President’s Message

Dear Fellows:

As I write this report, the snow is falling outside, a stockpot is burbling on the stove with the promise of chicken soup to come, and our basement is a chaotic mess of Christmas ornaments, cards, and wrapping paper that needs to be sorted and put away until next year. But this being the season to give thanks and share joy, let’s take stock of the special gifts that we have received this year from the Fellows of the American College of Coverage Counsel.

As we turn the calendar page to 2020, I am pleased to report that our College is thriving. We now have over 300 Fellows and more continue to added through the hard work of our Membership Committee, led by Lisa Pake and Koorosh Talieh. The public profile of our College also continues to grow through the efforts of our PR consultant, Judy Rakowsky. ACCC Fellows have been quoted in several recent Law360 articles discussing major new insurance law decisions. The 2020 Annual Meeting Committee is also putting the finishing touches on plans for our gathering in Chicago next May. Special thanks to 2020 meeting co-chairs Angela Elbert and Rob Kole and our Secretary-Treasurer Wayne Taylor for their hard work in putting this event together.

Boxes of candy and suntan lotion are also now on their way to Doug McIntosh and Hugh Lumpkin for organizing our most outstanding law symposium ever. Dozens of ACCC Fellows from around the country joined with local lawyers, judges, law students, and faculty for a full day of CLE panels and conversation at the Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale on November 1. In addition to numerous excellent bad faith panels, there was a provocative program on climate change that Troy Froderman, Mike Huddleston, and Neil Rambin organized in conjunction with representatives of the American College of Environmental Lawyers (ACOEL). We look forward to future opportunities to partner with the ACOEL and other sister organizations. Finally, special kudos go out to Marialuisa Gallozzi, whose ADR committee presented a terrific program on mediating bad faith disputes.

A bowl of eggnog and a wassail to all the ACCC Fellows who participated in our monthly pop up calls this Fall. In September, Blank Rome’s James Murray and “Tiger” Joyce of the American Tort Reform Association led a discussion of the insurance coverage implications of the trends towards relaxed limitations period for sexual assault claims. In October, Walter Andrews led us through the labyrinthine maze of ransomware claims. November brought us a panel discussion about independent counsel by Mike Huddleston, Mike Marick and “Mike” (Marty) Pentz. We concluded the year with a discussion of the Illinois Supreme Court’s new decision on discovery of privileged defense records with presentations by Karen Dixon, John Vishneski, and Scott Seaman. We have consistently had several dozen Fellows joining these calls for spirited and candid discussions that exemplify our College’s goal to serve as a thought leader in the world of insurance and extracontractual claims.

Other aspects of Strategic Planning are moving forward under the leadership of our President-Elect, Sheri Pastor, including training programs for judges and mediators.

Our Annual Law School Writing Competition  is now underway. As I reported earlier, we completely re-wrote the problem this year and have expanded the list of law schools and professors that received notice of the competition. The premise of this year’s competition is a hypothetical set of law suits that might have been filed in the aftermath of the death of Romeo and Juliet. The problem asks law students to advise insurers or policyholder clients on issues such as whether these were one or more “occurrences,” was Friar Lawrence’s bone-headed scheme to fake Juliet’s death by telling her to take Nightshade was a covered “professional service” or one that was subject to a “controlled substance” exclusion. Written materials were recently mailed to dozens of law schools and professors that teach insurance around the country, inviting their students to participate. We will begin reviewing submissions in March and will announce the three winners at our banquet dinner in Chicago in May.

In preparation for our May 2020 meeting, we have also formed a Nominating Committee to review applications to serve on our Board of Regents. If you are interested in taking on a leadership role in the ACCC, please contact our Immediate Past President Mary McCutcheon, who is chairing this year’s Nominating Committee.

We are also working with our substantive law committees to add membership and develop projects and content that will encourage our Fellows to get more involved in their work. If you are not already active in a committee, please go to the ACCC website and click on the Committees page, where you’ll find information about each of our committees and contact information for committee chairs. These are excellent opportunities for raising your profile within the ACCC and finding opportunities to create projects in cooperation with other lawyers who share your interests but may or may not agree with your view of the law.

Finally, let me express my thanks to the Committee Chairs, ACCC Board members, and my Fellow Officers, without whose dedication and hard work, none of this could be possible. We are also aided immeasurably by the efforts of our Executive Director Carol Montoya and her associate Pearl Ford-Fyffe, who keep the ship of state sailing on a true course.

Best wishes to you all for a happy 2020.

Michael F. Aylward