Insurance giant State Farm is suing a Sarasota auto glass company over what it calls fraudulent windshield replacement claims. It asked for $1.4 million in damages.
In a federal lawsuit filed last month in Florida’s middle district, the insurer accused At Home Auto Glass of myriad violations, including not giving customers written estimates and invoices, dishonest subcontracting work, getting its business license under false pretenses and inflating the amount it charged State Farm for the repairs.
“The conduct was contrary to Florida public policy,” the lawsuit said, “”and was unconscionable, immoral, unethical, oppressive and unscrupulous.
Michal Brower, spokeswoman for State Farm, said because the case is ongoing, “it would be inappropriate to comment.”
The lawsuit is the latest in a protracted fight between insurers and independent auto glass shops over the fair price of a windshield replacement.
In Florida, windshield replacements are covered for drivers with comprehensive auto insurance. But claims over the repairs can land in court if an insurance company refuses to pay what an independent glass company bills them.
Ratepayers’ premiums can be heightened because of cost of the lawsuits. And many don’t realize that when they sign over their legal right to deal with their insurance company to the glass vendor, if a lawsuit is filed, they are effectively suing their insurer.
Auto glass companies argue that they have no choice but to go to court if insurers don’t pay what is considered a fair price for repairs.
At Home has been active since January 2017, according to state business records. It has filed 9,896 lawsuits against insurance companies since then, beginning just over two months after it opened, largely in Hillsborough County. Of those, 1,291 cases were against State Farm.
Michael Laurato, a lawyer representing At Home, called State Farm’s allegations “completely and totally frivolous.” At Home, he said, bases its pricing on the National Auto Glass Specifications catalogue.
“It’s not like my client ... or anybody at all just sends in a bill for the number of hours they claim is expended to install a windshield,” Laurato said.
Auto glass companies typically point to the so-called “NAGS” catalogue, published by automotive software company Mitchell International, as a barometer of fair price. It specifies prices for replacement and labor by vehicle.
Insurers may not always pay the full “NAGS” price, however. A Geico pricing agreement from 2012, for example, said its pricing structure for windshield replacements is based on NAGS, but it would only pay 50 percent of the listed windshield price.
At Home filed a motion this week for the case to be dismissed.