Friday, 24 August 2018 22:27

Did the John Eagle Decision Change Anything?

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The John Eagle decision of October 2017 was one of the most momentous in the history of the collision repair industry in America.


Because Dallas-based John Eagle Collision Center did not follow OE repair procedures to repair some hail damage on a 2010 Honda Fit, resulting in severe physical and emotional harm to owners Matthew and Marcia Seebachan in a subsequent accident, attorney Todd Tracy represented the couple in a civil lawsuit that they won, forcing the shop to pay $31.5 million in damages.


Almost a year has gone by since then. Plenty of magazine articles have been written and seminars have been provided by Tracy and auto body associations about the effects of the lawsuit and how shops can protect themselves from experiencing a similar situation.


Some ad-hoc conversations with shop owners and spurious social media postings by both shop owners and techs indicate that some shops have taken the John Eagle case seriously and made some positive changes to their SOPs. Others seem to have taken the “It’ll never happen in my town” attitude.


Based on the John Eagle decision and other recent industry trends, including use of OE parts, pre- and post-scanning and recalibration, Autobody News wanted to get a clearer picture of what shops are actually doing to determine if the industry is indeed changing … or not.


Survey Methodology


Near the end of July 2018, Autobody News sent an email survey to approximately 15,000 body shops at random. Over the following several days, 157 shops completed the survey for a response rate of about 1 percent---not an overly large response---but the results are eye-opening.


Survey Questions

The same questions were asked under two different circumstances: 1) What the shop’s policy was prior to the John Eagle case (before Oct. 1, 2017), and 2) What their policy was after the John Eagle decision became known (after Oct. 1, 2017). Note: The question of pre- and post-scanning and recalibration was not the main focus of the John Eagle case. However, the question of scanning and recalibration began to get more attention about the same time and is still a topic of debate for a complete and safe repair, so it was included in this survey.


Questions included:


* What percent of the time did you look up and follow OE repair procedures?


* What percent of the time did you use new, OE parts for repair?


* What percent of the time did you perform a pre- and post-diagnostic scan?


* What percent of the time did you recalibrate those devices requiring recalibration based on a post-repair scan?


To get a better perspective, shops were also asked about their DRP associations and how many they had. The results were:


28% - 0 DRPs
26% - 1-3 DRPs
28% - 4-6 DRPs
8% - 7-10 DRPs
9% - 10+ DRPs


To get an idea of a shop’s size, we also asked how many shop employees each respondent had. The results were:


30% - 1-7 employees
32% - 8-15 employees
18% - 16-25 employees
20% - 25+ employees


Survey Results


For brevity, we are publishing overall shops (includes all responding shops), smallest and largest shops by employee count, shops with no DRP associations and those with the most DRP associations. Numbers reflect statistics prior to the John Eagle decision and after the John Eagle decision.


What percent of the time did you look up and follow OE repair procedures?



At the core of the John Eagle decision was whether or not the shop followed OE repair procedures. After some explanation, even a jury of lay-people understood the concept and the gravity of the situation. It seems that most of the rest of the industry did as well. On average, only 34.4 percent of shops used OE procedures 80 to 100 percent of the time prior to the John Eagle decision. After the John Eagle decision, the number roughly doubled for all categories except those with zero DRP programs, who were using OE procedures more to begin with anyway.


What percent of the time did you use new, OE parts for repair?


Of course, the use of OE parts has been an issue since the 1990s; even more so now with the advent of OE position statements calling for their use along with proper repair procedures. Overall, those shops using OE parts 80 to 100 percent of the time took a sizeable jump from 29.7 percent to 41.1 percent. The largest jump, from 23.4 percent to 57.4 percent was in the 1--7 employees category.


Typically, smaller shops have fewer or no DRP associations, so that is less of an issue for them. Plus, a smaller shop would have more to lose if it encountered a lawsuit of the scope of the John Eagle case.


What percent of the time did you perform a pre- and post-diagnostic scan?


The concept of pre- and post-repair scans has been around for years, but has only come to the forefront in the last couple of years due to the expanded use of ADAS systems. Overall, the process of pre- and post-scanning has doubled recently. It is unclear if the John Eagle case had anything directly to do with this, but if nothing else, it has made shops aware that they are solely responsible for correct repairs and the consequences of not doing so can be dire. It is interesting to note that the 7--10 DRP programs category, having the lowest percentage of shops conducting pre- and post-scans, jumped dramatically from 14.3 percent of shops to 57.1 percent of shops conducting pre- and post-scans 80 to 100 percent of the time. It is unknown if payment (or not) by the insurance company for the pre- and post-scan operation was a factor.


What percent of the time did you recalibrate those devices requiring recalibration based on a post-repair scan?


Overall, this measurement took a sizeable jump from 53.8 percent of shops recalibrating 80 to 100 percent of the time to 77.7 percent. Again, one of the largest changes is the smaller shops, those with 1 to 7 employees, perhaps because they have the most to lose in a catastrophic lawsuit situation. Those shops with a large amount of DRP relations also had a large change, but only because they were recalibrating so rarely prior to October 2017.


Here are some of the comments that accompanied the surveys.


Chris Norris of Weavers Auto Center in Shawneee, KS, said, “We need to stand up for the consumer that drives the vehicle. BTW we are the only ones!”


Kime Collision of Standish, MI, wrote, “We have been doing this for years knowing that sooner or later everyone would have to. It looks like reality is finally catching up in our industry.”


And then there was this anonymous word to the wise, “You have to be willing to let the vehicle leave if the customer or insurer is unwilling to repair the vehicle correctly.”


So… what can be said about the John Eagle decision and its effect on the industry? A year ago, many writers, consultants and pundits said it was a wake-up call for the industry. They said that shops had to pay more attention to OE procedures and proper repairs. If the above information, small sampling that it is, is to be believed, then it looks like not all, but many shops have “seen the light” and are using more OE procedures and OE parts.


As for scanning and recalibrating, a recent CCC report of the first quarter of 2018 indicates a small increase in scans, less than what the above figures would indicate. However, CCC’s Susannah Gotsch is also quick to point out that just because there is no scan on the estimate, it doesn’t mean one wasn’t done.


Will the swing to greater use of OE procedures be permanent? An educated guess says yes. As long as technology continues to move forward and becomes increasingly sophisticated at a faster and faster rate, technicians will have no choice … if the car is to be properly and safely repaired.