May 31, 2022

DSB&C Welcomes Robert Stern

Robert A. Stern has joined Derrevere Stevens Black & Cozad (“DSB&C”) as a Subrogation Partner, and will manage its New York and New Jersey offices. Robert was formerly a shareholder, Board of Director and Chair of Clausen’s Miller’s Subrogation group. Robert presently serves as Vice President of the National Association of Subrogation Professionals.

December 28, 2021

Where the Worlds of Civil Litigation and Philanthropy Intersect

It may sound dubious to think that in the world of civil litigation one can find ways to give back to the community, but hopefully I can provide some helpful insights for other legal professionals who feel a desire to engage, participate and give back to their community by using our unique legal education.

 

By way of background, I litigate subrogation cases often involving business disputes related to torts, contractual issues, and product defects, which I recognize does not exactly fall under the umbrella of public service. And while I find subrogation work rewarding in its own right, it does not allow me to reach my immediate community on a personal level. Early on in my career, I knew I loved the world of subrogation, but I also knew I wanted to give back. To gain a greater sense of community involvement, upon admission to the bar, I immediately became involved in my local bar associations. In doing so, I found my “home” with the Palm Beach County Bar Association’s Law Related Education Committee and the Lawyers for Literacy Committee. I have also enjoyed remaining an appointed member of the Florida Bar’s Law Related Education Committee since 2019. It is through this simple first step that a wellspring of fulfillment has opened for me.

 

If I could give advice to any newly barred attorney, it would be to get involved with their local bar associations. These committees have opened endless opportunities for me to speak with groups of children, groups of adults, groups who speak English as a second language, and much more. Some of my favorite events have included participation in #readfortherecord, Life Literacy presentations, and the Florida Bar’s Benchmarks civics education outreach program. The Florida Bar’s Benchmarks program is a curriculum designed to educate adults in the community about civics. Through these programs I have presented to rotary clubs, assisted living facilities, and women’s groups on topics such as the constitution, the structure of the judicial branch, and voting. I especially love these presentations because it gives adults access to education that they otherwise would not receive. I truly believe that if you want to improve a community, one thing you can do is empower its members with knowledge. Even if public speaking is not your thing, there are other ways to contribute. For instance, the Florida Legal Survival Guide for young adults is a great resource administered by the Florida Bar’s Law Related Education Committee. The members of this Committee work to update this guide that serves as a resource for teenagers entering adulthood on a myriad of issues such as employment, housing, and driving laws.

 

Volunteering with these groups has also shown me what a joy it is to interact with children ranging from kindergarten age all the way up to teenagers. Because the legal system affects so many facets of life, there are a multitude of topics to connect with children on. Another event that I have participated in is Literacy Day, where we read children’s books to elementary school students about the “ABC’s of Law” and the United States Supreme Court Justices. At the end, each child gets to take home a pocket-sized copy of the United States Constitution. Even when an event such as this one involves a “story time,” the students always have great questions which leads to engaging discussions. Seeing children process these legal concepts and then follow up with questions is fascinating. Many times, the children I have interacted with have not been exposed to women in the legal profession, or instances where someone is first in their family to obtain a post-graduate degree. Helping them learn a new legal concept and open their minds to the reality that their upbringing does not define their potential has been incredibly fulfilling. In case I have not yet made the case to go out and get involved, I should mention the added bonus for any lawyer of the presentation and public speaking practice that comes along with participating in these events.

 

Derrevere Stevens Black and Cozad has consistently remained committed to its community outreach efforts. The firm previously participated in collecting donations for the annual Books and Bears drive. This program ensures that on National Adoption Day, each adopted child receives a book and a stuffed animal friend to keep as they join their forever families. Members of the firm also sign up annually to purchase holiday gifts for children in the Avanna Healthcare program, and this year the firm will be contributing to the Palm Beach County Salvation Army’s Angel Tree Program to provide holiday gifts for children in need.

 

As the newly appointed chair for Derrevere Stevens Black & Cozad’s Community Give Back Committee, I am grateful to work in a place where philanthropy is prioritized and where my volunteering is supported. As the firm continues to grow, I am excited to see how we will positively impact the community now that we are physically present in multiple states and can reach beyond South Florida. There is so much that we, as legal professionals, can do to give back even when we do not work in the public sector. During this season of giving and gratefulness, I find myself reflecting on the many blessings I have. When people ask me why I love to volunteer through these programs, the answer is simple: we have so much. If we want to make the world a better place, we must give of ourselves.

November 22, 2021

Subrogation in State Court – In High “Remand”

Subrogating a claim with diverse parties and over $75,000 in controversy – going to federal court right? “Not so fast!” as the inimitable Lee Corso would say. While federal jurisdiction may not affect your case’s merits or deter your filing of a given case – if you or your clients prefer to file in state court, you still may have an option.

 

The key lies in whether your client is a reciprocal exchange as opposed to a traditional insurance company. Unlike conventional insurance companies, which are either owned by shareholders for stock companies or policyholders for mutual companies, reciprocal insurance companies are owned by its subscribers or “members”. A reciprocal insurance exchange is a “web of contractual relationships” whereby several persons, corporations, partnerships, acting through a common attorney, undertake to insure each other against certain kinds of losses by means of a mutual exchange of insurance contracts. Arbuthnot v. State Auto. Ins., Ass’n., 264 F. 2d 260 (10th Cir. 1959). They insure each other, in a reciprocal arrangement, by exchanging indemnity contracts among themselves. In this type of exchange, each policyholder covers the others, pooling together resources if a subscriber faces perils. The effective and practical results of a reciprocal exchange place the members as both the insurer and the insureds. 94 A.l.R. 836; 131 A.l.R. 765; 145 A.L.R. 1121; Abuthnot v. State Auto Ins. Ass’n., 264 F. 2d 260 (10th Cir. 1959).

 

Reciprocal insurance exchanges got their start in 1881 when six dry-good merchants in New York agreed to indemnify each other because of their shared discontent with insurance companies.

 

This group’s members all had buildings of superior construction and maintained them well, but they were all charged premiums that did not correspond to the potential losses for similar commercial buildings.

 

At the time, insurance companies applied broad strokes in their classification of risk; modern rate-setting techniques hadn’t quite been developed yet. Able to absorb certain losses, the merchants had the incentive and ability to “self-insure” to lower their costs.

 

Examples of reciprocal exchanges or “reciprocal inter-insurance exchanges” include:

 

      • AAA (American Automobile Insurance Association)
      • Erie Insurance Group • PURE Insurance
      • USAA (United Services Automobile Association)

 

It is typical for a prospective Defendant to move for Removal to federal jurisdiction when the case in controversy exceeds $75,000 and ostensibly includes diverse parties. With reciprocal exchanges, however, the diversity requirement can simply and effectively be countered – and the case Remanded back to state court – by arguing that the reciprocal exchange has customers in all or virtually all jurisdictions, and complete diversity cannot exist with the Plaintiff’s corporate structure. Dasilva at 397. See James River Ins. Co. v. AIG Propr. Cas. Co., Privilege Underwriters Reciprocal, Exchange Inc., a/s/o Joesph Insalaco, and Molly O’Neill, 2016 WL 8783213 (S.D. Fla. 2016 (granting defendants’ motions to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction for diversity jurisdiction because PURE, an indispensable party, is an unincorporated association with members in Ohio, and therefore is deemed a citizen of the State of Ohio, which is the same state of citizenship of the Plaintiff). If complete diversity of citizenship cannot be established between the parties then Removal cannot be sustained a Motion to Remand should be granted.

 

So cancel that hotel reservation and get some extra rest, because if your subrogation claim being Removed to federal jurisdiction involves a reciprocal exchange, you can lay your weary head on decades of comfortable case precedent and Remand this case back home where it belongs. Helpful Precedent for Remanding Reciprocal Exchange Cases Back to State Court:

 

  • Arbuthnot v. State Auto. Ins., Ass’n., 264 F. 2d 260 (10th Cir. 1959)
  • True v. Robles, 571 F. 3d 412 (5th Cir. 2009)
  • Tran. v. Farmers, 104 Cal. App. 4th 1202 (2012)
  • Tuck v. United Servs. Auto. Ass’n, 859 F. 2d 842 (10th Cir. 1988)
  • James River Ins. Co. v. Farmers Ins. Exchange, 2012 WL 1190886 (D. Ariz. 2012)

 

References
https://www.investopedia.com/terms/r/reciprocal-insurance-exchange.asp