A jury essentially found in 2009 that unfair trade practices by the insurer led to suppressed shop labor rates. Tony Ferraiolo was unsure why there has been such a long delay in the judge’s issuing of a final judgment on the verdict in the case, but said that he expects that to happen soon, which would also bolster a similar lawsuit pending against Progressive Insurance. He said attorneys continue to pursue the Progressive lawsuit despite not having received payment in either case.
“That’s telling you these class action lawsuits might have some merit for all of us when they pan out, but you’re talking 10 years before they are done,” Ferraiolo said. “That’s a long time. One of the named plaintiffs in the case has sold his shop in the meantime. So these class action lawsuits are important, but not our total answer. We’re committed to keeping them going.”
– As reported in CRASH Network (www.CrashNetwork.com), March 18, 2013. In 2015, the Connecticut Supreme Court overturned the lower court’s judgment against The Hartford. The jury in the case found that The Hartford violated the state’s unfair trade practices act by requiring its appraisers to enforce an artificially low labor rate determined by the insurer rather than approaching the appraisal “without prejudice against, or favoritism toward, any party involved to make fair and impartial appraisals.” But The Hartford argued in its successful appeal that the “parties involved” were the insurer and insured, because an appraiser “could not possibly owe a duty of impartiality or reasonableness to the very shops with whom he is negotiating on behalf of an employer.” The state Supreme Court agreed that the unfair trade practices act does not “regulate the conduct at issue” in the case. “It would be patently unreasonable…for us to conclude that the [insurer] is lawfully permitted to determine the hourly labor rate that it is willing to pay for auto body repair [but] that [its] appraisers are ethically required to disregard that determination when negotiating on the [insurer’s] behalf,” the Court wrote in its unanimous decision. Shops, the Court said, are capable of representing their own interests and “certainly are under no obligation to accept insurance-related work that is not sufficiently remunerative.”