Owen's Collision

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A state judge has found a prominent Baton Rouge body shop in violation of the Louisiana Unfair Trade Practices Act and ordered the company to change some of the ways it deals with customers.

District Judge Todd Hernandez specifically ruled that Owens Collision's refusal to allow customers and their agents to view their vehicles while in Owens' custody "is absurd, unethical, unscrupulous, and has proven to be substantially injurious to its customers."

Hernandez ordered Owens to give insurance adjusters, vehicle owners and their agents full and complete access to any vehicle in Owens' custody during the company's regular business hours.

The judge also said Owens is prohibited from misrepresenting the intent, terms, conditions and obligations of customers signing the company's repair contract.

Some automobile owners who had their wrecked vehicles towed to Owens testified at a hearing in June that they were forced to sign a repair contract even though they didn't want the company to fix their vehicles.

Hernandez's July 31 ruling dismissed all claims against company owner Greg Owens individually.

Owens Collision attorney Ashly Earl said Tuesday the vast majority of the state’s allegations against the company were found to be baseless, and he said Owens will continue to provide quality repair work to its customers.

Earl blamed insurance companies for the lawsuit that the Louisiana Attorney General’s Office filed in May against Owens Collision and Greg Owens in Baton Rouge state court.

“The real fight here is between Owens Collision and the automobile insurance companies who pushed the Attorney General’s office to bring this suit because they didn’t like it when Louisiana’s citizens had their vehicles repaired by a company that they didn’t control,” Earl alleged.

The Attorney General’s Office chose not to comment Tuesday on Hernandez’s ruling.

The judge said whether he agrees or disagrees with the practice of a private business is of no relevance. He said he won’t restrain free enterprise and micromanage a private company’s business methods or practices “unless evidence submitted establishes that such methods or practices offends established public policy, is unethical, oppressive, unscrupulous, deceptive, or it is substantially injurious to consumers.”

Owens Collision also is being sued by an individual plaintiff in federal court in Baton Rouge. That suit seeks monetary damages and involves much of the same conduct complained of in the state’s suit.

Follow Joe Gyan Jr. on Twitter, @JoeGyanJr.