Annual Independents' Days Conference Opens; Coccaro Details Progressive Suit, Provides Tips, for Attendees
May 12, 2009

The Independent Glass Association (IGA) opened its annual Independents' Days Conference today in Fort Myers, Fla., at the Sanibel Harbor Resort & Spa with an overview of the coming events by association president Dave Zoldowski of Auto One in Brighton, Mich., and a lively discussion by Greg Coccaro of North State Custom in Bedford, N.Y.

Dave ZoldowskiZoldowski also introduced the IGA's newest board member, Corey Hemperly of Windshield Doctor in Pocatello, Idaho, who was elected during an IGA meeting earlier today.

He also provided a preview of the IGA's soon-to-be-launched "Perfect Installation" online certification video.

"This is really going to be something when it's done," Zoldowski told a filled conference room of independent shop owners and technicians. "They've done a marvelous job and we're excited to have this tool available for our members."

Coccaro, who recently prevailed in a suit filed against him by Progressive Insurance and currently involved in his own suit against the company for tortuous interference, next recounted his experience with Progressive and provided some tips to auto glass shop owners. (CLICK HERE for related story.)

Greg CoccaroUltimately, though the judge determined that North State Custom and Coccaro were not guilty of their allegations (regarding fraud and the repair of a customer's Mercedes Benz), the suit cost him nearly $500,000.

"What I'm trying to portray here is the lengths that [insurance companies] will go to to demolish an independent [company] who won't play ball with them," Coccaro said. "The point is, what's going on in our industry is they're forcing the independents out."

Coccaro also noted that one reason he thought the suit was filed against him was to scare other independent shops in his area, as his shop is a high-end, well-known and established shop.

"If they brought me down, that would make anyone tow the line," he said.

During a question-answer period, many asked what the answer might be to prevent what happened to Coccaro (along with the steering allegations named in his anti-steering suit), and he suggested that federal legislation might be the best measure.

"I believe we're not going to get anywhere with our state representatives," he said, and pointed to a 1963 Consent Decree, which he said was developed through a suit filed by Robert Kennedy against insurers, as a possible solution. However, Coccaro said it's rarely enforced today.

"It states in they're that [insurance companies are] not allowed to do the things they're doing," he said. "They're not allowed to suppress rates, and they're not allowed to steer vehicles."

Coccaro also pointed to AIG and the federal bailout (and the scandal that ensued about employee bonuses) as something positive for independents and the struggles they sometimes encounter with insurers.

"I believe AIG did us a big favor by being who they are," he said. "I believe the climate is right for going federal with this."

The conference continues through Thursday, May 14. Stay tuned to™ for more information and coverage from the event, along with exclusive video footage.

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