Perhaps Don Regan, the one-time Chief of Staff to President Reagan, best described what we do: “Some of us are like a shovel brigade that follow a parade down Main Street cleaning up.”
Not that run-off is less than an honorable profession. We aren’t the glamour kids, though. We are the ghosts of mistakes past, of the failures that had many fathers when they were shiny new ideas but are now orphaned in dismal disappointment. No one ever says, “this book/program is a great success, let’s put it into run-off.” So, by definition, we deal in failure.
So many great ideas: The Los Angeles County Bar Association, extended warranties, film finance, bail bonds, Environmental Impairment Liability, workers’ compensation carve-out. So many dismal disasters: See previous sentence.
Please don’t think I’m complaining. Run-off put my two girls through great schools, bought my wife an SUV that she loves, and kept me off the streets. I worked with wonderful people (not all) and learned a lot (I had a lot to learn).
So, when I was asked whether I might pen some fond memories of a run-off career, I agreed to try. But I still don’t know whether to laugh or to cry.
Run-off Adventure #1 – The Tale of The Draftsmen
A fundamental rule of contract interpretation is that if different words are used in similar contexts, different meanings must have been intended. So, if one part of a contract speaks of “piglets” and another of “swine” a judge will try mightily to figure out what different meanings were intended. In an insurance coverage case, her mighty efforts will be aimed at finding a way to help out the poor, innocent, Fortune 50 insured whose net worth is many times that of the evil, grasping insurance company. Of course, she will be helped by the inventive mind of the policyholder’s “insurance asset recovery” attorneys whose outrage at the insurer’s intransigence is matched only by their imaginative interpretation of the contract.
Now you, the run-off claims person, won’t take this lying down. You’ll scour to the ends of the earth to find the underwriter who will explain everything so clearly and sensibly that even the asset recovery folks will shamefacedly close their briefcases and slink off into the night.
And, “Eureka!,” you find Joe Giancana, who admits to being involved in drafting the policy thirty years ago. You grab your counsel (more on that later), fly off to wherever Joe has chosen as his golden years home, and get ready for the great revelation – why using “piglets” and then using “swine” made complete sense and is totally congruent with your theory of the case.
And, what is the luminescent answer?
“Well, we were kind of in a hurry so I put together the first part of the policy and Charlie Marcello did the second part. We were cutting and pasting from London forms that Charlie had collected over the years. So there’s no particular reason that I can think of for the different wordings; we must have cut them out from different forms.”
For the full article, refer to page 20 in the Summer 2015 issue. https://www.airroc.org/assets/docs/matters/airroc%20matters%20summer%202015%20vol%2011%20no.%202.pdf