Barry’s Auto Body is part of an ongoing lawsuit filed on behalf of five of its customers for “violating general business law §349 by engaging in unfair claims practices.”
The Staten Island, NY-based body shop originally filed the lawsuit in July of 2017 in the Supreme Court of the State of New York against Tri-State Consumer Insurance Company, Inc., IANet Corporation and three insurance adjusters.
Barry’s Auto Body, co-owned by Barry Crupi, Jr. and his sister Michele, alleges that Tri-State provided only partial payment for the damage claims of customers’ vehicles to repair them back to their pre-accident condition as obligated under an insurance policy and New York State law.
The body shop is suing for a total of approximately $500,000, which includes legal fees and treble (triple) damages.
Prior to the repairs, Tri-State provided Barry’s Body Shop estimates for each of the vehicles.
According to court documents, “… Tri-State used improper methods for calculating the number of hours required to repair the vehicles, including without limitation, refusing to pay for certain necessary repairs, refusing to allow for items which were recommended by the manufacturer guidelines and/or best practices and refusing to account for the published guidelines that are generally accepted within the automotive insurance repair industry.”
The documents also state that “… Tri-State arbitrarily set price caps on the amount it would pay per unit for labor costs to repair the vehicles,” and they were far below the market rate.
Barry’s Auto Body alleges in court documents that when preparing the estimates, “Tri-State insisted on using parts that are not Original Equipment Manufacturer parts (non-OEM), even when those parts are known to be of inferior quality to OEM parts and where the use of such non-OEM parts did not meet Tri-State’s contractual and legal obligations under the applicable policies and under New York State Insurance Law.”
Six causes of action are mentioned in the lawsuit.
The first is Breach of Contract Against Defendant Tri-State. Barry’s Auto Body alleges that Tri-State did not provide enough funds (a sum of $53,905.67) to adequately restore the vehicles back to their condition prior to the accidents/occurrences.
The second cause of action is the Violation of General Business Law §349 Against Tri-State. “…Tri-State has continually engaged in unfair claims practices… including using inappropriate methods of determining the number of hours of labor, the arbitrary capping of labor rates, arbitrary capping of paint and materials, refusing to pay for body shop materials, and misleading consumers regarding the availability of other repair shops that would put the vehicle to its pre-loss condition for the amount of Tri-State’s estimate,” the lawsuit states.
The third cause of action is Deceptive Business Practices in Violation of General Business Law §349 against IANet Corp for allegedly acting in “bad faith” and “… changing adjusters’ estimates without inspection, setting arbitrary caps on price of certain tasks and otherwise interfering with the claims process…” according to court documents.
The last three causes of action are Tortious Interference With Business Relationship Against each of the adjusters. The lawsuit states that each of the adjusters interfered with the body shop’s contracts with its customers to repair the vehicles for “no legitimate purpose” and “acted maliciously” and with the sole purpose of harming the Plaintiff and its repair contracts. The lawsuit is currently in the discovery phase and the next court date is scheduled for Jan. 9, 2019.
Autobody News reached out to Crupi, Jr. to learn more about the lawsuit and the issues collisions repairers should be aware of.
Q: Why did you decide to file this lawsuit?
A: I filed this lawsuit among others because I will not have my customers, my business or its people pushed around. At Barry’s Auto Body, we believe in saving money where possible, but we will never compromise the quality of our work or the safety of our customers driving these automobiles in order to increase insurance company’s yearly profit margins.
Customers always lose when their vehicles are not repaired safely and properly. It puts the passengers at risk and it kills their resale value. I also believe in my heart that it is more important today than ever before for auto body shops, and really any business that deals with insurance companies, to fight for what is right. This bully-like mentality many insurance companies use to suppress labor rates and push around shops into doing improper repairs truly hurts. We also allege this particular lawsuit has misconduct by numerous insurance adjusters and independent insurance adjusters on these claims.
With vehicles being more technologically advanced than ever before, improper repairs can throw off airbag timing and cause vehicles’ braking systems to malfunction as well.
Shops must now have the absolute best equipment to repair these vehicles properly. The days of using cheap machinery to save costs are over because today’s cars are constantly changing and require up-to-date equipment.
There are also additional steps necessary to repair vehicles properly. These procedures should never be compromised at the vehicle owner’s expense.
Q: What would you like collision repairers to know about the lawsuit and these issues?
A: Insurance companies should not tell you how to repair a vehicle or how to run your business. Recent lawsuits have shown that insurance companies are not the ones ultimately responsible for repairing vehicles properly. You, as the auto body shop, are 100 percent responsible for restoring these vehicles SAFELY and PROPERLY every time. You can and may be sued for not doing safe or proper repairs. Therefore, it is up to you to make sure you are being paid properly to restore these vehicles to their pre-accident condition. I repair every car as if my own son or family member were being put into this vehicle after the repairs are completed, and SO SHOULD YOU.
The days of letting insurance companies push our shops around are done. Shops who succumb to the pressures of these insurance companies to "cut corners" or repair vehicles unsafely or improperly will always be in jeopardy of going out of business by a lawsuit for improper repairs or not having the finances available to run their businesses properly. In the beginning, it may feel that as a small business shop owner, you are David taking on Goliath. You may feel scared to death---like you have no way out in sight. If you are serious about being in this business for the long-term, it is important to do the research and push through all these fears for yourself, your employees, your customers and for what is right.
Messages to Tri-State Consumer Insurance Company were not returned.