WHEELING – A Wheeling contractor claims he was taken off Allstate’s preferred contractors list because he was testifying against it, while another defendant in his lawsuit says “so what?”

Robert Contraguerro Jr. and Panhandle Cleaning and Restoration filed a lawsuit in July against Allstate Insurance and Alacrity Services. It was removed to U.S. District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia on Aug. 23, and Alacrity also filed a motion to dismiss.

Alacrity provides administrative services to property insurance companies such as Allstate. Those services include the development and maintenance of a directory of construction trade professionals called “AlacNet.”

Contraguerro Jr., the vice president of Panhandle Cleaning and Restoration, says his company was a preferred contractor on the list when it was discovered he was testifying against Allstate in another case.

On June 29, 2012, he was disclosed as a witness for a claim against Allstate made by a client for whom he had previously prepared a repair estimate.

“In July 2012, Natasha Ryan, Alacrity’s Regional Field Manager for Virginia and West Virginia, contacted Robert Contraguerro Jr. and stated that if he continued to be a witness against Allstate, Panhandle would be suspended from Alacrity’s preferred contractor network,” the complaint says.

“During the conversation… Ryan told (Contraguerro Jr.) that if he withdrew as a witness against Allstate, then Panhandle’s preferred status would be immediately restored and Panhandle would be taken out of suspension.”

Ryan also contacted Robert Contraguerro Sr., the company’s president, before suspending Panhandle Cleaning and Restoration from the preferred contractors network on July 27, 2012.

Contraguerro Jr. went through with his testimony in the case.

The defendants attempted to intimidate and harass him, the lawsuit says. The company, meanwhile, had its business suffer as a result of being unfairly taken off the list, it claims.

The plaintiffs also seek punitive damages. They are represented by James G. Bordas Jr. and James G. Bordas III of Bordas & Bordas in Wheeling.

Alacrity’s memorandum in support of its motion to dismiss seems to admit the allegations but also attempts to justify them.

“Alacrity discovered that Plaintiff Robert Contraguerro, on behalf of Panhandle and in his capacity as Panhandle’s vice president, also works as an expert witness, and that in this capacity Contraguerro would be testifying adverse to one of Alacrity’s largest clients and users of AlacNet – Allstate Insurance Company,” the company says.

“As a result of this conflict of interest, Panhandle’s licensing/advertising on AlacNet was placed on ‘hold’ for new referrals, pending further investigation by Alacrity.

“Alacrity attempted to contact Panhandle and offer it the opportunity to cure this conflict of interest. Prior to the conclusion of that investigation, this lawsuit ensued.”

Panhandle contractually consented to the suspension that it now alleges is a breach, Alacrity claims.

Under reasons for default, termination or suspension in the contract Panhandle signed, listed are:

-Any conduct that either constitutes or creates the appearance of unlawful activity, or any wrongful act or omission that causes harm to the insurer or the network administrator or otherwise violates the rights of the insurer of the network administrator;

-Any conduct which adversely impairs or affects the company reputation, goodwill, or is not in the best interest of the network administrator; and

-Any other action or omission constituting just cause in the sole discretion of the network administrator.

“What Panhandle alleges as a ‘breach’ was, in fact, Alacrity exercising the legal rights provided to it by Panhandle via the Master Contract,” the memorandum says.

“When Panhandle signed the Master Contract, it knew or should have known that by testifying against Allstate, a known Alacrity Carrier Client – while at the same time advertising on AlacNet to receive referrals and income from that same Alacrity Carrier Client – a conflict of interest was created and that Panhandle had placed its contractual relationship with Alacrity at risk.”

Alacrity is represented by Shadonna E. Hale of Wilson, Elser, Moskowitz, Edelman & Dicker in Baltimore.

From the West Virginia Record: Reach John O’Brien at jobrienwv@gmail.com.

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