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Florida Federal Court recognizes Federal Admiralty Rule of Strict Enforcement of Warranties in Marine Insurance Preempts State Law

We are pleased to present a decision in which we prevailed from the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida.

The ruling is significant for its holding that the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals [encompassing the US Southeast including Florida] recognizes an established Federal Admiralty rule of law that warranties in marine insurance are to be strictly enforced. The ruling clarifies a number of inconsistent decisions in Florida holding that only navigational limits warranties were entitled to strict enforcement, and that the Florida Anti-Technical statute otherwise applied. The primary distinction is that the strict enforcement of a warranty excuses the policy from responding in the event of a violation independent of a causal relationship between the violation and the claimed loss, whereas  many states’ laws, such as Florida’s Anti-Technical Statute, require the insurer to prove a causal relationship between the violation and the claimed loss to deny a claim.

Duane Morris’ Thomas Newman Recognized as the NYC Appellate “Lawyer of the Year” by Best Lawyers

Duane Morris’ Thomas Newman has been named by Best Lawyers as the 2019 “Lawyer of the Year” in New York City for Appellate Practice. The recognition is given to only one attorney for each practice area and city. Lawyers are selected based on high marks received during peer-review assessments conducted by Best Lawyers each year. Mr. Newman also received this distinction in 2018 and 2013.

Mr. Newman practices in the areas of insurance and reinsurance law, including coverage, claims handling, contract drafting and arbitration and litigation. In addition to his insurance/reinsurance practice, Mr. Newman has wide experience in appellate practice and has handled hundreds of appeals in both state and federal courts in New York and elsewhere and has argued 80 appeals in the New York Court of Appeals.

He is a member of the American Academy of Appellate Lawyers; a life member of the American Law Institute; a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators; a member of the London Court of International Arbitration; a member of the American College of Coverage and Extracontractual Counsel; a member of ARIAS-U.S.; a member of the Federation of Defense and Corporate Counsel; a Fellow of the New York State Bar Association Foundation; and a member of the New York State Office of Court Administration’s Advisory Committee on Civil Practice.

He is the original author of New York Appellate Practice, co-author of the Handbook on Insurance Coverage Disputes and the author of numerous articles on insurance/reinsurance and appellate practice.

Prominent Insurance Lawyer Damon Vocke Joining Duane Morris

CHICAGO and NEW YORK, January 2, 2018 – Former General Re Corporation President and General Counsel Damon Vocke is joining the Duane Morris insurance practice, the firm announced today. Vocke had most recently headed his own firm, the Vocke Law Group, with locations in New York, Chicago and Stamford, Connecticut. Along with partner Ronald Lepinskas and special counsel Mark Holton from the Vocke firm, he joins a Duane Morris insurance industry practice group that comprises over 100 lawyers in offices across the firm. Vocke will be working with the group nationally and particularly in New York.

To continue reading, please visit the Duane Morris website.

Former Insurance GC Joins Duane Morris

When Damon Vocke launched an insurance litigation boutique in October 2016, the firm led by the former general counsel of Berkshire Hathaway Inc. reinsurance subsidiary General Re Corp. was marketed as a “nimble and low-cost” alternative to “mega firms.”

A little more than a year later, the Vocke Law Group (VLG) has shut its doors as Vocke and two other lawyers bring their practices to Duane Morris, a firm of more than 650 lawyers. Vocke said in an interview Tuesday that his clients would benefit from the broader geographic reach and legal knowledge offered by Duane Morris.

“We’re really excited to turbocharge what we’re doing and what we think we can continue to do with the broader, highly respected Duane Morris platform, particularly in the Midwest, East Coast and international business,” said Vocke, who held a number of business roles at Gen Re in addition to his title as in-house legal chief.

To continue reading, please visit the Duane Morris website.

 

2016 Insurance-Related Class Actions Filed In or Removed to Federal Court

This report analyzes 210 insurance-related class actions filed in or removed to federal court in 2016. In many respects, the results are predictable. The greatest percentage of the insurance-related class actions involve coverage or claims handling decisions, although there were a few interesting pockets of recurring class claims, such as inflated drug prices and cost of insurance (‘‘COI’’) increases for life insurance policies. The predominant forum choices were on the American coasts, California and Florida being the preferred locations. One notable result was the frequency of voluntary dismissals by the plaintif fand individual settlements reached with the named plaintif fonly. It can only be surmised that either these cases never were intended to be consummated as class actions or that impediments arose after filing that prevented a cost-effective resolution on a class-wide basis.

To read the rest of this article by Duane Morris partner Charlotte E. Thomas, please visit the Duane Morris website.

Applying Contractual Principles In Pa. Unfair-Trade Claims

Claims against insurers under Pennsylvania’s Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law (UTPCPL) occupy a unique place in its jurisprudence. Insurance is highly regulated, and many other recovery avenues exist in Pennsylvania for aggrieved insureds, such as breach of contract and bad faith. Usually, insurance claims are tethered to contract law, since the insured-insurer relationship and duties are governed by the insurance policy. Courts should be reluctant to ignore contractual principles when a UTPCPL claim arises out of a policy.

Generally, deceptive insurance solicitations are actionable under the UTPCPL, while post-inception policy-related claims are not. Toy v. Metropolitan Life Insurance Co.[1] exemplifies this point. Toy involved an insurance salesman’s pre-issuance misrepresentations about the investment qualities of a life insurance policy. The insured asserted both bad faith and UTPCPL claims. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court affirmed dismissal of the statutory bad faith claim, concluding that bad faith did not cover an “insurer engaged in unfair or deceptive practices in soliciting the purchase of a policy.”[2] By contrast, the court allowed the UTPCPL deceptive sales practices claim to proceed. Under Toy, claims that arise out of solicitation-related deception can give rise to a UTPCPL claim, such as misrepresentations during the sale of the policy, while bad faith and breach of contract theories apply following policy inception.

Read the full text of this article by Duane Morris partner Charlotte Thomas.

Duane Morris Attorneys Will Present at the 2017 ABA Insurance Coverage Litigation Committee CLE Seminar

Duane Morris is pleased to announce that several of the firm’s attorneys will be presenting at the American Bar Association (ABA) Section of Litigation’s Insurance Coverage Litigation Committee CLE Seminar, to be held on March 1-4, 2017, in Tucson, Arizona. Duane Morris is a silver-level sponsor of the program and partners Terrance Evans, Dominica Anderson and Ray Wong will all present at the seminar.

For more information about the seminar, please visit the American Bar Association website.

Is Talc the New Asbestos?

By Dominica C. Anderson and Lauren M. Case

Significantly, this year multiple large verdicts have been awarded against companies making and selling talcum products in cases where plaintiffs allege related cancer following use of talcum powder products.

Most recently, on October 27 a Missouri jury awarded a woman who developed ovarian cancer more than $70 million in compensatory and punitive damage related to her prolonged use of talcum powder made and sold by Johnson & Johnson, and Imerys Talc America Inc., which mines the talc.  (Deborah Giannecchini v. Johnson & Johnson, et al., No. 14422-CC09012-01, Mo. 22nd Jud. Cir.)  The damages award follows two separate verdicts against Johnson & Johnson this year in the same Missouri court of $72 million and $55 million.

Additionally, in California just last month, following a six-week jury trial, a Los Angeles jury returned a $18.07 million verdict against talc supplier Whittaker Clark & Daniels for its alleged role in causing California political figure, Philip Depoian’s, mesothelioma.  (Philip John depoian and Julie Pastor Depoian vs. American International Industries, et al., Los Angeles Superior Court, No. BC607192.)  Mesothelioma is a form of cancer primarily associated with work place exposure to asbestos.   Depoian’s attorneys argued that Depoian was exposed to asbestos in talc products at a barber shop where his father worked, and through his own use of products including Old Spice, Clubman, Kings Men, and Mennen Shave Talc.  Asbestos and talc are natural silicate minerals often mined in the same deposits.  The parties reached a confidential settlement on October 26, 2016 before the second phase for punitive damages was set to resume.

With many new cases filed in 2016, talc litigation is on the rise. 2016 saw so many new talc-related actions filed in the district courts that last month, the United States Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation filed a transfer order to centralize pretrial proceedings in 11 actions in the district courts to the District of New Jersey.  (In re: Johnson & Johnson Talcum Powder Products Marketing, Sales Practices and Products Liability Litigation, MDL No. 2738, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 138403 (J.P.M.L. October 5, 2016.)  The Panel noted that it was aware of forty-three potential “tag-along” actions pending in twenty-three districts.  All but three of the 54 total actions (transferred actions and the potential tag-along actions) were filed in 2016.

All of the actions share common factual questions arising out of the allegations that use of Johnson & Johnson talcum powder products can cause ovarian or uterine cancer in women.  The majority of the actions filed to date are personal injury or wrongful death actions.  Two actions are consumer class actions brought on behalf of putative classes of women who allege defendants deceptively marketed talcum powder products for use without disclosing talc’s carcinogenic properties.

With these significant filings and verdicts, will coverage litigation follow?  Will Talc be the new asbestos??

Duane Morris Los Angeles Managing Partner Cyndie M. Chang Honored by the APAWLA

Duane Morris is pleased to announce that Cyndie M. Chang, was honored by the Asian Pacific American Women Lawyers Association for being the first female managing partner of a major Los Angeles area firm. Cyndie M. Chang, managing partner of Duane Morris’ Los Angeles office, litigates complex business and commercial disputes involving contracts, unfair competition, trademark, trade secrets, products liability, broker disputes, entertainment and real estate law.

Ms. Chang was recognized by the Daily Journal as one of the 2014 Top 100 Women Lawyers in California. Best Lawyers Magazine, Spring Edition 2016, profiled Ms. Chang as one of 15 women in the legal profession leading the charge for achievements in the practice and policy, on both local and national levels. The Recorder named Ms. Chang a “2013 Lawyer on the Fast Track.” Ms. Chang was also named in the Lawyers of Color Inaugural Hot List, which honored 100 early-to-mid-career minority attorneys for excellence in the legal profession. In addition, Ms. Chang was named among the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association (“NAPABA”) 2010 “Best Lawyers under 40,” awarded to 20 lawyers across the country. Continue reading Duane Morris Los Angeles Managing Partner Cyndie M. Chang Honored by the APAWLA