Allianz seeks to escape sanctions for failing to send rep to mediation

Steve Korris Oct. 7, 2010, 4:00am


Allianz Underwriters Insurance, under fire for delaying mediation of lawsuits over contamination from refineries in Hartford, blames an anonymous clerk.

Allianz seeks to escape sanctions for failure to send a decision maker to mediation under supervision of Circuit Judge Daniel Stack on Aug. 24.

"Allianz believed that it had obtained the court's permission to allow its representative to participate in the mediation by phone," Kristi Nolley of Chicago wrote on Sept. 23.

"Allianz acted in good faith and according to information it received from its counsel after counsel had been in communication with the court," she wrote.

"Allianz's counsel was in attendance at the mediation, and its representative was available by telephone the entire day," she wrote.

The setup didn't suit Stack, who "expressed frustration," in Nolley's words.

Sinclair Oil, seeking partial coverage from Allianz for leverage in mediation, expressed its frustration by moving for sanctions against Allianz.

Next came Nolley's turn to express frustration.

She wrote that in mediation last December, Allianz did not communicate with counsel for plaintiffs and could not join breakout sessions between Sinclair and Stack.

"In fact, all of the information Allianz received regarding the negotiations was filtered through Sinclair's counsel," she wrote.

She wrote that on July 14, Sinclair advised Allianz that Stack scheduled mediation for Aug. 24.

"Allianz was not consulted or asked to consent to mediation prior to the order, and no party advised Allianz of the hearing at which the request for a second mediation was discussed," she wrote.

She wrote that she drafted an emergency motion to excuse the representative or include him by phone.

She wrote that her office called the court on Aug. 11, and a clerk advised that a representative could attend by phone as long as counsel appeared in person.

In a second call, she wrote, "the court's clerk confirmed that the Allianz representative could attend by telephone as long as Allianz's counsel appeared in person."

She wrote that based on confirmation from the clerk, she elected not to proceed with the emergency motion.

She didn't name the clerk.

Betsy Bechel, supervisor of the civil law division for Circuit Clerk Matt Mellucci, said no clerk would have authority to act as Nolley described.

She said the term "court's clerk" could apply to any deputy clerk because her office doesn't assign a particular clerk to a particular judge.

Stack set a hearing on sanctions for Oct. 12.

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