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Attorney Tracy presents 11 ways for shops not to get slapped with $42M lawsuit

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Business Practices | Education | Insurance | Legal | Repair Operations
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Todd Tracy, the attorney responsible for a $42 million verdict largely falling upon a Texas dealership body shop, on Wednesday offered collision repairers eleven ways to avoid suffering the same fate.

“This is why you came,” Tracy, the owner of Tracy Law Firm, told a large audience during the Society of Collision Repair Specialists’ Repairer Driven Education class at SEMA.

Tracy represented Matthew and Marcia Seebachan in their lawsuit against John Eagle Collision Center for incorrect repairs to their 2010 Honda Fit which a jury found increased the severity of a subsequent collision.

The jury found the auto body shop’s work was responsible for 75 percent of the couple’s ordeal related to the 2013 crash — and therefore $31.5 million in damages. The Dallas County jury attributed the other 25 percent of the blame to the other driver.

The Seebachans were traveling in the Fit on a 75 mph stretch of road in 2013 when a 2010 Toyota Tundra in the other lane hydroplaned into their path, leading to the Fit striking the right front quarter of the Tundra in a T-bone collision.

Experts for the plaintiffs said in court documents that the severity of the crash and the Seebachans’ injuries were the result of the body shop adhesive-bonding the Fit’s roof during a $8,500 hail repair in 2012 for the prior owner. The Seebachans had no idea the vehicle had received body work when they bought the Fit, as the CARFAX report only reflected upholstery work, according to Tracy.

Honda OEM repair procedures demand a shop tack-weld the front and rear corner edges of the new roof and then perform a combination of two- and three-plate spot welds and MIG plug welds.

Body shop director Boyce Willis in a deposition agreed the facility bonded the roof with 3M 8115 adhesive despite little concrete evidence or engineering knowledge to support the decision — particularly as 3M and Honda instructions state otherwise.

Here’s most of Tracy’s ways to fend off “lawyers like me, who you do not want coming to your office.”

Always follow OEM procedures. “Pretty basic,” Tracy said.

Always follow I-CAR” (which also says to follow OEM procedures), according to Tracy.

Never forget who your customer is,” Tracy said. He noted that he loved an I-CAR webpage stating the same.

“Your customers are the lifeblood of your business,” I-CAR wrote. “When they entrust you with their vehicle repairs, they are putting their lives – and the lives of their loved ones – in your hands.

“Don’t let them down. Make sure your customers drive off in a properly repaired vehicle, every time.”

Find out about shop liability during Repairer Driven Education

Learn what failing to follow OEM repair procedures could mean for your shop in court Nov. 2 at the OEM Collision Repair Technology Summit during the SEMA Show in Las Vegas. Experts including attorney Todd Tracy will present “The Hidden Dangers of Vehicle Technology, Improper Repair Methodology and Your Liabilities.”  Space will be limited; early registration is encouraged. The session is part of the Society of Collision Repair Specialists Repairer Driven Education Series through Nov. 3. Register here for individual courses or here for the series pass package deal, which includes the entire week of classes, all three parts of the OEM Summit and the Nov. 2 Sky Villa afterparty.

If OEM repair procedures don’t exist, research the best way to complete the repairs. Keep records of what you did, and keep the customer informed.

“You gotta learn to CYA (cover your ass),” he said. “You gotta learn to build a file.”

If you have a website, don’t overpromise, and “make it vague.” Tracy earlier ridiculed a version of John Eagle’s website which boasted “our goal is to achieve ‘better than new’. We consider anything less ‘not good enough’.”

“Never overpromise what you can deliver,” Tracy said, suggesting perhaps promising the safest vehicle “‘we possibly can.'”

If you do repair a vehicle, “report the repairs to somebody, for the love of God,” Tracy said. A shop can’t stop CARFAX from doing what it does, so report it.

Never put profit ahead of the customer.

Never admit you’re letting the insurer dictate how the car is fixed.

Tell the customer what the insurer is doing and have the customer sign off on it. Note that “you recommend against it because the vehicle will not be as safe in the event of an accident and that their family or a future owner of the vehicle can be seriously injured or killed,” Tracy’s presentation states.

Be A HERO and STAND UP to the insurance companies,” another slide states. Tracy’s presentation urged repairers to tell carriers and customers in writing if an insurer’s desired repairs violate OEM procedures, note that this “will cause serious injury or death to your customer or any future owner of this vehicle” in an crash and say you won’t fix the car.

Make a similar argument — but then declare your shop would follow OEM repair procedures, accept the insurer’s payment, and sue the carrier for anything not reimbursed.

Featured image: Todd Tracy, the attorney responsible for a $42 million verdict largely falling upon a Texas dealership body shop, on Wednesday offered collision repairers ways to avoid suffering the same fate. (John Huetter/Repairer Driven News)

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