Judge Awards Safelite Attorney's Fees after State Investigation

Judge Awards Safelite Attorney's Fees after State Investigation Photo: Wikimedia Commons

August 18, 2017 09:48 AM

The state agency that's supposed to be looking out for your finances is now costing you money.

A federal judge awarded $941,534.67 in attorneys' fees to a windshield repair company after it was investigated by the Minnesota Department of Commerce.

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Safelite filed a motion requesting attorney's fees from the state after Minnesota Department of Commerce Commissioner Michael Rothman and the department investigated the company for violating anti-coercion in regard to its billing practices.

The judge awarded a total of $941,534.67 to Safelite.

RELATED: 2 Minnesota Lawmakers Want Top State Commerce Official Fired

It's a ruling that is not sitting well with Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman, or one of his biggest critics; the Vice Chair of the House Commerce and Regulatory Committee, Rep. Kelly Fenton, R-Woodbury.

"I don't see how the Governor can come to any other different conclusion than to simply let Commissioner Rothman go or ask for his resignation," Fenton said.

Fenton believes there has been a pattern of abuse of power within the Rothman's department.  

"This is an egregious abuse of their authority. And the Commissioner should be asked to resign," Fenton said.

Fenton has lost faith in the Commerce Department's ability to protect consumers and promote economic development.

"I don't know how anyone looking to do business in Minnesota can trust this kind of behavior," he said

Commissioner Rothman declined an interview, but his office did send a statement.  

"The Commerce Department stands by its insurance company investigation to help protect consumers and small, local businesses from anti-competitive practices, and will continue to do its job even when companies hire out-of-state attorneys with fees in excess of $1,000 per hour. More often than not, the deck is stacked in favor of private industry while Minnesotans struggle to understand their rights and how to protect themselves from inappropriate industry practices. Minnesotans can trust that the Commerce Department will be on their side and take action."

RELATED: Minnesota Commerce Commissioner Dodges Questions Over Judge's Opinion

In a statement, Safelite said,"Safelite is pleased that the court has decided in our favor. Most importantly, we're glad to put this situation behind us and continue to focus on providing exceptional service for Minnesota customers who need windshield repair or replacement."

Earlier this year, a judge said the investigation was baseless and was "initiated against Safelite on financially-motivated complaints from competitors" of the company. 

"They went after a company and they abuse of power" said Fenton. "They shared confidential information from their investigation with the company's competitors. We need to protect our consumers and we need to promote economic development. But this egregious abuse of power by our commissioner does nothing to do that at all.  

Credits

Ben Rodgers and Kevin Doran

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