Wystan Ackerman

Wystan Ackerman

I am a partner at the law firm of Robinson+Cole in Hartford, Connecticut, USA.  My contact information is on the contact page of my blog.  I really enjoy receiving questions, comments, suggestions and even criticism from readers.  So please e-mail me if you have something to say.  For those looking for my detailed law firm bio, click here.  If you want a more light-hearted and hopefully more interesting summary, read on:

People often ask about my unusual first name, Wystan.  It’s pronounced WISS-ten.  It’s not Winston.  There is no “n” in the middle.  It comes from my father’s favorite poet, W.H. (Wystan Hugh) Auden.  I’ve grown to like the fact that because my name is unusual people tend to remember it better, even if they don’t pronounce it right (and there is no need for anyone to use my last name because I’m always the only Wystan).

I 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.  I’ve always had strong interests in history, politics and baseball.  My heroes growing up were Abraham Lincoln and Wade Boggs (at that time the third baseman for the Boston Red Sox).  I think it was my early fascination with Lincoln that drove me to practice law.  I went to high school at The Williams School in New London, Connecticut, where I edited the school newspaper, played baseball, and was primarily responsible for the installation of a flag pole near the school entrance (it seemed like every other school had one but until my class raised the money and bought one at my urging, Williams had no flag pole).  As a high school senior, my interest in history and politics led me to score high enough on a test of those subjects to be chosen as one of Connecticut’s two delegates to the U.S. Senate Youth Program, which further solidified my interest in law and government.  One of my mentors at Williams was of the view that there were far too many lawyers and I should find something more useful to do, but if I really had to be a lawyer there was always room for one more.  I eventually decided to be that “one more.”  I went on to Bowdoin College, where I wrote for the Bowdoin Orient and majored in government, but took a lot of math classes because I found college math interesting and challenging.  I then went to Columbia Law School, where I was lucky enough to be selected as one of the minions who spent their time fastidiously cite-checking and Blue booking hundred-plus-page articles in the Columbia Law Review.  I also interned in the chambers of then-Judge Sonia Sotomayor when she was a relatively new judge on the Second Circuit, my only connection to someone who now has one-ninth of the last word on what constitutes the law of our land.  I graduated from Columbia in 2001, then worked at Skadden Arps in Boston before returning to Connecticut and joining Robinson+Cole, one of the largest Connecticut-based law firms.  At the end of 2008, I was elected a partner at Robinson+Cole.

I’ve worked on class actions since the start of my career at Skadden.  Being in the insurance capital of Hartford, we have a national insurance litigation practice and I was fortunate to have the opportunity to work on some prominent class actions arising from the 2004 hurricanes in Florida and later Hurricane Katrina, including cases involving the applicability of the flood exclusion, statutes known as valued policy laws, and various other issues.  My interest and experience in class actions gradually led me to focus on that area.

In Connecticut courts I’ve defended various kinds of class actions that go beyond insurance, including cases involving products liability, securities, financial services and consumer contracts.

My insurance class action practice usually takes me outside of Connecticut.  I’ve had the pleasure of working on cases in various federal and state courts and collaborating with great lawyers across the country.  While class actions are an increasingly large part of my practice, I don’t do exclusively class action work.  The rest of my practice involves litigating insurance coverage cases, often at the appellate level.  That also frequently takes me outside of Connecticut.  A highlight of my career thus far was working on Standard Fire Ins. Co. v. Knowles, the U.S. Supreme Court’s first Class Action Fairness Act case.  I was Counsel of Record for Standard Fire on the cert petition, and had the pleasure of working with Ted Boutrous on the merits briefing and oral argument.

I started this blog because writing is one of my favorite things to do and I enjoy following developments in class action law, writing about them and engaging in discussion with others who have an in interest in this area.  It’s a welcome break from day-to-day practice, keeps me current, broadens my network and results in some new business.

When I’m not at my desk or flying around the country trying to save insurance companies from the plaintiffs’ bar, or attending a conference on class actions or insurance litigation (for more on those, see the Seminars/Programs page of this blog), I often can be found playing or reading with my young daughter, helping my wife with her real estate and mortgage businesses, reading a book about history or politics, or watching the Boston Red Sox (I managed to find bleacher seats for Game 2 of the 2004 World Series when Curt Schilling pitched with the bloody sock).  When the weather is good I also love to take the ferry to Block Island, Rhode Island and ride a bike or walk the trails there. If you go, I highly recommend the Clay Head Trail.

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Medicare Secondary Payer Act Class Actions

There have been a substantial number of putative class actions filed recently against insurers involving the Medicare Secondary Payer Act (MSPA). These cases are typically filed by assignees of Medicare advantage organizations that have paid for medical services arising from auto accidents. The claim is that under the MSPA, the PIP/MedPay coverage under auto policies … Continue Reading

Class Action Involving Application of Deductible to Actual Cash Value Payment

An emerging issue in class action litigation against the insurance industry involves an attempt by plaintiffs’ attorneys to argue that insurers should not be permitted to apply any deductible to payments made on an actual cash value basis. Most homeowners and commercial property insurance policies provide for insurers to make an initial payment for the … Continue Reading

Update on Labor Depreciation Class Actions

There have been two recent federal district court decisions in the widespread class action litigation involving the application of depreciation to the labor cost component of replacement cost value on property insurance claims. (For background on this issue, see my February 21, 2017 blog post.) The “labor depreciation” litigation has been trending in favor of … Continue Reading

How Should Corporate Defendants Handle Media Inquiries Regarding Class Actions?

At the recent DRI Class Action Seminar, I asked Alison Frankel of Thomson Reuters how she thinks corporate defendants should best handle media inquiries relating to class action suits. Here’s what I gleaned from her answer: Statements issued by corporate media relations departments are usually worthless. They do not help a reporter understand a court … Continue Reading

Scope of Personal Jurisdiction In Nationwide and Multistate Class Actions Potentially Impacted By Supreme Court Decision In Bristol-Myers Squibb Case

This week the Supreme Court issued a new opinion in a case that involved the scope of personal jurisdiction in a nationwide mass action brought in a state court. Although it is not entirely clear the extent to which this decision may apply in a class action or in a case brought in federal court, … Continue Reading

Georgia Diminished Value Putative Class Action: Motion to Dismiss Decision

In prior blog posts, I’ve covered developments in the putative class actions against insurance companies in Georgia involving diminution in value on property insurance claims (see my March 11, 2016 post, for example). These cases stem from a 2012 Georgia Supreme Court decision ruling that diminution in value following completion of repairs was potentially covered … Continue Reading

DRI Class Action Seminar 2017

The Defense Research Institute (DRI) is once again hosting what is sure to be a superb and well-attended class action seminar this year, on July 20-21, 2017, in Washington D.C. The program will include, among other sessions: a presentation by Alison Frankel of Thomson Reuters on the impact of the Trump Administration and Justice Gorsuch … Continue Reading

Depreciation of Labor Costs Class Action: Nebraska Supreme Court Rules In Favor of Insurer

I’ve regularly followed on my blog key developments in the numerous class actions against the insurance industry involving the application of depreciation to the labor cost component of estimated replacement cost value in determining actual cash value under homeowners and commercial property insurance policies. The Nebraska Supreme Court recently addressed this issue on a certified … Continue Reading

Gorsuch on Class Actions: How Might He Compare to Scalia?

Justice Scalia made major contributions to class action law,  writing the Supreme Court’s opinions in Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Dukes and Comcast Corp. v. Behrend, two of the Court’s most significant class action decisions in this decade.  Following President Trump’s nomination of Tenth Circuit Judge Neil M. Gorsuch to replace Justice Scalia, although it may … Continue Reading

Supreme Court to Hear Class Action Cases Involving Class Action Waivers and Tolling of Statutes of Limitations

The U.S. Supreme Court recently granted certiorari in class action cases involving: (1) class action waivers in employment contracts; and (2) whether filing of a securities class action tolled a statute of repose. In both cases the questions presented are relatively narrow, but opinions issued by the Supreme Court potentially could have broader implications for … Continue Reading

Ascertainability Not Required In Ninth Circuit, But Manageability Remains

One of the first significant class action appellate decisions of 2017 was issued this week. In Briseno v. ConAgra Foods, Inc., No. 15-55727 (9th Cir. Jan. 3, 2017), the Ninth Circuit held that Rule 23 does not require that it be “administratively feasible” to identify class members in order for a class to be certified. … Continue Reading

What Will The Courtrooms Of The 2020s Look Like?

I recently attended a presentation by futurist Michael Rogers that sparked me to think about what the courtrooms of the 2020s might look like. According to Rogers, one of the next big advances in technology will be augmented reality devices, such as smart glasses. Google previewed that with its “Google glass” product, which was unsuccessful … Continue Reading

Defending Class Actions in 2016

I thought readers might find helpful some broader observations on strategies for defending class actions in 2016: Dig in Deep Early: Some defense counsel are accustomed to the practice of filing a motion to dismiss in virtually every putative class action. Some in-house counsel, eager to save costs, have pushed defense firms to agree to … Continue Reading

Labor Depreciation Class Action Update: Decisions on Class Certification

I have had a busy summer and am overdue in updating readers on recent decisions in class actions against insurers involving the “labor depreciation” issue. The issue involves whether, when insurers estimate the “actual cash value” of damage to real property under a property insurance policy, depreciation is properly applied to the full estimated replacement … Continue Reading

Visa/Mastercard Class Action Settlement Struck Down Due To Intraclass Conflict

Yesterday the Second Circuit reversed the approval of what was reportedly the largest antitrust class action settlement in history, valued at $7.25 billion. In re Payment Card Interchange Fee and Merchant Discount Antitrust Litigation, 2016 U.S. App. LEXIS 12047 (2d Cir. June 30, 2016). The case was brought by merchants who challenged the fees and … Continue Reading

DRI Class Action Seminar 2016

The Defense Research Institute (DRI) will be hosting its annual class action seminar in Washington, D.C. on July 21-22, 2016. If you haven’t been, this is the year to go. If you’ve been before, you won’t want to miss this year’s seminar. The presenters will include Ken Feinberg on mass dispute resolution, Andrew Pincus, who … Continue Reading

Spokeo v. Robins Supreme Court Opinion: What Is Concrete Harm?

Today the Supreme Court issued its long-awaited decision in Spokeo, Inc. v. Robins, addressing whether the plaintiff had standing to sue in a putative class action brought under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (“FCRA”). Like some other opinions we have seen from the eight-member Court following Justice Scalia’s death, this decision is relatively narrow in … Continue Reading

Tyson Foods Supreme Court Opinion Addresses Statistical Evidence in Class Actions

Today, the Supreme Court issued its opinion in Tyson Foods v. Bouaphakeo, addressing the use of statistical evidence in class actions. The plaintiffs’ bar will undoubtedly claim the decision as a victory because class certification was upheld. But I don’t think that’s right. The decision (a  6-2 opinion by Justice Kennedy, with Justices Thomas and … Continue Reading

Property Insurance Diminution in Value Class Action: Georgia Federal Court Certifies Class

One of the issues I’ve been covering on this blog is a series of putative class actions in Georgia arising out of a Georgia Supreme Court decision in 2012, which held that diminution in value of real property is potentially covered under a property insurance policy (see my summary of the Georgia Supreme Court decision … Continue Reading

Insights From FDCC Program On December 2015 Amendments To Federal Rules of Civil Procedure

Last week, I attended an excellent program of the Federation of Defense and Corporate Counsel regarding how the December 2015 amendments to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure are impacting the defense of class actions and other complex litigation. (For a summary of the amendments pertinent to class action practice, see my November 20 blog … Continue Reading
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