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1HomePageMap small ne 0816Local news stories affecting the auto body industry in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Connecticut, Maryland, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont and Maine

Following certification by the Massachusetts Attorney General of its proposed ballot question, the Right to Repair Coalition announced September 7 that it will immediately begin collecting signatures to place this important pro-consumer initiative petition before the voters. Supporters have until November 23 to get the nearly 70,000 signatures required to secure placement of the question on the 2012 ballot.

The proposed Right to Repair law would require automobile manufacturers to provide directly to consumers the diagnostic and safety information needed to repair their cars at the shop of their choice Currently, auto manufacturers provide only some of the diagnostic and safety information needed to repair vehicle owners’ cars with independent technicians, limiting consumers’ choices and losing business for neighborhood repair shops.

“If the car manufacturers can continue to manipulate the market by withholding information, then do I really own the car?” said Jeff McLeod of Marshfield and one of the original signers of the initiative petition approved by the Attorney General September 7.

When I first met Greg Coccaro, the owner of North State Custom in Bedford Hills, New York, I was immediately struck by his passion for his business, his customers and his industry. But it was his frustration with the inequities inherent in his chosen field that truly captured my attention. I listened as Greg explained to me what a DRP was, how his labor rate was determined by someone other than himself and what the practice of “steering” had done to his and other businesses like his. Having spent nearly 20 years litigating for and against insurance companies, I was aware of the power an insurance company can exert. However as Greg explained to me the realities of the collision repair industry, I was admittedly shocked by what I heard.

The Case of North State v. Progressive Insurance
In 2007, as attorney for North State Custom, I commenced a lawsuit against Progressive Insurance alleging that Progressive engaged in deceptive business practices and interference with North State’s business and customers. The case has survived two motions to dismiss, two appeals and a separate action brought by Progressive against North State resulting in two separate jury trials. (For a summary of the Progressive v. North State saga see autobodynews.com, Cocarro Case Takes a Wide Turn...). While the case against Progressive has not yet been resolved and in fact we expect a jury trial to be held sometime next year, a recent court ruling in the matter has significant impact for the industry as a whole.

A Syracuse (NY) City Court judge has denied a motion by Nationwide Insurance seeking dismissal of an “assignment of proceeds” case brought against the insurer by Nick Orso’s Body Shop. The shop sued on behalf of two customers for repair costs not paid for by Nationwide, which argued that the customers’ policies prohibited them from assigning claimed losses to another party without the insurer’s prior permission.

Judge Rory McMahon, citing a decision in a similar case last fall also involving Nick Orso’s Body Shop, ruled that anti-assignment clauses are valid for assignments prior to a loss and claim (when that could impact the insurer’s exposure) but not after. Orso’s attorney argued successfully that Nationwide has no interest in preventing a post-loss assignment of proceeds “other than an insurer’s desire to make it as cumbersome as possible for the insured to obtain what is owed under the insurance contract.”

The judge, however, did not find that Nationwide’s motion for dismissal of the case was brought in bad faith, and he therefore denied the shop’s request to have its court and attorney costs paid for by the insurer.

Wednesday, 24 August 2011 19:58

State Farm Moving 500 N.J. Jobs

State Farm will drastically reduce the size of its operations center in Parsippany over the next two years, moving about 500 New Jersey jobs to New York and Pennsylvania to cut costs and improve efficiency, the company said July 26 according to NorthJersey.com.

Most of the Parsippany office’s functions will be consolidated into its two other Northeast operations centers, in upstate Ballston Spa, NY and Concordville, PA. Some of the Parsippany employees will be offered jobs in those locations, the company said

The Christie administration was “proactive” in trying to persuade State Farm to keep the jobs in New Jersey, but the insurer’s decision was final, company spokesman Doug Nadeau said. Employees were notified July 24, he said. A bodily injury claims office and a sales training office will remain in Parsippany, but it is unclear how many will be employed there. The Parsippany center currently employs about 700.

“State Farm hopes to retain the largest amount of employees possible,” Nadeau said. Employees who do not want to relocate will be offered severance packages, he said.

A satellite office in Farmingdale, NJ, that employs a dozen people also is slated for closing and a claims office in Melville, NY will be consolidated into one in Lakeville, NY. The changes, expected to be completed by September 2013, are to “better serve customers and achieve business goals through increased efficiency, reduced expenses and establishment of more consistent operations,” Nadeau said.

The New York Insurance Association has noted that the 2000 Honda Civic is again the most frequently stolen vehicle in New York State, according to Insurance Journal.

The Hot Wheels 2011 study released by the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) examines data reported to the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) and determines the vehicle make, model, and model year most reported stolen in 2010.

The study found that the 2000 Honda Civic topped the list of the most frequently stolen vehicles in New York State for the fourth year in a row.

In 2010, the most stolen vehicles in New York State were:
1. 2000 Honda Civic
2. 1994 Honda Accord
3. 1991Toyota Camry
4. 1996 Nissan Maxima
5. 2000 Dodge Caravan
6. 2005 Nissan Altima
7. 2009 Toyota Corolla
8. 2009 Ford Econoline E350
9. 2002 Ford Explorer
10. 1999 Jeep Grand Cherokee

“Auto theft continues to decline in New York State,” Ellen Melchionni, president of NYIA stated. “But drivers still need to take prudent steps to prevent their vehicle from being stolen.”

“Crash taxes,” or accident response fees, are sweeping the nation. Cities in 27 states have adopted them in one form or another, including Dallas, Texas; Buffalo, New York; Toledo, Ohio; and New Haven, Connecticut.

But not every state has been eager to bill those involved in motor vehicle accidents for the services of responding firefighters and police officers. According to Property Casualty Insurers Association of America, 13 states, including neighboring Pennsylvania, have outlawed accident fees, preventing their municipalities from billing those injured in motor vehicle accidents for fire and police department services. New York may be the 14th state to ban crash taxes.

A Crash Tax for New York City?

Earlier this year, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg proposed that drivers be assessed an accident response fee when the New York Fire Department (NYFD) responds to an accident or car fire. The proposal basically meant that if the NYFD responded to: – A vehicle fire or car accident with injuries, then drivers would receive a bill for $490.
- A fire without injuries, those involved would receive a bill for $415.
- An accident without injuries, motorists would be assessed a crash tax of $365.