Allstate Insurance Co. filed suit Friday to get more than 100 cars owned by its policyholders out from behind the locked gates of M2 Collision Care Centers, a chain of California body shops that is being liquidated at the behest of creditors.
The suit, filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court, calls for CMA Business Credit Services to release vehicles owned by Allstate customers and seeks unspecified damages. Burbank-based CMA took control of M2 Automotive Inc.'s 27 body shops last weekend after last-ditch efforts to sell the ailing Santa Monica company collapsed.
More than 700 employees were laid off and guards were posted at the body shops seized by CMA. Some 2,000 cars left for repairs are under lock and key.
"We had no staff that could release these vehicles," said Michael Joncich, adjustment bureau manager for CMA, on Thursday. Many cars are partly disassembled, he said. Joncich couldn't be reached Friday for comment on the lawsuit.
CMA is conducting an auction of M2's estimated $3 million of assets this weekend and hopes that new owners will reopen the centers early next week.
But Allstate is pressing its case. "We have been attempting to negotiate with CMA but have received little if any cooperation," Allstate spokesman Bill Melander said.