By Tom Davis
Dallas, Texas -- October 5, 2017 -- John Eagle Collision Center and attorney Todd Tracy of Tracy Law Firm have “agreed to work together today to improve safety standards in the nation's collision repair industry,” according to a joint press release.
The announcement follows a Dallas county civil jury's verdict, as reported by Collision Repair magazine. The verdict ordered the Texas-based repairer to pay $31.5 million USD in damages after an “improper repair” was held to be liable for the severity of the crash of a 2010 Honda Fit in 2013.
Matthew and Marcia Seebachan were travelling in the Fit when a Toyota Tundra, travelling in the other lane, hydroplaned into their path. The Seebachan’s vehicle caught fire with the couple trapped inside.
The other driver was attributed with 25 percent of the blame, taking the total amount of damages to $42 million USD. However, experts for the plaintiffs successfully argued that the severity of the Seebachan's injuries were due in large part to the bodyshop adhesive-bonding the Fit's roof during an $8,500 hail repair.
The repair was not in line with Honda's OEM repair procedures, which demand a shop tack-weld the front and rear corner edges of the new roof before performing two-and-three-plate spot welds and MIG plug welds.
Johnny Kloeckes, a CARSTAR MSO in Edmonton, believes that a judgment like this could easily happen in Canada, if shops aren't following the OEM procedures.
“That's the root cause. The technician didn't follow the OEM procedures. They knew he was using glue, and they thought that was as good or better than the OEM method," he said.
Kloeckes also has advice for shops who want to protect themselves from liability. "Learn how to research. On the shop level, the appraisers have to learn to research, the production manager has to learn to research and the technicians have to learn to research. You have to accept that at least for now, it’s going to be hard to get paid for that time. It’s just something you are going to have to do. Consider it a good investment," he added.
Randy Weber, owner of CSN Walkerton, also commented on the verdict: “This could absolutely have a knock-on effect in Canada. It reinstates the importance of following the OEM process and I'd hope that, in turn, it would have a positive impact for the industry in the country and raise awareness of working to the book.”
According to the joint press statement from John Eagle Collision Center and Tracy Law Firm. John Eagle wanted to settle the case, but his insurers forced the company to go to trial. “Mr. Tracy acknowledged that despite Mr. Eagle's sincere desire to settle the claim, his insurance carriers elected to proceed with the trial,” it said.
It went on to add that Eagle has pledged to “encourage the collision repair industry across the nation to follow OEM bulletins instead of insurance companies' mandates when they repair vehicles.”
“We salute John Eagle for his leadership in the wake of this tragedy to act as a safety beacon for the collision repair industry,” said Tracy.
It is believed the two parties are likely to come to a settlement agreement rather than proceed with a lengthy appeals process, although it's possible the case could still be appealed.
Meanwhile, according to a report by our US-based content partner, Repairer Driven News, the Auto Body Association of Texas plans to start holding its members to a higher “standard of safety”. The association doesn't yet have an official plan, although it is possible members could be asked to take an oath of some sort.