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February 07, 2020 Profile

Profiles: Self-Insurers and Risk Managers Committee: A Spectrum of Risk Professionals

By Eric Hermanson and Margaret Cooper Roney

The Self-Insurers and Risk Managers Committee (SIRM) is a TIPS general committee that brings together a broad range of coverage attorneys, defense attorneys, brokers, underwriters, in-house counsel, third-party administrators (TPAs), and other professionals involved in captive, risk retention, self-insurance, and related issues.

The committee includes risk managers at hospitals, construction companies, universities, and other self-insured entities; brokers advising clients on how to effectively structure and administer managed risk programs; mediators; consultants; academics; expert witnesses; in-house counsel; claims professionals; and a significant number of attorneys in private practice.

Some of the committee’s private-practice attorneys work on the corporate or regulatory side of SIRM issues, representing commercial and nonprofit entities in setting up and administering captive or risk retention programs. Others—like the two of us—are litigators. Our respective practices involve the defense of self-insured entities and the resolution of complex disputes that arise under self-insurance programs, involving brokers, carriers, TPAs, and self-insured entities.

In general, the committee’s members are an enthusiastic, close-knit, and collegial group. We are committed to sharing and learning from each other and supporting one another’s career and professional goals. Past SIRM chairs, including Jill Berkeley, Harvey Nosowitz, Seth Lamden, Craig Stewart, Dainen Penta, and Roy Alan Cohen, remain actively involved in the organization; and many have served in important leadership roles in TIPS and the broader ABA community.

One of the committee’s strengths is a deep commitment to publishing on self-insurance and risk management topics. For example, Matthew Queen and Light Townsend recently released an important new treatise, Modern Captive Insurance: A Legal Guide to Formation, Operation, and Exit Strategies, through the ABA Book Publishing division, which the committee and its members have worked actively to promote.

The committee also publishes a regular newsletter, the SIRMon, edited by Danielle Malaty, containing topical articles of interest to committee members. Newsletter contributors submit short articles, essays, profiles, and reviews such as “The Visionaid Effect: Does Counterclaim Litigation Exhaust a SIR?,” “Lessons from Heinz: The Harsh Reality of Rescission,” and “Syzygy Insurance—Another Microcaptive Does Not Meet the Test.” Committee members also contribute frequently to other ABA publications, including The Brief, TortSource, and the Tort Trial & Insurance Practice Law Journal.

The committee works closely with TIPS’s Insurance Coverage Litigation Committee (ICLC) and annually cosponsors panel programs at the ICLC Midyear Meeting in Phoenix, Arizona. This year’s panel, “The SIR Dilemma: When Does (and When Should) an Excess Carrier Get Involved?,” should be lively and exciting, led by panelists Seth Lamden, Iain Nasitir, and Kenna Plangemann.

In addition, the committee maintains a close relationship with TIPS’s Excess and Surplus Lines Committee (ESLR), with which it shares a number of mutual interests—most prominently on issues faced by excess insurers writing over self-insured retentions. The two committees collaborate frequently on educational programs and cosponsor lunches, dinners, meetings, and other social events that are organized to coincide with TIPS’s annual and midyear meetings.

One of the committee’s strengths is its youthful and energetic membership. Many members are recent graduates of the TIPS Leadership Academy, and the committee is rightly seen as an important forum for networking and a pathway to leadership within the broader TIPS community. Two years ago, SIRM received TIPS’s “Exceptional Achievement” award.

In 2020, the committee will conduct a member survey, canvassing members to better understand their personal and professional needs so that SIRM can develop programs that will more effectively meet those needs in the years ahead.

SIRM holds conference calls on a roughly monthly basis to plan activities and discuss issues of mutual interest. We welcome your participation and look forward to meeting you soon.

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Eric Hermanson, chair of the TIPS Self-Insurers and Risk Managers Committee (SIRM), is a partner at White and Williams LLP in Boston, Massachusetts. He represents primary and excess insurers, risk retention groups, and related industry organizations in high-exposure coverage litigation.

Margaret Cooper Roney, SIRM chair-elect, is a shareholder at Lewis Thomason in Memphis, Tennessee. She has a diverse litigation practice and frequently represents self-insured defendants in health care liability, transportation, and product liability litigation.