Last Counts in IGA v. Safelite Case Dismissed

The lawsuit that the Independent Glass Association (IGA) brought against Safelite earlier this year may have reached the end of the line. Judge Ann D. Montgomery ordered yesterday that the claims brought by unnamed plaintiff Jane Roe be dismissed and that Safelite's Motion for Summary Judgment, filed in late October be granted.

By granting the Motion for Summary Judgment, Montgomery effectively dismissed the claims brought by the IGA.

Oral arguments regarding Safelite's Summary Judgment took place last week, with counsel for the defendant (Safelite) requesting the action based on Plaintiff Jeff Winter's claims citing violation of the Minnesota False Advertising Act and Minnesota Deceptive Trade Practices Act.

Earlier this year, Montgomery ruled that Winter's false advertising and deceptive trade practice claims, as well as the claims brought by Roe deceptive trade practice claim continue on while all other claims in the case were dismissed.

Roe was identified early in the case only as "a Minnesota resident and licensed insurance adjuster" whose livelihood depended upon the good will of Safelite insurance clients. She, through IGA counsel, expressed concern about retaliation concerning the case that might affect her job. Judge Montgomery noted in her Opinion that, at the time of the previous ruling, "Plaintiff Roe was given 60 days to identify herself" and the judge was informed at oral arguments last week "that Jane Roe no longer wished to proceed in this case."

With Roe's withdrawal from the case, the Motion for Summary Judgment as requested by Safelite pertained only to Winter's claims that were left intact after the last ruling.

According to Montgomery's Opinion, in its Motion for Summary Judgment, Safelite argued that the claims brought under the Minnesota False Advertising (MFAA) and Minnesota Deceptive Trade Practices Acts (MDTPA) fail because Winter can't demonstrate facts to support an essential element of each statute, citing that any alleged steering did not work and he "is aware of Defendants' alleged tactics and will not suffer future loss."

According to the Order, countering Safelite's claim is Winter's argument that the previous Motion to Dismiss as filed by Safelite "was effectively a motion for summary judgment, filed without first requesting permission for reconsideration" and that "no one would ever be able to bring suit under the MDTPA because anyone who discovered the deceptive trade practice would forever be on notice and be able to avoid the particular practice." A similar argument was made about the inability to bring suit under the MFAA.

In addressing the False Advertising Claim, Montgomery stated in her opinion that "While the MFAA itself does not provide a private right of action, the Minnesota Private Attorney General Act does authorize private enforcement of the MFAA by 'any person injured by a violation [of the MFAA]' to secure a public benefit. Minn. Stat. § 8.31, subd. 3a (emphasis added)" and that "Winter has not alleged any actual injury, monetary or otherwise," because the steering tactics allegedly used on him were not successful and he was able to have his windshield replaced, to his satisfaction, by the company of his choice and was not subjected to any out-of-pocket fees as it was allegedly suggested to him that he might be. Montgomery ruled, "because Winter failed to allege any actual injury, his claim under the MFAA fails as a matter of law."

On the claims regarding breach of the MDTPA, Montgomery cites that "the remedies section of the MDTPA provides as the sole remedy for a violation of the MDTPA that '[a] person likely to be damaged by a deceptive trade practice of another may be granted an injunction against it.' Minn. Stat. § 325D.45, sbud. 1 (emphasis added). Therefore, a plaintiff must allege facts that demonstrate a risk of future harm in order to obtain an injunction under the MDTPA." Returning to the fact that the alleged steering to which Winter was subjected was not successful, "Winter has failed to allege any facts that suggest a risk of future harm" and "now that Winter is aware of Safelite's alleged steering tactics, Winter is even more likely to be vigilant in the future, refusing to be swayed from using his preferred repair shop. Because Winter does not allege any facts showing a risk of future harm, his claim under the MDTPA fails as a matter of law."

Montgomery's ruling curtails motions filed by the IGA that would have added additional plaintiffs to the case. On November 7, counsel for the IGA filed a Notice of Motion and Motion to Amend Complaint that according to a recent Beacon Bulletin was intended to add the auto glass shop owned by IGA board member Rick Rosar as a Plaintiff to the case. The motion had been entered on the books and been scheduled for oral arguments on December 5.

Yesterday's ruling by Judge Montgomery effectively ends this specific lawsuit, but an IGA press release indicates that the board will explore its options for filing a new suit at the next board meeting, scheduled for December 7 and 8.

For more information on the IGA press release, see "It Ain't Over 'Til It's Over."

For more information on the Safelite press release, see "Federal Court Dismisses Remaining Claims in IGA-Backed Lawsuit Against Safelite."

To discuss the verdict and what it means for the auto glass industry, CLICK HERE to visit our message boards.

Stay tuned to glassBYTES for more information on this and other issues in the auto glass industry as they happen.

No reproduction, in print, electronic or any form without the expressed written permission of
Key Communications Inc. 540-720-5584.