Judge rules plaintiffs are adequate class representatives in GEICO case

By Marian Johns | May 7, 2019

ORLANDO — A federal judge has ruled that the plaintiffs named in a case alleging GEICO and Government Employees Insurance Company violated Florida law by not paying mandatory title, tag transfer and that license plate fees on "first-party total loss" auto claims are adequate class representatives in the suit. 

According to the April 4 U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida Orlando Division order, plaintiffs Maurice Jones, Anthony C. Cook and Micah Bellamy filed an amended motion for class certification and responsive filings with the court in their case against plaintiffs Government Employees Insurance Company and GEICO. 

The plaintiffs in the case, who are insureds of GEICO, allege claim the insurance companies failure to pay the transfer and license plate fees is a breach of contract and violates state law.  The plaintiffs argue that their polices clearly define "actual cash value" as "replacement costs" and that the mandatory title and tag transfer fees are related to the purchase or lease of a replacement car after a total loss, the defendants are "contractually obligated" to pay. The plaintiffs also seek to certify Florida and multistate classes, according to the court filing. 

The plaintiffs argue that class certification is "ascertainable" based on an economist's "methodology" for identifying class members using GEICO's own data as well as "third party title information." The defendants allege the plaintiffs have not proven the ascertainability because they can't show a difference between "owned vehicles" and "leased vehicles." The defendants also argue that the economist's method is "not articulate and sufficiently reliable" in indentifying "owned vehicles." The defendants also argue the plaintiffs cannot represent the class because of the different fees they might have incurred if not replacing a lost vehicle. 

U.S. District Judge Paul Byron concluded the plaintiff's "satisfied commonality" and ruled that the plaintiffs' amended motion for class certification is granted in part and denied in part. Byron certified the class as "all Florida residents insured for PA [private passenger auto] physical damage coverage by [GEICO] who suffered a first-party loss of a covered owned (i.e., not leased) vehicle at any time during the five years prior to the filing of this lawsuit through the date of class certification, whose claims were adjusted by a defendant as a total loss claim, whose claims resulted in payment by a defendant of a covered claim, and who were not paid title fees and/or license plate transfer fees."

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