On Monday, July 13, the Connecticut Supreme Court reversed the $34.7 million judgment against The Hartford Fire Insurance Company from 2009. The Plaintiffs of the case, originally filed in 2003, included the Auto Body Association of Connecticut (ABAC) and hundreds of body shops across the state. During the original decision in 2009, a judge ordered $14.7 million in compensatory damages, with Connecticut Superior Court Judge Alfred J. Jennings later awarding $20 million in punitive damages. Last January, The Hartford appealed the order and unfortunately, both rulings were overturned in Monday’s decision.
As a success that was celebrated by local associations all around the Northeast, it is unsurprising that Jeff McDowell, president of the Alliance of Automotive Service Providers of New Jersey (AASP/NJ) is disheartened by the Connecticut Supreme Court’s ruling.
“Of course I’m disappointed,” he states. “We saw this victory as something that would set a precedent in our favor. The track record of two wins in a row was promising. It was as if justice was finally being served. It’s mind-boggling how this happened. I’m sure the rest of the industry feels the same.”
Nick Kostakis, owner of Angelo’s Auto Body in Irvington and former AASP/NJ president agrees.
“I think it’s a travesty,” he shares. “It’s a shame that these hard-working people fought as hard as they did only to have the battle go in an unfavorable direction.”
AASP/NJ Executive Director Charles Bryant shares his peers’ sentiments, but urges the industry not to abandon hope.
“It truly is unfortunate that it went the way that it did,” he says. “The truth is that insurance companies have the might and the money necessary to influence the system more than the collision industry. But if there’s one message I want to get out to the industry, it’s this: Don’t get discouraged because of this one decision; a variety of lawsuits are being won all across the country. However, we should work to keep the litigation under contractual lawsuits instead of class action. Insurers are more likely to win in class action cases – it’s like playing ball in their park.”
For more information on AASP/NJ, please visit www.aaspnj.org. For more information on the NORTHEAST® Automotive Services Show, please visit www.aaspnjnortheast.com.