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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Supreme Court to Decide Whether Class Action Arbitration Is Allowed Where Arbitration Clause Is Silent Regarding Availability of Class Proceedings

The Supreme Court recently granted certiorari in Lamps Plus Inc. v. Varela, No. 17-988. The question presented in the petition for certiorari is: “Whether the Federal Arbitration Act forecloses a state-law interpretation of an arbitration agreement that would authorize class arbitration based solely on general language commonly used in arbitration agreements.” The Court will review … Continue Reading

Are Defendants Required To Create Datasets to Respond to Discovery Requests in Class Actions?

Discovery disputes in class actions often focus on plaintiffs’ requests for computer data regarding putative class members’ claims, and how far defendants need to go in providing such data. An Illinois federal court recently addressed this in an employment class action. The key takeaways from this opinion are that: (1) a defendant was not required … Continue Reading

Nationwide and Multi-State Class Actions Likely Limited by Bristol-Myers Squibb Decision

In Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. v. Superior Court, 137 S. Ct. 1773 (2017), the U.S. Supreme Court held that the California state courts lacked personal jurisdiction over claims made by out-of-state plaintiffs in a mass action, where the plaintiffs did not claim that they were harmed in California and the defendant’s relevant conduct did not occur … Continue Reading

Impact of Surveys and Affirmative Defenses on Class Certification Motion Addressed By California Court of Appeal

In a long-running employment class action in California, a California Court of Appeal recently addressed once again the use of surveys of class members. The case was the subject of a prior California Supreme Court decision (see my June 2014 blog post), which provided guidance on the use of statistical evidence by plaintiffs to attempt … Continue Reading

Oral Argument in Epic Systems Corp. v. Lewis: Class Action Waivers in Employment Agreements

The Supreme Court began its new Term yesterday with oral arguments in cases involving whether arbitration agreements permitting only individual (non-class) arbitrations are enforceable under the Federal Arbitration Act, or prohibited by the National Labor Relations Act as an improper restriction on collective action. It is a case that essentially pits one federal statute against … Continue Reading

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
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