Class Action Lawsuit Filed in Washington State Accuses Nationwide of Unfair and Deceptive Practices

SEATTLE - Jeff Barreca and Lisa Hall today filed a class action lawsuit against Nationwide Insurance. The lawsuit accuses Nationwide of “an unlawful and deceptive scheme” in which it threatened uninsured motorists with license suspension while pretending to collect money on behalf of injured persons insured by Nationwide under UIM policies. The lawsuit asks that Nationwide “account for and disgorge all of the money it has improperly collected from uninsured drivers, over the years, and then kept for itself.”

“What Nationwide has done here is indefensible,” says attorney Denis Stearns, of Marler Clark, the Seattle law firm that represents Barreca. “This company’s slogan is ‘Nationwide is on your side,’ but apparently that isn’t true when you’re injured in a car accident with an uninsured driver. Then Nationwide isn’t on your side, it’s sneaking behind your back.”

The complaint provides a detailed description of the allegedly unfair and deceptive practices, stating that:

Without informing the injured people it insured, Nationwide sent collection letters to hundreds (if not thousands) of uninsured motorists . . . These letters stated that Nationwide had a “legal right” to collect money from the uninsured motorist, that it was doing so “on behalf” of injured motorists that it insured, and that it had the authority “to settle this matter out of court.” The letters also stated that, unless the uninsured motorist immediately agreed to pay Nationwide all of the money it demanded, Nationwide would cause the person to lose their drivers license.

Because Barreca and Hall were once on opposite sides of a lawsuit, each one is represented by a different attorney. “Usually these plaintiffs would still be suing each other, rather than joining forces. But everyone agrees that these practices are unfair, and must be stopped,” says Stearns. “And that’s what we hope to do.”

Stearns learned of Nationwide’s scheme almost by accident. “Not long after we obtained a judgment against Lisa, I got a frantic call from her. She was crying and said that the state was suspending her license. She said ‘It’s not fair, I send Nationwide money every month, and they promised this wouldn’t happen.’” Continues Stearns, “That’s when I knew something was wrong."