New York body shop owner Greg Coccaro can mark one in the industry’s “win” column after a New York state Supreme Court judge yesterday tossed out a fraud case filed against him by Progressive Insurance.
Coccaro and his Mercedes-Benz certified collision repair facility North State Custom Auto in West Chester County, NY were accused by Progressive of committing fraud in charges for work performed by North State on a customer’s vehicle in 2005. After three weeks of testimony from the defense, New York Supreme Court Judge Mary Smith dismissed Progressive’s case with prejudice, meaning the company cannot bring any new action on the claim again. One deciding factor in the case being thrown out was that Progressive issued North State a check for the repairs that didn’t note any protest toward the cost.
Progressive spokeswoman Cristy Cote said Tuesday the company was not happy with the case's outcome.
"We are disappointed in the court's decision to dismiss the case, and we plan to appeal," she said.
Coccaro said that he was “elated with the judge’s decision,” and is “extremely grateful and touched by all of the support and encouragement shown by fellow members of the collision repair industry.”
Coccaro was defended by industry attorney Erica Eversman and New York attorney Tony Mamo. Several collision repairers testified in defense of Coccaro’s workmanship, invoicing and character, including Mike Orso, president of the New York State Auto Collision Technicians Association (NYSACTA).
“That was a true David and Goliath battle,” Orso said of the trial. “This is a huge win for the little guy and a huge win for our industry. If Progressive can do this to Greg, they can do this to anyone.”
Orso was scheduled to testify for the defense regarding the repairs completed by North State Custom, as well as to offer an opinion on the repair and invoicing.
“I was retained early in this case and had not known Greg previous to this matter other than as a face at NYSACTA meetings. When I traveled to New York City to inspect the car I had no idea what I was in store for,” he said. “After 15 years of Wreck Check post repair inspections I have about seen it all. This Mercedes was as close to original as humanly possible.”
Ed Kizenberger, NYSACTA Executive Director said Coccaro made the association "proud."
"He stood tall and never wavered,” Kizenberger said. "It is a testimony to his character that he never backed down and remained true to his principles. North State has and always will be an example of standing strong for what you believe is right.”
Coccaro did not receive any compensation from Progressive but has the option to file a suit against the company. Mamo and Orso have noted that Coccaro spent thousands of dollars building his defense.
Coccaro is also suing Progressive for alleged steering. Click HERE to read our news story about the case and other steering instances in New York and to be linked to a TV news report about the issue.