October 2016 Insurance Litigation Newsletter
Matthiesen, Wickert & Lehrer, S.C. (“MWL”) is pleased to announce that Richard Schuster has been made a partner of the firm. Rich has been with MWL since 2012, concentrating his practice on commercial and civil defense matters for manufacturers and their insurers, including overseeing the firm’s involvement with the litigation surrounding the 2013 ammonium nitrate explosion at the West Fertilizer Company storage and distribution facility in West, Texas.
In September 2013, MWL published an article entitled Do Liability Waivers Really Work? which served as a primer and cautionary tale regarding enforceability of common liability waivers. These are agreements required by gyms and similar businesses geared toward physical activity that can be inherently dangerous. We explained that the Wisconsin Supreme Court is not a fan of these agreements. Over the past three years, the Court has trended decidedly more conservative. As such, when the Court heard arguments in Roberts v. T.H.E. Ins. Co. last year, there was speculation that change was afoot and the Court might reverse course. Well, no such luck for Wisconsin’s small businesses and the carriers who provide them liability coverage.
The Wisconsin Supreme Court has recently had occasion to clarify the issue of whether extrinsic evidence can be considered in determining an insurer’s duty to defend in the case of Water Well Solutions Serv., Inc. v. Consolidated Ins. Co., 2016 WI 54 (2016). In this case, the Court refused to modify the longstanding “four-corners” rule used in determining whether a complaint triggers the duty to defend. This decision is helpful in bringing clarity to the issues of whether insurance carriers are required to look at factors outside the complaint when they are confronted with a duty to defend issue.
This article will analyze the increased usage of social media and how these trends influence the workers’ compensation and insurance defense industries. Social media refers to those websites and applications that enable users to create and share content or to participate in social networking. The most influential of these networks is Facebook. By understanding and embracing these advancements, a litigation professional has an additional tool to bolster their case and maximize the probability of a defense verdict. The world is changing rapidly and it is important that attorneys and claims professionals are able to conform with the times.