Месечни архиви: September 2015

Oklahoman Sued for Libel by Wife of ‘Dog the Bounty Hunter’


Oklahoman Sued for Libel by Wife of ‘Dog the Bounty Hunter’

The wife of reality TV star “Dog the Bounty Hunter” is suing a former Fort Gibson, Okla.-area bondsman for libel.

Beth Chapman claims that Lionel “Lenny” Biggers coordinated a “rampage of character attacks” against her on social media. The Tahlequah Daily Press reports that she’s seeking more than $75,000 in damages.

Chapman accuses Biggers of posting comments on social media in an effort to damage her reputation. She alleges that Biggers is seeking revenge because he believes that she and her husband, Duane “Dog” Chapman, ruined his business, Renegade Fugitive Recovery.

The lawsuit says Biggers has posted comments accusing the Chapmans of breaking laws. It says the comments have exposed Beth Chapman to embarrassment and humiliation.

Biggers couldn’t be reached for comment.

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New York Regulator Issues 1st Virtual Currency License to Company


New York Regulator Issues 1st Virtual Currency License to Company

New York State regulators have approved their first license to a company dealing in virtual currency such as bitcoin.

Circle Internet Financial has outlined security, capitalization, controls against money laundering and other measures intended to protect consumers and root out illicit transactions, the New York Department of Financial Services said Tuesday.

State regulators are reviewing applications from 24 other companies under final rules adopted in June, department spokesman Matt Anderson said. The licenses are now required for companies that want to do business with New Yorkers, he said.

“Issuing the first BitLicense is an important milestone in the long-term development of the virtual currency industry,” department Superintendent Anthony Albanese said. “Putting in place rules of the road … is vital to building trust in this new financial technology.”

Bitcoin, a virtual currency created by computers that run complex algorithms, can be used to buy and sell some goods and services without government-issued money. It has been gaining the backing of investors and mainstream businesses, including major online retailers.

In May, New York regulators granted their first charter under the state’s banking law for a commercial exchange for virtual currency to itBit Trust Company LLC in New York City.

Boston-based Circle Internet Financial, with offices in San Francisco, New York, Dublin and London, has 65 employees and customers in more than 100 countries, spokeswoman Sarah Mitchell said. The company won’t disclose exact transaction and volume data, but they are seeing “significant consumer demand” globally for its product, which currently enables transactions in U.S. dollars and in bitcoin, she said.

“Our goal is to make sending and receiving money instant, secure and free for people around the world, including New Yorkers,” said Sean Neville, co-founder and president.

Mitchell described Circle Internet Financial as a consumer payments company. Its primary use is for sending and receiving U.S. dollars. They plan to add the euro and pound sterling next, followed by other currencies such as the Chinese yuan in the future, she said.

 

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Planning the Special Event Insurance for Pope’s Philadelphia Visit


Planning the Special Event Insurance for Pope’s Philadelphia Visit

Pope Francis’ two-day visit to Philadelphia this weekend, which will close the Holy Father’s six-day apostolic journey to the U.S., has a special event policy in place with W.R. Berkley Corp. and OneBeacon Insurance as lead underwriters, according to a firm that helped broker the coverage.

DeWitt Stern Group, a New York-based broker and a subsidiary of Risk Strategies Company in Boston, said it has been working on the coverage together with Porter & Curtis LLC, a Media, Pennsylvania-based broker for the Philadelphia Archdiocese.

There are five insurance companies, including lead insurers W.R. Berkley Corp. and OneBeacon Insurance, that are underwriting this coverage. The premium was in the range of “a couple hundred thousand dollars,” with the coverage limit in “tens of millions of dollars,” according to executives with knowledge of the coverage.

LeConte Moore, managing director of DeWitt Stern Group’s Entertainment and Media Division, said he was first contacted by Bill Curtis, a principal at Porter & Curtis, a year ago to work on covering this risk.

“Porter & Curtis is a specialist with archdioceses, Catholic schools and churches. That’s their specialty whereas my specialty is doing event. Curtis said, ‘I am a specialist for unique needs for archdioceses but I don’t know how to do these events like you do. Can we partner and do this together?’ So we agreed to do work on this together a year ago,” said Moore, whose clients have included rock stars, princesses and the Presidential Inauguration committees for four U.S. presidents.

In Philadelphia, the Pope will attend the Roman Catholic World Meeting of Families 2015 conference. Dewitt Stern said the policy covers everything from an irreplaceable historical lectern once used by President Abraham Lincoln to deliver The Gettysburg Address in 1863 to Philadelphia’s Benjamin Franklin Parkway event Sunday, where the Pope will say Mass before an anticipated 250,000-plus people. The special event insurance would cover events during Pope’s two-day visit to Philadelphia as well as affiliated events by the World Meeting of Families, a Roman Catholic group that helped organize the papal visit.

The policy also covers “load-ins” including preparations for the events such as “television cables being run and altars being built and the bleachers being built and all the port-a-potties being delivered.”

“Sometimes you might have to put the policy in effect two or three months ahead of time even though the major event is the big concern. Things can happen and things do happen probably more frequently during what we refer to as the load-in,” he said.

The papal visit to Philadelphia is “a very large event, probably larger than anyone I have worked on over 30 years,” said Conte, who had previously launched and led Marsh & McLennan’s Entertainment Practice for 20 years before joining DeWitt Stern in 2004.

The Pope’s visit is similar, however, to Bill Clinton’s inauguration when he was first president, said Conte. “The reason is, the Presidential Inaugural Committee, which throws a party for the president once he is elected, is not a government body. So they raised a lot of money and had a party for the president,” he added.

Clinton had a big event at the National Mall in Washington, D.C., and had a huge party, he said, and there were no real boundaries as to where the event or the risk stopped and started. “So these events for two days in Philadelphia are very much like that, because there is no perimeter as to where the underwriters may get pulled into a claim or not,” said Conte.

During the Pope’s visit to Philadelphia, a claim could come from “anybody coming to the event, anybody associated with the event,” Conte also added. “If I am not even coming to the event and if I fall over some wires or television cables that are around, I could claim that my injuries were caused by the negligence of the Roman Catholic World Meeting of Families and try to present my claim. That’s what makes this risk more concerning perhaps for underwriters than others,” he said.

Conte also noted that there is a monoline terrorism policy purchased, so the U.S. liability underwriters are not writing that coverage. He added that while terrorism is always a concern, there is more security at this event than anything he’s ever seen. “For obvious reasons, the U.S. does not want something to happen on their soil and that’s another reason why the underwriters think this is a good risk because you got as much security as you possible can here,” he said.

Underwriting Special Events

Conte said that while most U.S. insurers shy away from underwriting special event coverages, it can be very profitable for those that have developed expertise in this area.

“The majority of insurers in the country don’t want to insure special events and the reason is because it’s a one-shot deal. They get one chance to make money and the risk is over,” he explained. “It’s not like most other types of insurance, which are annual policies and if you have a bad experience, hopefully you get the renewal, you get the increased premiums and you develop a partnership — whether it is with loss control or in other areas with the client. You develop that and you hope for a long-term relationship.”

But with a special event, Conte said, it’s one shot: “You can’t make an amendment for the next time in loss control.”

The ones that do it, such as W.R. Berkley Corp., the American International Group and OneBeacon to name a few, understand the business, he said. “They understand that they only got one shot at this. They make it a specialty of what they do, and it runs for most of them very profitably because they write a lot of the businesses and spread their risks out,” said Conte. “Many of these risks have minimal losses. The special event business, while it looks on the outside quite scary, can be — and typically is — very profitable for insurance companies that know how to underwrite it.”

However, he added, “you can’t just dip your toe in the water in this business because if you write only one risk and if it goes wrong — it could be just one simple trip-and-fall — depending on where it is and who it is, it could be over $100,000 and the premium isn’t going to be that.”

Conte also clarified that writing these special event risks profitably does not mean “putting a whole bunch of exclusions on the policy.”

“Many underwriters try to put exclusions on the policy that we would negotiate off,” he said. “For example, they would exclude collapse of temporary structures, any injuries from fireworks, any collapse of bleachers, things like that and you have to negotiate those exclusions off the policy. If you are going to protect your client, at the least get the defense costs if something tragic happens.”

 

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Louisiana P/C Commission Worker’s Comp Market ‘Remains Competitive’


Louisiana P/C Commission Worker’s Comp Market ‘Remains Competitive’

In its annual report to the Legislature for 2014-2015, the Louisiana Property & Casualty Insurance Commission noted that the workers’ compensation market in the state “remains competitive.” There were 246 insurance companies providing workers’ compensation insurance in Louisiana in 2014, according to the state insurance department.

Beginning on May 1, 2015, workers’ comp insurance rates declined by 2.4 percent in Louisiana. Commissioner of Insurance Jim Donelon approved the new rate in late December 2014 based on workers’ compensation loss costs submitted by the National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI). Most workers’ compensation carriers in Louisiana use the NCCI annual loss cost filing to formulate their insurance rates.

This loss cost reduction marks a cumulative drop of 37 percent since 2006 and a 56 percent drop since 1995, according to the Louisiana Department of Insurance. Workers’ comp rates declined by 5.2 percent in 2014 after three consecutive years of rate increases — 4.2 percent in 2011, 6.0 percent in 2012 and 2.5 percent in 2013.

The Louisiana Workforce Commission (LWC) has reported that private sector employers in the state have been successful in reducing work-related injuries. In 2013 the rate of non-fatal work-related injuries and illnesses, improved to an estimated 2.2 incidents per 100 full-time workers, down from 2.3 the previous year. The national average was 3.3.

A study published earlier this year by the Cambridge, Mass.-based Workers Compensation Research Institute (WCRI) found costs per workers’ compensation claim in Louisiana changed little from 2011 to 2013

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Expert Kansas Fracking Restrictions Coincide with Less Intense Quakes


Expert Kansas Fracking Restrictions Coincide with Less Intense Quakes

A limit on the injection of saltwater into the ground by oil producers coincided with less intense earthquakes in south-central Kansas, according to a state geologist.

The reduction in the magnitude of earthquakes mirrored the adoption of the Kansas Corporation Commission’s injection restraints in March, interim director of the Kansas Geological Survey Rex Buchanan said during a forum at the Kansas Energy Conference in Topeka.

“The consensus seems to be that we’ve seen a drop off of larger events,” he said. “You could very well correlate a drop in activity with the KCC order. There are a lot of variables in play.”

More extensive analysis is needed in order to wade through the natural and man-made possibilities, Buchanan said, citing a drop in drilling due to falling oil process and a potential lack of tension along fault lines as other probable factors.

The Kansas Corporation Commission is expected to renew another six months of injection restraints in Harper and Sumner counties, the Topeka Capital-Journal reported.

The injection restraints were inspired by the proliferation of earthquakes in the area. About 125 earthquakes shook Kansas in 2014.

As companies forced saltwater deep beneath the ground’s surface, earthquakes in the region became more frequently and rate higher on the Richter scale, Buchanan said.

“The same time we’re seeing these dramatic increases in earthquake activity, we also see dramatic increases in saltwater disposal,” he said.

But the increase in earthquakes can’t be directly linked to hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking, a method in which water, chemicals and sand are pumped at high pressure into the ground to break rock and to release oil or gas trapped in shale formations, Buchanan added.

At the conference, Gov. Sam Brownback lauded the Kansas Corporation Commission for its work in stabilizing the state’s earthquake situation.

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Court Gives WTC Developer Chance to Recoup More Money for Rebuilding


Court Gives WTC Developer Chance to Recoup More Money for Rebuilding

A federal appeals court has given the developer Larry Silverstein a new chance to recoup more money for rebuilding the World Trade Center site in New York, on top of the $4.1 billion of insurance proceeds he has received.

The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said a lower court judge incorrectly calculated that Silverstein lost just $2.805 billion on his 99-year lease for the site, signed six weeks before the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, and deserved no additional damages because insurance more than offset it.

Thursday’s decision by a three-judge panel clears the way for Silverstein and his World Trade Center Properties LLC to seek more damages from United Continental Holdings Inc, American Airlines Group Inc, and dozens of financial, real estate and security companies.

Silverstein wants those defendants held responsible for their alleged negligence in failing to prevent the destruction of the Twin Towers by hijacked United and American planes.

In a 70-page decision for the appeals court, Circuit Judge Debra Ann Livingston said the loss on Silverstein’s lease should reflect “pre- and post-attack market values, with the post-attack values measured as if the leased buildings were not reconstructed.”

She also directed U.S. District Judge Alvin Hellerstein, who oversees much of the Sept. 11 litigation and determined the $2.805 billion loss, to award Silverstein a higher rate of interest.

The appeals court did hand Silverstein a setback, rejecting his effort to recoup money for rebuilding costs and lost rents.

Although Silverstein was able to open One World Trade Center last November, he has said the lease obligated him to continue rebuilding, and that he remains billions of dollars short.

“Today’s decision re-opens the door for a jury to determine the extent of the airlines’ and security companies’ responsibility for their negligent actions on 9/11,” a spokesman for the developer said. “The American public deserves a full and fair accounting.”

Roger Podesta, a lawyer for the defendants, was not immediately available for comment.

Circuit Judge Chester Straub partially dissented.

He said it was unclear whether New York law permitted Silverstein to recoup rebuilding costs, given his obligation to rebuild the site and the “public value” in doing so, and that the state’s highest court should be consulted.

Separately, the 2nd Circuit said United was not responsible for the destruction of 7 World Trade Center in the Sept. 11 attacks, because it was caused by the American flight.

The case is In re: September 11 Litigation, 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, Nos. 13-3619, 13-3782.

Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Andrew Hay

 

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IAB in Pennsylvania Announces Officers for 2015-16 Administrative Year


IAB in Pennsylvania Announces Officers for 2015-16 Administrative Year

The fall marks a new administrative year for the Insurance Agents & Brokers Service Group (IA&B) in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, and its partnership of agents’ associations. The following directors have been elevated to leadership positions.

Insurance Agents & Brokers Service Group
• Chairman: Robert S. Klinger, Klinger Insurance Group, Germantown, Maryland
• Vice chairman: Michael F. McGroarty Sr., McGroarty & Bradburn Insurance Inc., Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Delaware Association of Insurance Agents & Brokers
• Chairman: Emory Stephen Burnett, Insurance & Financial Services, Wilmington, Delaware
• Vice chairman: Richard F. Corroon, Weymouth, Swayze & Corroon Insurance Inc., Wilmington, Delaware

Insurance Agents & Brokers of Maryland
• Chairman: Craig S. Mader, Craig S. Mader Insurance Agency Inc., Crofton, Maryland
• Vice chairman: Glenn R. Strachan, Strachan Insurance Agency Inc., Ft. Washington, Maryland

Insurance Agents & Brokers of Pennsylvania
• Chairman: John Hollister, Rodgers-Olver-Polley Inc., Milford, Pennsylvania
• Vice chairman: Joseph R. Pastor, Barr’s Insurance, Oil City, Pennsylvania

Insurance Agents & Brokers Service Group — through its partnership of agents’ associations in Delaware, Maryland and Pennsylvania — offers professional training, government affairs work, agency tool development, communications, and carrier and legal advocacy for more than 1,400 member agencies.

 

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Florida Judge Orders State to Clarify Uber Insurance Requirements


Florida Judge Orders State to Clarify Uber Insurance Requirements

Florida taxi companies may finally get the answer they are looking for from the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FDHSMV) regarding minimum insurance requirements for transportation network companies (TNCs) operating in the state.

In a Sept. 17 order, Judge George S. Reynolds III of the Second Judicial Circuit Court for Leon County said the state agency must respond to a complaint filed by two Florida taxi companies on September 9.

The original lawsuit was initiated by B&L Services Inc., Capital Transportation Inc., and individual Jeremy Lynch, as a means to finally get FDHSMV to respond to requests from the Florida taxi industry over whether for-hire passenger transportation vehicles used by Uber, Lyft and other TNCs comply with minimum insurance required by Florida statutes.

The FDHSMV has 40 days from the date of the order to respond or Judge Reynolds will issue a decision on the matter.

“We filed [the complaint] because there needs to be clarification relative to what is required for insurance on for-hire vehicles,” said John Camillo, president of B&L Service, Inc. in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. “These are questions the DMV has not responded to that have been posed to it by the industry and governmental agencies.”

Camillo said the Florida taxi industry has made numerous requests from the FDHSMV on how for-hire companies like Uber and Lyft can operate in the state without being insured with a commercial auto policy at all times – not just while they are in use. All of the request from the taxi industry and lawmakers to the have so far been ignored, Camillo said.

He said the City of Tallahassee recently sent a question and also didn’t get an answer.

“We want an answer and they have refused to give an answer,” Camillo said.

According the original lawsuit filed by the taxi companies, Florida Statutes 324.031 ensures that a for-hire passenger transportation vehicle is “insured at all times with the requisite commercial coverage.”

The lawsuit claims the law is “clear and unambiguous” in mandating that a for-hire ·passenger transportation vehicle be insured at all times and it does not contemplate that a vehicle may only be an insured for-hire passenger transportation vehicle sometimes, but not at all times.

Additionally, the taxi forms maintain that the law does not contemplate an operator of a for-hire passenger transportation vehicle is an insured owner or operator only when transporting customers and connected via the Uber app to Uber’s platform and technology.

The complaints says that the current Uber driver insurance policy from James River Insurance doesn’t insure either the Uber driver or the vehicle when the driver is not connected to the Uber application. Thus, the James River Policy acts to insure only Uber-related activities, which Florida law does not permit, according to the complaint.

The taxi companies also complain that James River Insurance, which is a surplus lines carrier, is not a member of the Florida Insurance Guaranty Association as required by the statute.

Camillo said insurance is the biggest expense for a for-hire company and it would “clearly be more advantageous” for all for-hire companies to have limits that comply with a private passenger auto policy and only have the higher limit when they are transporting a passenger. He said that is the backdrop they are faced with in Florida on the Uber issue.

“Our position is we are out there buying insurance that complies with the law that is very costly and a competitor in our market is buying insurance that doesn’t comply with the law, which gives them a competitive advantage,” Camillo said. “If the DMV says [TNCs} don’t need this we will go to insurance market and ask them reevaluate our policies so we can have lower limits.”

Camillo says TNCs in the state of Florida have also lobbied the state legislature for two years in a row to create a hybrid insurance model where the operators of their vehicles have higher limits when engaged and lower personal lines policy when they are otherwise engaged. He says they have gone so far as to try to change the law in the last two legislative sessions to remove TNC operators in the definition of for-hire vehicle.

“We think they have tried to do that because they are well aware there is no exception in the current law for a TNC driver, so if they become a TNC driver they must have higher limits on admitted paper,” he said.

The ridesharing/TNC insurance issue has been a hot topic around the country. Numerous states, including California, have passed laws to try and regulate the “emerging” industry.  While countrywide this issue has caused controversy, Camillo said the Florida laws are such that it makes what is happening in the state unique. Just this past legislative session Florida lawmakers were unable to agree on ridesharing regulations. Various cities and counties in the state have come up with their own regulations, which Uber has said in some cases are too restrictive.

“This is a Florida-specific issue – insurance is regulated at the state level so the laws and insurance that apply to Florida are only in Florida,” he said. “As someone who has been involved in the industry, it’s hard because there are varying laws around the country. But I do believe providing TNC insurance where you have higher and lower limits depending on activity will result in a significant amount of litigation the industry wouldn’t have otherwise had.”

Roger Chapin, president of the Florida Taxicab Association, said the hope is whatever the answer is – either from FDHSMV or the court – the industry can move on with a more even playing field.

“This is a bellwether question for our industry,” he said. “This is something that will play itself out before the next Florida legislation session and may give guidance to the legislature on how to solve the problem.”

Uber did not respond to a request for comment from Insurance Journal on the pending Florida complaint.

Related:

Florida City Approves Ridesharing, Taxi Rules
Consumer Advocate to Florida Lawmakers: Ridesharing Proposal ‘Hell-on-Wheels’
Uber to Cease Operations in Florida’s Broward County
Opinion: Florida Sending Mixed Messages About Uber Insurance Requirements
Uber Auto Policy Meets State Requirements, Says Florida Regulator About Amy O’ Connor O’Connor is associate editor of MyNewMarkets.com. More from Amy O’ Connor

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Risk Cooperative Launches Benefits Practice in DC


Risk Cooperative Launches Benefits Practice in DC

Risk Cooperative, a Washington, D.C.-based insurance brokerage and risk management firm, recently announced the launch of its Comprehensive Benefits practice. Risk Cooperative said the new practice aims to help small to mid-sized enterprises (SMEs) gain their footing in an increasingly complex and costly employee benefits market.

Risk Cooperative said its entry in this market comes at a time when SMEs are losing their voice and limited buying power in the benefits arena. Risk Cooperative said its Comprehensive Benefits practice offerings would include compliant health care plans, income protection solutions, such as life and disability coverage, and retirement solutions.

With the launch of its new practice, Risk Cooperative also announced the appointment of Becky Schroeder and Angelina Wiseman as consultants, Comprehensive Benefits. They bring more than 25 years of combined experience in benefit design and implementation.

 

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New York to Receive Up to 20M to Develop Connected Vehicle Technologies


New York to Receive Up to 20M to Develop Connected Vehicle Technologies

New York City will be the main testing ground for a smart device installed in vehicles to warn motorists of impending dangers and congestion, the U.S. secretary of transportation announced on Sept. 14.

Secretary Anthony Foxx said New York will receive up to $20 million to develop the so-called connected vehicle technologies he hopes will eventually be used across the country.

As many as 10,000 cars, yellow taxis, buses and trucks are to be retrofitted with the sensory devices in New York by 2017, allowing anonymous vehicle-to-vehicle communication to avert crashes. Technology installed at key intersections will beam information to motorists and help to keep pedestrians safe. And as the pilot program progresses, a mobile phone app is anticipated so pedestrians can pick up alerts.

“Today’s announcement is a big step forward for the future of how we move in this country, from our rural communities to our biggest cities,” Foxx said at a news conference at a Queens center that controls the city’s traffic lights.

The pilot program’s focus is midtown Manhattan, one of the nation’s most congested traffic areas, and parts of Brooklyn. The system also will be tested in Tampa, Florida, and around Wyoming to vary traffic conditions in which the technology operates.

Once testing is completed and the system design is adjusted based on performance, the aim is to equip other communities with the device.

Foxx was joined by New York City Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg and Taxi and Limousine Commission head Meera Joshi.

“We look forward to testing this exciting safety technology on some of the toughest streets in the world,” Trottenberg said.

 

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