Member News

Posted October 25, 2021



Legal publication names Browning among 2021 ‘Leaders in the Law’

Plunkett Cooney partner Charles W. Browning was recently selected a 2021 “Leader in the Law” by Michigan Lawyers Weekly (MiLW), an industry publication serving the state’s legal community. This is the second time that Browning has been selected for this honor, having also been named a Leader in the Law in 2015.

Browning and the other class of  2021 honorees were selected for, among other things, their significant contributions to the practice of law in Michigan, their expertise and leadership, as well as for setting an example for other lawyers.

The annual Leaders in the Law awards ceremony will be held on Dec. 2 at the Detroit Marriott Troy. The “Lawyer of the Year,” as selected by a vote of the class, will be announced during the event. All of the 2021 honorees will be profiled in a special section of the Dec. 6 issue of MiLW.

Browning is a partner and Co-leader of Plunkett Cooney's Insurance Coverage Practice Group, overseeing the firm’s national practice as coverage counsel for numerous major insurance companies.

In addition to this honor, Browning has been designated annually for several years as a Michigan Super Lawyer and has been annually recognized by The Best Lawyers in America since 2010. He is a Fellow in the American College of Coverage Counsel. Browning is also the

2016 recipient of Defense Research Institute’s (DRI) prestigious Albert H. Parnell Award, which is presented annually to honor members who created a particularly dynamic educational program.

Browning is a member of the International Association of Defense Counsel (Casualty Insurance Committee (Chair 2006-2008) and Reinsurance and Excess and Surplus Lines Committee); Federation of Defense & Corporate Counsel (Insurance Committee) and the American Bar Association (Litigation Section and Torts and Insurance Practice Section). He is also a member of the Board of Editors of the Defense Counsel Journal.

Browning has been admitted to practice law in the state courts of Michigan and several federal courts, and he has been admitted to practice law pro hac vice in more than 34 states. He received his law degree from the University of Detroit School of Law and his undergraduate degree from Michigan State University.

Plunkett Cooney is recognized as one of the nation’s leading law firms for insurance coverage litigation. They routinely handle cutting-edge coverage litigation, including such issues as COVID-19 business interruption and emerging environmental contaminants like polyfluoroalkyl (PFAS).

Established in 1913, Plunkett Cooney is a leading provider of transactional and litigation services to clients in the private and public sectors. The firm employs approximately 150 attorneys in seven Michigan cities, Chicago, Illinois, Columbus, Ohio and Indianapolis, Indiana. Plunkett Cooney has achieved the highest rating (AV) awarded by Martindale-Hubbell, a leading, international directory of law firms.

For more information about Charles Browning’s selection as a 2021 Leader in the Law, contact the firm’s Director of Marketing & Business Development John Cornwell at (248) 901-4008 or via email at [email protected].


Posted September 14, 2021



Clark Cole
, a partner with Armstrong Teasdale in St. Louis, has been awarded the 2021 Ben Ely, Jr. Defense Lawyer of the Year Award by the Missouri Organization of Defense Lawyers.  Clark is a former President of MODL and has been an ACCC Fellow since 2015.


Posted September 9, 2021

Traub Lieberman Team Obtains Summary Judgment in Favor of Insurer in Class Action Lawsuit Involving Medicare Secondary Payer Act

On July 12, 2021, the United States District Court Southern District of Florida affirmed and adopted the Magistrate’s Report and Recommendation granting summary judgment in favor of an insurer defended by Traub Lieberman Partner and ACCC Fellow Michael K. Kiernan, Partner Bradley Guldalian, and Senior Associate Ashley Kellgren.


Posted August 9, 2021

Robinson+Cole Managing Partner Among Benchmark Litigation’s Top 250 Women in Litigation
Rhonda J. Tobin is the only female litigator in Connecticut named to national list

Robinson+Cole Managing Partner and past Litigation Section Co-chair Rhonda J. Tobin has been named one of Benchmark Litigation’s Top 250 Women in Litigation for 2021. Published on August 5, 2021, the guide focuses on the leading Top 250 female litigators from across the US who have earned their place by participating in some of the most impactful litigation matters in recent history, as well as by earning the hard-won respect of their peers and clients as top players in their respective fields. Tobin is the only female litigator chosen in the state of Connecticut. This is the eighth consecutive year she has received the distinction.

Tobin has represented insurance companies for 30 years in litigation, arbitration, and mediation of complex disputes involving insurance and reinsurance coverage. She is a frequent lecturer at insurance industry programs focused on insurance coverage and litigation. Prior to becoming the first woman to lead Robinson+Cole as managing partner, she served on the firm’s Managing Committee for the last 12 years and as a chair of the firm’s Litigation Section for the past 13 years.

A trial lawyer who has spent her entire thirty-year law career at Robinson+Cole, Tobin has significant trial experience in state and federal courts, and has been involved in high-profile coverage litigation on behalf of insurers, including the September 11 terrorist attacks, sexual abuse claims involving the Catholic church and academic institutions, and coverage issues arising out of the #MeToo movement and the COVID-19 pandemic.

Tobin’s reputation, as well as her expertise and knowledge in insurance coverage litigation, led to her election as a Fellow of the highly-selective American College of Coverage Counsel. Earlier this year, she was recognized in the 2021 Insurance Law Trailblazers list for being a leader in the insurance industry. Published in a special supplement of the National Law Journal, the inaugural list spotlights professionals who are agents of change in the area of insurance law. In addition, Tobin was honored in 2020 by Business Insurance as one of its 30 “Women to Watch” in North America, and by the Hartford Business Journal as one of its 15 “Women in Business” honorees. She is a Fellow of the American Bar Foundation and The Connecticut Bar Foundation, and has been active in the Professional Liability Underwriting Society, the Defense Research Institute (DRI) and Claims and Litigation Management Alliance (CLM). 

According, to its website, “the extensive research process used in the creation of Benchmark’s Top 250 Women in Litigation 2021 involves months of investigation into individual litigators’ professional activities as well as client feedback surveys and one-on-one interviews, and has culminated in the selection of the most distinguished women in the world of litigation.” Attorneys named in the publication were chosen through several phases of research: review of their recent case work, consideration of how attorneys at peer legal institutions might rank them, and client feedback on their performances. Information about Benchmark Litigation’s ranking process can be read here.

About Robinson+Cole
Robinson+Cole is an AmLaw 200 law firm established over 175 years ago, with a deeply-rooted culture of collaboration, civility and inclusion. The Mansfield Rule Certified-firm has more than 220 lawyers in ten offices throughout the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic, Florida and California, serving regional, national, and international clients, from start-ups to Fortune 50 companies. Robinson+Cole is a service mark of Robinson & Cole LLP. For more information, please visit www.rc.com.


Posted August 4, 2021

Using Extrinsic Evidence to Excuse a Liability Insurer’s Duty to Defend
by ACCC Honorary Fellow, Douglas R. Richmond of Aon Commercial Risk Solutions, [email protected]


Posted July 13, 2021 for the ACCC Newsletter

“The Enemy of my Enemy is my Friend”: How Does That Work in the Tripartite Relationship?

By Neil PosnerMuch Shelist, P.C. and John Bonnie, Weinberg Wheeler Hudgins Gunn & Dial(co-chairs of the ACCC’s Professionalism and Ethics Committee)

In third-party liability cases, the insurer and the insured often share a common interest: defeating or minimizing the claimant’s claim. They also often share an “uncommon” interest: namely, whether the underlying claim is covered at all and, if so, to what extent. These competing interests have considerable potential to create conflicts of interest for defense counsel and coverage counsel alike.

From the standpoint of defense counsel, she is obligated to provide a competent and diligent defense to liability for the insured defendant. Insurer’s coverage counsel, on the other hand, is obligated to determine whether the liability is fully or wholly insured, or entirely uninsured. Insured’s coverage counsel needs to protect the insured from uninsured liability, which may involve keeping the insurer involved in the underlying case. In order to keep the insurer informed, certain information often needs to be shared between insured’s defense counsel and insurer, raising a question as to loss of privilege if any of that information would be subject to the attorney-client privilege and/or the work-product doctrine.

In U.S. v. Ghavami, 882 F. Supp. 2d 532 (S.D.N.Y. 2012), the court provided the general principles regarding the scope of “common interest” or “joint defense” arrangements, stating that “[i]t is well-established that voluntary disclosure of confidential material to a third party generally results in forfeiture of any applicable attorney-client privilege.” The court went on to explain that an exception to this principle is “when the privilege holder and the third party share a common legal interest” and that the “ ‘common interest’ doctrine precludes a waiver of the underlying privilege concerning confidential communications between the parties made in the course of an ongoing common enterprise and intended to further the enterprise, irrespective of whether an actual litigation is in progress.” Thus, “the common interest doctrine permits the disclosure of a privileged communication without waiver of the privilege provided the party claiming an exception to waiver demonstrates that the parties communicating: (1) have a common legal, rather than commercial, interest; and (2) the disclosures are made in the course of formulating a common legal strategy.” 

It should be obvious that when two parties are represented by the same attorney, establishing the common interest should not be difficult. But when the parties are represented by different counsel—as is the case with insurers and insureds wrestling with questions of the availability of coverage under the policy—can the common-interest doctrine still apply? The Ghavami court says it can:

At its core, the common interest doctrine applies when multiple persons are represented by the same attorney. In that situation, communications made to the shared attorney to establish a defense strategy remain privileged as to the rest of the world. However, the doctrine is not limited to such situations. The weight of authority is that the common interest doctrine does extend at least to situations where a joint defense effort or strategy has been decided upon and undertaken by the parties and their respective counsel. That is, the doctrine applies where parties are represented by separate counsel but engage in a common legal enterprise.

Id. at 538, quoting Denney v. Jenkens & Gilchrist, 362 F. Supp. 2d 407, 415 (S.D.N.Y. 2004). The party seeking protection of the doctrine must show:

that (1) there was an agreement between individuals, not necessarily in writing, “embodying a cooperative and common enterprise towards an identical legal strategy;” (2) the disputed communication “was given in confidence and that the client reasonably understood it to be so given;” and (3) a joint strategy among the individuals is apparent.

Id. at 538, quoting Barcomb v. Sabo, No. 07-CV-877, 2009 WL 5214878, at *3 (N.D.N.Y. Dec. 28, 2009).

So, there has to be an agreement to share information, and the agreement doesn’t have to be in writing. Accordingly, if we assume for the sake of this discussion that insurer and insured have entered into such an agreement and have checked the necessary boxes, can the insurer later use that shared information—obtained for the joint purpose of defeating the claimant’s claim in the underlying case—in connection with the dispute over coverage? The case law on is the subject shows a split.

Insurers sometimes seek disclosure of privileged information that, although pertinent to defense issues (about which insurers certainly have an interest), may have an impact on coverage. They may argue that the common interest of the insurer and the insured supersedes any privilege that might otherwise protect such information. The Illinois Supreme Court agreed with that argument in Waste Management, Inc. v. International Surplus Lines Insurance Company, 579 N.E.2d 322 (1991). Other courts have raised concerns, however. For example, in Farmers Insurance Company v. Vagnozzi, 675 P.2d 703, 708 (1983), the Arizona Supreme Court held that where there is a conflict between the insurer and the insured with respect to coverage, defense counsel may not disclose information that would compromise the insured’s coverage rights.

This brings us to the opening question: how does the common interest between insurer and insured (“the enemy of my enemy is my friend”) play out in the tripartite relationship, especially when information shared pursuant to the common-interest doctrine when the later may be used by the insurer in the coverage dispute? We submit that there is no easy answer to this question. Rather, we hope that his article will begin a discussion among ACCC Fellows that may yield workable solutions.


Posted June 29, 2021

Stacy Broman Named Managing Partner of Meagher + Geer
Meagher + Geer has announced the appointment of Stacy Broman as the firm’s Managing Partner, effective July 1, 2021. Stacy is the first woman to serve as Managing Partner in the firm’s 92-year history. She joined Meagher + Geer in 1991 and has long been involved with firm management, having served on the firm’s Management Committee for the past 10 years. In addition to her new role as Managing Partner, Stacy will continue her full-time law practice focusing on complex commercial litigation where she defends insurers in insurance coverage and bad faith litigation and represents professionals in professional liability litigation.

Throughout her career, Stacy has earned numerous accolades, most recently receiving the 2020 Federation of Defense & Corporate Counsel Diversity Award through her work on the Barb Currie Scholarship, the Diversity Committee, the Admissions and the Membership Committees. She has been inducted as a Senior Fellow in the Litigation Counsel of America and was a member of the ACCC Board of Regents from 2015-2021. She is regularly named to the Minnesota Super Lawyers® list and the Best Lawyers® in America list. Stacy is active in her community and volunteers her time with Southern Minnesota Regional Legal Services as a member of The Campaign for Legal Aid.

Posted April 20, 2021

Ned Currie Receive Multiple Honors
The Mississippi Defense Lawyers Association presented Ned Currie of Currie Johnson & Myers, P.A. with the 2021 Defense Lawyer of the Year award; in 2016 the MDLA bestowed him with the Lifetime Achievement Award. Best Lawyers in America selected Ned as Mississippi’s 2021 “Lawyer of the Year” for Insurance Law. He received the same Best Lawyers distinction in 2012.

Posted March 16, 2021

COVID-19 Insurance Coverage and the Virus Exclusion
by Robert Chesler and Nicholas Insua
Companies interested in pursuing insurance coverage for COVID-19 business interruption loss should review their virus exclusions — if the policy contains one — to see if they contain anti-concurrent cause language. Click here for more.

Posted March 4, 2021

ACCC Fellows Recognized as Agents of Change in Insurance Law
In the “Insurance Law Trailblazer” inaugural list published by the National Law Journal


Posted February 23, 2021



Meagher + Geer is proud to announce that Best Lawyers® has selected Charles Spevacek, as the 2021 “Lawyer of the Year” for Mass Tort Litigation/Class Actions – Defendants in Minneapolis. Chuck was also previously named Minneapolis Insurance Law “Lawyer of the Year” in 2014 and 2019. He also earned Minneapolis “Lawyer of the Year” for Mass Tort Litigation/Class Actions – Defendants in 2016.

On February 8, 2021, Meagher + Geer attorney Chuck Spevacek and his team made news heard around the insurance world when they obtained on behalf of two Chubb entities – ACE American Insurance Company and ACE Property & Casualty Insurance Company – an order from United States District Court for the District of Minnesota granting their motion for summary judgment and dismissing the claim of Target Corporation for insurance coverage for losses arising out of its 2013 data breach. News of this decision has been reported in Insurance Journal, Reuters, Insurance Business, Business Insurance, The Insurer and Fintech Zoom. It was the “headline” case reported in Law360 Insurance. Further information can be viewed on the firm’s website here.


Posted February 19, 2021

Robinson+Cole Elects Rhonda J. Tobin Managing Partner
First Woman to Lead 175-year old Law Firm


        Rhonda Tobin

Robinson+Cole’s partnership has elected Rhonda J. Tobin as its next Managing Partner, effective March 1. Tobin will be the first woman to lead the 175-year old AmLaw 200 firm, and will succeed Stephen E. Goldman, who has led the firm since the beginning of 2016.

A trial lawyer who has spent her entire thirty-year law career at Robinson+Cole, Tobin’s practice focuses on the litigation, arbitration and mediation of complex disputes involving insurance and reinsurance coverage. She has significant trial experience in state and federal courts, and has been involved in high-profile coverage litigation on behalf of insurers, including the September 11 terrorist attacks, sexual abuse claims involving the Catholic church and academic institutions, and coverage issues arising out of the #MeToo movement and the COVID-19 pandemic. Tobin’s reputation, as well as her expertise and knowledge in insurance coverage litigation, led to her election as a Fellow of the highly-selective American College of Coverage Counsel. Tobin has served on Robinson+Cole’s Managing Committee for the last 12 years and as a chair of the firm’s Litigation Section for the past 13 years. She played a leading role on the 2019 committee that developed the firm’s current Strategic Plan, and was part of management’s proactive response to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the firm.

“I’m extremely proud and humbled to be entrusted to lead our great firm of incredibly talented lawyers and professional staff,” said Rhonda J. Tobin. “We have achieved so much over the last few years, and I look forward to continuing the aggressive growth of our practices while also maintaining the essence of our identity. Our 175-year legacy is built on our strong collaborative and inclusive culture – among our lawyers and staff, with our clients, and in the communities where we live and work. I am honored to have this opportunity to build upon that legacy by continuing to embrace change in the years ahead. It is especially meaningful to take on this role at the firm that has been my home for the last 30 years.”

During Goldman’s five-year tenure, the firm developed and began the implementation of a three-year Strategic Plan, improved its profitability significantly, doubled the size of its New York office, opened offices in Philadelphia and Wilmington, and added leading national practices in bankruptcy, insurance coverage and real estate development. The firm also hired a new Chief Operating Officer, a new Chief Information Officer and its first Chief Talent Officer. Building on the firm’s 2015 Diversity Action Plan, Robinson+Cole achieved Diversity Lab’s Mansfield Rule Certification and added 20 women or otherwise diverse attorneys to its partnership ranks. The firm intends to continue its growth in New York, Boston, Philadelphia and Wilmington, with a focus on expanding several of its practices, including healthcare, business transactions and bankruptcy. Goldman will continue to serve as chair of the firm’s lateral growth committee and will continue to be involved in strategic planning as he also devotes more of his time to his trial practice. 

Commenting on Tobin’s election, Goldman stated: “I am extraordinarily pleased by the election of Rhonda Tobin. I have known and worked closely with Rhonda for over 30 years, and I can’t think of anyone more qualified to be our next leader. As I have said to our partners, there is no question that Rhonda is the right person at the right time, especially as we approach both the challenges and the opportunities that will be presented by what we hope will be the tail end of the COVID-19 pandemic. Rhonda is an incredibly talented lawyer, and was always the first person I consulted when confronted with difficult issues. She is a great strategic thinker and is highly respected by all of our lawyers and staff. By becoming the first woman to serve as our firm’s Managing Partner, Rhonda is also achieving a milestone that is both important and long overdue. I look forward to the firm’s continued growth and prosperity under her leadership.” 

Speaking about the firm’s Strategic Plan, Tobin noted that “Our Strategic Plan identifies Collaboration, Civility and Inclusion as our core values. Continuing the growth of the firm while perpetuating those values was the goal of the Plan and is my personal goal as well. Our culture – the mutual respect and admiration that we have for one another – is the glue that has held the firm together through tough times and that has facilitated our success during good times. That was never more apparent than over the last 12 months, when our lawyers and staff bonded together to obtain outstanding results for our clients and great accomplishments for our firm despite confronting innumerable challenges. The loyalty and commitment of our lawyers and staff have never been stronger, and I look forward to guiding our firm to continued success with this extraordinary team.” 

Tobin serves on the Board of Directors and the Executive Committee of Hartford Stage. She was recognized in 2020 by Business Insurance as one of its 30 “Women to Watch” in North America, and by the Hartford Business Journal as one of its 15 “Women in Business” honorees. Rhonda has been listed as one of the Top 250 Women Litigators in the United States by Benchmark Litigation since 2014, and one of its Local Litigation Stars in Connecticut since 2015. Rhonda is a Fellow of the American Bar Foundation and The Connecticut Bar Foundation, and has been active in the Professional Liability Underwriting Society, the Defense Research Institute (DRI) and Claims and Litigation Management Alliance (CLM). 

About Robinson+Cole

Robinson+Cole is an AmLaw 200 law firm established over 175 years ago, with a deeply-rooted culture of collaboration, civility and inclusion. The Mansfield Rule Certified-firm has more than 220 lawyers in ten offices throughout the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic, Florida and California, serving regional, national, and international clients, from start-ups to Fortune 50 companies. Robinson+Cole is a service mark of Robinson & Cole LLP. For more information, please visit www.rc.com.

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