CHARLESTON, W.Va. (Legal Newsline) - A group of auto repairers in New York say they support West Virginia Attorney General Darrell McGraw's filing of a lawsuit against an insurer and body shop for installing so-called "junkyard parts."
The New York State Auto Collision Technicians Association, or NYSACTA, sent a letter to McGraw Jan. 24, 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."
Last month, 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."
In December, McGraw filed a lawsuit against Liberty Mutual Insurance Co. and a St. Albans frame and body shop for allegedly repairing vehicles with used parts. In his office's press release, the attorney general called them "junkyard 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 Greg Chandler's Frame and Body LLC.
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.
An investigation confirmed that the insurer employed a policy that violated state law, he said.
"My office will always work to insure that West Virginians receive safe, high quality, competent, and lawful repairs to their vehicles," the attorney general said in a release last month.
"Implementing policies that thwart state law in an effort to increase profits is unacceptable."
NYSACTA, in its three-page letter to McGraw, said referring to such used parts as "recycled" can be misleading to consumers.
"On behalf of our Association, we offer our appreciation and gratitude for your efforts in protecting consumers relative to the sale and installation of, industry referred to; used, salvage and junkyard supplied parts. We further support your position that the installation of these parts MAY affect vehicle limited warranties and highway safety," Orso wrote.
He said consumers are owed -- according to most insurance policies -- to have their vehicles returned to them in "pre-loss condition."
Receiving payment allowance for a loss based on the installation of parts from a salvage yard that are of unknown origin is not acceptable, he argues.
"Salvaged parts may have been subjected to undetermined stress, use or abuse. The consumer is owed equal or better, not unknown," he wrote.
"In our daily experience, as long as the insurance industry can save money, churn a profit and insulate themselves with the repair shop between them and the consumer, they are more than willing to perpetuate the process."
Orso said the term "junkyard parts" is not any more derogatory than the term "repair shop" vs. "garage."
"The auto collision repair industry and the general public have been mislead and to a certain extent, deceived by an insurance industry that consistently attempts to use their substantial financial resources to influence shops and persuade consumers for its own cost-saving, profit-driven greed," he wrote.
"Unfortunately, the insurance industry appears all to willing to sacrifice safety for profit by lulling consumers into a false sense of what is 'commercially' viable and more importantly, safe. Simply referring to a part or process as 'green' does not make it suddenly acceptable especially when the term 'green' or 'recycled' is being used to deceive or at least mislead the consuming public."
From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by email at email@example.com.