Southeastern News

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

On April 7th, 2011 the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit upheld a lower court’s order granting summary judgment in favor of State Farm Insurance in Gunder’s Auto Center’s claim against the nation’s largest personal auto insurer for slander and tortious interference with a business relationship. (See Autobodynews.com for background.)

To recover for slander in Florida, the claimant must show (1) publication of a false statement; (2) about the plaintiff; (3) to a third party; and (4) damage resulting to plaintiff from the publication.

To state a claim for tortious interference in Florida, the claimant must show (1) the existence of a business relationship; (2) knowledge of the relationship on the part of the defendant; (3) an intentional and unjustified interference by the defendant; and (4) damage from the breach of the relationship.

The court found that,  “although denied by State Farm, we assume the statements allegedly made by State Farm disparaging Gunter’s were made and are untrue. Nonetheless, we agree with the district court that State Farm’s statements were privileged:

Florida House Bill 5005, “Deregulations of Professions and Occupations,” sponsored by Rep. Esteban Bovo Jr., R-Dist. 110, includes provisions that would repeal Florida’s law requiring the registration of motor vehicle repair shops with the Motor Vehicle Repair Advisory Council and the regulation of motor vehicle repair.

The Florida Motor Vehicle Repair Act, which became a law, was created to assist consumers with matters relating to motor vehicle repair shops. The Motor Vehicle Repair Advisory Council was created to advise and assist the Dept. of Agriculture and Consumer Services in carrying out and reviewing the rules relating to the Florida Motor Vehicle Repair Act. The law applies to dealers of new and used cars, trucks and motorcycles; garages; service stations; self-employed persons; truck stops; and paint, body, brake, muffler, transmission, mobile repair and glass shops.

Registered shops must post, in a conspicuous location in the customer service area, the registration certificate and a sign advising consumers of their rights under the Motor Vehicle Repair Act and give the department’s toll-free telephone number for assistance or information. Shops must also include in the sign a statement advising consumers they are entitled to the return or inspection of replaced parts, if requested at the time the work order is placed. Finally, shops must include their registration number in any advertisements, announcements, or listings relating to motor vehicle repair in any newspaper, magazine or directory.

A tornado struck a manufacturing plant on the southeast side of Hopkinsville, Kentucky, on April 4, tossing pieces of the roof, collapsing part of the aluminum structure and injuring seven people, officials said. The plant, Toyoda Gosei Automotive Sealing Kentucky, makes weatherstripping for Toyota vehicles.

The plant is located between Hopkinsville and Pembroke, Kentucky.

About 184 employees were inside TGASK when the storm arrived shortly before noon, said Paul Ray, spokesman for the Hopkinsville Police Department.

None of the injured had life-threatening injuries, said spokeswoman Jessica Beckham of Jennie Stuart Medical Center. Ray said the injuries were mostly bumps and bruises.

There is also a hail concern mounting in this area as the storm continues.

Automobiles today are sophisticated and are controlled by a series of internal computer systems, which means the diagnostics require specific software and hardware.

On top of that the basic service environments have not changed. They are still fraught with grime and potential hazards that could damage the diagnostic equipment. We now need digital diagnostics equipment that will withstand these normal daily service bay environmental issues and today ruggedized notebook computers fill that bill very well.

That is one of the reasons Wade Ford of Atlanta, Georgia decided to switch from PDAs to ruggedized laptops for diagnostic and reprogramming purposes.

Ford no longer supported the PDA application, so Wade needed new durable notebooks to connect to the cars.

“The reason we needed a rugged notebook was because of the environment they are used in—where the technicians are using them is an open environment. They really just need to be able to be bumped around and not go down,” said Dave Tackett, Controller of Wade Ford.

Georgia Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine issued himself several licenses to sell insurance and adjust claims in his last full day in office, according to Insurance Journal.

Oxendine used his authority as the state’s top insurance regulator to waive requirements to take mandatory classes or licensing tests that apply to other Georgians seeking to sell insurance.

Oxendine, a Republican who left office in January after 16 years, said he decided against the tests because he didn’t want to be a distraction to other applicants. He also said he had enough experience regulating the industry and helping to write insurance law to qualify for the licenses.

“If 16 years doesn’t give you a little bit of insurance experience, I don’t know what does,” Oxendine said. “I think that’s (worth) a little bit more than taking a test and taking a class.”

But state lawmakers said the former commissioner abused his power. And his successor, Republican Ralph Hudgens, said Oxendine appeared to have ignored the advice of the office’s staff when he issued himself the licenses.

Ray Gunder is clearly not a fan of State Farm Insurance.

The owner of Gunder’s Auto Center in Lakeland, Fla., is in the midst of a long-standing legal battle with the insurer over what he says is the insurer’s slanderous comments about his company to consumers, and tortious interference with his business.     But were he to address the industry, Gunder said he’d discuss something that extends beyond just State Farm: labor rate surveys.

“The so-called ‘market survey’ is designed and implemented under the simple insurer pretext that if you don’t participate, you won’t be allowed to participate,” Gunder said. “What this simply means is if you don’t get in line with everyone else, we will steer every repair away from you with every resource we have at our disposal. You either fall-in, or get left-out.”

By participating in insurer labor rate surveys, Gunder said, quality repairers reduce themselves to earning the same rates and allowances that all others are “allowed.”

“Consider for a moment the repairer who has made substantial investments in training and certifications, facilities, and state-of-the-art equipment,” Gunder said. “They, along with other quality repairers, will be relegated to charge the same as the low-cost, high-volume providers. Simply stated, you become one with all those who do participate regardless of the quality of the workmanship and level of services you or they provide.”