A jury in Stamford has ruled that The Hartford engaged in unfair business practices in a suit brought by the Auto Body Association of Connecticut. As WNPR’s Harriet Jones reports, the 15 million dollar judgement marks the latest phase of a six year legal battle.
The autobody shops allege that the insurer systematically violated the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act, saying it was steering customers to its preferred shops, rather than allowing them free choice of where to have their vehicles fixed. The Hartford cut out the practice of using independent appraisers, and instead used its own in house appraisal. The Association said this led to depressed labor rates at body shops, and sometimes meant substandard work for customers.
A jury in Stamford Superior Court agreed Tuesday and awarded a 15 million dollar fine against the company. The Hartford says it will appeal the decision, saying its confident that it’s auto body repair program is fully consistent with Connecticut law and provides outstanding service to customers. Lawyers for the Autobody Association meanwhile say they’ll ask the judge to award punitive damages in the light of the jury finding and an injunction to force the Hartford to abandon its practices.