UPDATE: This story has been updated. See the bottom of the story for more.
On Tuesday, TheBlaze told you about GBTV’s Matt Fisher ("The B.S. of A.") and the tragic scenario surrounding his sister's death. In an article on his Tumblr page entitled, “My Sister Paid Progressive Insurance to Defend Her Killer In Court,” he recently outlined the horrific drama that his family has faced in an ongoing battle with Progressive Insurance. Following a media firestorm, both Progressive -- and Fisher -- are responding to the debate.
While you can read a recap of the scenario here, we'll quickly provide the details for you again: Fisher's sister, Katie, was hit and killed by a man who ran a red light back in 2010. While she was insured by Progressive, the individual who hit her, Ronald Kevin Hope III, was allegedly under-insured and her estate was paid very little as a result.
Because there was some uncertainty surrounding the cause of the accident, Progressive allegedly dragged its feet on honoring the policy that Katie had. Inevitably, due to some restrictions in Maryland law, Fisher's parents weren't able to take the company to court to seek funds, so they were forced to sue Hope in an effort to push Progressive into paying them.
While the case finally concluded last week in the family's favor, Fisher wrote that Progressive actually participated in the defense of Hope in court in an apparent effort to avoid paying out on the policy.
As TheBlaze reported late yesterday, in addition to some very odd seemingly automatic Tweets issuing condolences to the Fisher family this week, Progressive responded to furor over the incident in more detail. Around 2 p.m. in the afternoon on Tuesday, the company issued the following update:
I’d like to take this opportunity to explain Progressive’s role in this complex case. First and foremost, our deepest sympathies go out to Kaitlynn Fisher’s family.
To be very clear, Progressive did not serve as the attorney for the defendant in this case. He was defended by his insurance company, Nationwide.
There was a question as to who was at fault, and a jury decided in the Fisher family’s favor just last week. We respect the verdict and now can continue to work with the Fisher family to reach a resolution.
Claims General Manager
But, as TheBlaze also noted, despite a denial of assisting the individual responsible for the death, a simple search for court documentation shows that Progressive was given permission to participate on the side of the defense back in May 2011. The document reads:
It is this 19th day of May, 2011, by the Circuit Court For Baltimore City, hereby ORDERED
1. That Progressive Advance Insurance Company be and is hereby allowed to intervene as a party Defendant.
2. That Progressive Insurance Company is GRANTED all rights to participate in this proceeding as if it were an original party to this case.
Obviously, this creates a plethora of questions. In response to his initial Tumblr post and to Progressive's claim that the company did not represent Hope, Fisher wrote yet another brief article about the matter. While he claimed that he is certainly no lawyer, he described the scene that was observed in the courtroom. We'll let Fisher tell you, in his own words:
At the beginning of the trial on Monday, August 6th, an attorney identified himself as Jeffrey R. Moffat and stated that he worked for Progressive Advanced Insurance Company. He then sat next to the defendant. During the trial, both in and out of the courtroom, he conferred with the defendant. He gave an opening statement to the jury, in which he proposed the idea that the defendant should not be found negligent in the case. He cross-examined the plaintiff’s witnesses. On direct examination, he questioned all of the defense’s witnesses. He made objections on behalf of the defendant, and he was a party to the argument of all of the objections heard in the case. After all of the witnesses had been called, he stood before the jury and gave a closing argument, in which he argued that my sister was responsible for the accident that killed her, and that the jury should not decide that the defendant was negligent.
Then, Fisher went on to say that he is perfectly comfortable characterizing this as a legal defense, as Moffat apparently -- pending these details are true -- took on all of the qualities of a lawyer seeking to assist his or her client.
The "B.S. of A." comedian also explained why he wrote his initial blog post, claiming that it was an effort to shed light on the way in which Progressive "had sought out ways to meet their strict legal obligation while still disrespecting my sister's memory and causing my family a world of hurt." He called the company's denial of participation in Hope's defense "infuriating."
UPDATE: Today, ABC News added details about the case, explaining the sum that was awarded to Fisher's family as well as a response from the family's representation:
The jury awarded the Fishers $760,000 and Progressive will have to pay at minimum $100,000, the amount on Katie's policy, within 30 days, according to the Fishers' family attorney, Allen W. Cohen.
Fisher and a family spokeswoman directed ABC News to Cohen.
Cohen said while Progressive's claim is technically correct that they did not serve as an attorney for the defendant, "Progressive did everything in their power to show that their own insured did something wrong. They were fighting against the person who paid them premiums."
That included calling a witness to the stand who claimed that Katie ran a red light.
ABC quoted one expert -- an insurance analyst from Consumerist.com -- who claimed that Maryland law uses "contributory negligence" to settle civil suits, meaning that "if you are even 1 percent at fault for the accident you are barred from any recovery." Tom Baker, a law professor at the University of Pennsylvania, also claimed that Progressive might have been following Maryland law in handling the incident that involved an under-insured driver.
"The fact that the other driver's insurance company paid its limits quickly does not mean that it was the other driver's fault," Baker was quoted. "The insurance policy may have been so small that the insurance company decided that it wasn't worth fighting about."