Family of Woman Killed in Crash Accuses PROGRESSIVE of Calling Witness Against Her

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By SUSANNA KIM (@skimm)
Aug. 15, 2012

The brother of a woman who was killed in car accident is accusing her insurance company of defending the person he said is her killer in an insurance legal dispute, including calling a witness to the stand against her.

Kaitlynn Fisher, called Katie by her brother and who had engineering degrees from Johns Hopkins University, died in a car accident on June 19, 2010 in Baltimore after another driver ran a red light. She was 24.

On Monday, Matthew Fisher, 33, her brother and a comedian based in Brooklyn, published a blog post, saying the insurance company Progressive "refused to pay the policy to my sister's estate."

Fisher wrote that "someday when you have your accident, I promise that there will be enough wiggle room for Progressive's bottomless stack of in-house attorneys to make a court case out of it and to hammer at that court case until you or your surviving loved ones run out of money."

Chris Wolf, a claims general manager with Progressive, offered a statement to ABC News, saying, "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," Wolf said in the statement. "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."

A spokesman for Progressive declined to comment further.

Fisher fired back against Progressive's statement in another blog post on Tuesday night, saying Progressive's attorney not only sat next to the other driver during the trial, but conferred with the defendant "in and out of the courtroom."


Matt Fisher poses with his sister Katie, who died in a car accident in June 2010.


"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 all of the plaintiff's witnesses," Fisher posted on his website. "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."

"I am comfortable characterizing this as a legal defense," Fisher wrote on Tuesday night.

In his first blog post, Fisher said that he doesn't "discount the possibility that Katie was at fault in the accident, but it never really looked that way."

He said a witness stated that "Katie had the light."

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.

"Maryland law requires that an insurance company act in good faith as it works with its own insured," Cohen said, but "we question the good faith behavior of Progressive."

Because of that question of "good faith," Cohen said the family is exploring avenues of additional damages.

"One indication that the case was pretty open-and-shut was that the other guy's insurance company looked at the situation and settled with my sister's estate basically immediately," Fisher wrote in his blog.

However, complications arose because the other driver was uninsured, but his sister "carried a policy with Progressive against the possibility of an accident with an underinsured driver," Fisher wrote in the blog.

"So Progressive was now on the hook for the difference between the other guy's insurance and the value of Katie's policy," Fisher wrote.

"In hopes that a jury would hang or decide that the accident was her fault, they refused to pay the policy to my sister's estate," he wrote.

"Out of a sense of honor, and out of a sense of the cost of my sister's outstanding student loans, my folks opted to try to go after the money through legal channels," he wrote.

More complications arose because, Fisher wrote, "In Maryland, you may not sue an insurance company when they refuse to fork over your money."

Therefore, the family listed Progressive as a co-defendant as permitted by Maryland in the case of an underinsured motorist claim

Maryland state law uses "contributory negligence" to settle civil suits, which means "if you are even 1 percent at fault for the accident you are barred from any recovery," one insurance analyst told Consumerist.com.

Tom Baker, law professor at University of Pennsylvania and an insurance expert, said that without analyzing the legal documents, it sounded like Progressive was following Maryland's rules regarding under-insured motorist claims.


In order to collect coverage you bought in case of an accident with an uninsured motorist, you have to prove that the accident was the other driver's fault.

"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 said. "The insurance policy may have been so small that the insurance company decided that it wasn't worth fighting about."

Fisher's parents had to sue the other driver and establish his negligence in court to force Progressive to pay the policy. Progressive made a series of offers, "never higher than 1/3 the amount they owe," according to Matthew Fisher's Monday blog post, and then let it go to trial.

To the surprise of Fisher, "At the trial, the guy who killed my sister was defended by Progressive's legal team," he wrote. "If you are insured by Progressive, and they owe you money, they will defend your killer in court in order to not pay you your policy."
Jim Norton @JimNorton 19h
@Progressive How does it feel to be getting your teeth kicked in all over Twitter? Millions of people now hate your guts. Good.

Jim Norton @JimNorton 2d
@Progressive Please continue retweeting the same soulless line you terrible, awful shitbird

Jim Norton @JimNorton 2d
RT @pattonoswalt: Wow. Just, wow. Fuck you, @Progressive. Forever. Fuck you forever: gaw.kr/Rbt5XC --What fucking cunts.
 

Don the Radio Guy

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There is obviously more to this story, but that's not going to matter now.
 

Neon

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There is obviously more to this story, but that's not going to matter now.
I read the original account and it seemed pretty fair. The guy said there was no overwhelming evidence that his sister wasn't culpable, but that the little evidence there was (eyewitness account/s), pointed to the other guy running the red. It really didn't come across as a "PROGRESSIVE FUCKED US!!!" tirade. I think the guy made a conscious effort to relay his story as accurately as he could.

Here's the link to his original blog post:

http://mattfisher.tumblr.com/post/29338478278/my-sister-paid-progressive-insurance-to-defend-her
 

LiddyRules

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This was the driver

 

lajikal

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Lol on the twitter shit. Probably just some intern out of college responding with fed liners from pr management.
 

Don the Radio Guy

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What do the Gawker assholes expect? A personal response to every single Tweet? Christ, the Internet is full of fucking retards.
 

VMS

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That has nothing to do with the story, you cunts.
It does if she had debts because of those degrees. Also, in awarding death benefits, courts take into account how much the deceased would have earned in the course of their working career. An engineer from Hopkins would make a significant amount.
 

Neon

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What do the Gawker assholes expect? A personal response to every single Tweet? Christ, the Internet is full of fucking retards.
I think it is more a complaint about robotweeting in general. This is just a good case of why it is an idiotic practice.
 

Lord Zero

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It does if she had debts because of those degrees. Also, in awarding death benefits, courts take into account how much the deceased would have earned in the course of their working career. An engineer from Hopkins would make a significant amount.
If that's the case, they should've put that little bit of info in a paragraph relevant to the financial side of the case. It's current placement makes it sound like a random piece of trivia.
 

d0uche_n0zzle

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Insurance companies beings CUNTS is SOP for their business model. They'll fuck anyone and everyone.
 

Ballbuster1

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"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."
SOP for any accident payout by an ins co if there's a question of fault.

Insurance companies aren't in the habit of just throwing money out there.

They're businesses after all and trying to make money.
 

Neon

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SOP for any accident payout by an ins co if there's a question of fault.

Insurance companies aren't in the habit of just throwing money out there.

They're businesses after all and trying to make money.
That's not the point. The Fishers were more than willing to go to court to determine the other party was at fault. The problem was when Progressive actively assisted in his defense. That isn't trying to make money. That is actively fighting to not spend it. So sure, technically it is probably legal, but probably one of the most unethical corporate practices I've seen in a long long time.
 

Ballbuster1

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That's not the point. The Fishers were more than willing to go to court to determine the other party was at fault. The problem was when Progressive actively assisted in his defense. That isn't trying to make money. That is actively fighting to not spend it. So sure, technically it is probably legal, but probably one of the most unethical corporate practices I've seen in a long long time.
But did they "actively" participate? They said that guy wasn't employed by them.

It's the blogger who claims he was, not Progressive. Like Don, I believe there's

more to this story than what he's telling us.

I'm very skeptical of shit I read from bloggers on the net.
 

Don the Radio Guy

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You don't want this kind of shit to happen? Don't buy cheap insurance like Progressive.
 

CougarHunter

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This is the second Consumerist story to get picked up by a semi-reputable news outlet this week. I guess all that selling their souls to the DNC is starting to pay off.
 

Neon

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But did they "actively" participate? They said that guy wasn't employed by them.

It's the blogger who claims he was, not Progressive. Like Don, I believe there's

more to this story than what he's telling us.

I'm very skeptical of shit I read from bloggers on the net.
Here is what he said about that:

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. I am comfortable characterizing this as a legal defense.
He also has a link to the court documents on his Tumblr that show the guy was indeed there.
 

Neon

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You don't want this kind of shit to happen? Don't buy cheap insurance like Progressive.
My cousin had Progressive and they actually came through for him in a big way, but that was also to avoid paying money (in this case, to the guy who sued my cousin unjustly). It just seems that they went a bit overboard in this case. I still don't think it is illegal or whatever, but they deserve all the bad publicity they will get for this.
 

whiskeyguy

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My cousin had Progressive and they actually came through for him in a big way, but that was also to avoid paying money (in this case, to the guy who sued my cousin unjustly). It just seems that they went a bit overboard in this case. I still don't think it is illegal or whatever, but they deserve all the bad publicity they will get for this.
Yup, contractually it sounds like they were in the right, and were looking out for the bottom line... but a business needs to be concerned with doing the right thing, especially when they face negative publicity like this.

As far as cheap insurance goes, I've had Geico for years and the one time I got in an accident (where I wasn't at fault) Geico came through big time... the other insurance company was dragging its feet, so Geico floated me the money to get my car in the shop immediately and then they dealt with the other insurance company... which is something they didn't have to do.
 

Ballbuster1

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I'm in no way defending insurance companies. I had a run in with Allstate years
ago where I filed a complaint with the PA state Ins Commission. Know what I was
told? Their actions were probably unethical but not illegal. Happens all the time.

Thing is, this is still his side of it. I'd like to hear more. Was she a chronic liability?
Under PA law you have to have insurance so companies have to take a certain
amount of bad risk drivers to cover everyone. Maybe they were looking for a
reason to be able to cut her loose. Can't tell by what he wrote.

As I said before, I'm suspicious of articles written by bloggers.
They all have agendas. He's her brother. He's sticking up for her.
I totally understand that but unlike Liberal Jim I'd like to hear more
before I make up my mind to hate the evil insurance company who
may just be trying to cut their losses and move on.
 

Neon

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I'm in no way defending insurance companies. I had a run in with Allstate years
ago where I filed a complaint with the PA state Ins Commission. Know what I was
told? Their actions were probably unethical but not illegal. Happens all the time.

Thing is, this is still his side of it. I'd like to hear more. Was she a chronic liability?
Under PA law you have to have insurance so companies have to take a certain
amount of bad risk drivers to cover everyone. Maybe they were looking for a
reason to be able to cut her loose. Can't tell by what he wrote.

As I said before, I'm suspicious of articles written by bloggers.
They all have agendas. He's her brother. He's sticking up for her.
I totally understand that but unlike Liberal Jim I'd like to hear more
before I make up my mind to hate the evil insurance company who
may just be trying to cut their losses and move on.
He's not a blogger. He's a comedian. And the reason I tend to believe his story is that when Progressive were confronted by it, they denied ever doing that (which turned out to be a lie, or a distortion of the truth, depending on how you look at it. Bottom line - their lawyer was there, and he operated on behalf of the defense. Court records prove it), and then claimed they were merely operating within the contractual boundaries. You'd think if they had better ammo than that they would have used it, ESPECIALLY now when it is at total shitstorm level. Still, I'll grant you that this is just one side of it.

And believe me, I never thought you were defending insurance companies (NOBODY does). :)
 

Norm Stansfield

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This is what happens when "insurance" is mandatory. "Insurers" no longer care if the customers are happy. Hope you're ready for this exact experience every time you go to the doctor soon, America.
 

Ballbuster1

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He's not a blogger. He's a comedian.
If he wrote his original story on a blog, he's a blogger.
They all have agendas and opinions, that's why they blog.
I'd like to hear more before making a decision.

This is what happens when "insurance" is mandatory. "Insurers" no longer care if the customers are happy. Hope you're ready for this exact experience every time you go to the doctor soon, America.
Bingo! Wanna be pissed at anyone? Be pissed at the govt for
passing no fault insurance regulations. That's what has forced
this shit service and coverage on us in the 1st place.