The effective resolution of civil and time disputes should be a matter for all lawyers and judges. The first time I met Rene Sigman was in a courthouse in Galveston, Texas, where the judge had just asked lawyers for suggestions on how to streamline the discovery in thousands of cases after Hurricane Ike in 2008. While Rene was not with our company at the time, she was very loud about what worked to get evidence that insurers did not want to turn around and how to do it quickly. I am proud that she is now a member of our company and voluntarily takes her time to improve the civil justice system by working with the Institute for the Advancement of the American Legal System on disaster protocols to be followed in disputes. She worked on the latest protocols with COVID-1
In May last year, I noted that Rene Sigman was part of this working group in Rene Sigman appointed to the working group of the Pandemic Litigation Discovery Protocols (19459006). I pointed out that:
Making the discovery effective and helping judges better understand the complex nature of insurance disasters is something that all lawyers in this area of law should strive for. Access to justice for many less affluent policyholders requires streamlined but pointed discovery of issues that are at the heart of disputes. I am sure that this prominent panel of lawyers will help make the current disputes faster, more relevant and cheaper for everyone.
The new protocols are linked here and the introduction says in part:
COVID-19 coronavirus swept across the world in 2020, causing a global pandemic that dominated lives, economies and businesses. By the end of 2020, the United States had surpassed 2 million infections and more than 346,000 deaths. COVID-19 also had a significant impact on companies, resulting in many companies turning to their insurance companies to cover lost revenue and other pandemic-related losses. At the same time, insurers have been inundated with coverage claims even though they are convinced that commercial property insurance policies were not intended to cover the COVID-19 pandemic. The extent to which these insurances provide coverage – whether in the case of business insurance interruptions or civil authority clauses – is an issue that will ultimately be resolved by the courts. For the growing number of companies and insurance companies that end up in court to resolve coverage disputes, the process can be lengthy and complex. These complexities can be exacerbated by the pandemic's impact on the judicial system, which has faced its own court closures, the postponement of jury trials and the prioritization of criminal cases. Even after the pandemic, courts will face delays in litigation along with an influx of cases due to the financial consequences for both companies and individuals.
Recognition of the need to effectively address the influx of business interruption cases in both state and federal courts, IAALS, Institute for the Advancement of the American Legal System, facilitated the development of its fourth set of discovery protocols – Initial Discovery Protocols for Business Interruption Insurance Litigation Arising From the COVID-19 Pandemic and Similar Public Health Threats (BI Insurance Protocols or Pandemic Protocols) for BI insurance disputes.
The working group was kept small to promote efficiency. Through virtual meetings, the working group developed a draft discovery protocol based on disaster protocols. The draft was then reviewed by a second, broader group of experts, who helped get additional input and buy-ins for the project. The end product is the result of careful debate and compromise on both sides, inspired by the goal of improving the pre-process in BI cases across the country. The BI insurance protocols aim to reduce conflicts and costs and to help companies and insurers reach a quick solution during the pandemic, regardless of whether it is a settlement, exercise or trial.
BI Insurance Protocols ”apply to cases involving first-party insurance interruptions and related claims for coverage arising from the COVID-19 pandemic or similar public health risks from disease or other sources of infection or contamination. The protocols create new categories of information exchange and replace initial disclosures with initial discovery that is specific to BI Insurance cases. This discovery is automatically provided by both parties within 45 days of the insurer's responding appeal or proposal.
The BI insurance protocols are designed to be implemented by judges, lawyers and disputes in state and federal courts. As described in the BI Insurance Protocols, their intention is to “make it easier and faster for the parties and their advice to: (1) exchange important information and documents early in the case; (2) design the problems to be solved; (3) evaluate the claims for possible early settlement; and (4) plan for more effective and targeted subsequent formal discovery, if necessary.
Courts and litigation around the country will deal with COVID-19 insurance issues long after this pandemic has passed. The aim of these protocols is to provide courts with an effective tool for streamlining the critical early stage of disputes in order to reduce conflicts and costs for both companies and insurance companies.
Has significant experience of many natural disasters where insurance disputes occurred. recommended our firm successfully, with input from other policyholder attorneys, discovery protocols that helped move along Hurricane Ike and Superstorm Sandy disputes. Many similarities are also found in the current protocols.
The insurance industry also has its proponents in this committee. I would not have a fair and balanced blog if I did not recognize longtime opponents Steve Badger and Joyce Wang for their work on the committee.
Thought for the day
In the real world, which is lived and experienced by real people, the demand for human rights and dignity, the longing for freedom and justice and opportunities, hatred of oppression, corruption and cruelty reality.
– John McCain