Bernstein Liebhard LLP is pleased to announce that it (along with co-counsel) has won a $14.7 million jury verdict for a class of Connecticut independent automobile physical damage repair shops against The Hartford Fire Insurance Company (“The Hartford”). The case, filed in July 2003 in the Connecticut Superior Court (Stamford/Norwalk Division), claimed that, in violation of Connecticut’s Unfair Trade Practices Act, The Hartford wrongfully “steered” its insureds to a closed network of repair shops and suppressed the hourly labor rate paid to independent auto body repair shops for repairs performed on The Hartford’s insureds automobiles. In rendering a verdict for the plaintiff auto body repair shops, the jury found that The Hartford violated the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act by suppressing the labor rate paid to these independent shops.
The case was litigated for six and one half years, including a three week jury selection process and a four week jury trial. The verdict, which provides a recovery for a class of one thousand five hundred independent auto body shops, will protect the independent auto body shops from undue influence by The Hartford whose only interest is improving its own bottom line at the expense of these independent repair shops. The class was represented by Artie’s Auto Body, Fairfield, Connecticut; A&R Body Shop, Wallingford, Connecticut; Skrip’s Body Shop, Prospect, Connecticut; T&J Auto Body (sub-class rep), East Hartford, Connecticut; and The Auto Body Association of Connecticut.
UPDATE: In 2013, the Court awarded an additional $20 million dollars in punitive damages to the class, for a total reward to the class of $34.7 million. The punitive damage award is the largest awarded by a judge in the History of CUTPA.
For more information, please contact Dana S. Smith, Esq. at (212) 799-1414.