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insurance

April 15 roundup

by Walter Olson on April 15, 2014

  • “Nullification” a non-starter, but states do have ways to resist federal encroachment [Amy Pomeroy, Libertas Utah, with podcast] Passport to Baraboo? State GOP resolutions committee backs “Wisconsin’s right, under extreme circumstances, to secede.” [Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel]
  • Flawed forensics: “DUI expert pleads no contest to perjury charges, gets house arrest and probation” [PennLive]
  • “Insurance: The Musical” turned out to be an April Fool’s, a pity since I was looking forward to the actuary production number [Insurance Journal, but see (David Skurnick, "Cut My Rate," set in California Insurance Department) and more ("The Sting")]
  • Executive power grab? New F.H. Buckley book on “The Rise of Crown Government in America” [Tyler Cowen, with Canada comparison]
  • My appearance on Anne Santos’s radio show discussing lawsuit culture [KNTH]
  • If General Motors objects to direct consumer sales freedom for Tesla, perhaps the answer is to set GM free too [Dan Crane, Truth on the Market; James Surowiecki/New Yorker, Adam Hartung via Stephen Bainbridge]
  • James Maxeiner on the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure after 75 years [Common Good]

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Pennsylvania: “According to police, Kyle Piper, then 17, lost control of his car on a wet Route 422 in Union Township and struck a steel pole.” His 15-year-old brother Stephen, a passenger, was catastrophically injured. “At the time of the accident, according to court documents, the family was insured through Erie Insurance Exchange and believed $200,000 in uninsured motorist benefits and another $100,000 in liability coverage was available for Stephen.” Several legal twists later, Erie has agreed to pay $18 million. [New Castle (Pa.) News]

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At least ten states have now adopted variations on the idea that motorists who unlawfully drive without insurance should give up at least some of their right to sue for pain and suffering in a later accident. Missouri has become the latest, its legislature overriding a veto by Gov. Jay Nixon (D). Organized insurers have backed the idea, which one recent study says can reduce the number of drivers on the road without insurance. It should be noted that trial lawyers’ collective interest in the issue is subject to some ambiguity: while they will recover less in a given lawsuit if their uninsured-motorist client cannot sue for pain and suffering, a rise in the share of drivers that are insured improves their chances of recovering funds in cases generally. [Insurance Journal, Billy Smith/Wolters Kluwer Compliance Corner, PCIAA, Susan Ladika/CarInsurance.com]

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Thanks Ron Miller

by Walter Olson on November 29, 2013

Known to some of our readers through his Maryland Injury Lawyer Blog, and to many others as one of our most valued commenters (bringing the perspective of a seasoned plaintiff’s attorney, a perspective I will confess is sometimes lacking here otherwise), Ron also teaches a course on insurance law at the University of Baltimore School of Law. Last week he was kind enough to invite me to stop by and present my own perspective on the role of insurance in tort law. (Nutshell version: the insurance mechanism is exceedingly imperfect, and legal theorists and policy makers often go astray by assuming that it works more smoothly than it does.) Thanks, Ron!

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Quest for deep pockets: the homeowners’ insurer had already thrown in its policy limits over an accident in which an 18 year old guest allowed to consume alcohol at a private home had injured himself in a car crash. Now an Ocean County, N.J. judge has ruled that the party host’s auto insurer can also be obliged to provide coverage under a general liability endorsement, ruling it irrelevant that the accident had nothing to do with the insured’s own cars. [New Jersey Law Journal]

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They appear to be going nowhere in state legislatures:

A mandate for gun buyers could be more challenging than for drivers, given insurers’ aversion to the risk from assaults. That compares with U.S. auto insurance, where companies spend more than $5 billion a year to win customers in a $178 billion market.

“That’s why things like mandatory auto insurance kind of work, because you’ve already got a highly functional market and it’s a matter of herding the last stragglers into it,” Walter Olson, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute, a think tank dedicated to limited government, said in an interview. “But when there is no functional insurance market at all for some kind of risk, it’s a different question.”

It doesn’t help that the ObamaCare episode has raised public resistance to the idea of mandatory insurance. Related: even two authors somewhat favorably disposed toward the idea, and who believe it might be enacted in some forms without overstepping the Constitution, predict its effect in reducing injury by deterring negligent gun handling would “probably not be very great.” [Stephen Gilles and Nelson Lund, Regulation magazine (Cato, PDF)]

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May 26 roundup

by Walter Olson on May 26, 2013

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A Houston-based trial lawyer has some grandiose plans for snagging New York storm-insurance cases: Steve Mostyn “indicates his firm should be able to take on more than $1 billion in disputed claims — or half of all the Sandy litigation.” That’s assuming clients sign on, of course. One who did was a swim club owner from Pound Ridge who was frustrated dealing with New York lawyers and quickly signed a contract with Mostyn’s firm: “It is worth the 40 percent just for someone to listen to my story and be kind to me,” she said. [Austin American-Statesman]

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Law schools roundup

by Walter Olson on March 15, 2013

  • Harold Lasswell and Myres McDougal’s influential article on legal education figures prominently in Schools for Misrule; Henry Manne says their scheme of actual classroom pedagogy did less well [Bainbridge]
  • Deanship of local plaintiff’s attorney at St. Louis U. is short, colorful [NLJ]
  • GW lawprof trips, falls at Denver Law event, now in court [Above the Law]
  • Law reviews requiring authors to sign indemnity clauses. Reason for alarm? [Dan Markel, Prawfs]
  • Out-of-touch law academy, vol. 18: Duke prof dismisses floodgates arguments on principle [Ted Frank]
  • “Should Law Reviews Consider Race When Selecting Articles?” (and do they?) [Josh Blackman]
  • Insurance is an undercovered topic in the law school curriculum, so Randy Maniloff decides to do an intervention [Coverage Opinions, PDF, lead article]

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“Liability insurance” may be a misnomer, since some of the proposals would require the purchase of bonds against both intentional acts commonly excluded from ordinary liability coverage, and also misadventures for which owners would not presently be held legally responsible (such as third party criminal use of a gun following a theft not occasioned by owner negligence.) [Reuters, Nelson Lund/GMU, Jessica Chasmar/Washington Times, New York Times via Fed Soc, Taranto/WSJ, Josh Blackman]

Would a mandatory insurance scheme survive judicial scrutiny if it were motivated by a desire to burden the exercise of a constitutional right? David Rifkin and Andrew Grossman, WSJ:

Several states… are considering gun-insurance mandates modeled after those for automobile insurance. There is no conceivable public-safety benefit: Insurance policies cover accidents, not intentional crimes, and criminals with illegal guns will just evade the requirement. The real purpose is to make guns less affordable for law-abiding citizens and thereby reduce private gun ownership. Identical constitutionally suspect logic explains proposals to tax the sale of bullets at excessive rates.

The courts, however, are no more likely to allow government to undermine the Second Amendment than to undermine the First. A state cannot circumvent the right to a free press by requiring that an unfriendly newspaper carry millions in libel insurance or pay a thousand-dollar tax on barrels of ink—the real motive, in either case, would be transparent and the regulation struck down. How could the result be any different for the right to keep and bear arms?

(& slightly expanded/adapted version at Cato; The Hill “Blog Briefing Room”)

P.S. The American Insurance Association is opposed to the more ambitious versions of the idea, at least: “Property and casualty insurance does not and cannot cover gun crimes.”

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“A federal appeals court on Thursday ruled that insurance companies can be required to pay long-term disability benefits to a recovering drug addict if the person would face a significant risk of relapse by returning to work.” The First Circuit parted company with the Fourth, which has ruled the opposite way. [Jacob Gershman, WSJ Law Blog, subscription; Colby v. Union Security Insurance, PDF]

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R.I.P. Jeffrey O’Connell

by Walter Olson on January 11, 2013

The “father of no-fault,” who died on Sunday at age 84, was an eminent torts professor at the University of Virginia, a public-spirited advocate of reform over many decades, and a renowned teacher. A valued friend and mentor, he was one of the most personally gracious and generous academics I’ve ever known. The New York Times has a good obituary. Just last year New Hampshire enacted an “early offers” statute encouraging prompt settlement of medical malpractice disputes partly inspired by Prof. O’Connell’s work. More: University of Virginia, Christopher Robinette/TortsProf.

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As we were saying: “colleges, high schools and club teams may be forced to consider severe measures in the face of liability issues, like raising fees to offset higher premiums; capping potential damages; and requiring players to sign away their right to sue coaches and schools. Some schools and leagues may even shut down teams because the expense and legal risk are too high.” [New York Times, also describing a coverage battle between the NFL and its insurers]

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“After disasters such as Superstorm Sandy, the natural inclination is to do everything possible to help people struggling to rebuild their homes, businesses and lives. But over the next couple of years, those good intentions will lead to a lot of foolish, even dangerous, decisions that will encourage people to rebuild in harm’s way.” [USA Today editorial via Ira Stoll]

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October 31 roundup

by Walter Olson on October 31, 2012

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From Reason.tv, and new to us, at least, if not exactly new, with vignettes on reef reconstruction, ethanol subsidies, and child health insurance (via Hodak Value). And from Mark Perry, “Some Great Examples of Unintended Consequences from Wikipedia’s Listing for ‘Perverse Incentives.’” An example, from an economics text by James Gwartney and Richard Stroup:

In the former Soviet Union, managers and employees of glass plants were at one time rewarded according to the tons of sheet glass produced. Not surprisingly, most plants produced sheet glass so thick that one could hardly see through it. The rules were changed so that the managers were rewarded according to the square meters of glass produced. The results were predictable. Under the new rules, Soviet firms produced glass so thin that it was easily broken.

Don’t miss the rat-farming and dinosaur-bone examples, either.

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  • EPA continues crackdown on older-home renovation in the name of lead paint caution [Angela Logomasini, earlier, see also re: lab testing]
  • Solyndra’s many enablers: 127 in House GOP just backed federal energy loan guarantees [Tad DeHaven/Cato]
  • “In defense of genetically modified crops” [Mother Jones, no kidding] “How California’s GMO Labeling Law Could Limit Your Food Choices and Hurt the Poor” [Steve Sexton, Freakonomics]
  • “EPA fines oil refiners for failing to use nonexistent biofuel” [Howard Portnoy, Hot Air]
  • Consultant eyed in Chevron-Ecuador case [PoL] Radio campaign targets conservatives on behalf of trial lawyers’ side [Fowler/NRO] Lawyer suing Chevron: “We are delivering a bunch of checks to [NY Comptroller] DiNapoli today” [NYP]
  • Getting taxpayers off the hook: Congress might curb flood insurance subsidies [Mark Calabria/Cato]
  • “Lessons from British Columbia’s Carbon Tax” [Adler]

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February 27 roundup

by Walter Olson on February 27, 2012

  • Department of Transportation cracks down on distraction from cars’ onboard information and entertainment systems; Mike Masnick suspects the measure won’t work as intended, as appears to have been the case with early texting bans [Techdirt; earlier here, etc.] “Feds Push New York Toward Full Ban On Electronic Devices In Cars” [Glenn Reynolds, Instapundit; Truth About Cars]
  • Oh no: Scott Greenfield says he’s ceasing to post at his exemplary criminal defense blog after five years [Simple Justice, Dave Hoffman]
  • California not entitled to pursue its own foreign policy, at least when in conflict with rest of nation’s: unanimous “blockbuster” decision by en banc 9th Circuit strikes down law enabling insurance suits by Armenian victims [AP, Alford/OJ, Recorder, related, Frank/PoL]
  • Playboy model’s $1.2M award against Gotham cops is a great day for the tabloids [NYDN]
  • To hear a pitch for fracking-royalty suits, visit the American Association for Justice convention, or just read the New York Times [Wood, PoL]
  • What the mortgage settlement did [John Cochrane, earlier]
  • Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) of 1978 blows up an adoption: “She’s a 2-year-old girl who got shoved in a truck and driven to Oklahoma with strangers.” [Reuters, SaveVeronica.org]