In an emotional on-stage interview at the Collision Industry Conference (CIC) held in Las Vegas in early November, the Texas couple who successfully sued a dealership body shop over its failure to follow OEM repair procedures talked about the dramatic changes in their lives caused by their substantial injuries in a subsequent accident.
Marcia Seebachan said she remembers nothing from the time of the accident until four days later, on Christmas, when she regained consciousness in the hospital and wasn’t sure whether to believe her parents that her husband, Matthew, had also survived the accident and was just in another hospital.
She said it only added to the couple’s trauma to later learn that their injuries were likely exacerbated by the body shop’s decision – prior to the Seebachan’s purchase of the vehicle – to attach a replacement roof to it using adhesive rather than the welds called for by the automaker.
“This wasn’t just a series of unfortunate events. This was something intentionally chosen to have been done to the vehicle that impacted us,” Marcia Seebachan said. “It’s one thing to be dealing with the most traumatic thing in your life, but to find out there were choices made that increased the likelihood that this happened to you is just re-traumatizing. There was a whole different grieving process that had to happen.”
Two years ago, the Seebachans won a $42 million judgement against the Texas dealership body shop after an accident involving their 2010 Honda Fit. Prior to the Seebachans buying the used vehicle, the shop had attached a replacement roof to the vehicle (after hail damage) using structural adhesive, even though Honda’s repair procedures called for the use of welds. The Seebachans argued successfully in their lawsuit that their injuries in the subsequent accident were more severe because the roof separated and failed to protect them as it would have if Honda’s repair procedures had been followed.
The Seebachans also sued State Farm for its alleged role in the shop’s choice of repair procedures; that lawsuit was settled a year ago without the terms of the settlement being disclosed.
The discussion at CIC did not focus on the lawsuit, but rather on how the incident has impacted the Seebachans. Marcia recovered more quickly than Matthew though her injuries were severe: broken arm, wrist, femur, feet and pelvis, perforated intestines, and torn aorta lining. She required several surgeries to repair the tendons that attach her skull to her spine.
Matthew’s severe burns, particularly on his lower legs, required more than two years of daily wound cleaning. He’s been unable to return to work nor continue his training to become a registered nurse. The couple has had to give up on their plans to become foster parents.
Marcia Seebachan said as a clinical social worker, she must adhere to a code of ethics that requires her to use only evidence-based practices with clients. That makes it even more difficult for her to fathom why anyone would use a practice in their field – such as a repair procedure – without evidence and research that it is effective and appropriate.
That’s why the Seebachans testified in favor of legislation proposed in Texas earlier this year that, if passed, would have required the use of OEM repair procedures. Marcia Seebachan said that the second or third or subsequent owners of a vehicle deserve the same assurances the original owner had of that vehicle’s engineered safety.
“If you’re going to tell me this repair work is as good or better than the original design, then you should be able to show evidence to support that,” she said.
CIC Chairman Jeff Peevy, who along with his wife, Marie, conducted the 40-minute conversation with the Seebachans at CIC, said his goal was to let the industry get to know the people they likely had previously only read about.
“This is really about human impact as a result of bad decisions,” Peevy said. “Every one of us in this industry is in a position to make decisions. Those decisions impact people and their vehicles, their families and their safety.
So I think it’s important that we start to think about the decisions we make, that we always consider those people who put their lives in our hands when we repair vehicles. We all, in every segment, have a role to play in these decisions.”
He thanked the Seebachans for traveling to Las Vegas and speaking at CIC.
“There’s no telling how many lives you have saved because of your strength and courage and willingness to come here and tell your story,” he said.
Marcia Seebachan said she knows many people undergo traumatic experiences without being given an opportunity, as she feels she and Matthew have had, to create some positive outcome from those experiences.
“We’re grateful for everyone being willing to sit in this space with us and hear our story, and hope you walk away with it when you make decisions in your practices,” she said. “That’s all we can hope for, is that you’ll remember that.”
Companies say they don’t share data with CARFAX.
After discussions at several industry events in recent months about shop data from estimates or parts orders relative to a particular vehicle seemingly resulting in an entry on CARFAX or another history report for that vehicle, a number of companies are releasing statements saying they are not the source of such data “leakage.”
“We don’t share data with CARFAX, never have shared data with CARFAX, have no intention of sharing data with CARFAX,” said Dan Risley at CIC, vice president of quality repair and market development for CCC Information Services. “So if you are writing an estimate in CCC ONE and it shows up on some customer’s CARFAX report, you need to do some research on your end: who is pumping data from your system, or if one of your partners that you're sharing data with is sharing it with someone else.”
CCC’s statement came just a week after OEConnection told users of its CollisionLink system that the company “does not and has never provided or sold data to CARFAX, AutoCheck or any other vehicle history reporting company.”
Frank Terlep, who co-chairs the CIC’s “Data Access, Privacy and Security Committee,” with Risley, gave “a big shout out” to such companies that have “stood up and said we’re going to protect our customers’ data.” He also shared a first draft of “Golden Rules” the committee is developing for those entities accessing and using shop estimate data. Those five rules call on such companies to make it clear what data is being used and why, to pledge to not misuse or allow others receiving the data to misuse it, and to give customers “the choice of what to share and what not to share.”
Terlep said the committee welcomes feedback on the draft. He said the committee envisions presenting the rules, once finalized, to all companies using industry data, and to recognize those companies who pledge to abide by them.