Leif’s autobody sues, loses after BBB gives it ‘F’ grade

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PORTLAND — A Portland judge has thrown out a $5 million lawsuit by Leif’s Auto Collision Centers against the Better Business Bureau in which the vehicle-repair company claimed the bureau defamed it with an “F” grade.

Because the company hadn’t proven it had legitimate grounds to sue, Multnomah County Circuit Judge Kelly Skye ruled it must pay the bureau’s legal fees in defending itself. That amount hasn’t yet been determined.

The judge found that the bureau’s “F” grade was a matter of opinion protected by law. The judge also found that Leif’s failed to prove that the BBB had knowingly published false statements or shared information with a reckless disregard for the truth.

Duane Bosworth, a Portland attorney representing the bureau, said his clients are pleased the judge agreed that Leif’s didn’t have evidence to support its assertions.

“The ruling strongly supports the freedom to review and comment on important consumer matters without fearing a lawsuit,” Bosworth said.

In its October 2016 lawsuit, the company accused the bureau of “extortion” by using a system in which it gave higher grades to business that paid its $395 membership fee. After Leif’s refused to pay, the bureau gave the company a failing grade, according to the lawsuit.

The suit also stated that the part of the bureau covering the Northwest region misled the public by stating in a news release that 57 of the 405 complaints it had received about auto-body repair shops in the previous three years were about Leif’s. That amounted to 14 percent, and Leif’s argued that the bureau failed to point out that Leif’s handles more than 14 percent of auto-body repairs.

The company contended that 99.96 percent of its customers hadn’t complained.