Working from home is a dramatic change for many but AIRROC’s summer series of webinars makes a huge splash keeping members updated and connected.
AIRROC’s Work From Home webinars continued to garner significant participation from our members and included a diverse range of topics and emerging trends, which were originally scheduled for the NYC and Chicago educational days.
The summer series kicked off on June 30th with “Social Inflation: As Deflating As It Sounds” presented by Caryn Siebert of Gallagher Bassett Services along with Morgan Tilleman and Andy Meerkins of Foley & Lardner. The presenters defined social inflation, causes of it and how to combat it with claims handling and litigation strategies. One example presented was the landmark McDonalds coffee case from 1994, which still resonates today despite the subsequent reduced jury award by the trial judge. An exponential rise in “nuclear verdicts” has since followed as in the cases against Monsanto and Johnson & Johnson.
While social inflation is not a new concept and can be traced back to the 1970s, Caryn emphasized how “social inflation is not a myth, it is a reality” and that buyers of legacy transactions need to be particularly aware of this reality and work together to understand it’s potential impact on their books of business.
The webinar series continued on July 7th with “What do Insurers Need to Know About the CBD/Hemp Industry?” presented by Robin Dusek and Jonathan Havens of Saul Ewing along with Camille Dixon of the CA DOI. This session provided an overview on the distinct differences between hemp and marijuana as members of the plant species, Cannabis sativa. Following the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill, hemp and its derivative CBD (cannabidiol) were legalized, while marijuana remains listed as a Schedule 1 controlled substance, the most restrictive class. Jonathan cautioned on the fine line that now exists between legal hemp and illegal marijuana with the former required to be at or below the legal threshold of 0.3% of THC.
The presenters further discussed the continued role of the USDA and FDA following the federal legalization of hemp, the contrasting regulations by the states as well as an update on the Safe Banking Act. Lastly, risk mitigation strategies when working with hemp and CBD businesses were identified including the limited availability and affordability of insurance for this industry.
Third in the lineup was “The Downfall of the Bellefonte Rule?” on July 16th presented by Charlie Leisure and Andrew Shapiro of Porter Wright. The session commenced with an insightful history on this three decades old controversial case involving Bellefonte Reinsurance Co. v. Aetna Casualty & Surety Co. and the judicial developments that continue through today. This case centered on a reinsurer’s obligation to pay for defense expenses in excess of limits stated within the facultative certificate. Ultimately, the court imposed a cap in favor of the reinsurer that many believed contrasted with reinsurance industry custom and practice.
Andrew artfully exhibited the subsequent cases to Bellefonte in “seven acts” culminating in an appeals case pending for this August. As Charlie concluded, “it shows how issues like this can get addressed in different ways by different courts on the same contract and the same facts”.
The summer webinar series concluded on July 21st with “Emerging Environmental Liability Trends Related to Drinking Water“. Rock Vitale, a chemist with Environmental Standards, succinctly described Per-and Polyfluoroalky Substances (PFAS) compounds that have been manufactured for over 60 years and can be found in food packaging, nonstick cookware, stain and water repellent fabrics, fire fighting foams, to name a few. PFAS have also been branded as “forever chemicals“ as they never breakdown in the environment and can remain in the human body for long periods of time.
Andy Levine and Catherine Ward of Stradley Ronan continued with an overview on the lack of federal standards and examples of toxic tort cases involving PFAS. Andy cautioned, “The legacy insurance industry should pay attention to the developing trends in this area because there are likely to be claims of continuing release or sudden and accidental exposures due to a fire incident or a testing incident.” Catherine pointed to New Jersey as the first state in the country to develop a drinking water standard for PFAS compounds in 2018 as the result of inaction by the EPA to establish national standards.
AIRROC Executive Director, Carolyn Fahey, moderated all four webinars and is working with the education committee on bringing a new webinar series of relevant and current topics for this September.