Four attorneys have withdrawn their representation of a Tampa auto glass shop seeking to lead a class-action suit against Geico.
A federal judge approved the attorneys’ request to withdraw as counsel, citing “serious ethical considerations.” Attorneys David M. Caldevilla, Dan Clark, Matthew A. Crist and Christina K. Ramirez all withdrew as counsel for VIP Auto Glass, which seeks to lead a class-action lawsuit that accuses Geico of systematic underpayments. Geico, however, alleges that VIP has based its claims on false statements.
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US District Court Judge Mary S. Scriven gave VIP 21 days to find new representation. She warned that failure to find new counsel would result in a default judgment against the company.
“Specifically, pursuant to the court’s show-cause order, plaintiff VIP Auto Glass Inc. faces an impending adverse judgment on the merits, sanctions in the form of costs and attorneys’ fees being awarded to Geico, and/or a judgment for fraud upon the court,” Scriven said.
Geico had opposed the VIP attorney’s request to withdraw, pointing to a law that prohibited courts to grant such a request without “compelling ethical considerations” if the withdraw would cause a delay. Scriven, however, found that such ethical considerations existed in the case.
VIP sued Geico over the insurer’s approved reimbursement amounts for windshield replacements. Those amounts, VIP said, “have absolutely nothing to do” with the amounts most shops charge for windshield replacement. That leaves the policyholder holding the bag for the balance – and Florida law states that windshield replacement is 100% covered.
But when VIP requested class certification for the lawsuit, Geico alleged that the company lied to assert standing in the case. VIP had claimed that its standing to bring the suit was based on an assignment of benefits given by Geico customer Deryl Jones. But Geico said that Jones never assigned VIP his benefits.
“Mr. Jones himself recently confirmed that he never signed an assignment, and that the purported assignment that VIP has repeatedly put before this court is a forgery,” Geico said in a court filing. “Since VIP actually has no valid assignment, it has no standing to bring any claims, much less any class claims.”
Geico has alleged that VIP submitted similar forged documents in at least two other cases.
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