Insurance company says spying on church confessional was reasonable

First, Progressive Insurance spied on its own customers during a private church confessional.

Then, the CEO admitted the actions on the company’s Web page, took full responsibility, described them as “appalling” and apologized.

Now, in legal documents Progressive’s denying any wrongdoing, saying its actions were “reasonable.”

It’s all enough to make a cynic out of even the lawyer suing Progressive over the spying incident.

Lawyer Wayne Grant, who represents the couple that sued Progressive, now contends the public apology was just a ruse.

“There is no way you can say appalling can be reasonable,” Grant said. “Now they are trying to act as if the CEO never made the statements.”

The insurance company stood by both the strongly worded apology by CEO Glenn Renwick and the answer filed last week denying virtually all the allegations in the suit.

“In August, we issued a statement on this case from our CEO, Glenn Renwick. We stand by the statement — what occurred in this case was wrong—period. And, we apologize to all involved,” said Leslie Kolleda with Progressive.

“While we believe what occurred was wrong, we don’t believe it provides the basis for a legal claim seeking a monetary judgment. We have filed an appropriate response to the plaintiffs’ legal allegations,” she added.

The case involves a local couple, Bill and Leandra Pitts, who were involved in car crash in Henry County. When the insurance for the other party in the accident didn’t cover all their damages, the Pitts turned to Progressive, their insurer, to pay the remainder.

The couple charged that Progressive hired private investigators to tail them as part of a probe into injuries the couple said they sustained in the 2004 auto accident. The investigators, the Pittses said, went to their church in August 2005 posing as prospective members. They then talked their way into a private confessional meeting at a church member’s home in hopes that the Pittses might make an admission that would damage their case, which has since been settled.

The unusual tactic shocked and angered church members, who claimed they were violated. That touched off the lawsuit filed last week charging invasion of privacy, fraud and other misdeeds.

The incident also has prompted an investigation from the State Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine.

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Religion News Blog posted this on Thursday October 18, 2007.
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