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The Hartford hit with $20 million in damages

MILFORD, Conn., June 5, 2013 -

Superior Court Judge Alfred J. Jennings, Jr. ordered The Hartford Insurance Company to pay $20 million in punitive damages to auto body shops in the state, in addition to the $15 million awarded to the class of repair shops in a 2009 jury verdict.

In the case filed against The Hartford in 2003, Arties Auto Body, et al. v. The Hartford Insurance Company, et al., the plaintiffs charged The Hartford with engaging in unfair business practices in violation of Connecticut law. Judge Alfred J. Jennings, Jr., acting as the trial referee in the case, ruled that in addition to the $15 million jury verdict, The Hartford should pay $20 million in punitive damages. Judge Jennings said he will also award attorneys' fees in an unspecified amount.

In the 2009 verdict, the jury agreed that The Hartford artificially suppressed body shop labor rates by pressuring appraisers to not be independent and unbiased, and to rely exclusively on The Hartford's own automobile service representatives to perform appraisals, thereby controlling appraisal content, including labor rates. The result of The Hartford's practices was that consumers did not get fair, independent appraisals of the damage to their automobiles.

Attorney David Slossberg of Hurwitz, Sagarin, Slossberg and Knuff, co-counsel for the plaintiffs, said that "the punitive damages award is intended not only to punish The Hartford for its unfair trade practices, including what the Court cited as The Hartford's intentional efforts to conceal its conduct from regulators and the public, but also to deter all insurance carriers in the market from engaging in the same unlawful conduct. The court has placed the entire industry on notice that forcing their appraisers to violate the code of ethics by writing estimates at unreasonably low labor rates must stop." Slossberg added that "in May, Judge Jennings issued permanent injunctive relief sought by the Association, ordering the insurance company to halt what had been the routine practice of artificially manipulating the labor rates at car body repair shops statewide."

Tony Ferraiolo, president of the Auto Body Association of Connecticut commented that "It has been a very long road to get to this point." Ferraiolo, owner of A & R Body Specialty, Wallingford said that ABAC "members have provided literally tens of thousands of pages of documents to demonstrate that The Hartford seemingly totally disregarded both regulations and consumers' interests."

Attorney Slossberg commented "while we expect an appeal, we are determined to see this through and to overcome the draconian delay tactics employed by The Hartford, even as it loses decision after decision. Our hope is to have this case finally resolved in the next twelve to eighteen months."

For more information, please contact Attorney David A. Slossberg at 203-877-8000

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