The Autobody Association of Connecticut was awarded $15 million by a Stamford Superior Court on Tuesday November 17 after it had found The Hartford Insurance Company, the defendant in the case, guilty of engaging in unfair business practices.
The case filed by the Connecticut auto group and three of its members had been on trial for six years, and stemmed from what the ABAC believed as unjust practices of Hartford Insurance Company, that was in blatant violation of Connecticut’s state laws.
The jury was unanimous in its decision to convict the insurer guilty of the charges filed against it by the Autobody Association of Connecticut, after a thorough examination of the various evidences and testimonies presented in court.
Hartford was found to have influenced labor rates by refusing to employ independent appraisers and instead relied on in-house inspectors for appraisals, giving the company a freehand in dictating examination outcomes. This practice resulted to biased findings with consumers getting the raw end of the deal.
The president of the Autobody Association of Connecticut Bob Skrip, expressed joy and relief with the court’s decision and stated that it was a huge victory for consumers. The court’s guilty verdict is in clear support of their belief that The Hartford Insurance Company committed unlawful practices that violated provisions in the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act.
However Skrip admitted that the fight is far from over and that the recent win is just the beginning of what he perceives to be a long consuming legal battle with abusive insurers. He added though, that the victory sends out a clear signal to unscrupulous businesses that the law will not tolerate illicit practices meant to advance selfish interests and motives.
During the court hearings, it was found that independent auto-body repair shops were forced to modify their rates below prevailing market standards to remain competitive. This was in response to Hartford Insurance’s practice of exclusively using only company accredited shops to conduct appraisals and repair jobs.
Following a traffic accident, customers would be asked by the insurer’s representatives to proceed to affiliate shops and were not given a chance to select a shop of their choice. On the other hand, the accredited auto shops were under pressure to conduct appraisals that would favour the insurers’ requirements and standards which in most cases were disadvantageous to customers.
Following the victory, the legal team of Autobody Association of Connecticut is now preparing to take the next legal step which is to seek injunctive relief against The Hartford Insurance Company.