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Cracked auto windshields are the latest sector face 'assignments of benefits' abuse in Florida.

Tampa Bay

State Farm fighting disclosure order in AOB-linked auto glass repair dispute

State Farm is fighting a Hillsborough County judge’s order to turn over details of its claims-handling process to an auto glass repair shop that argues the insurer short-changed it for replacing a policyholder’s damaged windscreen.

State Farm claims the information the judge ordered turned over during the spring comprises legally protected trade secrets. Disclosure, it argues in a petition for a writ of certiorari filed on May 9, would “cause irreparable harm by effectively compelling production of ‘cat out of the bag’ materials.”

At the very least, the company argues, the court should order protective measures for the documents — for example, turning it over to the shop’s attorneys only, and forbidding them to share the details with their clients.

“By rejecting State Farm’s trade-secrets and work-product objections, the county court has effectively declared ‘open season’ on these otherwise immune materials,” the motion argues.

The dispute involves a difference of opinion worth more than $400 on Shazam Auto Glass LLC’s bill for fixing State Farm policyholder Christine Jennings’ 2013 Kia Optima. The shop billed at $984.40; State Farm, applying its internal claims practices, including solicitation of competing bids from other shops, paid $568.67. Shazam, which held an assignment of benefits agreement signed by Jennings, filed suit for breach of contract.

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Shazam says it needs to see details of State Farm’s national glass program to determine whether the insurer’s adjustment of the claim was biased and the reimbursement amount was reasonable.

State Farm insists: “The sole breach of contract issue framed in Shazam’s complaint is whether State Farm timely paid the claim. This issue can be resolved without information regarding the proprietary business contracts or the methodology and data used by State Farm, in its investigation and adjustment of a claim, to determine payment amounts.”

The Tampa Bay area has become a hotbed of litigation filed by auto glass shots armed with AOB agreements. Statewide, the number of such claims increased from nearly 400 in 2006 to almost 20,000 just 10 years later. Most of those claims were filed in the Bay Area, although South Florida also was represented.

Written By

Michael Moline is a former assistant managing editor of The National Law Journal and managing editor of the San Francisco Daily Journal. Previously, he reported on politics and the courts in Tallahassee for United Press International. He is a graduate of Florida State University, where he served as editor of the Florida Flambeau. His family’s roots in Jackson County date back many generations.

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