The past few weeks have seen a massive uptick in lawsuits brought in federal and state courts by attorneys in the tri-state area on behalf of homeowners impacted by Superstorm Sandy. The court docket indicates that one New York law firm is already representing nearly 1,000 claimants, and there’s reason to believe that totals will grow exponentially in the coming weeks and months. Local lawyers are working in concert with Louisiana and other southern-based attorneys who honed their skills implementing similar tactics in connection with Hurricane Katrina. Claims have been systematically filed on behalf of multiple plaintiffs against their personal insurance carriers, with allegations ranging from breach of contract to bad faith. While not seeking class action status, many of these lawsuits nonetheless have been filed against a single insurance carrier on behalf of multiple policyholders.
Wilson Elser has already been retained on several of these filings and is well positioned to efficiently and effectively represent the full breadth of impacted insurers:
- The largest defense firm in the tri-state area, Wilson Elser had launched its Sandy “Resource Center” and was issuing related alerts and assisting clients well before the storm had dissipated over Canada. The firm has established an enviable record of success representing insurance companies in connection with disasters of similar scope and size.
- Wilson Elser counts its close working associations with underwriters and managing general agents in decades rather than years. Understanding the subtleties of how policies are written and interpreted is essential in successfully defending claims against them.
- At some point, in an effort to bring structure and efficiency to the process, it is likely that litigation will be managed by the court in consolidated format. A defense steering committee will be formed, charged with developing a cooperative defense on behalf of allimpacted insurers. Efficiencies accrued – from sharing strategies, experts and various overhead expenses – will be considerable and, where applicable, costs will be shared.
Property insurers should be aware that the anticipated waves of Sandy-related claims have begun to arrive and that they would be well served to implement a thoughtful and coordinated strategic response.