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Insurance company, body shop barred from using 'crash parts'

By Megan Workman

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A Kanawha County judge has issued a permanent injunction against an insurance company and a St. Albans body shop owner accused of illegally installing "junkyard" parts on new vehicles.

The court granted state Attorney General Darrell McGraw's motion to prevent Liberty Mutual and Greg Chandler, the owner of Greg Chandler's Frame and Body, from installing used "crash parts" on vehicles built within three years of the date of the crash.

"Crash parts" usually refer to exterior or interior fiberglass or metal materials that make up the body of the vehicle, such as fenders, bumpers, door panels and wheel wells.

Liberty Mutual admitted in court documents that it had repaired nearly 200 vehicles using junkyard and aftermarket parts in "blatant disregard of the Aftermarket Crash Reports Act," according to a statement released by McGraw.

The insurance company "continued to defend its surreptitious use of these parts which jeopardized consumers' safety and diminished the value of consumers' vehicles," the release stated.

"This is a victory for West Virginia consumers. Every consumer has the right to know the type and quality of crash parts used to repair their damaged vehicles," McGraw said in the news release.

The court has not yet ruled on the amount of compensation Liberty Mutual will be required to pay its customers. It also did not decide the amount of the civil penalties.

"However, its ruling did send a clear message to the insurance industry that West Virginia courts continue to uphold its laws," the statement read.

In April, Kanawha Circuit Judge Charles E. King ordered that Liberty Mutual release the names and contact information of the consumers who may have been affected by the policy.

McGraw sued Liberty Mutual in December 2011 after a former manager for Joe Holland's Automotive came forward with a complaint that the insurance company was trying to force them to implement the policy, which is prohibited under state law unless the owner of the vehicle agrees to it.

Lawyers for the insurance company tried to remove the case to federal court, claiming that McGraw's complaint raises questions under a 1975 federal warranty act, and did not apply to state law.

U.S. District Judge Joseph Goodwin threw out the case, and stated in an order that Liberty Mutual's argument was "nonsensical."

A Liberty Mutual spokesman told the Gazette in January: "Any decision we make concerning the use of a specific part for a damaged vehicle is made without compromising neither our customer's safety or the manufacturer warranty."

Reach Megan Workman at megan.workman@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5113.


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