Updated: Philadelphia lawyer Randy Maniloff, partner at White and Williams LLP, author of textbooks (General Liability Insurance Coverage, Oxford University Press, in two editions, with Jeffrey Stempel), compiler of an annual list of Top 10 insurance decisions that highlighted the ridiculous as well as the useful, an eager commentator on public issues (like Justice Sonia Sotomayor's pre-Supreme Court pro-insurer tilt), was looking for something a little more.
Now Maniloff has taken the big step. "I am maintaining a fulltime practice representing dozens of insurance companies," but he has also stepped away from his partnership title - so he could start and own "my nights and weekends project," a biweekly newsletter, Coverage Opinions, which has in two months signed up 9,000 subscribers. It's free; Maniloff wants to make it ad supported and "use it as a platform" to improve continuing-education classes.
And he's trying to liven up items on Nevada's Cumis rule, Florida's auto exclusion and the late Andy Warhol's role in defining New York's evolving Professional Services Exclusion, with some antic bits. "I pick cases that have a story behind them and teach a lesson," Maniloff said. "I talk about why the court did what it did and what impact it makes for the future.
"Plus each issue has an interview with one of the leading people in the field," from "both sides of the aisle:" In the first issue corporate defender Maniloff interviewed Los Angeles-based Jerry Oshinsky, "the dean of the policyholder bar" who's been helping Penn State press its insurers to cover sex abuse claims. He noted how the field has grown from an arcane specialty to a mainstream practice crawling with lawyers.
And the occasional antic item, like the interview, in Issue 6 (Dec. 19), with Santa Claus, about his business insurance needs: "The sleigh... is not considered an 'auto' under the CGL exclusion." Claus is "still smarting from that Supreme Court decision that made me liable for defective products under the Restatement of Torts Section 402(A)...." He likes cookies and milk, "but this year I am hoping that kids in Colorado and Washington leave me brownies."
"A few people can see through the industry and make it interesting and digestible to the masses. Randy is one," Robert Hartwig, president of the Insurance Information Institute in New York, told me. "I noticed Randy's writing style years ago. They way he covers the arcane and makes it digestible was useful to me. I'm an economist who works in the insurance world, so I know what it's like.
"Randy's able to identify some of the most important issues in the insurance world, write about them in a very timely way, and effectively take the reader in in the first paragraph and makes you want to read it all. That's very important in insurance case work. Many people would rather have dental work" than have to read original cases, Hartwig added. "This has appeal well beyond attorneys, to actuaries, underwriters, the claims business, agents. I frequently use his materials, inclduing his Top 10 coverage decisions, when I travel throughout the industry."