The New York judge overseeing the North State Custom vs. Progressive Insurance case in which North State owner Greg Coccaro is charging Progressive with violation of New York General Business Law for alleged steering is losing his patience with the insurer and has given the company 45 days to comply with a court order to hand over documents or else rule in favor of Coccaro.
According to court documents, Progressive has been reluctant to produce claims documents requested by North State more than a year ago, which has kept the case in its “discovery phase.” Hon. Gerald E. Loehr wrote in an order filed Feb. 23 that Progressive has withheld the requested information despite several court orders to release it throughout 2008 and revisions to requirements designed to make producing the paperwork easier on Progressive.
The requested documents encompass roughly 800 claims files for vehicles repaired at five body shops in Westchester County, New York, where North State is located. North State is trying to prove that Progressive “intentionally misled its insureds to use repair shops other than North State and, in particular, shops within Progressive’s repair network as part of a plan by Progressive to reduce its indemnity costs.”
According to court documents, Progressive contended that producing the documents was too difficult, partially because the company keeps parts of its files in electronic format and others as hard copies only. In 2008, the court filed several orders and held conferences with Progressive and North State in an attempt to get the insurer to comply without success. Both sides then filed motions supporting their side of the documentation issue.
“The Court finds that Progressive’s responses have been begrudging and incomplete, their explanations inconsistent and, taken as a whole, have been willfully contumacious or in bad faith,” the judge wrote.
Loehr also noted that the two parties are litigating “in the shadow of animosity” remaining from Progressive’s suit against Coccaro for repair fraud. The court found in favor of Coccaro in August 2008, and the judge noted that case was also “fraught with discovery disputes.”
If the court ends up ruling in Coccaro’s favor, a jury will decide how much in damages Progressive should pay to him.
To read about Coccaro’s victory in the fraud suit, click HERE. To watch a news report about steering in New York featuring Coccaro and Bronx shop owner Mike Trinagel, click HERE. To read Editor Jason Stahl’s 2007 column about Coccaro when he first initiated his lawsuit against Progressive, click HERE. For information about donating to Coccaro’s legal fund, click HERE.