After being subjected to an Internet firestorm of Chick-fil-A proportions, Progressive finally released a statement concerning its role in the case of a negligent driver who killed comedian Matt Fisher's sister.
Fisher claimed on his Tumblr blog that Progressive defended the driver because they didn't want to pay what they owed his sister Katie. But Progressive's Claims General Manager Chris Wolf disputes Fisher's account in a statement released this afternoon.
"To be very clear, Progressive did not serve as the attorney for the defendant in this case," says Wolf in the statement. "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.
Indeed, Fisher's family was awarded $760,000 by a jury in Baltimore earlier this month. And some digging by Mashable turned up the LinkedIn profile of the defendant's attorney, Robin F. Kessler, who is listed as a senior trial counsel for Nationwide Insurance Trial Division.
But none of this really excuses the fact that Fisher's family had to go to trial in the first place because Progressive — Katie's insurance provider — refused to make good on her policy, which required the company to pay what the underinsured driver could not.
Additionally, Wolf, the Progressive rep, doesn't address the fact that Progressive's in-house attorney, Jeffrey R. Moffet, reportedly assisted the defendant's lawyer, or the fact that court documents clearly state that, on May 19th of last year, Progressive was granted an allowance by the Circuit Court for Baltimore "to intervene as a party Defendant."
UPDATE: Matt Fisher published a Tumblr post a short while ago responding to Progressive's statement. He claims to have observed the following during his sister's trial:
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.
He goes on to say that he is "comfortable characterizing this as a legal defense" and calls Progressive's "disavowing" of their role in the case "infuriating."