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During today’s “Fourth Hour”, Pat and Stu took some time to discuss a tragic story from a member of the GBTV/TheBlaze family that has gone viral over the internet. Yesterday, “The B.S. of A.” actor/writer Matt Fisher wrote a post on his personal blog detailing the insurance nightmare that has consumed his family over the past two years as they have dealt with over the past two years as they have battled with Progressive Insurance.

In the post, Matt detailed how his sister Katilyn was killed in Baltimore when she was struck by another driver who ran a red light when she was passing through an intersection. The driver’s insurance company settled with his sister’s estate, but because he was underinsured the payment “didn’t amount to much”, but his sister’s policy with Progressive covered her in the event of an accident with an underinsured driver. Progressive was supposed to cover the difference between the two policies.

But then things turned ugly.

Matt explained:

At which point we learned the first surprising thing about Progressive: Carrying Progressive insurance and getting into an accident does not entitle you to the value of your insurance policy. It just pisses off Progressive’s lawyers. Here I address you, Prospective Progressive Insurance Customer: 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.

Progressive refused to settle with his sister’s estate, and his family decided to take the company to court in order to secure the payment. But then they found out that in Maryland it is illegal to sue an insurance company when they refuse to pay. As a result, Matt’s parents were forced to take the driver who killed their daughter to civil court in order to prove negligence.

Progressive then did the unthinkable – rather than pay out the payment for the person they insured, they ended up defending her killer in court.

“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,” Matt wrote.

Matt’s parents ended up proving the driver’s negligence in court, and now Progressive should finally end up paying for the policy Katie has been paying for up until her death. And while he’s not sure how long it will take, he did come away with learning one thing: “Don’t buy insurance from Progressive.”

Don’t buy insurance from Progressive. Not only will you be paying the salaries of people who put my family through the wringer (really a smaller wringer that Progressive attached to the main wringer of my sister’s death), but also when the chips are down, your money will have bought you nothing but a kick in the face.

In response to the post, which ended up on several blogs and news sites, the Progressive PR team opted to simply send out an automated series of tweets to anyone who questioned their actions:

Classy.

In full, the statement reads:

This is a tragic case, and our sympathies go out to Mr. Fisher and his family for the pain they’ve had to endure. We fully investigated this claim and relevant background, and feel we properly handled the claim within our contractual obligations. Again, this is a tragic situation, and we’re sorry for everything Mr. Fisher and his family have gone through.

Many have claimed this is a blatant fail in social media public relations, as the repetitive messaging does little to explain their position and comes across, at best, as cold.

Update:

Progressive has issued a statement claiming they “did not serve as the attorney for the defendant in this case. He was defended by his insurance company, Nationwide.”

While this technically may be true, a look at the court records does reveal that on May 19th, 2011 Progressive was granted the right to intervene as a party Defendant (Defendant = the man who killed Kaitlyn) and granted all rights to participate as if they were an original party in the case:

Order of Court
It is this 19th day of May, 2011, by the Circuit Court For Baltimore City, hereby ORDERED1. 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.

Update #2

In response to Progressive’s claim that they did not serve as attorney to the defendant, Matt has released the following on his blog:

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 all of 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. 

I wrote about this case on my blog because I felt that, in the wake of my sister’s death, 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. Their statement disavowing their role in this case, a case in which their attorney stood before my sister’s jury and argued on behalf of her killer, is simply infuriating.