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Insurance Defense Blog



A blog with a focus on civil litigation/insurance defense in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area, by David B. Stratton, Esq. of Jordan Coyne LLP.



Updated: 2017-11-25T22:53:20-05:00

 



A Modest Proposal Concerning Legal Education

2017-11-25T22:53:20-05:00

There have been proposals to shorten the time it takes to get a law school degree, and the grounds for these proposals are usually that law school is very expensive, and law students graduate with a ton of debt and then cannot find legal jobs to enable them to pay off that debt, and meanwhile, a large segment of society is underserved by the legal profession. So one solution is to let law students graduate in two years, which presumably would mean that they have 1/3 less debt, and will be willing to practice law at a lower billable rate, serving clients who can't afford an attorney at current rates. But notice that the law students still will be paying heavily for those two years, and going heavily into debt. It doesn't take a genius to see that a law school is essentially a group of lecture halls adjacent to a law library. And you hardly even need the law library anymore, given the fact that legal research is mainly done online today. Yes, you need law professors who are excellent teachers, but essentially that is a low overhead operation for most subjects, because a law professor can teach a class of 50-100 law students, and most courses do not involve many graded events. So if you want to make law school affordable, stop using the law school as a cash cow, and charge less per credit hour. If you want to help law students financially even more, make it...



Crime stats and map - Fairfax County, Virginia

2016-02-12T18:31:57-05:00

Here is a link to a crime mapping website, that will give you the date, location, and type of crimes reported in Fairfax County for any date range. http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/policeevent... Makes me wonder if any other jurisdictions around here has this service.




2015-11-20T13:46:58-05:00

A handy unofficial website that does a statewide search of all Virginia circuit courts BUT FFX and Alexandria. http://vacircuitcourtsearch.com/



Misclassification of employees as independent contractors under FSLA

2015-07-26T12:45:32-04:00

A headline in the Christian Science Monitor caught my eye the other day: "Are you an independent contractor? Probably not, Labor Department says." The article goes on to discuss a new Department of Labor ruling concerning the misclassification of employees as independent contractors. The new ruling, Administrator's Interpretation No. 2015-1, dated July 15, 2015, states in its introduction that: Misclassification of employees as independent contractors is found in an increasing number of workplaces in the United States, in part reflecting larger restructuring of business organizations. When employers improperly classify employees as independent contractors, the employees may not receive important workplace protections such as the minimum wage, overtime compensation, unemployment insurance, and workers’ compensation. Misclassification also results in lower tax revenues for government and an uneven playing field for employers who properly classify their workers. Although independent contracting relationships can be advantageous for workers and businesses, some employees may be intentionally misclassified as a means to cut costs and avoid compliance with labor laws. This rings true, as I have seen a number of workers compensation cases in which regular employees certainly seem misclassified as 1099 independent contractors. Usually this involves construction subcontractors who hire mostly undocumented workers. This particular administrative interpretation, however, deals directly with the definition of who is an employee under the Fair Labor Standards Act, not with workers' compensation law. The courts have developed a multi-factor test to determine whether a worker is an employee or an independent contractor under the FSLA. The factors typically include: (A)...



District of Columbia Legislative History - LIMS

2015-05-08T08:49:09-04:00

The District of Columbia government has upgraded its Legislative Information Management System ("LIMS"). As a result of the upgrades, the database covers all legislation passed by the D.C. Council from 1989 to the present, a total of 33,719 documents. Further details can be found here.



Plaintiffs in DC cell phone litigation avoid knockout punch, for now

2014-08-10T16:49:38-04:00

"Can cell phones cause brain cancer?" With that question, which he did not answer, Judge Weisberg of the Superior Court for the District of Columbia began a 76-page discourse on the admissibility of the testimony of eight plaintiffs' experts in the DC cell phone litigation. The Court excluded the testimony of some of the Plaintiffs' experts and did not exclude the testimony of others. The Court, based on the extensive record before him, clearly found the scientific evidence too inconclusive for any scientist to say to a reasonable degree of scientific certainty whether cell phones can cause brain cancer. The Court's opinion included this sobering plea to other branches of government to do the research necessary to figure this out: Even though the financial and social cost of restricting such devices would be significant, those costs pale in comparison to the cost in human lives from doing nothing, only to discover thirty or forty years from now that the early signs were pointing in the right direction. As the inconclusive results of the IARC Monograph make clear, more research is necessary to answer definitively the fundamental question of carcinogenicity. If the probability of carcinogenicity is low, but the magnitude of the potential harm is high, good public policy dictates that the risk should not be ignored. See Richard Posner, Catastrophe: Risk and Response (2004). The court recognizes, however, that policy debates of this kind do not belong in the judicial branch.



Judicial estoppel based on bankruptcy filing affirmed in the District of Columbia

2014-08-09T11:37:56-04:00

I had previously written about judicial estoppel and lack of standing defenses that could arise from a plaintiff's prior bankruptcy filing. There is a recent decision in the District of Columbia in which judicial estoppel barred a plaintiff's personal injury claim, after the plaintiff had failed to disclose the claim in bankruptcy proceedings. To prevail on such a motion, however, it is probably necessary to show a clear financial benefit accruing to the plaintiff from the failure to disclose the claim in bankruptcy.



Maryland federal court decision on broker's failure to procure insurance

2014-03-02T15:25:16-05:00

In a recent case, a homeowner brought suit in Maryland federal court against her insurance broker for negligence, breach of fiduciary duty, negligent misrepresentation, intentional misrepresentation, and fraud, after her house sustained fire damage when the contents of the house were not insured. The Court threw out the breach of fiduciary duty and fraud counts, but held that the defendants had not submitted enough evidence to prevail on the affirmative defense that insurance would not have been available on the property. The house had been insured by Chubb, but Chubb cancelled the policy for nonpayment after having insured it for years. Subsequently the bank holding the mortgage ordered lender-placed insurance coverage on the house. The bank notified the homeowner that the lender-placed insurance would not only cost more, but does not provide any coverage for loss or damage to personal property and provided limited coverage in other respects. A couple of months later, the homeowner, who had been traveling, and having realized that the Chubb policy had been canceled, asked her insurance broker, whom she had known for several years and had become good friends with her, to see what could be done, and send him a package of materials concerning the lender-placed insurance. Upon receipt of the package, the broker passed it to a customer service representative of his firm, and gave instructions to find a new insurance policy for the client. The customer service representative initiated steps to find a new insurance policy, but delayed on following up....



Alternative fee agreements are not going to do away with the billable hour

2013-09-28T08:22:38-04:00

From time to time there are articles like this one published in the New York Times last March, attacking the billable hour as the basis for billing clients for services rendered. Such articles usually have two themes -- that the billable hour results in legal services costing too much, and that the billable hour system is in many ways corrosive to the legal profession. Alternative billing arrangements are usually held up as the solution that might magically benefit everyone. However, these are two different issues. The measures clients impose to control their legal spend are a separate issue from law firms' internal culture. Insurance defense firms usually are not mentioned in this debate, because we all have been operating under layered cost controls at least since the late 1980's. These layered cost control measures have long included pre-negotiated and below market billing rates; stringent litigation management guidelines that require pre-authorization for extra staffing, for filing of motions, for depositions, for legal research over a minimal amount, and for other selected activities; detailed litigation plans, which have been a requirement dating back to the 1990's (predating the legal project management fad by at least a decade); detailed budgets organized by standardized ABA uniform task and activity codes; detailed and contemporaneous time records, with each entry coded with the uniform task and activity codes; submission of electronic bills in standard formats, to facilitate automated review and analysis of the bills; routine reviews of bills by claims departments or third party auditing services,...




2013-08-01T11:05:49-04:00

A D.C. decision touches on effect of a bank's use of overseas calling centers on the privacy of customer finanical records. https://tinyurl.com/m7ptgen Creative.