The Superior Court in Union County, NJ, denied a Motion to Dismiss filed by New Jersey Manufacturers Insurance (NJM) in relation to a class-action lawsuit filed in June 2019 alleging steering-related violations against non-DRP collision repair facilities.
The lawsuit is being led by Sam Mikhail on behalf of Quality Auto Painting Center d/b/a Prestige Auto Body (now dissolved) and BMR Automotive Service, Inc. d/b/a Robbie’s Automotive & Collision Specialists.
The decision means the lawsuit will proceed with NJM facing accusations on a number of offenses, including injurious falsehood and tortious interference with prospective business advantage, as well as violations of the NJ Antitrust Act, NJ’s Consumer Fraud Act, and the state’s Civil RICO Act.
Plaintiffs are seeking class-action status that would include all shops not on NJM’s DRP who fixed, or attempted to fix, a vehicle insured by NJM in the past six years and who witnessed the insurer’s refusal to negotiate in good faith, attempts to steer an insured, or misrepresentations of the shop’s price or quality.
Working on behalf of themselves and the class-action members, the plaintiffs are in pursuit of actual/punitive/treble damages as well as interest, lawsuit costs, attorney fees, and "such other and further relief the Court deems just and proper." They are also requesting injunctive relief to prevent the insurer from committing these alleged “unlawful acts” in the future.
In addition to denying allegations, NJM has offered the defense that the case doesn’t merit class-action status. In a statement following the court’s decision, the insurer said, “NJM does not ordinarily comment on pending litigation; however, the plaintiffs’ accusations are baseless, and will be vigorously defended.”
Offering no opinion on either party’s argument on Nov. 22, Union County Superior Court Judge Alan Lesnewich simply rejected NJM’s Motion of Dismiss, writing that the decision was made after “the Court having considered the papers submitted, opposition having been filed, Oral Argument having taken place on Nov. 22, 2019 for the reasons set forth on the record on Nov. 22, 2019, and for good cause shown.”