One of the nation's largest car insurance companies wants to sever all ties with Tigard-based repair chain Leif's Auto Collision Centers—because it says Leif's employees physically threatened its claims adjusters.
Geico Auto Insurance sued Leif's and owner Leif Hansen on Jan. 10 in the U.S. District Court for Oregon, seeking payment for professional damages as well as the right to no longer do with business with them.
Oregon insurance law requires that an insurer not restrict a client's choice of which repair shop fixes their vehicle. But in the lawsuit, first reported Wednesday by The Oregonian, Geico says its request is justified under Oregon workplace safety laws, claiming that Leif's employees and Hansen himself regularly harass and physically threaten the Geico claims adjusters sent to negotiate the cost of repairs.
In a section outlining Leif's "abusive and intimidating conduct", Geico claims Hansen and/or other Leif's employees frequently say to adjusters that "they know how to 'find people.'"
"Leif's employees routinely carry around knives and talk about guns," the lawsuit continues. "In particular, at least one Leif's employee has talked about 'killing people,' with the intention of frightening the Geico adjuster who was present."
Geico also describes an occasion in which a Leif's employee who was bringing a vehicle around for inspection allegedly sped up the car and then stopped it short right where the adjuster was standing.
The lawsuit further describes alleged actions Leif's has taken to obstruct their adjusters' ability to do their jobs, including denying to let adjusters inspect vehicles or even enter the property, as well as misleading Geico's clients by claiming all repair delays are the insurance company's fault, and holding vehicles 'hostage' until Geico falls in line with Leif's repair quotes.
Leif's did not respond to a request for comment on the lawsuit.
Leif Hansen, described as "a one-man lawsuit factory" by WW in 2005, is no stranger to litigation. Hansen claims to be the only auto-body shop in the nation to have an in-house counsel, and reports an increase in business following each new lawsuit he and his company have been involved in.
A study on insurance company payouts published in November of last year by data analytics company ValChoice says that mutual companies, which are owned by policyholders, usually give customers a greater return than publicly traded insurance companies with shareholders, of which Geico is one.
As The New York Times reports: "the potential for conflicts in these operations has become a hot issue recently…for pricing policies that hurt consumers while enriching executives."
This is exact thing that Hansen says he seeks to resist at Leif's Auto Collision Centers. He has told reporters that his company is dedicated to standing up to insurance companies on behalf of his customers.