UPDATE: The victim’s brother has issued a rebuttal to Progressive’s statement. It has been added to the bottom of the post.
Yesterday, the brother of a woman who died in a car crash made headlines when he wrote that lawyers for his late sister’s insurance company, Progressive, had acted as the defense counsel for the driver accused of causing the accident. At the time, we had asked the insurer to clarify its actual involvement in the case, but it only offered a vague “our hearts go out”-type statement. But now Progressive is flat-out denying it came to the defense of the at-fault driver.
In a statement posted on the Progressive website, the company explains:
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.
According to court documents, a jury found in favor of the victim’s family and awarded $760,000 in damages plus costs.
What the statement doesn’t mention is that Progressive was also a defendant in the lawsuit filed by the victim’s parents. It also doesn’t explain why it filed a substitution of service request, which would allow Progressive’s attorneys to act on behalf of the other defendant. We will continue to ask Progressive for clarification.
In response to Progressive’s comments, the victim’s brother has e-mailed the following statement to Consumerist:
Today, in response to my blog post entitled “My Sister Paid Progressive Insurance to Defend Her Killer In Court,” Progressive released a statement saying that ”Progressive did not serve as the attorney for the defendant” in my sister’s case. I am not a lawyer, but this is what I observed in the courtroom during my sister’s trial:
At the beginning of the trial on Monday, August 6th, an attorney identified himself as Jeffrey R. Moff[e]t 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.