After trading lawsuits alleging kickbacks and defamation, North State Custom and Mercedes-Benz of Goldens Bridge appeared to have settled their differences.
But now the automotive companies are accusing one another of violating the settlement agreement itself, in new litigation filed this month in Westchester Supreme Court.
The terms of the settlement were supposed to be confidential, North State President Gregory Coccaro Jr. claims, yet dealership owner Thomas Maoli issued a press release that falsely claimed vindication.
“It was Mr. Coccaro who violated the agreement,” attorney Marc J. Gross said on behalf of Maoli’s company, Celebrity Auto of Westchester. “We are confident this is going to resolve in favor of Celebrity.”
Maoli, who heads a group of luxury car dealerships in New Jersey, bought the Goldens Bridge Mercedes dealership last year from Estate Motors. Estate had sponsored North State as an authorized Mercedes repair shop for 13 years.
Coccaro claimed in an October lawsuit that Maoli’s representatives had demanded kickbacks to continue referring customers for repair work and that it had dropped sponsorship of the repair shop when it refused to do so. Coccaro had given an interview to a trade publication in which he stated that Celebrity had demanded a “flat out mafia-style bribe.”
Celebrity countersued in December, claiming that Coccaro had defamed the dealership by placing it in a false light. Earlier this year, they worked out a settlement and in March they filed to discontinue their lawsuits.
They agreed not to disclose the settlement and to keep the terms confidential. But if asked about the settlement they would respond, “The parties have resolved their differences without the exchange of any money and are satisfied with the resolution.”
Around April 2, Coccaro claims, Maoli issued a press release to Cision PR Newswire, falsely claiming that Mercedes-Benz of Goldens Bridge had been vindicated, that North State had made “egregious allegations” and that Coccaro had retracted his litigation.
FenderBender.com and Repairer Driven News published articles based on this press release. The press release was also allegedly emailed to Celebrity customers.
Celebrity claims that it was Coccaro who violated the confidentiality clause, by disclosing terms of the settlement during an interview with Repairer Driven News around April 3. The dealership and repair shop are accusing one another of breach of agreement, trade libel, tortious interference and other charges.
Coccaro is seeking damages of $2.5 million. Maoli is demanding $5 million.