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West Virginia Challenges Use of Salvage Parts in Collision Repair of Newer Vehicles

April 24, 2012

CHARLESTON, WV – West Virginia Attorney General Darrell McGraw announced April 12 that Liberty Mutual Insurance Co. and a St. Albans body shop will halt their use of so-called "junkyard parts" in repairs of newer vehicles, the West Virginia Record reported. 

McGraw’s office issued a preliminary injunction order directing Liberty Mutual Insurance and Greg Chandler’s Frame and Body LLC to immediately cease repairing vehicles that are three years old or less with salvaged parts until all issues raised in the complaint are fully resolved. The body shop operates under Liberty Mutual Insurance Co.’s direct repair program.

McGraw said that Liberty Mutual also agreed to provide state officials with a list of all West Virginia customers whose vehicles were repaired illegally within the last three years using salvaged parts.

According to the Attorney General’s Office, state law requires insurance companies and body shops to secure a customer’s written authorization before repairing a new vehicle with salvaged parts.

Back in December, McGraw’s office filed a lawsuit against Liberty Mutual and Greg Chandler’s Frame and Body LLC for allegedly repairing damaged vehicles using reconditioned, remanufactured and used parts in violation of state law. McGraw also alleged that the insurance company failed to provide its customers with notices and written statements explaining the use of such parts.

In response to the lawsuit, Liberty Mutual and the body shop initially challenged the state’s authority in the matter, citing the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act. But a federal judge found that the West Virginia Crash Parts Act was in no way in conflict with the federal Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, and the case was sent back to state court in Kanawha County, W.V., to address the request for an injunction.

In public statements, McGraw accused the insurer and body shop of using “junkyard parts” – a derisive term whose use drew sharp criticism from the Automotive Recyclers Association. The group sent a formal complaint letter to McGraw in January, calling the term “derogatory and misleading.”

The debate over semantics reflects the broader debate over the use of salvage parts in collision repair. Safety advocates and representatives of the insurance, collision repair, auto parts and auto manufacturing industries look at the issue from very different perspectives -- and that's not likely to change anytime soon.

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