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Court Demands That Progressive Submit Claim Files in Anti-Steering Suit
March 9, 2009

The New York State Supreme Court has issued an order demanding that Progressive Insurance furnish more than 800 claim files to the court in a suit filed by a New York body shop. North State Custom, owned and founded by Greg Coccaro, who recently prevailed in a separate suit Progressive filed again him (CLICK HERE for story), claims that Progressive steered away customers from the shop, and though the specific steering charge was removed from the case, several causes of action remain that involve steering allegations: tortuous interference; engaging in deceptive business practices; and spreading injurious falsehoods about his business.

According to the recent decision and order, the court claims that in studying North State's claims, it has requested that the Progressive claim files for two of the five body shops named in the original complaint—a total of 800 claims.

Progressive has provided "face sheet notes" for the files in electronic format, but the court continued to request the complete files be copied to computer disk at Progressive's expense when feasible (and otherwise produced as hard copy for reproduction at North State's expense), according to court documents.

"That was not accomplished," writes the Hon. Gerald Loeher, "Progressive claiming it was not feasible."

On October 16, the court directed Progressive's information technology expert to provide a deposition about the improbability of the court's request, and, finally, on December 18, the court "granted the parties' request to place their disputes before the Court by formal motion."

"… The Court finds that Progressive's responses have been begrudging and incomplete, their explanations inconstant and taken as a whole have been willfully contumacious or in bad faith," writes the court. "It is beyond cavil that it is the type of recalcitrant documentary discovery that is without justification and would justify the striking of [the] defendant's answer."

The order continues, "Accordingly, Progressive's answer shall be stricken, unless within 45 days of service of a copy of this Decision and Order with notice of entry, Progressive shall furnish any remaining portions for the 800 claim files maintained in electronic format …"

Coccaro told™/AGRR magazine at this point he feels somewhat optimistic.

"We feel good," he says. "If you read the judge's decision and order, the language and the mood of that decision and order is not very positive for them and if it's not positive for them it's positive for me."

He adds, "We at least know we're going to be moving in a direction at the end of 45 days, because we've been trying to get this discovery from them for pretty much a year, and the longer this drags on, the more money it costs me."

However, the outcome of the previous suit Progressive filed against him provides an extra bit of optimism, he notes.

"We survived that, and hopefully we'll survive this," Coccaro says.

Progressive spokesperson Cristy Cote declined to comment since the litigation is still pending.

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