Eleventh Circuit Dismisses Appeal from Geico

The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals has dismissed an appeal from Geico with respect to a Florida judge’s ruling that the insurer could not use the state’s Motor Vehicle Repair Act to bring legal claims against windshield repair shop Glassco Inc.

According to the case’s background per the Court’s opinion, Glassco did not employ windshield repair technicians, instead running its business “almost entirely through independent contractors.” With Florida law prohibiting insurers from charging insureds a deductible for windshield repairs, Glassco would bill insurers for the work while charging customers “zero dollars,” according to estimates and customer forms.

“The crux of Geico’s case is that Glassco violated the Repair Act and that Glassco committed fraud,” the Court writes in its opinion. “Glassco has collected $700,000 or so from Geico. Geico wants its money back.”

The parties in the case eventually moved for summary judgment following a motion to dismiss from Glassco, the latter resulting in the District Court ruling that only customers and not insurers could sue a shop under the act. However, the District Court declined to dismiss additional claims brought by Geico with respect to “misrepresentations constituting fraud regardless of Glassco’s non-compliance with the legislation and misrepresentations that, according to Geico, constitute fraud because of Glassco’s non-compliance with the Repair Act.”

The District Court entered summary judgment with respect to alleged Repair Act violations but kept intact claims of fraud apart from the repair law. Geico then told the court that “only a small portion of its claims remained,” and that it did not want to go to trial on that “small portion” of its case, instead opting for the appeals process.

Doing so saw Geico amend its complaint to remove the claims that remained, with the District Court entering judgment for Glassco. Geico then submitted its appeal. However, the Appeals Court found that Geico failed to drop its remaining claims within the amended complaint. Since those claims weren’t removed, the Court found that the summary judgment did not resolve all of the claims against all parties, nor did it issue an appealable final decision.

“That’s because Geico continued to allege that Glassco engaged in fraud even putting its Repair Act violations to the side,” the Court ruled. “These were the same claims that survived summary judgment.”

With no final order, the Appeals Court ruled that it lacked jurisdiction.

“Dismissing this appeal may not be a satisfying result,” the Court writes in its opinion. “The parties want us to resolve the Repair Act issues that are driving this case. So does the District Court. And so do we. That will happen soon enough. But we can’t exercise jurisdiction over this appeal simply because the alternative—sending this case back to the District Court—may be inconvenient or inefficient.”

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