The Sixth Circuit Appeals Court on Wednesday reviewed a 2021 district court ruling against Richard Campfield, owner and president of Ultra Bond, who sued Safelite Group alleging the company had engaged in false advertising that hurt his business.
A panel of judges asked Campfield, whose company developed a method of repairing windshield cracks in excess of six inches in length, could show proof his business was harmed after Safelite launched an ad campaign stating all windshields must be replaced if they have a crack of six inches or more.
Campfield’s attorney, Kurt B. Olsen of Olsen Law PC, said internal emails indicated that Safelite “set out to attack long-crack repair,” according to Law360, following a 2014 update of the Repair of Laminated Auto Glass Standard (ROLAGS), which states that windshield cracks as long as 14 inches can be repaired.
Olsen also cited a consumer survey that showed as many as 30% of consumers would have chosen repair over replacement had they not been influenced by Safelite’s messaging.
According to the published report, panel member Judge Bush said “there’s nothing in that survey showing they would have chosen your client for that repair.”
Ultra Bond also furnished testimony from key personnel at nine repair shops who said they lost long-crack repair business.
In response, Safelite counsel Matthew A. Kairis of the Jones Day law firm argued that the customer testimony was deficient because none of the nine repair shops explicitly stated that Safelite’s “dollar-bill rule” was the reason they lost business, the report states. Kairis further argued that insurance companies were refusing to cover long-crack repairs, leading customers away from Ultra Bond products and services.
“It seems interesting that Safelite would be telling the insurance companies as a third party administrator you should not repair if it’s longer than a dollar bill, you should replace, which according to your opponents is changing the market for repair business,” Judge Moore said. “Logically, if there is less repair business, then your opponent, who makes his money through the product and through the repair business, would be harmed financially,”
Campfield’s dispute with Safelite dates to the summer of 2015, when the former first brought his lawsuit against the latter. The suit was brought under the Lanham Act, which is the United States’ primary trademark statute.
An Ohio federal judge granted summary judgment to Safelite in March 2021. That decision came two years after the court, in 2019, ruled in favor of Safelite on the company’s motion to dismiss “with respect to the dollar bill rule that Safelite made” as well as statements that it allegedly ghostwrote for insurance companies.
However, that judge also ruled in favor of Ultra Bond, at least in part. The court wrote that the plaintiffs’ amended complaint “creates at least a plausible inference that statements either are literally false or mislead a significant number of consumers.”