AutoNation Helps Communities While Dealing With Frivolous Lawsuits

By: Florida Chamber of Commerce

AutoNation is the largest automotive retailer in the U.S. with 370 franchises and 26,000 employees nationwide. The Fortune 150 Company hasn’t forgotten its roots, employing 7,000 people at its 60 franchises and corporate headquarters in its home state – Florida.

In an effort to grow those numbers, AutoNation partnered with CareerSource, Hispanic Unity and the United Way to host “Sales and Service Hiring Events” in Orlando and South Florida. The events helped Florida communities affected by recent storms, particularly Hurricane Maria evacuees.

AutoNation General Counsel Coleman Edmunds said the company is constantly looking for innovative ways to boost employment and community outreach.

“We’re always looking for talent, both for our sales floor and technicians for customer care. We typically hire a number of different ways,” Edmunds said. “We host these hiring events so that we can hire a large number of people at once. We’re also looking to expand into hiring non-traditional candidates who might not consider working for a car dealership.”

For a company that generates $20 Billion in annual revenue, AutoNation has also been the subject of meritless lawsuits. Edmunds said when an industry is faced with meritless claims, everyone is impacted.

“Basically, it is a tax on the business and consumers,” Edmunds said. “When you have additional costs to cover frivolous lawsuits it ends up doing one of two things, eroding your business profit or being passed on to the consumer and resulting in a consumer tax.”

AutoNation has faced employment lawsuits, class action lawsuits and other tort cases, many of which have been baseless. To avoid the challenges of Florida’s declining legal system, Edmunds said the company explores other avenues of resolution.

“We have arbitration agreements for both consumer cases and employment lawsuits, which allows us to handle these cases in arbitration outside of the Florida court system,” Edmunds said. “We have found that to be beneficial to both us as a business as well as the customers and employees because we are able to resolve matters more efficiently without being caught up in the court system.”

In a recent report from the American Tort Reform Association (ATRA), Florida was named the nation’s worst ‘Judicial Hellhole’ for the first time in the report’s 16-year history. Lawsuit abuse is an increasingly serious and expensive problem that keeps getting worse for every Florida resident. On average, it translates into approximately a $3,400 ‘tax’ for Florida families each year.

Edmunds said while actions have been taken to improve Florida’s legal climate, without a more concerted effort to minimize lawsuit abuses, things won’t materially improve for Florida.

“I think that there have been some significant improvements in the area of tort reform that the Florida Chamber and the Florida Justice Reform Institute have been able to accomplish, but the legal climate is still very bad and getting worse in some areas,” Edmunds said. “There is no question that serious abuses persist today, such as plaintiff attorneys that are intentionally working with medical practices to artificially increase damages in order to seek larger settlements or verdicts.”

Edmunds said being close to our roots is only one reason Florida remains their headquarters. Being a great place to do business is another and makes it well worth the challenges.

“Florida is where our founder, Wayne Huizenga, is from, which is why it was originally our headquarters. But, the reason we stayed in Florida is that we like the business environment despite the fact that it is being plagued by a poor legal climate,” Edmunds said.