Friday, July 29, 2011

9/11 Lawsuit May Proceed to Trial

The New York Times, in the linked article, reports that on Wednesday, Judge Alvin Hellerstein, after listening to arguments presented by lawyers for plaintiff Mary Bavis, on behalf of her son Mark who was in the United plane that struck the second tower, and attorneys for United Airlines, stated that he may permit the lawsuit to proceed to trial. This would be the first case from September 11, 2001 to be tried. The lawsuit seeks to recover terror damages in addition to damages for his wrongful death. Judge Hellerstein said his thinking is tending toward allowing terror damages. The lawsuit contends that the five hijackers who boarded flight 175 at Logan Airport in Boston were able to do so only because of gross negligence by United and a security firm, Huntleigh USA, that had been hired to run the checkpoint. The Bavis lawsuit has been widely watched over the nearly 10 years since it was filed, the article reports. Scheduled for trial in November 2011, it would be the only wrongful death lawsuit to proceed to trial stemming from September 11, 2001. Thousand of other victims received more than $7 billion in compensation through the Victim's Compensation Fund created by Congress. The article reports that a smaller group of just under 100 families and victims who filed lawsuits settled those cases for $500 million. Please join Judge Hellerstein, and Special Masters Kenneth Feinberg and Sheila Birnbaum, on September 8, 2011 at 12 noon Eastern Time for a webinar discussion of the lawsuits and Compensation Fund settlements. You can register for this teleconference by clicking here. For information about the September teleconferences, please visit the TIPS Disaster Initiative page.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

US Report Says Scant Evidence to Link 9/11 to Cancer

The New York Times reported in the attached article (click on the link) that there is not enough evidence yet to say whether the dust and smoke cloud produced by the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center caused cancer, federal officials concluded in a report released on Tuesday of this week. The report, released by Dr. John Howard, the director of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, said that there was little evidence to go on, as there have been only 18 published studies on the attacks that even mentioned cancer, and only 5 of those were peer reviewed. The results of the peer reviewed studies were mixed. The report was required by the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, which took effect on January 2, 2011. The Act provides $4.3 billion over the next five years to monitor, treat and compensate those who were exposed to the fumes and dust. Special Master Sheila Birnbaum will specifically discuss the Zadroga Act and with Ken Feinberg and Judge Alvin Hellerstein discuss the compensation of victims of September 11, 2001, on September 8, 2011 at 12 noon-1:30pm Eastern Daylight Time. Please click here to register for this program and join us in this discussion. Thank you.

Teleconference - September 11th, Ten Years Later, Where Are We In The Handling Of Mass Claims Within The Legal System?

Unfortunately, litigation follows disasters, whether natural or man-made. After the tragedy of September 11, 2001, Congress enacted a September 11th Victims Compensation Fund, which was administered by Special Master Kenneth Feinberg. Congress recently revived the Victims Compensation Fund to include first responders and clean-up workers, which is administered by Special Master Sheila Birnbaum. Litigation followed the September 11, 2001 tragedy, including over 10,000 actions filed on behalf of the First Responders and workers who cleaned up the World Trade Center site. These lawsuits were all administered under a series of master cases in the Southern District of New York by Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein. We are pleased to have Special Masters Kenneth Feinberg and Sheila Birnbaum and the Honorable Alvin K. Hellerstein discuss lessons learned from September 11, 2001, and where the legal system is 10 years later in the administration of justice caused by mass disasters.

Speakers:
The Honorable Alvin K. Hellerstein, United States District Judge for the Southern District of New York, appointed by President Clinton in 1998, and presided over all the litigation (other than the litigation against the terrorists) arising from September 11, 2001, including 13,000 cases coordinated in four master calendars and assorted other consolidations,

Mr. Kenneth Feinberg, Founder of Feinberg, Rozen LLP, and Special Master of the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund of 2001 and Administrator of the BP Deepwater Horizon Disaster Victim Compensation Fund,

Ms. Sheila Birnbaum, Partner & Chair of Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom LLP's Mass Tort Litigation Group, and Special Master of the reactivated September 11th Victim Compensation Fund.

Moderator: Kathleen Strickland, Partner, Ropers, Majeski, Kohn and Bentley, and Chair of ABA TIPS Task Force on Disaster Preparedness and Response.

Committee Sponsor: Toxic Tort and Environmental Law Committee

Please join us for this live webinar on September 8, 2011 from 12:00pm-1:30pm EST by clicking here to register for this program. To register at a 20% discount package deal for all teleconferences, click hereThank you.

Teleconference - Aviation Disaster Preparedness and Crisis Response

This post was prepared by David Harrington of Condon & Forsyth LLP.  As the 10-year anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks approaches and we reflect on the impact that the attacks have had on the aviation industry, it is reminder to everyone involved in the aviation community to ensure that they are prepared to respond to an aviation disaster, whatever the cause.  Despite the industry’s best efforts, aviation disasters do occur, and in today’s world of 24-hour news coverage, the internet, and social media, companies cannot afford to be caught unprepared when disaster strikes.  Mistakes, miscues and miscommunication can be devastating for companies in the aftermath of an aviation accident, large or small, and proper crisis response and management is critical.

On September 6, 2011, from 2:00 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. EDT, the TIPS Aviation and Space Law Committee will present a teleconference as part of a TIPS Initiative on Disaster Preparedness & Response that will provide  an industry insider’s view on how the various industry sectors prepare for, and respond to, an aviation disaster.  What are best practices for air carriers and corporate flight departments  in performing emergency drills? What role does the insurer play in preparation and emergency response? What are the major concerns regarding assistance to families and victims of an accident?  How can small businesses utilizing general aviation aircraft best prepare for an accident and what will be expected of them post-accident?  What media issues do the various involved entities face?

To discuss these issues, and many others, a panel of experienced industry leaders will moderated by the September 11th litigation defense liaison counsel, Desmond T. Barry, Partner, Condon & Forsyth LLP.  He will be joined by Marc Moller, Partner, Kreindler & Kreindler LLP, Steve Predmore, Vice President & Chief Safety Officer, JetBlue Airways, Erik Grosof, Assistant to the Director-Operations NTSB-Transportation Disaster Assistance, Ellyn Slow, Senior Vice President, Risk Management, NetJets, David Nelson, AVP, Claims Manager, Global Aerospace, Inc., and Matt Barkett, Managing Director, Dix & Eaton.

To register for this teleconference, click hereTo register at a 20% discount package deal for all teleconferences, click hereVisit the Pages section of this blog to view information about all the teleconferences or go to the TIPS Disaster Initiative page for information about all the upcoming programs.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Teleconference - Changes in Insurance Underwriting and Claims Handling Since September 11th

This blog entry was posted by Chair-Elect of the Insurance Coverage Litigation Committee, Ginny L. Peterson.

As a part of the TIPS Disaster Preparedness and Response Initiative, the Insurance Coverage Litigation Committee is proud to present a teleconference on September 14, 2011 developed by the Committee to address certain lessons learned and progress made since September 11, 2001. The September 14, 2011 program highlights that, after September 11, 2001, the United States insurance industry has been confronted with issues of readiness, capacity, and establishing a credible regulatory environment to underwrite catastrophes and handle claims. The Committee has developed an insightful program consisting of two panels: one exploring the insurance and reinsurance markets in general since September 11; and the second panel evaluating liability insurance industries in the power and nuclear insurance industry. Moderated by former chairs of the Insurance Coverage Litigation Committee, Judith Goodman of Goodman & Jacobs, LLP and Alan Rutkin of Rivkin Radler, LLP, the panels will include distinguished speakers including the following:

  • Leo J. Jordan, former Vice President and Counsel, State Farm Insurance Companies and past chair of TIPS and share of TIPS Task Force on Insurance Disaster Coverage;
  • Frank Nutter, President, Reinsurance Association of America, who currently serves on the Board of International Hurricane Research Center, the Advisory Board of the Center for Health and Global Environment, the Governing Counsel of the American Meteorological Association, the Board of University Center for Atmospheric Research and the Advisory Board on the OECD’s International Network for Financial Management for Large Scale Disasters;
  • Michael T. McRaith, Director, U.S. Treasury Department, Federal Insurance Office;
  • Brian R. Ekdahl, Vice President and Counsel for Claims AEGIS Insurance Services, Inc.;
  • Richard Jones, Manager of the Emergency Response and Planning for American Nuclear Insurers.
Please join us in participating with these prestigious panels in the teleconference on September 14, 2011 from 12:00 – 1:30 p.m. Eastern Time. To register for this teleconference, click here. To register at a 20% discount package deal for all teleconferences, click hereVisit the Pages section of this blog to view information about all the teleconferences or go to the TIPS Disaster Initiative Page for information about all of the upcoming programs.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

September 11th Ten Years Later

This article in the New York Daily News talks about how businesses in New York are still struggling ten years after September 11th.  It features the Harris Beach law firm among other businesses.  Harris Beach is the host site of the TIPS Disaster Preparedness and Response Teleconference Series coming up this September.  This teleconference and webinar series addresses a wide range of topics arising from the September 11th terrorist attacks and how disasters are now being prepared for today and how September 11th has affected disaster response.  Sign up for these teleconferences today by clicking here.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Bermuda Reinsurers and Florida Insurance Rates

This interesting article in a Bermudian publication called The Bottom Line addresses particular criticism of the Bermuda reinsurance market and its effect on insurance rates in Florida.  The author, Jonathan Kent, deconstructs and rebuts arguments made by a Pulitzer Prize winner's investigative series published in the Sarasota Herald Tribune that made Bermuda and other off-shore reinsurers villans in the difficult and complex Florida insurance market. 

It ties in very nicely to the TIPS Disaster Initiative September 14th teleconference discussed in Leo's post below.  You can register for that teleconference here.  The live programs at the TIPS meetings on May 17, 2012 in Charleston, SC and on August 2, 2012 in Chicago will have insurance industry panels that may also address these issues.  Click here for information about the TIPS Disaster Initiative.

Teleconference - Changes in Insurance Underwriting and Claims Handling Since September 11th

This post was prepared by Leo Jordan.  The past ten years have resulted in the highest insurance and reinsurance catastrophe claim payments in the history of the industry. The terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York on September 11, 2001, and the unprecedented events of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, tested the financial resources of the insurance and reinsurance industry. While the industry has met its obligations to its policyholders as promised, the historical trend reveals a probability of even greater catastrophes in the future.

On September 14, 2011, at 12:00 noon to 1:30 p.m. EDT, the TIPS Insurance Coverage Litigation Committee will present a teleconference that will probe in depth whether the private industry is capable of responding to a $100 billion catastrophe; or must seek assistance from the federal government in meeting future obligations.  To discuss these issues will be a panel moderated by Judith Goodman, from Goodman & Jacobs, LLP.  She will be joined by Leo J. Jordan, former Vice President and Counsel for State Farm Insurance Companies and a past chair of TIPS, and Franklin Nutter, the President of the Reinsurance Association of America.

To register for this teleconference, click here.  Visit the Pages section of this blog to view information about all the teleconferences or go to the TIPS Disaster Initiative page for information about all the upcoming programs.

Monday, July 18, 2011

National Commission on Natural Catastrophe Risk Management and Insurance Proposed

This Business Insurance article talks about the draft Senate bill to extend the National Flood Insurance Program as including the formation of  a National Commission on Natural Catastrophe Risk Management and Insurance.  The ABA/TIPS Spring Meeting in Charleston, SC on May 17, 2012 will focus on Disasters Caused by Acts of Nature.  Check the TIPS Disaster Initiative home page for information as the program develops as well as information for all the podcasts, teleconferences, and live programs.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Cyberterrorism In The News

Cyberterrorism is in the news (click title for access to the NY Times article). The Pentagon has released a strategy for military operations in cyberspace. In releasing the strategy, the defense department disclosed that in March, a foreign intelligence service hacked into the computer system of a corporate contractor and obtained 24,000 Pentagon files during a single intrusion. The new strategy calls for looking for potential hackers on the Internet rather than waiting for an intruder to attack. Deputy Defense Secretary William J. Lynn disclosed that in the past, crucial files stolen from defense and industry data networks have included plans for missile tracking systems, satellite navigation devices, surveillance drones and top-of-the-line jet fighters. TIPS ABA Disaster Preparedness Initiative’s Fall Meeting in Seattle on October 12, 2011, linked here, hosted by incoming TIPS Chair Randy Aliment, is devoted to cyberterrorism and the threats to our nation posed by such terrorism. Please sign up and plan on joining three excellent panels discussing this topic.

Insurance and Risk Transfer Methods Help in Recovery From Disaster

In this recent article, "Recipes for Disaster," Milliman shows how insurance and other risk transfer methods assist in helping governments and economies recover from major disasters like earthquakes.  Six factors crucial to managing and insuring against catastrophes are listed.  The TIPS Disaster Preparedness and Response initiative will be addressing the insurance aspects of disaster preparedness and response in each of its live meetings in October 2011, February 2012, May 2012, and August 2012, as well as on its September Teleconference Series.  For more information about the TIPS Disaster Initiative programs and to register, please visit the TIPS Disaster Initiative home page.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Storm Surge - The Greatest Threat

USA Today has an article discussing how storm surge, and not wind, is the deadliest aspect of a hurricane and is the greatest threat to US coastal communities.  The information comes from the National Hurricane Center in Miami.  Worth a read.  This issue is sure to come up at the TIPS Spring Meeting in Charleston, South Carolina on May 17, 2012, when the TIPS Disaster Initiative will put on a program discussing Disasters Caused by Acts of Nature.  For more information about all the TIPS Disaster Preparedness and Response Initiative programs, please visit our Disaster Initiative home page.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Katrina: An Unnatural Disaster?

The Seattle Times has an interesting article on Harry Shearer's documentary "The Big Uneasy," in which his film presents a meticulous argument that the massive floods that destroyed much of New Orleans following Katrina were due to human error.   The TIPS Disaster Preparedness and Response initiative will be presenting programs in New Orleans on February 3, 2012 on Disasters Caused by Negligent Acts and in Charleston, South Carolina on May 17, 2012 on Disasters Caused by Acts of Nature.  Please visit the TIPS Disaster Initiative home page for more information.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Disaster Preparedness and Response Podcasts

This post was created by Jill Mariani.  ABA Tort Trial and Insurance Practice Section, through its Government Law Committee chaired by Jill Mariani, and in partnership with Thomson Reuters, is presenting a 10 part podcast series on Disaster Preparedness and Response that will air throughout the year.  Two podcasts will be general themed podcasts; 2 podcasts will air before each of the four upcoming TIPS live CLE programs that will discuss specific topics either featured in or related to programs presented at the Fall, Mid-Year, Spring and Annual Meetings of the Tort Trial and Insurance Practice Section.

In the first podcastentitled Disaster Awareness: What the ABA Is Doing About It, ABA President Steve Zack details the myriad of ways the ABA is providing assistance to the legal community in the wake of mass disasterwhether caused by acts of domestic or international terrorism, acts of naturor negligent acts. In addition, TIPS Chair-elect Randy Aliment outlines the components of his year-long initiative designed to bring disaster awareness to a heightened level.  Click here to listen.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Post Katrina Litigation of Payout Discrimination Claims is Settled

Kathleen's post on the upcoming panel discussing post-disaster litigation is particularly timely.  See today's  New York Times article on the settlement of claims by homeowners who sued the federal government and the State of Louisiana alleging discrimination in the distribution of  grants to homeowners whose houses were destroyed in Hurricane Katrina. 

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Teleconference - The Silverstein Properties Trial and Contract Certainty

This post was prepared by Richard Mason of Cozen O'Connor, Chair-elect of ESLR.  When the World Trade Center collapsed, coverage for property insurance had been bound.  But the policy had not been issued.  Consequently, a massive lawsuit arose concerning the terms and conditions applicable to the claim of the building lessee, Silverstein Properties.  Ultimately, the insurers established that the parties had agreed to terms that, as interpreted by the court, meant the attack was a single “occurrence,” and thus one policy limit, and not two, applied.

On September 15, 2011, The TIPS Excess, Surplus Lines & Reinsurance Committee will present a teleconference entitled: "The Silverstein Properties Trial and Contract Certainty in the Aftermath of 9/11." This teleconference will present an insiders' description by trial lawyers who litigated the coverage cases arising from September 11th.  Panelist Tom McKay of Cozen O'Connor represented Federal Insurance Company in the Silverstein Properties trial.  Nancy Sher-Cohen represented the lender, seeking coverage.  Each will share the war stories and lessons learned from this monumental litigation.

In the aftermath of September 11th, insurers, regulators, and brokers have implemented practices and requirements aimed at preventing situations in which, when disaster strikes, the insurance policy has not yet been issued.  Such measures, referred to as “contract certainty” procedures, seek to require that insurance and reinsurance contracts be issued at or near the time that coverage is bound.  Still, market practice remains imperfect, as the industry struggles to balance policyholders’ need for prompt commitments to coverage against the mutual need for contract certainty.  Panelist Kevin Lazarus, a solicitor with Lloyd's Legal and Compliance, specializing in contract certainty, and Roger Fell, a broker with Marsh USA, will advise the audience regarding how contract certainty is being regulated and -- equally importantly -- what the current practices (good and bad) are in today's insurance and reinsurance marketplace.

To Register for this teleconference, click hereTo register at a 20% discount package deal for all teleconferences, click hereVisit the Pages section of this blog to view information about all the teleconferences or go to the TIPS Disaster Initiative page for information about all the upcoming programs.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Military Rethinking Response to Disasters

Check out this article from the AP on a new type of military commander (dual status) who hopefully will avoid Katrina-like chaos.  The TIPS Disaster Preparedness and Response initiative will have various governmental speakers in its podcasts, teleconferences and live meetings to talk about how the government can better respond to disasters.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Toxics and Rare Earth

According to a report in the New York Times (click on the title to read the article), a $230 million refinery, being built in Kuantan, Malaysia, by Australian company Lynas Corporation is facing construction and design problems according to internal memos by current and former engineers on the project. The fear is that the plant, which would refine rare earth ores into manufacturing grade metals- crucial to many technologies including smart phones, smart bombs, hybrid cars-- will leak radioactive and toxic materials into the water table. Protests are ongoing. While rare earths are not radioactive, in nature they are mixed with thorium- which is. Other companies are reportedly planning on opening similar refineries in the US, Mongolia, Vietnam and India by the end of 2013. Memos and emails from former and current engineers on the project say there is a problem. Lynas and the IAEA say that the design and planned operations procedures have met international standards. The TIPS September Teleconference Series, on September 8th, 9th and 12th will feature 3 programs sponsored by TIPS Toxic Tort and Environmental Law Committee that will feature discussions on Prevention of mass disasters. The TIPS Midyear Meeting in Charleston, South Carolina will focus on Disasters Caused by Negligent Acts.

Wildfire in Colorado

Wildfires are a constant threat in the summer in Colorado.  Right now, the Maxwell Fire is burning close to town, although it is fairly well contained.   Last fall we were not so lucky and lost over 160 homes in the Fourmile Fire.  The learning curve for a community responding to a disaster of that magnitude is steep, and collaboration with national organiziations like FEMA and the Red Cross is essential.  Response goes beyond the immediate issues of evacuation, containment, shelter and services to the homeless.  Now we are dealing with insurance issues, rebuilding, and the potential for flooding in the burn area.  Natural disaster, preparation and response will be the focus of the TIPS Spring Meeting in Charleston, South Carolina on May 17, 2012. 

Follow TIPS Disaster Preparedness Initiative on Twitter

Throughout the TIPS Disaster Preparedness and Response initiative, TIPS will be tweeting about the podcasts, teleconferences, and live meetings @ABATIPS.  TIPS will be using the hashtag #DPRI for all tweets about the initiative.  If you live in the twitterverse, please follow @ABATIPS and look for #DPRI.