Baltimore resident Kaitlynn Fisher, 24, was involved in an automobile accident which stole her life on June 19, 2010. She was struck at an intersection by Ronald Kevin Hope III, who ran a red light. Hope had minimal insurance, but Fisher’s policy had a special clause which called for her insurer, Progressive Insurance, to cover the difference if and when she was involved in an accident with someone who was under insured. Rather than pay Fisher’s $100,000 life insurance policy Progressive opted to aid in the defense of her killer, in hopes that if found innocent they would not be required to pay out her policy. This is despite a witnesses account that Hope struck Fisher.
The Fisher family has been reeling for over two years in disbelief that their trusted insurance company would behave in such a way, while having to absorb court costs all along. The jaw dropping account has been fully detailed by Kaitlynn’s older brother, Matt Fisher, a comedian, on his tumbler account. He describes the situation:
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.
Which is what Progressive decided to do to my family. 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.
As it happens in the state of Maryland, it is not legal for a private party to sue an insurance company if they refuse to pay out a policy. Instead individuals must sue the offending party in civil court, and if they win a judgment they are then allowed to use the judgment as leverage to sue the insurance company.
Following the law, the Fisher family did sue Mr. Hope. Matt Fisher details that his family did not want to do this, as they knew Hope was a man of little means. However, Kaitlyn had numerous outstanding student loans from earning an engineering degree from Johns Hopkins University. If a person dies while still indebted with student loans it is common practice for the loan companies to attempt to collect the debt from surviving family members. Therefore, the family was seeking to recoup that money through a lawsuit, or to phrase it in another way — they planned to use her insurance policy to pay off her student loan debt. It is not as if, for example, the family was planning to buy a new vehicle or take a vacation. Their intentions for wanting their daughters policy money was honorable.
When the court date finally came it has been reported by The Daily Mail that Ronald Hope’s defense was assisted by Progressive Insurance’s in-house attorney Jeffery R Moffet. Hope lost the case, and was found to owe the family over $760,000 in damages.
Progressive claims they did not aid in Hope’s defense. In a statement published on August 14, at 2 pm the insurance company stated that Ronald Hope was not defended by Progressive. This is in direct opposition to details that have been released by multiple news outlets. At this point what seems to be in dispute is what constitutes “aiding” in the defense.
Regardless if Progressive admits fault in attempting to save money by defending the killer is irrelevant now, as Hope lost his case. Now he owes the family $760,000 — which means that Progressive owes by the terms of their own policy.
It remains to be seen if any other legal gymnastics will be employed to further drag out the payments owed to Kaitlyn Fisher’s claim.