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In Georgia, when motorists sign a contract for automobile insurance they are supposed to be insured for all losses resulting from a collision, said Atlanta plaintiffs’ attorney C. Neal Pope. In fact, he added, it has become the industry practice to pay only for the cost of repairs, not the loss of value resulting from a car having been wrecked and repaired. The difference can be substantial, yet most motorists are not even aware that they are entitled to this money. Those who have fought for it have received “limited payments achieved after long battles,” Pope said. In 1999, several Georgia motorists launched a class action against State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co., seeking to force the carrier to pay these costs in the future and to cough up unpaid lost value for the past six years. (The statute of limitations prevented the plaintiffs from going back any further). A class of some 700,000 Georgia motorists was certified in June 2000. In December 2000, Judge Douglas Pullen ordered State Farm to take diminished value into account when assessing future claims. In June 2001, he ordered State Farm to pay for such losses going back to December 1993. State Farm appealed, but in November 2001, the state Supreme Court upheld Judge Pullen’s orders and the class certification. In late December, State Farm agreed to pay $100 million to settle the past claims, $50 million for attorney fees and costs and future diminished-value costs, estimated at $100 million. After the high court’s decision, Georgia Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine ordered all carriers to pay diminished value. Plaintiffs’ attorneys: C. Neal Pope, Michael McGlamry, Wade Tomlinson, William Norwood, Paul Kilpatrick, Timothy Morrison, Elizabeth Pope Holmes, J.F. Hirsch and John Bedis, Pope, McGlamry, Kilpatrick, Morrison & Norwood, Columbus, Ga. and Atlanta; Ben Burns, Columbus; James Humes, William Hardigree and Allan Snipes, Hatcher, Stubbs, Land, Hollis & Rothschild, Columbus. Defense attorneys: John Chandler and John Bonds, Sutherland Asbill & Brennan, Atlanta; E.A. “Bud” Simpson and Linda Berschall, Powell, Goldstein, Frazer & Murphy, Atlanta; William Scrantom, Page, Scrantom, Sprouse, Tucker & Ford, Columbus.

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