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,” says Coccaro.

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 Supreme Court.

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 work.”

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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