
Fixed Ops Journal - December 2017 - Tomorrow’s techs
Fixed Ops Journal - December 2017 - 25
Fixed Ops Journal - December 2017 - 26
Fixed Ops Journal - December 2017 - 27
Fixed Ops Journal - December 2017 - Selling accessories
Fixed Ops Journal - December 2017 - 29
Fixed Ops Journal - December 2017 - SEMA dreams
Fixed Ops Journal - December 2017 - 31
Fixed Ops Journal - December 2017 - To the rescue
Fixed Ops Journal - December 2017 - 33
Fixed Ops Journal - December 2017 - Profit Builder
Fixed Ops Journal - December 2017 - Richard Truett
Fixed Ops Journal - December 2017 - On the line
Fixed Ops Journal - December 2017 - Letters
Fixed Ops Journal - December 2017 - Real time
Fixed Ops Journal - December 2017 - 39
Fixed Ops Journal - December 2017 - Feedback
Fixed Ops Journal - December 2017 - After hours
Fixed Ops Journal - December 2017 - Efficiency expert
Fixed Ops Journal - December 2017 - Longer lasting
Fixed Ops Journal - December 2017 - Shop Talk
Fixed Ops Journal - December 2017 - Five Minutes With
Fixed Ops Journal - December 2017 - Fixed in Time
Fixed Ops Journal - December 2017 - Cover3
Fixed Ops Journal - December 2017 - Cover4
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