A while back I wrote a blog post on a district court ruling that an insurer did not have an obligation to disclose in its insurance policy that it would use staff counsel to defend the insured.  The Seventh Circuit recently affirmed the district court’s decision granting the insurer’s motion to dismiss. 

In Golden v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company, No. 12-3901, 2014 U.S. App. LEXIS 4531 (7th Cir. Mar. 11, 2014), the court focused on the Indiana Supreme Court’s decision in Cincinnati Ins. Co. v. Willis, 717 N.E.2d 151 (Ind. 1999), finding that Willis concluded that the disclosure requirement was a matter for the state insurance commissioner to decide.  The insurer had adequately disclosed staff counsel’s employment by the insurer at the time that staff counsel was engaged to defend the plaintiff.  Given that the insurance commissioner had not issued any new regulation since Willis was decided in 1999, the court held that there was no obligation to disclose the use of staff counsel in the insurance policy itself.  The court also noted that the plaintiff did not allege that her representation by staff counsel was detrimental to her in any way.  She did not object to the representation, and the insurer paid the small judgment that was entered against her.  It seemed to me that the plaintiff also had no standing to sue here, although the court did not frame its decision on standing grounds.  The court declined to certify the question to the Indiana Supreme Court because it found the existing precedent sufficiently clear.

The use of staff counsel was hotly contested years ago, but has not been the subject of much litigation in recent years.  The theory alleged here was creative but, particularly in light of the outcome here, it seems unlikely we’ll see a lot of class action filings on this issue.

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Photo of Wystan Ackerman Wystan Ackerman

Wystan Ackerman is a partner in Robinson+Cole’s Insurance + Reinsurance Group and handles a diverse range of property insurance litigation, including large business interruption cases, class actions, other complex litigation, and appeals. He also has substantial experience representing insurance companies in putative class…

Wystan Ackerman is a partner in Robinson+Cole’s Insurance + Reinsurance Group and handles a diverse range of property insurance litigation, including large business interruption cases, class actions, other complex litigation, and appeals. He also has substantial experience representing insurance companies in putative class actions involving homeowners’ insurance coverage and market conduct/claim-handling practices. He has been prominently involved in high-profile property insurance litigation concerning the September 11th catastrophe and Hurricane Katrina, and Chinese-made drywall. Based in the insurance capital of Hartford, Connecticut, Wystan writes the blog Insurance Class Actions Insider, which was selected by Lexis Nexis as a top insurance blog for 2011.

Wystan grew up in Deep River, Connecticut, a small town on the west side of the Connecticut River in the south central part of the state. He always had strong interests in history, politics and baseball and his heroes growing up were Abraham Lincoln and Wade Boggs (at that time the third baseman for the Boston Red Sox). Wystan says it was his early fascination with Lincoln that drove him to practice law. As a high school senior, he was one of Connecticut’s two delegates to the U.S. Senate Youth Program, which further solidified his interest in law and government. He went on to Bowdoin College, where he wrote for the Bowdoin Orient and majored in government. After Bowdoin, he went on to Columbia Law School. He also interned in the chambers of then-Judge Sonia Sotomayor on the Second Circuit. Wystan graduated from Columbia in 2001, then worked at Skadden Arps in Boston before returning to Connecticut and joining Robinson+Cole.

When Wystan’s not at his desk, flying around the country trying to save insurance companies from the plaintiffs’ bar, or attending a conference on class actions or insurance litigation he often can be found watching “Dora the Explorer” or reading or playing whiffleball with his young daughter, helping his wife with her business, Option Realty, reading a book about history or politics, or watching the Boston Red Sox.

Read Wystan’s rc.com bio.