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Owens Collision and Service Center, a Baton Rouge auto body shop that has faced a raft of lawsuits and one filed by the state over its business practices, has filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy.

Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry’s office filed the state’s lawsuit against Owens Collision on Jefferson Highway last year in state court. Car owners who had wrecked vehicles towed to Owens testified in the case they were forced to sign a repair contract even though they didn't want the company to fix their vehicles.

A woman testified in the state’s case that the company held her car for “ransom” after she towed it there but decided against having the shop do repairs.

Gregory Owens is the sole owner of the firm, according to court documents. The company reported owing $190,492 to creditors and having $530,178 in assets.

Dozens of creditors are listed as being owed judgments from Owens Collision.

Chapter 7 bankruptcy allows a company's assets to be sold off to pay its liabilities. 

Neither Owens nor his attorney returned calls seeking comment Wednesday.

The shop brought in nearly $1.5 million in gross revenue in 2018 through Dec. 21, according to the bankruptcy filing. In 2017 it did $1.6 million and in 2016 did nearly $1.8 million.

A judge, siding with the state in its case, called the firm’s practices “absurd, unethical” and “unscrupulous" and found the company violated the Louisiana Unfair Trade Practices Act and ordered it to change some of the ways it deals with customers. 

Owens Collision is appealing the judge’s ruling in that case, according to court records. An attorney for the firm at the time blamed insurance companies for pushing the AG's office to bring the suit.

An assistant state Attorney General said in court that the state had received 50-plus complaints about Owens Collision since 2008 and the state opened its investigation in 2014.

An office manager for the body shop testified it repairs about 100 vehicles a month and gets about five complaints each month, all about money.


Follow Sam Karlin on Twitter, @samkarlin.