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CRUSHING COMPLAINTS

Trois Riveries estimator put through the wringer to see license reinstated

Story by ALLISON ROGERS

Trois-Rivières, Québec estimator Stéphane Lachance can finally breathe a sigh of relief after a lengthy deliberation process regarding a complaint Intact Insurance filed against him last year.

On September 14, the Mouvement Carrosiers Québec (MCQ) announced a “total victory” for Lachance, who had recently seen his Certificate of Qualification revoked by the Groupements des assureurs automobiles (GAA) Disciplinary Committee following a complaint Intact Insurance lodged against him in 2020.

In January 2020, following a minor collision, the owner of a 2004 Toyota Prius filed a damage claim with Intact Insurance. Their vehicle was deemed a total loss. Unhappy with Intact Insurance’s decision, the owner of the vehicle filed a lawsuit against Intact Insurance in the Court of Québec, small claims division, and called on Lachance as an expert witness—who, at the time, was under temporary license suspension for reasons unnoted.

On March 13, 2020, Intact Insurance filed a claim with the GAA, which oversees automotive insurance in the province. The complaint alleged that Lachance performed the function of estimator in a “derogatory manner”; that he improperly used a GAA document to prove his skills and failed to enter a certificate qualification number on an estimate he had allegedly helped construct for his client in preparation for small claims court.

In response to the complaint, the GAA dictated that its complaints officer “can communicate with any person likely to provide information relevant to the handling of the complaint and collect its version.” Regardless, the officer moved to denounce Intact Insurance to the effect that Lachance had committed ethical faults.

Fast-forward a year and the GAA’s Disciplinary Committee allowed the parties to share their sides—and Lachance spoke out. He argued that he did not act as an experienced collision repair estimator, but instead as a knowledgeable autobody repairer capable of placing judgement on the repairability of the Toyota Prius in question. The documents he had allegedly wrongfully prepared were only intended to illustrate his knowledge and skills in collision repair.

On May 25, the disciplinary committee declared Lachance guilty of having failed in his professional obligations by acting as an appraiser while his license was suspended.

The committee also alleged risk of recurrence on Lachance’s part and hammered down on the seriousness of the fault, ordering a “complete and final withdrawal” on Lachance’s certificate of qualification. But Lachance knew he was never in the wrong. Faced with the decision, he hired legal support via M. Estelle Savoie-Dufresne and submitted the disciplinary committee’s decision to arbitration.

On August 25, the arbitrator overturned the decision of the committee and rejected Intact Insurance’s original complaint. In their decision, the MCQ said the arbitrator noted that the Committee “did not, as provided by law, justify its decision.” In other words, the Committee failed to explain what led to the penalty imposed on Lachance.

The arbitrator also said Lachance’s explanations in the case “were not even held or considered by the Committee as if the estimator had not testified or failed to contest the complaint.”

JANUARY 2020

A minor collision occurs and the vehicle owner files with her insurer, Intact Insurance. The driver’s 2004 Toyota Prius is deemed a total loss. Unsatisfied with this ruling, the vehicle owner sues Intact and calls on Stéphane Lachance, a collision repairer and former estimator.

APRIL 13, 2021

The GAA Disciplinary Committee hears the parties in the case. Lachance argues that, in this situation he acted not as an experienced estimator, but instead as an experienced autobody repairer capable of placing judgement on the reparability of the Toyota Prius in the case. He says the documents he had allegedly wrongfully prepared were only intended to illustrate his knowledge and skills in the field of motor vehicle repair.

JULY 2021

Faced with the Commitee’s verdict, Lachance moves forward with the legal support of Estelle Savoie-Dufresne, submitting the Committee’s decision to an arbitrator for review.

AUGUST 25, 2021

The arbitrator files their decision, overturning the ruling of the Committee and rejecting Intact Insurance’s initial claim that Lachance had committed any faults.

According to the MCQ, the arbitrator rejects the complaint on the grounds that:

• “The Committee did not, as provided by law, justify its decision. In other words, the Committee failed to explain what led to the penalty imposed on Lachance.”

• “The explanations given by the estimator…were not held or even considered by the Committee in its decision of guilt, as if the estimator had not testified or failed to contest the complaint.”

• “Everything…is consistent with the estimator’s testimony that he acted, in this case as an expert rather than an automotive damage estimator.”

MARCH 13, 2020

Intact Insurance files a complaint with the GAA on the grounds of non-compliance with the Code of Ethics for automobile damage appraisers. The complaint states that Lachance performed the function of estimator in a “derogatory manner,” that he improperly used a GAA document to assert his skills and that he failed to enter a Certificate of Qualification number on an alleged estimate he prepared for his client.

The Complaints Officer is allowed to “communicate with any person likely to provide information relevant to the handling of the complaint.” Instead, the Complaints Officer denounced Intact Insurance to the effect that Stéphane Lachance had committed ethical faults.

MAY 25, 2021

The Disciplinary Commitee renders what the MCQ calls a “ruthless decision,” declaring Lachance guilty of having failed in his professional obligations by acting as an appraiser while his license was suspended. The Committee also highlights the risk of recurrence and the seriousness of the fault committed before ordering a “complete and final withdrawal” of Lachance’s Certificate of Qualification.

September 14

The Mouvement Carrosiers Québec (MCQ) announced a “total victory” for stephane Lachance.

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