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State of Unrest

Takeaways from the Municipal Law Committee's recent webinar, “Social Unrest: Get Ahead of Municipality Claims”

March 10, 2021 Photo

CLM’s Municipal Law Committee recently held a webinar entitled “Social Unrest: Get Ahead of Municipality Claims,” which discussed the demonstrations in cities around the country in 2020 and examined how municipalities can prepare for claims and angry juries, and implement effective risk-management strategies. Below are a few takeaways from the presentation.

12:00:00 p.m.

THE SPEAKERS

Susan Thomson, Business Segment Manager, Selective Insurance

Michael Coffey, Partner, Tyson & Mendes

12:06:40 p.m.

Michael Coffey

“During this past year, which has been a year like I don’t think many of us have ever seen in our lives, there’s been a great deal of social unrest…. And 2020 to 2021, we’ve seen a lot of racial unrest and an ongoing wave of civil unrest, which is comprised of protests; riots, that have been rallying against systemic racism toward black people in the U.S., notably in the form of police violence.”

12:11:58 p.m.

Michael Coffey

“In our insurance world, there has been no precedent for what we’ve seen with the riot catastrophe like we saw last year. These riot losses that we saw will surpass the previous record that was set in 1992…and to put that in financial perspective, the losses for that event reached $775 million, or about $1.4 billion in 2020 dollars.”

12:15:44 p.m.

Susan Thomson

“Every [municipality] writes its own policies and procedures. So those policies and procedures, for us, from an underwriting and risk-management perspective, are really where the rubber hits the road. We want to make sure they are very clear and concise, and we want to make sure that there are training procedures and that the training is ongoing and updated regularly.”

12:16:17 p.m.

Susan Thomson

“This goes for every department, from trimming trees, to who is inspecting playgrounds, to corrections officers and the police officer walking the beat.”

12:20:25 p.m.

Michael Coffey

“I have to tell you, the rating agencies will be…taking a look at what’s going on in these arenas. What are the different departments doing? ...Because when they go out and evaluate your creditworthiness, they pretty much do a kick-all-the-tires test.”

12:21:50 p.m.

Michael Coffey

“[Municipalities] are not going to have the revenue that they historically had. So when we’re looking at a changing landscape from a risk-management standpoint…you’re going to have scant resources to throw at effectuating change.”

12:25:23 p.m.

Michael Coffey

“There’s a lot of polling on public perception being done, on the different levels of individuals’ and potential jurors’ anger out there. And when people get angry, we know what happens: When they sit on jury duty, a lot of them take it out in the form of rendering nuclear verdicts.”

12:28:40 p.m.

Susan Thomson

“We really need to ‘what if’ ourselves to death. We have to ask ‘what if?’ and take the scenarios out as far as we can. And when we think we’ve gone as far as we can, go farther.… I think that gives [municipalities] a good understanding of their strengths and weaknesses, and then they can capitalize on their strengths and mitigate the weaknesses.”

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About The Authors
Phil Gusman

Phil Gusman is senior managing editor of CLM magazine, a publication of the CLM.  phil.gusman@theclm.org

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