Body Shop Worker Claims Bosses Committed Insurance Fraud for Benefit of Football Coach
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (CN) - A body shop worker claims a Toyota dealer fired and defamed him because he had evidence that the dealer committed insurance fraud "for the benefit of then University of Tennessee head football coach Lane Kiffin." Kiffin left Tennessee in January this year to become head football coach for the University of Southern California.
Mark Boling says he worked for 19 years as a paint specialist at Toyota of Knoxville, until he was fired on a pretext a year ago.
Boling sued Doug White, who fired him, T&W of Knoxville dba Toyota of Knoxville dba Lexus of Knoxville, and Toyota Motor Sales, in Knox County Court.
Boling claims White fired him on Dec. 28, 2009 after falsely accusing him of making a false warranty claim on a 2009 Lexus. He says that White wrote in a termination notice that he had fired him for fraud.
Boling adds: "White filed false information in opposition to plaintiff Mark Boling's application for unemployment compensation from the Tennessee Department of Employment Security.
"Defendant White made these false statements about plaintiff Mark Boling to place plaintiff in a false light so as to discredit plaintiff Mark Boling because plaintiff Mark Boling discovered evidence of insurance fraud committed by defendant T&W against State Farm Insurance Company that was for the benefit of then University of Tennessee head football coach Lane Kiffin."
Boling claims that the state unemployment board found in May this year "that defendant White's objections were insufficient and held that plaintiff Mark Boling was discharged without cause."
According to Boling's 19-page complaint, the "defendants had given Lane Kiffin a 2009 Lexus LS460 for his permanent personal use with a retail value of approximately $75,000 because Lane Kiffin was the head football coach for the University of Tennessee football team.
"Upon information and belief, Lane Kiffin did not have a valid Tennessee Driver's license.
"Upon information and belief, there was no lease agreement between defendants and Lane Kiffin.
"Upon information and belief, Lane Kiffin did not have liability insurance.
"Upon information and belief, defendants maintained title to the vehicle as a new vehicle in its inventory after the vehicle was loaned to Lane Kiffin for her personal use.
"Upon information and belief, defendants continued to insure the vehicle loaned to Lane Kiffin under defendants' insurance policy with State Farm Insurance."
After pointing out that this, and other elements of the deal, were irregular, and not permitted under the dealer's insurance policy, Boling says, "On August 12, 2009 during the late night hours, Lane Kiffin crashed the vehicle into a ditch and hit a fence, causing damage to personal property.
"Upon information and belief, Andy White, defendants' general manager and son of Doug White, went to the scene of the crash and removed Lane Kiffin in an effort to protect Lane Kiffin from being observed by law enforcement officials at the scene of the collision.
"Upon information and belief, Andy White paid the property owner for the damages caused by Lane Kiffin.
"Upon information and belief, Lane Kiffin left the scene of the accident with Andy White prior to law enforcement arriving, in violation [of] T.C.A. § 55-10-102."
Boling says Kiffin also broke the law by failing to report the accident.
He claims the chief deputy of the Knox County Sheriff's Department "approved an incident report pertaining to the collision that did not include the name of Lane Kiffin as being the driver of the vehicle in the collision," but he does not say where the deputy got his information, other than that it was "from a source other than Lane Kiffin and employees of defendants."
Then, Boling says, the "defendants entered into an agreement with Lane Kiffin that defendants would obtain proceeds from their insurance company, and from the sale of the vehicle, and Lane Kiffin would then pay the difference for his negligence is [sic] causing damage to the vehicle."
He claims the dealer defendants are "an authorized direct repair facility" for State Farm, which mean they "have authority to make estimates for repairs and then to make the repairs under the estimate without authorization, inspection or approval from State Farm Insurance."
Boling says the defendants estimated the repair cost as $29,188.02, and State Farm paid it to the penny, less the $1,000 deductible.
But that's not all. Boling claims, "Defendants did not repair the vehicle." He says, "Defendant and Doug White instead conducted a private sealed bid sale of the vehicle in its damaged condition."
Boling says he inspected the car "and believed it to be a vehicle he could repair for his wife," his co-plaintiff. He says he and his wife made a sealed bid of $28,000, which was accepted. He says he got a loan for the $28,000, "plus taxes and fees for a total of $31,238,67," then closed the deal with Andy White on Sept. 25, 2009. And he says, "Andy White had the State Farm Insurance check and a check from Lane Kiffin that, along with plaintiffs' check, paid defendants for the vehicle."
He says he and his wife registered the car in their names, and thus "became entitled to the benefits of the remaining factory warranty of defendant Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A."
Boling says that Doug White told him "to provide him with a list of parts and material required to repair the Kiffin vehicle purchased by plaintiffs." He says that he did so, and that he "replaced all damaged parts and materials for $2,734.17."
Boling says he "discovered defendants' estimate to repair the Kiffin vehicle was false." For example, he says he "expended 35 paint and body labor hours to repair the vehicle rather than the 148.9 paint and body hours billed by defendants and paid to defendants by State Farm Insurance."
He says the car "did not need frame hours billed by defendants and paid by State Farm Insurance."
He says: "Plaintiff Mark Boling repaired the Kiffin vehicle for approximately 15% of what defendants billed and were paid by State Farm Insurance."
He adds: "Lane Kiffin was the beneficiary of much of the overcharge by defendants to State Farm Insurance."
In November 2009, Boling says, a headlight became contaminated by moisture. He says the dealer filed a warranty claim and got $800 from Lexus for replacing the headlight, though "in truth and in fact" Boling did the work himself. Afterward, he said, he "was instructed to not discuss his purchase and repair of the Kiffin vehicle."
But the insurance shenanigans "became a topic of conversation within defendants' businesses," with the result that Doug White accused him of making a fraudulent warranty claim for the headlight, and firing him.
Boling seeks punitive damages for libel, false light, invasion of privacy, conversion, consumer law violations, and while he's at it, for a power steering malfunction.
Kiffin is not a defendant in this case. The Bolings are represented by Herbert Moncier.