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Online Firestorm Rages Against Progressive Insurance

Fri, 08/17/2012 - 1:06pm
Gayle King, Anthony MasonAssociated Press

An online firestorm is raging against Progressive Insurance company.

Many customers on Twitter and Facebook are promising to cancel their

policies. The controversy erupted this week after a blogger accused

Progressive of defending a driver who killed one of its own policy

holders.

GAYLE KING: Ouch. This young boy in southeast China somehow got his head stuck in a stone railing. Firefighters had to use power tools to get him out. But the good news is he is okay. He`s-- and he`s been reunited with his grandmother who said to him, what the heck were you thinking? Welcome back to CBS THIS MORNING. I know we shouldn`t laugh about it but does look funny.

ANTHONY MASON: He just had to do that, didn`t he? Did you ever do anything like that?

GAYLE KING: No, because only boys do that. I don`t know, it`s a sweeping generalization.

ANTHONY MASON: This is-- that`s slander.

GAYLE KING: I know. I know. I know.

ANTHONY MASON: Now hold on a second.

GAYLE KING: I don`t know a little girl that would do that, Anthony. I don`t.

ANTHONY MASON: He just had to do it.

An online firestorm is raging against Progressive Insurance company. Many customers on Twitter and Facebook are promising to cancel their policies. The controversy erupted this week after a blogger accused Progressive of defending a driver who killed one of its own policy holders. Elaine Quijano is here with the story. Elaine, good morning.

ELAINE QUIJANO: Good morning, Anthony. The blog that sparked all that anger was posted by the brother of Caitlin Fisher, who was killed in a Baltimore car crash in 2010. Matt Fisher said he was appalled to see a lawyer for Progressive stand up in court and try to convince a jury that his sister was to blame.

(Begin VT)

ELAINE QUIJANO: This was all that was left of Caitlin Fisher`s Honda insight after the accident. A witness at the scene said the driver of the black SUV sped past him, ran a red light and then crashed into Fisher`s car, killing her almost instantly. She was twenty-four years old.

MATT FISHER (Victim`s Brother): I was awoken by a call from my grandmother. She essentially said call your parents and hung up. And I called my dad and he told me that my sister had died.

ELAINE QUIJANO: The driver of the SUV was insured for only twenty-five thousand dollars, but Fisher also had a one-hundred-thousand-dollar policy with Progressive in case she was injured or killed by an underinsured negligent driver. Progressive refused to pay because in Miss Fisher`s case, there were conflicting eyewitness accounts as to who was at fault, the company said.

JACK FORD (CBS News Legal Analyst): The reality was if you`re an insurance company and your obligation to a lot of your people, lot of your stakeholders there. And part of it is, you pay out claims only when you should be paying out claims.

ELAINE QUIJANO: Fisher`s family sued the other driver in court to establish his negligence. But when the trial started, the Fisher`s were stunned when the lawyer for Progressive intervened in the case and asked for the company to be included as a defendant.

MATT FISHER: The guy who, for better or worse, killed my sister had more than one attorney. He had two attorneys and one of them identified himself at the beginning of the case as an employee of Progressive.

ELAINE QUIJANO: The company disputes that and notes that the other driver was represented by an attorney for his insurer, Nationwide. The trial lasted only three days. The jury sided with Fisher`s family and awarded seven hundred sixty thousand dollars in damages. But the experience left them feeling betrayed. "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 Fisher blogged. His post went viral, shared over eleven thousand times on Tumblr. Outraged customers flocked to Progressive`s Facebook and Twitter pages. The company, which prides itself on customer service, made matters worse when they responded to the complaints with an auto tweet that was quickly mocked online.

WOMAN (Automated Voice): This is a tragic case and our sympathies go out to Mister Fisher and his family.

ELAINE QUIJANO: Progressive told CBS THIS MORNING, "A jury determined that the other driver was at fault in Miss Fisher`s accident. In accordance with that decision, Progressive is actively working with the Fisher family and their legal representative to resolve the claim. Progressive participated in the trial procedures on our own behalf, while Nationwide represented the other driver." But it didn`t look that way to Matt Fisher.

What did you see when you were at the trial?

MATT FISHER: He defended that guy in-- in-- in the case. He argued to the jury in his opening statement that he should not be found negligent. He cross-examined our witnesses. He-- he conducted direct examination of their witnesses. And at the end, he made a closing statement. He argued that the other guy had a green light. And that my sister had a red light.

JACK FORD: A lot of people might be upset about that. They said-- they might say that`s not really good faith. But the bottom line is from a strictly legal point of view, that`s what insurance company is allowed to do under those circumstances.

MATT FISHER: I`ve never met siblings as close as we were. I don`t think anyone`s ever loved me as much as my sister did.

(End VT)

ELAINE QUIJANO: In his statement sent to CBS THIS MORNING-- THIS MORNING, Progressive said, "As of last night, we understand from our attorney that an agreement has been reached with the Fisher family." However, we don`t know the details of that agreement. Anthony and Gayle.

ANTHONY MASON: Elaine Quijano. Thanks, Elaine.

And now, the Powerball waiting game begins. Who bought that three-hundred- and-thirty-seven-million-dollar winning ticket? We`ll go to the drawing and show you how the Powerball lottery guards against any chance of fraud on CBS THIS MORNING.

(ANNOUNCEMENTS)

GAYLE KING: That`s a perfect song for this story. The odds were one hundred and seventy-five million to one. But a Powerball ticket buyer matched all the numbers last night, winning a jackpot estimated at, listen to this number, three hundred and thirty-seven million dollars with an M. Lottery officials say the one winning ticket was sold at a Sunoco Station in Lapeer, Michigan, that`s north of Detroit. Manuel Bojorquez is in Tallahassee, Florida, where the Powerball drawing took place. Manuel, you know anybody in Lapeer, Michigan?

MANUEL BOJORQUEZ (CBS News Correspondent; Tallahassee, Florida): Good morning, Gayle. I do not know anyone in Lapeer, Michigan, but I`m hoping maybe I`ll get to find somebody there. Hey, we are in the studio right now, where that drawing happened. A lot of excitement here last night. They used lottery balls very similar to these, right here. And I got to point out to you, they`re letting me hold these because these are from a retired set. There are a lot of strict rules here. The balls which are currently in use cannot be touched by bare hands. It`s one of the many things we learned last night, as we went behind the scenes.

(Begin VT)

SAM ARLEN: Get ready everybody. This is Powerball.

MANUEL BOJORQUEZ: This is the moment millions in America waited for last night, hoping to win the third largest Powerball jackpot in history--three hundred thirty-seven million dollars. More than eighty-six million tickets were sold across the country. And while drawing six numbers might look simple, you may be surprised by how much work goes into pulling it off.

SUE DOOLEY (Multi-State Lottery Association Senior Drawing Manager): A lot of people when they find out what I do, they think, oh, with a lottery job, what you do if you come in five minutes before drawing, you know, pull some equipment out, do the numbers then you`re done.

MANUEL BOJORQUEZ: We asked Sue Dooley of the Multi-State Lottery Association to take us behind the scenes of the Powerball drawings which happened in Tallahassee, Florida. The preparation starts two hours before the live drawing and while many last-minute tickets are still being bought.

SUE DOOLEY: Every player, when they put down their two dollars for a Powerball ticket, has an equal chance of winning just as much as anyone else.

MANUEL BOJORQUEZ: It starts here. Four people must be present to even unlock this vault where the machines and multiple sets of lottery balls are stored. The ones used for any given drawing are chosen randomly.

No one really knows what equipment is going to be used--

SUE DOOLEY: Right.

MANUEL BOJORQUEZ: --on any given night?

SUE DOOLEY: Ex-- exactly. No-- no one has any idea until, like right now less than two hours before a drawing.

MANUEL BOJORQUEZ: At nine thirty, the equipment is moved into the studio, and the load-in begins.

Will I be able to hold one?

SUE DOOLEY: Not one of these.

MANUEL BOJORQUEZ: The red and white balls are made of rubber. Each one costs sixty dollars, has a lifespan of two to three years, and weighs around eighty grams. The lottery balls used must be as close in weight as possible. The average difference, a mere three-tenths of a gram. The machines, which cost fifty-five thousand dollars each, are then tested. But officials here are not the only ones keeping a close eye on things, there are cameras everywhere, which are monitored outside Des Moines, Iowa, at the Multi-State Lottery Association headquarters. There`s a lot at stake. Powerball tickets are sold in forty-two of the fifty states, Washington, DC, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Since 1992, Powerball has awarded twenty billion dollars in prize money.

SAM ARLEN: Get ready, America.

MANUEL BOJORQUEZ: An hour before the 11 PM Eastern Time drawing, the final rehearsals are getting underway in Florida--

SAM ARLEN: --huge jackpot.

MANUEL BOJORQUEZ: --while officials in Iowa count the latest returns, so the most accurate jackpot total can be announced during the live drawing.

SAM ARLEN: Three hundred and thirty-seven million dollars--

MANUEL BOJORQUEZ: At ten-thirty, the final load-in, and then, it`s time to wait. Counting down the minutes, then the seconds before the big moment. Host Sam Arlen told before the drawing on a night like this, he feels the pressure.

SAM ARLEN: It`s the first opportunity everyone in America gets to see the winning numbers. And I think that`s one of the coolest things about what I do is it`s not the next day, the next day in a paper. It`s not, you know, on the nightly news the next day. This is the first shot and for many people it`s live. And this is when you get to see if your two dollars just paid off really big.

MANUEL BOJORQUEZ: And they did.

SAM ARLEN: --for that huge jackpot, it is the number twenty-one.

MAN: Michigan is a winner.

MANUEL BOJORQUEZ: Within an hour of the drawing, the folks in Iowa got word there is a winning ticket.

(End VT)

MANUEL BOJORQUEZ: And as you mentioned earlier, we do know a little bit more about that winning ticket this morning sold in Lapeer, Michigan, at a gas station. That`s north of Detroit. But we still do not know who holds the ticket this morning whether it`s individual or a group. If they come forward today, we could find out later or it could be weeks.

GAYLE KING: Thank you, Manuel Bojorquez. Appreciate it. They`re getting lawyers, financial advisers. I do hope it`s a group. Thank you, sir.

It is now seven forty-four. It`s time now for a check of your local weather.

(LOCAL WEATHER BREAK)

GAYLE KING: Apple reportedly has a new plan to capture your cable service. It could change the way you watch TV. They`re hoping. That`s coming up next on CBS THIS MORNING.

(ANNOUNCEMENTS)

ANTHONY MASON: An Apple TV 2.0, this morning the Wall Street Journal reports Apple is negotiating with major cable TV companies to let consumers use an Apple device in place of their cable box. CNET Editor At-Large Brian Cooley was-- is with us this morning. Brian, good morning.

BRIAN COOLEY (CNET.Com Editor At Large): Good morning.

ANTHONY MASON: Brian, what exactly is--

BRIAN COOLEY: The idea here--

ANTHONY MASON: What exactly is Apple trying to do here? And is it-- is it really a game changer?

BRIAN COOLEY: It could be. Now, here`s the minimum idea they have in mind is take the current Apple TV box, which is basically an internet streaming box and also it lets you download internet video of major shows, and then add a cable box to it. Kind of a mash-up, if you will. That to me, is kind of the minimum of this vision. I think the bigger idea is for them to take their box and turn it into one that gets everything via the internet. So it would be streaming all those channels you get on cable right now, which includes several holy grails--local news, live sports and all those things that you currently don`t or can`t legally get as an internet stream or download.

GAYLE KING: So does it-- does it mean, though, Brian that we have to buy another box for hundreds of dollars?

BRIAN COOLEY: Yeah, Gayle. This would definitely be another device. The current Apple TV box just doesn`t go there. It doesn`t go into this new vision. But the idea is to change pricing on a couple of levels. First, as you mentioned, we have to buy a new box. Pricing, who knows how much it would be. The current Apple TV box is a hundred bucks. Then the A la Carte pricing of channels would be a big part of this vision. Right now, we all buy a big bundle of cable as you know. Lot of channels that consumers always grouse they don`t watch. Of course, the one they don`t watch subsidize the ones that they do watch. Apple would like to, I`m pretty certain, break it up so you would have more control over buying the channels you want and not have to buy this huge array of them the way we do today. But that may take a few years to iterate into.

ANTHONY MASON: Is-- is Apple following the same playbook here, Brian, that it did with-- with the mobile phone industry, convincing existing service providers to marry their apps, you know, with Apple formats?

BRIAN COOLEY: Yeah. This is all about talking to the cable companies and then most importantly, to what we called the rights holders, the big studios and broadcast networks and cable networks, who actually produce and own the shows that people care about the most. They hold the keys to the kingdom. The cable guys hold the keys to current distribution. Those are both key parts at this point that Apple has to go talk to both of them. But this is really more about deals, in my mind, than it is about the technology and the new box. They could do that today. Cutting a new deal that allows all that broadcast content to be distributed in different on- demand, A la Carte choice ways, that`s the real revolution here.

GAYLE KING: So does the cable industry appear to be receptive?

BRIAN COOLEY: Well, we know that according to these reports that Apple has been talking to the usual suspects, the big cable guys. Realize, Gayle, how much is at stake here, billions of dollars literally in current revenue is at stake in the current model. That`s not going to be tipped very easily.

GAYLE KING: Mm-Hm.

BRIAN COOLEY: So I expect when and if the box arrives, oh and by the way, it should also be a technology built into this rumored new Apple television, not just into an add-on box that I think it`s going to be coming in some degree of stages.

ANTHONY MASON: Right.

BRIAN COOLEY: But the ultimate goal is totally streaming.

ANTHONY MASON: Right. Brian Cooley, thanks. Stay with us.

BRIAN COOLEY: You bet.

ANTHONY MASON: We`ll be right back on CBS THIS MORNING.

(ANNOUNCEMENTS)

END

(Copy: Content and programming Copyright MMXII CBS Broadcasting Inc. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Copyright 2012 CQ-Roll Call, Inc. All materials herein are protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written permission of CQ-Roll Call. You may not alter or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the content.)

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