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2019: WCM's Year in Review

December 27, 2019

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To paraphrase Mark Twain, no one really knows what a perfect partnership is until they have been married a quarter of a century.<span>  </span>Way back in the summer of 1994, Dennis, Paul and John decided to band together and take a leap of faith into the unknown by creating WCM.<span>  </span>Over the past 25 years, all of us at WCM have benefitted from their guidance and mentorship and learned from their intelligence and integrity.<span>  </span>As many of you who are reading this e-mail have been with us for a good portion of these many years, we think that you share our feelings.<span>  </span>Dennis has always been the visionary, Paul the technical perfectionist and John the man who opened and closed the store.<span>  </span>It has been a perfect partnership and we thank all of them for all that they have done in making WCM what it is today.

But 2019 marks the end of an era for WCM and all of us are excited about the opportunities that lie ahead.<span>  </span>As you all know, John retired in the not so distant past and enjoys splitting his time between woods and beach.<span>  </span>Paul has decided that, he will be doing the same – although we think there will be more beach and less woods.<span>  </span>Paul will fully retire from his work at WCM during 2020.<span>  </span>Dennis will continue to focus on what he loves best – meeting with all of you and actually practicing law.

With that as background, Partners Bob Cosgrove (who has been with WCM for 17 years) and Mike Bono (who has been with WCM for 16 years) have taken the helm of WCM.<span>  </span>Bob and Mike will both be continuing in their full-time service of all of you while assuming management roles at the firm as co-chairs of the firm’s Management Committee.<span>  </span>If you ever have any questions or concerns about what WCM can do for you, please reach out to either of them.<span>  </span>Both of them hope that sometime in 2045, the next generation of WCM will talk about their perfect partnership as WCM then moves into its golden jubilee.

2019 marked a year of other exciting developments.<span>  </span>First, we were pleased to welcome to the Partnership Georgia Coats, Colleen Hayes, Michael Gauvin and Heather Aquino.<span>  </span>Colleen and Mike look forward to serving your coverage needs while Georgia and Heather will continue their dogged defense of your liability exposures.<span>  </span>Vivian Turetsky, who focuses on coverage work, was also promoted to Counsel.<span>  </span>

Second, in February, WCM opened its fourth office location, on Long Island, allowing us to better serve Long Island clients and business partners.  Brian Gibbons, who has been with WCM since 2009, is WCM’s resident partner at that office.

Third, in June, Bob Cosgrove finished up his service as the President of the Philadelphia Association of Defense Counsel, the nation’s oldest defense bar organization.<span>  </span>

Fourth, at the Defense Research Institute’s annual meeting, Colleen Hayes was honored as an outstanding committee chair.<span>  </span>Colleen received recognition for her work with the DRI’s Young Lawyers Social Media subcommittee, a group dedicated to promoting its members professional achievements and accomplishments, as well as serving as a platform to engage all members of the defense bar.

Congratulations to all on their well-deserved promotions and achievements.<span>  </span>

On the legal front, WCM continued to demonstrate what our website has long advertised — results.<span>  </span>Some of our most notable achievements include the following.   First, WCM Partners Dennis Wade and Michael Bono, along with Vivian Turetsky and Douglass Giombarrese, were awarded summary judgment in a $4.5 million coverage action in the SDNY, <em>Phillip Michael Scott v. AIG Property Casualty Company and Great Northern Ins. Co.  </em> Scott filed suit alleging that the insurers wrongfully denied his homeowner’s claim following a 2015 incendiary fire at the Insured’s Westchester, New York home.  Despite having asserted in a 2013 bankruptcy filing that his monthly income was zero and that he owned virtually nothing, Scott’s sworn statement in proof of loss after the fire alleged a total loss of his residence and over $1.25 million in personal content damages. At the EUOs, Scott made blatantly contradictory statements regarding his finances and the ownership and acquisition of his personal property.  Further, he denied being aware that that he obtained an AIG policy on this home, despite clear evidence that he had procured the policy and, in fact, made several requests to change the inception date.

Judge Gregory Woods upheld the insurers’ disclaimers and awarded summary judgement on the basis of the Insured’s “fraud and concealment,” as well as the Insured’s failure to cooperate during the claim investigation, focusing on lies regarding the personal property inside the home at the time of the fire and the placement of the insurance itself. Citing significant portions of Scott’s sworn testimony, the District Court held that Scott’s statements were “false, willfully made, and material to the insurers’ investigation of the claims.”  As to the defense of non-cooperation, the District Court parsed Scott’s EUO testimony and specifically found that his evasions and false promises of future cooperation did not satisfy the duty to cooperate under the contract of insurance.  While the Court recognized that the bar for granting summary judgment in a fraud case was indeed a “high one,” the Court found that the insurers had met that high standard and found in AIG’s favor.

Second, in April, Georgia Coats obtained a defense verdict in a traumatic brain injury case venued in Bronx County.  The plaintiff, a customer, was struck in the head by a falling awning outside of a restaurant.  Our client had installed the awning and had failed to provide the restaurant with written instructions warning the restaurant to shut the awning in strong winds.  At trial, we argued that the lack of written warnings was not the cause of the plaintiff’s accident and that the verbal warnings our client provided upon installation were sufficient.  The jury awarded our client a defense verdict, finding that the lack of written instructions was not the cause of the accident, and placed the full $2.7 million verdict on the restaurant, which, per our argument, failed to use common sense on a windy day.

Third, in June, WCM obtained a defense verdict in a Labor Law trial in June in the case of <em>France v. Munro General Construction, Inc. et. al.<span>  </span></em>Paul Vitale acted as lead counsel. The plaintiff alleged a slip and fall on a stairwell, allegedly due to our client’s drywall work, and demanded $5 million to resolve.<span>  </span>The defense argued plaintiff fabricated the cause of his fall as the drywall dust could not have traveled through the construction site, through a hallway and up the stairs to the landing. The jury found the defense position persuasive and rendered a defense verdict.<span>  </span>

Fourth, in July, Michael Bono, Vivian Turetsky and Doug Giombarrese scored a trial victory on behalf of their homeowner client, who faced upwards of $10 million in damages as a result faulty construction on his townhouse which damaged his neighbor’s property.  As a result of the damage, the client had previously been adjudged to have breached an agreement with his neighbor, and WCM was retained as trial counsel to show that the fault lay at the hands of the general contractor and subcontractor-excavator.  After a month’s long trial during which the contractors argued they were not at fault, the jury found them to both be liable for 100% the damages.  Having established they were negligent, WCM now seeks full indemnification on behalf of its client in post-trial briefing.

We look forward to continuing to serve our friends and clients in 2020 and wish all of you a happy holiday season and healthy and prosperous new year.

With warmest wishes,

Mike and Bob

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