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Progressive settles with family of woman killed in Baltimore who became center of internet movement

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Progressive Insurance has reached a settlement with the family of Kaitlynn Fisher, days after her brother's online rant against the company unleashed a torrent of backlash on social media.

Fisher's family will receive a payment in the "tens of thousands," according to its attorney, Allen W. Cohen of Annapolis. "It's exactly how much we asked for," he said.

The settlement prevents Cohen from filing a complaint with the Maryland Insurance Commissioner, he said, and the payment is separate from the judgment rendered by a jury in Baltimore Circuit Court last week awarding the Fishers $760,000.

Kaitlynn Fisher's parents, Joan and Stephen, originally filed the suit against Ronald Kevin Hope III, whose SUV struck their daughter's car at the intersection of North Calvert and 28th streets in Charles Village in June 2010, killing her.

Her auto insurance policy with Progressive insured her up to $100,000 in the event of being hit by an uninsured or underinsured driver. After the accident, Hope's insurance company, Nationwide, settled with the family, paying $25,000. Fisher's family, describing Hope as underinsured, sought $75,000 from Progressive, but the company refused to pay.

Cohen said the Fisher family had no recourse other than to file a civil suit against Hope.

A Progressive spokesman declined to comment, referring to a statement posted on the company's website. It defended the decision to take the case to court.

"A trial was necessary so that a jury could review all of the evidence and come to a decision," it said.

But Cohen said the family took umbrage at Progressive's decision to enter the case and argue in support of the defendant and against his clients and their customer.

"They chose to become an ally of the other driver," Cohen said. "That's what the family found so offensive."

The Progressive spokesman said the company was "defending our own interests" during the trial.

Progressive's statement refers to "credible conflicting eyewitness accounts as to who was at fault." Cohen said the company relied on Hope's account and that of a passenger in Fisher's car who was badly injured. The only eyewitness to the accident who gave a statement on the day it occurred — a driver stopped at the red light Hope allegedly ran — said Hope was at fault. The jury agreed.

Kaitlynn Fisher studied engineering at the Johns Hopkins University, earning undergraduate and graduate degrees, and was working as a contract employee for the Army Research Laboratory in Aberdeen at her death.

Fisher's brother Matt, a comedian in New York City, made a post to his Tumblr account on Monday titled, "My Sister Paid Progressive Insurance to Defend Her Killer In Court." It quickly spread and prompted angry tweets at Progressive's official account.

Matt Fisher posted this Friday: "My family and I are pleased at the prospect of finally collecting Katie's insurance. We are also unspeakably grateful to the people around the world who are helping us share our story. As we move forward, we hope to focus on celebrating the joy that Katie brought us and working to change the balance of power between policy holders and the insurance companies they pay to protect them."

chris.korman@baltsun.com

twitter.com/chriskorman

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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