Liberty Mutual, W.Va. body shop to stop use of 'junkyard parts' in car repairs
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (Legal Newsline) - West Virginia Attorney General Darrell McGraw announced Wednesday that Liberty Mutual Insurance Co. and a state frame and body shop will stop their use of so-called "junkyard parts" in repairs of new vehicles.
The terms of the preliminary injunction order with Liberty Mutual and Greg Chandler's Frame and Body LLC provide that they will immediately cease repairing vehicles that are three years old or less with salvaged parts until all issues raised in McGraw's complaint are resolved.
The insurer also agreed that it would provide the State with a list of all West Virginia consumers whose vehicles were repaired illegally within the last three years using salvaged parts.
"It is important to notify West Virginians who have been victimized by Liberty Mutual's unlawful policy," McGraw said in a statement. "Consumers likely have no idea their vehicles were repaired with junkyard parts."
In December, the attorney general filed a lawsuit against Liberty Mutual and the St. Albans body shop for allegedly repairing vehicles with used parts.
The lawsuit, filed in Kanawha County Circuit Court, details repeated violations of the state's Consumer Credit and Protection Act by both Liberty Mutual and the body shop.
In particular, McGraw alleges Liberty Mutual required body shops to repair vehicles using reconditioned, remanufactured and used parts in violation of state law.
In addition, McGraw contends the insurer failed to provide consumers with the proper notices and written statements.
According to the Attorney General's Office, it is unlawful in West Virginia for an insurer to require the use of salvaged, used or reconditioned crash parts when negotiating the repairs of vehicles within three years of manufacture and without the owner's consent.
McGraw said his office began investigating Liberty Mutual and the body shop after receiving "evidence" that new vehicles were being repaired with the used parts.
In one case, Kanawha County resident Regina Anderson filed a complaint with McGraw's office in December after experiencing problems with her 2009 Chevrolet Aveo, which was repaired by the body shop in the fall.
When the vehicle was returned to her after repairs, Anderson said she noticed "the rear hatch did not line up and there was a gap between the driver's side hatch and the quarter panel big enough to put my fingers in."
Anderson said she reviewed her invoice, which showed that "like-kind and quality" parts were used to replace the driver's side quarter panel.
It wasn't until she heard of McGraw's lawsuit against Liberty Mutual and the body shop that she realized her car had been wrongly repaired with used parts.
"State law requires insurance companies and body shops to secure a consumer's written authorization before repairing a new vehicle with salvaged parts," McGraw explained.
"Liberty Mutual intentionally withheld this material information. Consumers had no notice that their vehicles had not been repaired with new parts."
The attorney general has taken some heat for his use of the term "junkyard parts" in news releases related to the lawsuit.
In January, the Automotive Recyclers Association sent a formal letter of complaint to McGraw, urging him to stop using the term when referring to recycled or salvaged auto parts.
The ARA called the term "derogatory and misleading."
However, a group of auto repairers in New York came out in support of McGraw's filing of the lawsuit.
The New York State Auto Collision Technicians Association, or NYSACTA, sent a letter to McGraw in January, explaining that the term is accurate.
"There will always be alternative words/terms to describe every trade, profession, process or part," President Michael Orso wrote. "We respectfully submit consumer safety and awareness is and always will be more important than nomenclature."
From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by email at email@example.com.