Collision shop's business operations questioned by state
BATON ROUGE - The Attorney General has sued a body shop with a 30-year history, alleging that the company's business practices and advertising are dishonest.
The suit, filed Friday against Owens Collision, asks a judge to force the company to stop work and maintain its records until the lawsuit moves forward.
A lawyer for the body shop said the business is working with the Attorney General to correct the problems and resolve complaints.
"We are going to take all the Attorney General's actions serious and we're going to work with them and try to work to try to resolve the issues that they have," said Earl & Messer Attorney Ashly Van Earl.
The suit says Owens misrepresented the contract customers signed, held vehicles longer than necessary “to increase non-repair fees,” according to the suit. It also claims that Owens marks up the cost of parts and bills for unreasonable fees.
Henry Cobb brought his 2012 Honda Civic to Owens a year ago. To his knowledge, his now dismantled car is still on the collision center's property.
"I just don't know how he's still doing it," said Cobb.
Last May, Cobb was involved in a minor vehicle accident. The left side doors of the car were dented and scraped.
His insurance company awarded him $4,500 for the damages. Cobb said he went to Owens Collision and signed a two-page contract. It wasn't until the next day did he notice a copy of his insurance award was in the original's place. He never endorsed the check, but later found it had been signed by an employee at Owens Collision.
The suit says contracts signed by customers allow Owens to make repair decisions for the consumers. The state says "any and all transactions which require the vehicle owners' signature that were signed by Owens on their behalf are improper and are illegal."
Cobb says he became suspicious when he received a call from Owens Collision about an estimate. That estimate was for $14,000, far more than the insurance company settled for. He then went to go check on his car and found it had been dismantled. The two left side doors were missing, and lower paneling to the car was removed. He also says the rear window was gone, which wasn't damaged in the first place. The car was covered in plastic, but that plastic had holes. Cobb said his car had significant water damage to the interior leather seats.
"Apparently that's in their contract, too," he said. "That I give them the right to go ahead and do a tear-down instead of doing a pre-estimate first."
The 18-page suit also outlines a number of fees charged by Owens Collision that are contrary to regional industry standards. It says "Owens delays or denies insurance adjusters access to the damaged vehicles while holding consumers' vehicles for extended periods of time." The suit says storage fees range from $18.00 to $42 a day.
Before any repairs were made to Cobb's car, he'd racked up a storage bill for almost $1,000. It's been a year, and as far as he's concerned, Cobb will never get his car back.
Court records show there are other lawsuits involving Owens Collision. Greg Owens told WBRZ in April, he stands by his business and its fees.