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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

Alabama state laws have scrap yard owner David Hickman dealing with frustrated customers when he tells them that he can’t take their junk cars without a valid title. “Lots of times customers want to argue with us when we tell them they have to have it,” he said to al.com. “But that’s the law, we can’t take a car without title.”

As of 2010, people selling cars to scrap have had to have the title in order to sell. This has caused some friction as owners of junk cars often don’t have an official title in their name, either because it’s been lost or because the car was signed over to them by a previous owner, Hickman said.

The requirement has all but killed the auto recycling part of the scrap business, according to Hickman. Hickman isn't the only one feeling the pain; the law has affected every link in the recycling food chain.

Materials from junk cars feed low-level parts dealers and car crushers, which feed auto-shredding operations like Hickman’s. Scrap metal generated by the shredders also feeds mills and manufacturers like SSAB in north Mobile County and Huron Valley Steel Corp. in Anniston.

The Associated Press has reported that the Florida House approved a bill on May 4 that makes it more difficult for injured plaintiffs to win product liability damages from auto makers and other manufacturers.

The measure was approved by a vote of 80-35 and will be sent to Republican Gov. Rick Scott for his signature.

The bill, which the pro-business Scott is expected to sign, neutralizes a 2001 Florida Supreme Court decision against Ford that said evidence of the primary cause of a crash, such as driver error or drunkenness, cannot be introduced in product liability cases.

According to the new law, juries would have to "consider the fault of all persons who contributed to an accident when apportioning damages in a products liability action."

"Not giving the jury all the details, including a critical piece of information about the driver's condition, is unfair and absurd," said Barney Bishop III, president of Associated Industries of Florida, the state's lobby for big business.

"Correcting this inequity will now open the doors to automotive manufacturing companies that previously had not considered Florida as a base of operation," Bishop added.

The legislation on the "crashworthiness doctrine" was the focus of a lobbying duel between trial lawyers who represent injured parties and business interests led by Ford Motor Co.

Under that doctrine, if, for example, "an airbag fails to deploy during an initial collision and the driver subsequently collides with the windshield, the manufacturer may be liable for damages attributable to the second collision caused by the defective airbag," according to a staff analysis.

Democrats have argued the bill would shift medical costs for seriously-injured crash victims to taxpayers and that manufacturers should be held accountable for their mistakes.

"See how much they paid to make sure this happens," state Rep. Richard Steinberg, D-Miami, said in debate, referring to Ford's and other business interests' campaign contributions to Republican lawmakers.

"What this bill says is, if you don't put on a seatbelt, it's your fault," Steinberg added. "But if the seat belt doesn't work, it's not their fault."

But state Rep. Larry Metz, R-Yalaha, said the "doomsday scenario" that deserving plaintiffs would go empty-pocketed from the courthouse was unfounded.

"Judges can still make rulings about quality and weight (of evidence)," he said. "We shouldn't shield relevant evidence from juries."

The law overrules the decision in the case of Karen D'Amario, whose then-teenage son was badly burned and lost three limbs when the car he was riding in crashed into a tree and exploded. The driver was killed.

D'Amario alleged her son's injuries were due mostly to the explosion caused by a defective relay switch on a fuel pump. The jury sided with Ford, which argued the switch was fine and blamed the fire on the collision because it ruptured the car's oil pan.

The justices ruled that the jury was confused by evidence that the driver was drunk and speeding, instead of focusing on the product liability allegation. The opinion reversed the jury's verdict and said such evidence should be excluded from future cases that allege "enhanced" injuries.

General Motors Co announced that they will invest millions into revamping a Kentucky factory to produce a new version of the iconic Chevrolet Corvette sports car, the automaker said on May 4.

"It has a completely different look. Don't ask me how or what, but people will be really surprised, in a good way," GM's North American president Mark Reuss told Reuters.

GM would not say when the new Corvette would be introduced, but automotive insiders have speculated that it will make its debut in 2013.

The automaker will invest $131 million in the Bowling Green, Kentucky plant to retool the factory for production of the seventh generation of the Corvette.

On May 3, Infinity Insurance’s Regional Claims Manager, Tim Waldron, called and spoke to Ray Gunder of Gunder’s Auto Center in Lakeland, FL, and repeatedly apologized for the recent comments made by an Infinity claims person to one of Gunder’s customers who captured it on a recorder.

 

The Boyd Group announced the opening of a new repair center in McDonough, Georgia, on May 3. The center, previously known as McDonough Collision, was recently acquired by the Boyd Group and now operates under the Gerber Collision & Glass trade name. The new facility is approximately 26,000 square feet in size, with 24,000 square feet of production space.  With this addition, the Boyd Group is now able to serve consumers and insurance clients in the county seat of Henry County, 30 miles south of Atlanta. The Boyd Group now owns and operates 12 repair centers in Georgia and a total of 99 in the U.S., including 37 repair centers that operate under the True2Form trade name.

"We continue to execute on our strategy of expanding into select markets and growing our network of repair centers across North America," said Tim O'Day, President and COO of the Boyd Group's U.S. Operations. "The new McDonough repair center helps us introduce the Gerber Collision & Glass brand to an additional Georgia market and we are very pleased to be able to serve new customers in this location."

Tornadoes that ripped across states in the southeast portion of the US brought destruction April 27. States hit were Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, Georgia, Virginia and Arkansas. Alabama was the hardest hit with over half of the fatalities. As of April 28 the confired death toll sits at 250.

To view the full text of this article with photos please click HERE.

"It looked like it was probably a mile wide," Birmingham Mayor William Bell said of the funnel cloud to CNN. Tuscaloosa, AL, mayor Walter Maddox predicted it would take months for the town to recover.

President Barack Obama had already expressed condolences by phone to Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley and approved his request for emergency federal assistance on April 28.

In Hueytown, AL, shop owner Jason Wilson was in his business--Jimmy's Auto--when he heard the tornado warning sirens. He gathered his family, including his two children, and decided to ride out the storm in the shop.

About an hour afterward, Wilson stood in the parking lot, stunned, looking at the roof of the store. The roof had been blown off the building as they huddled inside, he said.

"We was fixing to go home and heard the siren," he said to al.com. "We took cover. It's about all you can do. And then it just blew the roof off."