On Thursday, Jan. 25, the North Carolina Association of Collision and Autobody Repair (NCACAR) hosted its first meeting of 2018 at the beautiful NOAH Event Center in Charlotte, NC.
The event was explosive with nearly 200 attendees and a dozen business partners in attendance to witness mind-blowing presentations from Texas attorney Todd Tracy and Mike Jones, President of Discover Leadership Training. NCACAR President Brian Davies promised to "kick off the new year with a bang," and the association's first meeting of 2018 certainly delivered!
During check-in and registration, attendees had the opportunity to browse NCACAR merchandise and interact with industry vendors supporting the association. A buffet-style pasta dinner was served at 5:30 p.m. and the meeting commenced shortly after 6 p.m.
Eli Winans, NCACAR Board member, welcomed a full room of attendees, noting it as the association's largest meeting to date. After reading the anti-trust statement and leading the group in the Pledge of Allegiance, he stressed the need for more shops to get engaged and become association members.
Winans introduced the evening’s first presenter, Texas attorney Todd Tracy, who recently became well-known for the $42 million John Eagle lawsuit.
"Todd Tracy has been a vehicle safety lawyer for 25 years, and has tried more vehicle crashworthiness lawsuits than any lawyer in the world," Winans reported.
Tracy began his presentation, "Anatomy of a Lawsuit---What We Uncovered in the $42M John Eagle Collision Center Verdict" by announcing his plan to spend $5 million over the next 18 months to crash-test vehicles and visit every state twice in an effort to engage the industry. He expressed his hope to "get the insurance industry out of your back pocket. You'll make more money and you'll be able to sleep at night because you're doing the right thing."
Tracy continued, "You have a moral obligation to your customers, and you need to care about this safety. You're not repairers---you're safety professionals. You know there are real-world consequences incumbent in bringing the vehicle back to its OEM condition, but there are companies out there who refuse to let you safety professionals do your jobs because they hold the money and power, and they make you choose between who survives---your company or your customer."
Noting that insurance companies only care about money, not the shops or the customers, Tracy urged shops to educate consumers and hit insurance companies where it counts.
He claimed, "It's okay to get knocked down. It's about how hard you can get hit, get back up and keep fighting."
Defining vehicle crashworthiness as the science of preventing or minimizing serious injuries or death following an accident through the use of the vehicle's safety systems, Tracy identified five principles of vehicle crashworthiness: maintain occupant survival space; manage, distribute and channel collision energy away from survival space; provide proper restraint throughout the entire accident; prevent post-crash fires; and prevent ejections.
When Tracy began to investigate the Seebachans' Honda Fit, the vehicle in the John Eagle case, he found that something didn't add up. Ruling out a manufacturer defect, he found that the roof panels were missing 108 welds and found no evidence of a prior accident. When he spoke to the previous owner, he learned that the roof had been replaced due to hail damage and was able to ascertain that John Eagle Collision Center had glued the new roof on instead of welding it as required by OEM procedures.
Admitting how uncomfortable it was to prosecute a lawsuit against his neighbor's business, Tracy shared details about how he won the case by exposing John Eagle's website claims as false, proving that the 3M glue SOP instructed users to follow OEM welds, and using science and expert witnesses to prove that John Eagle's attorney was being dishonest and manipulating data.
"I tried the case like a vehicle crashworthiness case and stressed the importance of protecting families, which put the jurors in the Seebachans' shoes,” he said. “John Eagle's Shop Director suggested that OEM specifications were just recommendations, but he really angered the jury when he said the insurance company can trump OEM specifications by refusing to pay the bill.
"Customers suffer when shops are bullied into not following OEM repair specifications. By dictating improper vehicle repairs for decades, insurance companies have seriously injured and killed thousands of customers who were driving around in time bombs. Each one of these victims is a needless angel in heaven. Each time you were bullied into an improper repair, did you endanger your customer? We will not be bullied. We'll get the insurance industry out of your business so you don't suffer the consequences of getting bullied and taking shortcuts."
Some of the tips Tracy shared for keeping sharks like him out of shops included following OEM procedures and I-CAR guidelines, taking care of the customer, and being a hero by standing up to the insurance companies and insisting on performing proper repairs to OEM standards, and pursuing short pay litigation when forced.
He noted, "Life's about defining moments, and this is a defining moment in your industry right now."