Body Shop Owner Greg Coccaro Prevails in Progressive Appeal of Fraud Suit
December 20, 2010
A New York jury upheld a previous ruling in favor of body shop
North State Custom and its owner, Greg Coccaro, during an appeal
trial held last week. The suit was filed five years ago by Progressive
Insurance which claimed that the shop had committed insurance fraud
via its charges for a vehicle of one of its insureds—alleging
that the shop inflated the charges to make the car a total loss,
and that both the shop and the insured received payment for the
vehicle's repairs. The appeal came as a result of an August
2008 decision in favor of North State Custom and Coccaro.
Coccaro says the jury deliberated for an hour last Wednesday on
the case, prior to making the positive decision
in his favor.
“It was the most stressful hour I’ve ever spent,”
And for the first time in a long time, he says he’s feeling
a bit of peace.
“For five and a half years, [this case has] never left my
mind,” says Coccaro. “Every waking hour I’ve had
this hanging over my head.”
Though he says he anticipates Progressive might appeal the case
further, Coccaro expects to continue to prevail.
“They will probably appeal it, but overturning a jury verdict
is a bit different,” he says. “For all intensive purposes
it should be the last I’ll hear of this case.”
Progressive spokesperson Leah Knapp says the company is reviewing
its options in the case.
"We're disappointed in the court's decision and are reviewing
our options, including whether to appeal," says Knapp.
Coccaro attributes much of the success of the case to his legal
team—which consisted of Michael Santangelo, Erica Eversman
and Anthony Mamo.
“Attorneys don’t generally get emotionally involved
in anything but [mine] did,” says Coccaro. “They really
gave everything they had. I’m totally grateful.”
The appeal was heard in the Appellate Division of the New York State
While Coccaro has been reported to have spent more than $600,000
to fight the case, he points out that the costs have gone even further
than the dollar amount.
“In dollars it’s one thing, but what it’s cost
this company and my time, you couldn’t even put a dollar amount
on [that],” he says. “It’s devastating. They tried
to put us out of business, but guess what—it didn’t
The original suit stemmed from a
job in which Coccaro’s company did more than $30,000 of work
to a customer’s vehicle. While the insurer paid $34,090
for the work, the company later filed suit, alleging that North
state had defrauded the company; had provided phony invoices; that
Coccaro himself had directed a conspiracy to defraud Progressive;
and had charged the plaintiff for non-existing damage.
“One of the things they tried to portray is that I have to
have this involvement with the insurance companies and I’m
supposed to let them come in and see things and I didn’t,”
says Coccaro. “The fact is that I did this job for [the customer].
I had given her the opportunity to take the car out of here. She
made the decision to pay me and take full responsibility for the
repair costs, yet they tried to portray that I was being uncooperative
with the insurance companies.”
Coccaro also has filed a tortious
interference suit against Progressive and expects to go to trial
sometime this spring.
“Ninety-nine percent of the work is all completed, deposition
and discovery,” he says. “We did a lot of it all through
last winter and the summer.”
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