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1HomePageMap small se 0816Local news stories affecting the auto body industry in Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, Tennessee, and West Virginia

Following Ray Gunder’s charge alleging altered documents that show State Farm’s manipulation of their market survey of rates and allowances, State Farm has elected to pay the charged amounts of Gunder’s Auto Center and avoid further discovery of its business records. See sidebar.

In seeking discoverable information pertinent to three separate lawsuits by three of Gunder’s customers (of which Gunder was acting on behalf of each customer through power-of-attorney) State Farm’s refusal/failure to provide the requested documentation within the time-frame provided resulted in a court’s order compelling the nation’s largest personal auto insurer to comply and present the subpoenaed records ‘or else.’

As a result, State Farm first made overtures of a global settlement to avoid further litigation (and discovery) by inviting Gunder’s to mediate the more than 30 pending lawsuits pressed against them on behalf of Gunder’s customers for claims including, but not limited to Tortious Interference against State Farm employees including Larry Swearengin and Bob Davis as well as Breach of Contract and Bad Faith claims against State Farm Insurance.

While guarded, Ray Gunder agreed and thus the Contempt of Court hearing scheduled for September 22nd was postponed and mediation was scheduled for October 6th, 2011.

The 15th Annual GCIA Invitational Golf Tournament was held on Wednesday, October 12th, 2011 at the Trophy Club of Atlanta in Alpharetta, GA.

The GCIA thanked everyone who participated and especially the events sponsors: BASF, DuPont, PPG, Single Source, 3M, Akzo/Nobel, FinishMaster, Sherwin-Williams, LKQ, RBM of Atlanta, Enterprise Staff, and National Coatings & Supplies.

For more information please visit gacollisionindustry.wordpress.com.

Mississippi voters will have three candidates to choose from in the race for Mississippi Insurance Commissioner come the Nov. 8 general election: Republican incumbent Commissioner Mike Chaney, Democrat Louis Fondren, and Reform Party candidate Barbara Dale Washer, according to gulflive.com.

The position has a four-year term and $90,000 annual salary.

As the incumbent, Chaney’s campaign emphasis has been his achievements during his time in office. According to Chaney, his in-office accolades include; modernization of the department’s records system, streamlining of the agent licensing process, collection of more than $4 million in refunds and additional claims for policyholders, transfer of $99.9 million to state’s windpool to help stabilize rates, an increase of 125 new companies writing policies on the Coast, and a $1 million program that led to grants for homeowners who strengthened their homes against wind damage. Chaney describes his campaign as grassroots.

Chaney, who served in the Mississippi House of Representatives from 1993 to 1999, and in the Mississippi State Senate from 2000-2008, was elected as Insurance Commissioner in 2007.

Fondren, a self-employed attorney-at-law and previous public defender of Jackson County from 1977 to 1981, will focus his campaign on being a “friend to policyholders” through stopping rate increases. Part of the way he would do that, he said, is to involve a public actuary—a professional who analyzes the financial consequences of risk—in insurance premium hearings.

Fondren plans to spend the few weeks before the election spreading his message both on the Coast and beyond. At press time Fondren planned to speak at the AARP in Hattiesburg during the last week of October, at the Mississippi Economic Council’s Hobnob Mississippi in Jackson on Nov. 2, and at the Tupelo Chamber on Nov. 4.

Fondren also served in the Mississippi House of Representatives from 1972 to 1976 and was Mayor of Moss Point, MS, from 1969 to 1971.

Like Fondren, Chaney also plans to speak at the Mississippi Economic Council’s Hobnob Mississippi.

Washer, a retired teacher from Hattiesburg, will focus on achieving a balance between lowering rates and attracting new business, providing free windshield replacement for auto policyholders, and making sure that insurance companies do not breach contracts, according to the candidate.

For more information please visit www.mid.state.ms.us.

David Smith of Auto Damage Experts (ADE) was recently called upon in criminal court in Oregon to render expert opinion on behalf of the defendant in an Oregon state criminal case.

The matter involved the accusation and ensuing assault charges filed by the state of Oregon against a man who broke the side glass of his estranged wife’s vehicle. The accusation was made that the accused struck the window with his fist out of anger to gain entry of the vehicle.

Conversely, the defendant stated he merely tapped on the glass with the tip of his key asking that the window be rolled down and upon doing so the glass broke.

The defense counsel called upon Auto Damage Experts to research and to testify as to what would be required to break the side glass. David Smith, with the aid of demonstrative evidence showed that breakage of the side glass could occur with as little as twelve pounds of force when applied with the tip of a pointed metal object such as the tip of a key.

The sitting jury found the testimony and evidence to support the defense and finding the accused man not guilty.

Attorney Ryan Colbridge of Corbridge & Kroll Attorneys at Law, LLC, and the lead defense attorney in the case stated: “I have had the chance to work with David Smith from Auto Damage Experts in multiple trials both civil and criminal. Most recently his testimony on the stand and expertise in the auto industry was a primary factor in getting my client acquitted in a criminal matter for which he was wrongfully charged. David’s clear and professional presentation to the jury was a key factor in their understanding of facts relevant to the case. I would, and do, recommend Mr. Smith and Auto Damage Experts freely and liberally to anyone who is need of such services.”

Barrett Smith, founder and President of Auto Damage Experts, Inc. stated; “with the many services ADE provides, we never know what we’ll be called upon to assist with next. This was a unique case and we are pleased that we were able to aid the jury and the court in rendering a sound and proper verdict.”

In 1971, Mike Gatto started Gatto’s Tires & Auto Service in Melbourne, FL. The business is now celebrating its 40th anniversary, according to Florida Today.

There are other numbers to note: Seven, as in how many stores the family-run business has on the Space Coast. And three, as in generations now involved in the business. It’s run by Mike’s daughter, Pam Gatto, with her two sons, Scott McHenry and Mike McHenry, and son-in-law, Mike “Kiwi” Nevin.

During their 40 years in Brevard County, the family has learned a lot about providing good customer service. Pam Gatto said the No. 1 rule is to hire quality people.

“We have a lot of good people who work for us,” said Gatto, whose is president of the company. “And they often tell me that they love working with us because they can be honest and straightforward and do the right thing when they take care of the customer.”

Mike Gatto spent 22 years in sales and marketing for Goodyear before striking out on his own in 1971. Pam soon joined him, and the family business grew from there.

She said, “Dad always told me, ‘We don’t sell tires and auto service. We sell safety and peace of mind.’ “

To help celebrate the 40th anniversary, Gatto’s is offering a few novel promotions.

“Anyone still driving a 1971 vintage vehicle can bring it in to one of our stores and get a free oil change,” Pam Gatto said. “Obviously, a 40-year-old car has received a lot of TLC to keep it going, and we want to make sure that trend continues into the future.”

And if customers stop by wearing paisley bell bottoms or other ‘70s attire, such fringe jackets, headbands or love beads, they will get a coupon for $19.71 off their next purchase.

“We really look forward to seeing them,” she said.

Gatto’s Tires & Auto Service stores are in Cocoa, Merritt Island, Viera, Palm Bay and Melbourne in the state of Florida. Learn more about Gattos (and about what happened back in 1971) at gattos.com.

The Florida Auto Collision Alliance is looking to reinvigorate two chapters in the state's largest metro areas--Orlando and Miami.

The group's current active chapters include Jacksonville, South Florida, Tampa, Lakeland and Space/Treasure Coast.

According to FACA's Executive Director Cathy Mills the Orlando chapter was active several years ago but has fallen away from that currently.

"Orlando is such a large market. They have reached out to me and expressed a desire and need to bring the association back," said Mills.

The FACA has been actively strengthening their membership since Mills' appointment in January of this year.

"We also are looking at expanding in Miami where they too have reached out and expressed a need and desire to start a chapter there," said Mills.

Interested parties can contact Cathy Mills at Cathy@facafl.com. For more information about the FACA please visit www.facafl.com.