Thursday, 20 October 2011 16:01

State Farm Concedes to Settle Three of Gunder’s Customers’ Lawsuits

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.

On September 27th, Gunder received notice that State Farm would provide full payment for the amounts outstanding on the three lawsuits which were pending which included the issue of Contempt of Court.
● Raymond Ellsworth Gunder [Wincey] v. State Farm Florida Insurance Company Case No.: 53-2008SC-005094-0000-00, County Court, Polk County, FL Initial amount at issue $163.31
● Raymond Ellsworth Gunder [Miller] v. State Farm Florida Insurance Company Case No.: 53-2008SC-005093-0000-00, County Court, Polk County, FL Initial amount at issue $124.48.
● Raymond Ellsworth Gunder [Dewey] v. State Farm Florida Insurance Company Case No.: 53-20011SC-00895-0000-LK, County Court, Polk County, FL Initial amount at issue $1,461.01

The payments included consideration for the underpaid amounts for paint & materials (supported by PMC Logic invoicing), low labor allowances and refusal to provide consideration for rarely questioned simple procedures from R&I of hardware and trim operations to refinish related processes such as car-cover, color sand and buff, etc.

The initial mediation between Gunder’s and State Farm took place on the morning of October 6th and while a monetary offer (which would no doubt be considered substantial by some) was presented by State Farm’s legal counsel, it was found by Gunder to be insufficient and thus rejected.

Following the mediation Gunder stated: “While I'm disappointed that we couldn't come to an agreement; as I would very much like to put the issues behind us and be compensated fairly to restore people's vehicles and their peace of mind; we are encouraged to continue on with discovery and having our day in court. We have no fewer than 30 similar cases in the process of being filed on behalf of our customers; all with same or similar issues. State Farm is paying approximately $120,000 in legal fees and costs for these three cases which they have now elected to settle and will no doubt be paying substantially more in the coming months and years should things continue as in the past.”

Shortly after mediation, a settlement letter came from State Farm. Review of the letter from State Farm legal counsel states in part: “After further consideration, and to discontinue the need for further litigation, State Farm has decided to tender the amounts at issue in each of the above-referenced matters, with interest.” The amounts State Farm will pay are: $163, $124 and $1,461, totalling $1748 and change.

“In summary, with this letter, State Farm has paid the amount asserted by the insured to be in dispute for the above referenced claim, thereby curing any circumstance relating to any alleged improper estimate of damage or payment under the applicable policy, and any claim or coverage denial, claim handling or trade practice as the result of same,” the settlement continued. Ray Gunder stated further; “we've been sharing our legal journey with the collision repair industry and we'll continue to do so in the hopes our successes will encourage others to consider their legal options. Meanwhile, we'll continue to ‘Pound the Rock!’”

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