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On August 8, the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation issued an order consolidating a collection of antitrust cases filed against numerous auto insurers and transferring the cases to the Middle District of Florida as In re Auto Body Shop Antitrust Litigation, MDL 2557. In reaching that decision, the Panel rejected the plaintiffs' request that the cases be transferred to either the Southern District of Mississippi or the Eastern District of Louisiana.

Each of the cases centers upon a claim by the repair shop plaintiffs that more than thirty five auto insurers (including Allstate, State Farm, Geico and Nationwide) conspired to suppress reimbursement rates for collision repairs, in violation of Section 1 of the Sherman Act and various state laws. The first case, A&E Auto Body v. 21st Century Centennial Insurance et al., was filed in the Middle District of Florida in February. Subsequently, cases containing similar allegations against the insurers were filed by repair shops in Indiana, Mississippi, Tennessee and Utah. In June, plaintiffs' counsel, located in Jackson, Mississippi, filed a motion with the Judicial Panel requesting that all of the cases be consolidated in the Southern District of Mississippi. However, the Panel rejected that request, choosing instead to transfer the cases to the Middle District of Florida, which was the location where the first case had been filed. In reaching its decision, the Panel held that transferring the cases would "offer the benefit of placing all related cases before a single judge who can structure pretrial proceedings to accommodate all parties' legitimate discovery needs while ensuring that common witnesses are not subjected to duplicative discovery demands."

That Panel's decision appears to be a favorable one for the insurers, at least for the moment, given that Judge Presnell, to whom the consolidated case is being transferred, previously held that plaintiffs' allegations in the A&E Auto Body v. 21st Century Centennial Insurance case had failed to state a claim. Now that the matter has been sent back to Judge Presnell, plaintiffs will undoubtedly be filing a new, consolidated complaint that both incorporates the claims of the consolidated cases and attempts to address the deficiencies in the original A&E Auto Body complaint identified by Judge Presnell. Once filed, the insurers will likely file new motions testing the allegations of the new complaint before the matter proceeds into discovery.

Shortly after the Panel's initial ruling, the Panel issued a supplement order conditionally transferring two additional cases to Judge Presnell, one from the Northern District of Illinois and another from the Western District of Louisiana. Unless successfully opposed by the plaintiffs, these matters will also become part of the MDL proceeding.

Make sure you have the right coverage for your vehicle. Call Prestige Insurance Group, Inc. at (305) 969-8776 for more information on Miami auto insurance.

(Article courtesy: James Burns via Mondaq)
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