State Auto Body Shops Awarded $20 Million In Case Against The Hartford

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A Superior Court judge awarded $20 million in punitive damages — in addition to nearly $15 million previously awarded by a jury in compensatory damages — to Connecticut auto repair shop owners in their 10-year legal battle against The Hartford.

The Auto Body Association of Connecticut, which comprises more than 1,000 auto body shops, filed a lawsuit in 2003 against Hartford Fire Insurance Co., which is part of The Hartford Financial Services Group.

The association alleged that The Hartford engaged in a pattern of unfair and deceptive acts and practices, violating state law, by steering customers who had been in a crash to certain preferred auto body shops. The lawsuit also alleged that The Hartford provided incentives to its appraisers to establish artificially low hourly rates for auto body repair work.

On Nov. 17, 2009, a jury hearing the case awarded $14.77 million to the auto body association, saying that the insurer engaged in a practice that resulted in a loss to the repair shops. Superior Court Judge Alfred J. Jennings Jr. added $20 million in punitive damages in a ruling on June 5.

The Hartford’s spokesman, Thomas Hambrick, said: “We are disappointed in the ruling and plan to appeal.”

None of the money has been paid to auto body repair shops yet. At the end of the legal process, there will be a fund of money that includes the $14.7 million in compensatory damages and the $20 million in punitive damages, said the auto body association’s attorney, David A. Slossberg of the firm Hurwitz, Sagarin, Slossberg & Knuff in Milford.

“In most class actions, when you have a common fund like that, you then allow each member of the class to apply and there will be a process that will be set up to distribute the money to members of the class,” Slossberg said.

Ultimately, payment will depend on whether The Hartford wins an appeal.

About Matthew Sturdevant

Full-time staff journalist at The Hartford Courant and magazine freelancer with a master's degree in writing from Dartmouth. My work has appeared in The Los Angeles Times, The Chicago Tribune, Taiwan News, The Baltimore Sun and many other news sources. My blog has been referenced by Politico.com, the Kaiser Family Foundation, the Georgetown Law Library and a number of organizations in healthcare and business. Sturdevant’s blog is "a well-written wealth of ideas," said The Donald W. Reynolds National Center for Business Journalism, (businessjournalism.org, May 18, 2011). I have experience writing for newspapers, magazines, Web sites and blogs as well as shooting and editing video. I made regular appearances on news-talk radio and on the NBC affiliate station in Corpus Christi, Texas. I made occasional appearances on the Fox affiliate in Connecticut promoting Hartford Courant articles.

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2 thoughts on “State Auto Body Shops Awarded $20 Million In Case Against The Hartford

  1. Amelia Little

    This is what you get when you engage in illegal acts. Fraud is something that is grave as it demoralizes and humiliates other people and companies. It always ends up with grave penalties too but it is interesting to know how this case turns out.

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