PLUS Converts Annual Conference to Virtual

The impact of the COVID-19 crisis is being felt across the world. Our hearts go out to all who have struggled with the virus or lost a loved one. Undoubtedly, this crisis has brought significant uncertainty to the industry and the lives of PLUS members, and it remains unclear when we will be able to return to our pre-COVID-19 routines. As a result, PLUS felt it necessary and appropriate to provide our members and the larger PLUS community with certainty now regarding the 2020 PLUS Conference. And so today we are announcing that, for 2020, we are converting the PLUS Conference from an in-person event to a virtual event.

What does that mean?

Although we know everyone will miss the in-person interactions, PLUS is confident in being able to deliver an outstanding virtual experience. The good news is PLUS has been developing virtual content for years and has delivered two very successful virtual events already this year, including quickly pivoting the content from the 2020 PLUS Healthcare & Medical PL Symposium from in-person to virtual. This is one of the core competencies of our association, and our volunteer committees are enthusiastic about finding innovative ways to bring all PLUS members and industry supporters together.

How and when is the virtual PLUS Conference?

We are still working out all the details, but the virtual conference will be held over the same dates as originally planned – November 9-11, 2020. Sessions, information, and education will be spread over the three days and will of course include high-quality speakers and relevant content.

What should I do?

First, mark your calendars today for the dates of the PLUS Conference: November 9-11, 2020.

Second, please provide us with any comments or suggestions on what you would like to see from a virtual PLUS Conference. Please submit your comments and suggestions to Director of Engagement Programs Erin Stephens at estephens@plusweb.org by May 28th.

Third, we will soon be sending out Request for Proposals (RFP), so please complete an RFP if you have a presentation idea or would like to present at the PLUS Conference.

Finally, we sincerely hope you will support PLUS in this effort. PLUS is our association, and the PLUS Conference is our industry event. Even if we cannot be in-person, we hope you will continue to support PLUS – our industry’s sole non-profit organization dedicated to advancing the knowledge and careers of its members – by participating in the virtual 2020 PLUS Conference.

We look forward to providing you more information about the virtual PLUS Conference in the coming weeks and months.

Todd Greeley, President, PLUS Board of Trustees

Susan Angelo, 2020 PLUS Conference Chair & Incoming President, PLUS Board of Trustees

Robbie Thompson, PLUS CEO

Top 10 Immediate Considerations for Claims Handling

Thank you to Dana Gittleman for her article! If you are interested in submitting content to the PLUS Blog, reach out to Katie Campbell at kcampbell@plusweb.org

Gittleman_Dana_BIODana Gittleman is an associate in the Professional Liability Department at Marshall Dennehey Warner Coleman and Goggin. Resident in the firm’s Philadelphia office, she focuses her practice on the defense of claims and lawsuits brought against insurance agents and brokers, attorneys, financial entities, large product manufacturers, lenders and other professionals. Dana may be reached at dagittleman@mdwcg.com.

          Receipt of lawsuit papers is daunting, but early action and consideration for developing a defense framework can uncover important information and mitigate the risk of last minute, “eve of trial” revelations.  While not exhaustive, this list of immediate considerations for litigation provides a few tips for claims handing.

(1)       Memorialize Conversations.  The adage, “if it’s not written down, it didn’t happen” is all too prescient in litigation.  Memories fade, recollections vary and credibility typically is important to lawsuits.  Thus, it is important to memorialize conversations with the insured and timely request a copy of the insured’s client file relative to the insurance transactions giving rise to the litigation. Often, initial communications are critical in identifying and analyzing the material issues.

(2)       Cease Communications with Parties. It is also important at this early juncture to instruct the insured to cease communications with parties, represented or unrepresented, and parties’ counsel.  Seemingly innocent conversations could become harmful admissions at trial if insureds are cavalier with respect to information related to the litigation.

(3)       Attorney-Client Privilege.  Insureds should also be instructed not to disclose any conversations or information shared with counsel, which could breach the attorney-client privilege.

(4)       Establish Personal Contact.   Our culture rewards expediency, though the easiest or quickest path is not always the most advantageous.  Where appropriate and feasible, encourage in-person meetings to establish personal relationships, in contrast to email or telephone calls.  Listening, making eye contact,  engaging in a thoughtful exchange of ideas and information, and establishing a personal rapport builds trust and satisfaction.

(5)       Retain Liability Expert.  Expert retention is one of the most expensive, yet critical, aspects of defending a professional negligence action against an insurance agent or broker.  An expert can help frame the issues in the case, interpret complex insurance provisions, identify critical deponents and record custodians, and develop pointed questions for key depositions.  The defense strategy is not formulated in a vacuum, and consulting with and engaging a liability expert early can provide a knowledgeable ally throughout the litigation process.

(6)       Consider Underlying Litigation.  Insurance E&O claims often arise from underlying litigation.  It is critical to compile documents related to that litigation, including dockets, pleadings, discovery, deposition transcripts, and motions to ascertain relevant facts and establish potential defenses arising therefrom.  Continue to monitor the underlying proceedings if the case remains active and consider the pros/cons of staying the E&O action pending the outcome of the underlying action.  Key witnesses in an underlying litigation can be assets in the subsequent negligence action.  For example, a witness to an underlying personal injury can provide insight into the plaintiff event space’s policies and procedures respecting serving liquor and liquor liability insurance practices.

(7)       Consider Other Litigation.  A simple docket search can uncover information about other lawsuits involving the parties and impact potential damages exposure.  A prior personal injury or evidence of preexisting financial troubles can aid in establishing that the subject insurance transaction and subsequent loss was not the exclusive cause or source of damages.

(8)       Business and Personal Relationships.   The insured and their customer may have a longstanding business or personal relationship that they seek to preserve.  A preexisting relationship may impact the parties’ attitude toward the lawsuit, including testifying about unfavorable interactions and conversations; engaging in aggressive discovery; or favoring early resolution.  While this should not color the litigation strategy, it is important to consider any preexisting relationships between the parties which could impact their desired outcome.

(9)       Stay Organized.  An organized file is an invaluable asset in litigation.  Compiling key documents and creating a timeline of salient events facilitates convenient access to important records throughout the litigation.

(10)     Get Creative.  Every case is different, and a one size fits all approach will not suffice.  Depending on the nature of the allegations, it could be equally – if not more – important to issue record subpoenas to prior brokers and carriers, as to subsequent brokers and carriers. Suit-specific subpoenas based on the nature of the case can uncover important evidence for impeachment: financial records, computer hardware or software, medical records, surveillance footage, and social media exports should all be considered.

EPL Perspectives on Coronavirus: Part 2

The next installment of our PL Perspectives on Coronavirus series comes from Sarah Goldstein, Matthew Sgnilek, and Kelly Thoerig, as they continue their discussion on EPL and the possible effects of COVID-19 from underwriting, risk management, and legal perspectives. Stay tuned for more recordings of industry experts on a variety of PL insurance lines.

Listen here to the EPL Perspectives on Coronavirus: Part 2 discussion:

Speakers:

Herman.SarahSarah Goldstein, Managing Partner & Partner in Employment Litigation practice at O’Hagan Meyer

Sarah represents organizations of all sizes in employment-related matters and advises companies on proactive compliance with employment and wage and hour laws. Sarah is an experienced trial lawyer in both the Federal and California Superior Courts, with a focus on harassment, whistle-blower, wrongful termination, retaliation, discrimination, PAGA and wage and hour matters.

Her litigation practice includes defending employment actions under the Fair Employment and Housing Act including gender, pregnancy, race, ancestry, color, religion, age, national origin, sexual orientation, disability, wrongful termination claims, whistleblower claims, wage and hour claims, and retaliation matters. Sarah also represents employers in administrative actions before the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, U.S. Department of Labor and the Department of Fair Employment and Housing.

In 1998, Sarah received the Wiley W. Manuel Award for Pro Bono Legal Services. An active member of the Professional Liability Underwriting Society (PLUS), Sarah currently serves on the Board of Trustees and is the current board liaison to the Diversity and Inclusion Committee.  She chaired the Women’s Leadership Network event in Los Angeles in September 2012 and from 2009 to 2011, she served as Southern California Chapter Chairperson.

sgnilek-matt-webMatthew Sgnilek, Partner in the Employment practice at O’Hagan Meyer

Matthew represents employers in a variety of employment cases and administrative actions, including claims for civil rights violations, harassment, discrimination, retaliation, wrongful termination,  American Disabilities Act (ADA) violations, unfair business practices, misappropriation of trade secrets, as well as Private Attorney General’s Act (PAGA), individual and class action wage & hour  disputes. Matt represents employers in both state and federal courts, in arbitration, and before state and federal agencies, such as the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing, the California Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board, Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board and the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement. Matt conducts employee classification audits, payroll audits, HR best practices audits, and workplace investigations.  Matt also provides preventive counseling to his clients and works with them to ensure compliant HR policies and documents are in place..  Matt is a frequent speaker providing seminars and workshops on employment issues, including Sexual Harassment and Discrimination Training to executives, supervisors, managers and human resources professionals.

Kelly ThoerigKelly Thoerig, Managing Director, Employment Practices Liability Coverage Leader at Marsh

Kelly is Marsh’s U.S. Employment Practices Liability and Wage and Hour Coverage Leader and is primarily responsible for manuscripting EPL and W&H policies, leading policy and insurer new product reviews, and drafting endorsements. In addition, Kelly is a claims advocate for Marsh’s FINPRO practice, specializing in complex coverage and claims issues concerning EPL, W&H, D&O, professional liability, crime, and cyber insurance, where she calls upon her prior law firm experience representing insurance carriers in coverage disputes. Kelly frequently presents at industry seminars nationwide on various insurance coverage topics.