By Mike Davey
Tallahassee, Florida — September 25, 2015 — US District Judge Gregory A. Presnell has dismissed the last of the claims in the second amended complaint in a case that started when a group of 20 collision repair facilities in Florida filed an antitrust action against a group comprised of 39 insurance companies.
The case was originally filed in February of 2014, and gathered support from other groups of repairers outside Florida, leading to similar class action lawsuits. Later a request was granted by the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) to consolidate these suits.
The original suit, A&E Auto Body, Inc., et al. v. 21st Century Centennial Insurance Company, et al., alleged that that automobile insurance companies attempted to suppress the reimbursement rates for collision repair orders, and claimed that this was in violation of Section 1 of the U.S. Sherman Antitrust Act, a federal law prohibiting business activities deemed to be anti-competitive.
Complaints in 14 other lawsuits brought by collision repair facilities and an association that alleged that insurance companies have conspired to suppress labour rates in violation of the Sherman Antitrust Act and numerous state laws were dismissed by Judge Presnell in August, following a recommendation by US Magistrate Judge Thomas B. Smith.
In dismissing the second amended complaint, Judge Presnell noted that the fact that some of the defendants named were not willing to pay more than what State Farm was paying does not, in and of itself, contravene the Sherman Act.
“It is not illegal for a party to decide it is unwilling to pay a higher hourly rate than its competitors have to pay, and the fact that a number of the defendants made statements to that effect does not tip the scales toward illegality,” according to the order issued by Judge Presnell.
Judge Presnell also stated that the alleged behaviour of the defendants, “… i.e., paying the same rates, refusing to pay for the same list of procedures, requiring lower-quality parts, is not enough, on its own, to violate Section 1 of the Sherman Act.”