John Eagle Collision Owes $31.5M for Performing Improper Repairs
Oct. 3, 2017—A Texas jury found that John Eagle Collision Repair Center owes $31.5 million in damages (and $42 million in total) for performing an improper repair that led to a couple being trapped in a burning car.
The lawsuit gained national media attention in August after Matthew and Marcia Seebachan, who were trapped in the crushed, burning 2010 Honda Fit after a collision, found that John Eagle Collision Center (Dallas) had used glue instead of welds when replacing a hail-damaged steel roof on the vehicle prior to the accident.
Now that John Eagle has been assigned 75 percent liability in the case, Erica Eversman, a collision repair attorney for Vehicle Information Services, says that the verdict could become a watershed moment that will affect collision-insurer relationships and increase public awareness of OEM procedures. It has the potential to lead to a class action lawsuit, she said.
The Dallas County jury attributed the other 25 percent of the blame to the other driver. The verdict was 10-2.
The Seebachans' attorney Todd Tracy indicated they may revive another lawsuit against State Farm, which allegedly had influence over John Eagle not following OEM specifications.
"State Farm secretly and covertly plays Russian Roulette with its customers and the public by forcing body shops to choose their profits over the safety of the motoring public," Tracy said.
Tracy’s campaign highlighting the insurance industry’s influence over collision repairs has stirred up several news stories over the past couple months, resulting in Texas Watch, a citizen advocacy organization dedicated to ensuring insurance companies are held accountable, requesting the Texas Department of Insurance (TDI) investigate the insurance industry’s “corner cutting” of automobile repairs.
Tori Sommerman, deputy director of Texas Watch, said the organization never felt compelled to involve itself in the insurer-collision relationship until this lawsuit.
“We believe body shops should be making safe repairs,” she said. “We also believe, then, insurance companies should prioritize policyholder’s safety.”