ADALB Issues Advisory Ruling on Partial Refinish

By Joel Gausten, Greco Publishing 

During their December 6 meeting at the Division of Insurance in Boston, the Auto Damage Appraiser Licensing Board (ADALB) voted to issue an Advisory Ruling to reinforce current state regulations that apply to partial refinish in the appraisal process. 

Initially proposed by ADALB Board member and collision repair facility owner Rick 

Starbard (Rick’s Auto Collision; Revere), the Advisory Ruling aims to draw attention to 212 CMR 2.04(1)(e), which states (in relevant part) that no appraiser “shall modify any published manual [i.e., Motors, Mitchell or any automated appraisal system] without prior negotiation between the parties.” The Advisory Ruling declares that partial refinishing of a damaged part is considered to be modification of a published manual and may not be included on an appraisal without prior negotiation. Failure to comply with this Advisory Ruling could result in fines and penalties as provided by law. 

The vote to pass the Advisory Ruling came after considerable debate among Board members, with insurance industry representatives Joseph Coyne, Jr. (Home & Auto Appraisal Bureau, Inc.) and Lyle Pare (Plymouth Rock Assurance) often clashing with Starbard and fellow auto body representative Bill Johnson (Pleasant Street Auto, South Hadley/Belchertown) in their opinions on the motion’s appropriateness and relevance. 

Pare and Starbard sparred over the issue, with Pare arguing that issuing an Advisory Ruling of this nature would hinder insurance appraisers’ ability to negotiate claims:

Pare: “[Partial refinish] is something that’s been done in this industry forever.” 

Starbard: “Right, and we’ve had complaints forwarded here. We’ve seen it misused to the point where we’ve seen somebody be paid negative time.”

Pare: “The key word is ‘misused’ in that case.”

Starbard: “Well, I think any use of it is really misuse without prior negotiation.”

Pare also expressed concern that “in the industry, [the Advisory Ruling] is going to be perceived as, ‘No, you can’t do that.’” Johnson countered that statement by stressing that the notice does nothing to alter existing state regulations. 

“It’s just reinforcing what the CMRs say…This Advisory Ruling is not changing the CMRs; it’s to clarify [them]. The CMRs already say that you cannot modify a published manual; [that manual] already says that a damaged door is full paint time, so we’re not changing anything. All we’re doing is clarifying and reinforcing what was already there.

 “Negotiations can still occur,” he added. “If the two appraisers agree to a partial or a lesser amount, they can. It’s already in the CMRs that the manuals cannot be altered without negotiations. We’re not changing anything; all this Advisory Ruling is doing, in my eyes, is clarifying what the CMRs say and what the rules already are.”

 “We’re clarifying the fact [that the manuals] shouldn’t be changed [without prior negotiations] – on this particular issue especially, because we’ve had complaints filed,” commented Starbard. “My phone rings off the hook from shops calling me saying, ‘This guy’s trying to give me partial refinish for this.’ That’s why we brought that up to issue as an Advisory Ruling.”

Starbard argued that insurer opposition to the motion stemmed from “a misunderstanding between what [are] included operations in paint time and what are included operations in clearcoat time.” He later added, “When you cut the paint time and are paid for full clear, clearcoat labor only includes [what it takes] to mix the paint, spray it over the panel and clean the gun…If a shop is going to prep the whole panel, tape the whole panel, do all the R&Is, the cleaning procedures [and] make an undetectable blend in the basecoat and then clearcoat that whole panel, the labor operations are actually more than they would be if it was full-time left alone.”

Coyne opined that the proposed Advisory Ruling was a solution looking for a problem, stating that the Board had only received two complaints on the partial refinish issue in the last four years. 

  “Why should we have an Advisory Ruling if it’s already in the regulations? What do you have to reinforce it?”

Johnson remained firm in his position. 

“Advisory Rulings [are] supposed to clarify the CMRs. You can see the discussion we’re having. Can you imagine the poor appraiser out in the street trying to interpret this? [Coyne] just admitted it’s in the regulation, so where’s the problem with having an Advisory Ruling?”

With the votes among the four Board members split down the middle, ADALB Chairman Gilbert Cox broke the tie by voting in the affirmative

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