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Judge bars 'crash parts' policy by insurer, body shop

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

Kanawha County Circuit Judge Charles E. King granted state Attorney General Darrell McGraw's motion to prevent Liberty Mutual and Greg Chandler, the owner of Greg Chandler's Frame and Body, off Fifth Avenue in St. Albans, from installing used "crash parts" on vehicles that are manufactured within three years of the date of the crash.

"Crash parts" generally refers 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.

King also ordered that Liberty Mutual release the names and contact information of the consumers who may have been affected by the policy. Assistant Attorney General Matthew Stonestreet said that the AG's office would decide on a course of action regarding potential restitution once the list is in their hands.

"One way or another we want these people to be made whole," Stonestreet said. "And we don't want [the insurance companies] to do this anymore."

McGraw sued Liberty Mutual in December 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."

The Attorney General's Office expects to file a motion to permanently bar Liberty Mutual from continuing the practice in a few days, Stonestreet said.

Reach Zac Taylor at Zachary.Taylor@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5189.


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