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State Farm Wins in Race Bias Suit Over Repair Shop Contracts

Nov. 19, 2018, 5:46 PM

State Farm Mutual Automotive Insurance Company has won dismissal of a lawsuit alleging the insurer discriminated against a minority-owned repair shop wanting to participate in the Select Service Program for State Farm customers.

The Fifth Circuit in 2017 affirmed the previous dismissal of most of the discrimination claims brought by Body by Cook and owner Robert Cook. Only Body by Cook’s Section 1981 failure-to-contract race bias claim remained to be litigated in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana.

But the district court granted summary judgment to State Farm Nov. 16, saying that “no reasonable trier of fact could find that State Farm had an available contract” to bring BBC into its Select Service Program during the time periods in question.

Two of the dates, November 2011 and March 2014, were too far in the past to bring claims, the court said.

As to the remaining July 2014 failure to contract claim, the court noted that BBC is located in Slidell, La., and that State Farm said it only maintained five active Selective Service repair shop contracts at a time in the Slidell area.

Not only was BBC unable to prove untrue State Farm’s claims that it had a firm five-contract ceiling for that area, the repair shop was also unable to point to a non-minority entity that was treated more favorably by State Farm at the time of the July 2014 request, the court found.

Another repair shop had been brought into the network in May of 2011, but the court determined that the three-year difference was too remote in time to “create a disputed issue of fact” regarding the company’s alleged discriminatory motives for the time period around BBC’s July 2014 request to join the auto repair network.

Stone, Pigman, Walther, Wittmann, LLC, represented State Farm. Stephen Smith, New Orleans, represented Body by Cook.

The case is Body By Cook, Inc. v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co., 2018 BL 424655, E.D. La., No. 15-2177, 11/16/18.

To contact the reporter on this story: Porter Wells in Washington at pwells@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Jo-el J. Meyer at jmeyer@bloomberglaw.com; C. Reilly Larson at rlarson@bloomberglaw.com

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