Court Restores $17 Mllion Verdict Against American Family in Car Parts Case

May 5, 2009
Dan Margolies
© 2009 Kansas City Star

A state appeals court this morning reinstated a $17 million jury verdict against American Family Mutual Insurance Co. in a class action lawsuit over aftermarket auto parts.

The Missouri Court of Appeals ruled that Jackson County Circuit Judge Edith Messina was mistaken when she ruled in June 2007 that the plaintiffs had failed to prove their theory of damages.

The verdict, one of the biggest jury awards that year in metropolitan Kansas City, covered an estimated 315,000 Missouri residents who made claims for vehicle repairs between May 1990 and December 2004.

The jury found that American Family had used inferior, nonoriginal equipment to repair policyholders’ damaged vehicles.

Messina, however, found that the plaintiffs had failed to prove American Family breached its obligation to pay for replacement parts that were similar in quality, fit and performance to the original parts.

In its 30-page opinion, a three-judge panel of the appeals court in Kansas City ruled that the plaintiffs “presented sufficient evidence for a reasonable juror to conclude that aftermarket parts are not of like kind and quality to OEM (original equipment manufacturer) parts and that American Family breached its contracts with its policyholders when it paid to return the damaged vehicle to pre-loss condition based on the nature and cost of aftermarket parts."

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