Madison - St. Clair Record

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Madison County's 'litigious nature' cited by two insurance carriers who declined opportunity to cover

By Ann Maher | Jul 11, 2017

Madison County's "litigious nature" was cited by two insurers who declined to submit proposals for things like property and excess liability coverage as the county's annual insurance renewal period approaches at month's end.

Safety and risk manager Annette Schoeberle, who has worked for the county 10 years, said it has not been unusual over the years to learn that insurers don't want to write policies in Madison County because of the litigation factor.

The county has a self-funded liability plan that covers general liability, auto, and claims against public officials and professionals such as law enforcement, up to $1 million.

But it also seeks outside coverage for excess liability, property, excess earthquake and a new category of cyber liability - protection the county first sought in 2016.

Carriers that declined to bid on Madison County this year due to litigation concerns were Brit and Hudson, according to county administrator Doug Hulme.

Litigation Center

Madison County is site of the nation's busiest asbestos docket where claimants from across the country bring their lawsuits. The county also had a reputation as being the class action capital of the country before the Class Action Fairness Act moved most collective actions to federal court in 2005.

Because of its national asbestos docket, Madison County is ranked as having the highest litigation index in Illinois with 8.255 lawsuits filed per 1,000 residents, according to a 2016 report by the Illinois Civil Justice League (ICJL). Cook County's index is 4.014 lawsuits per 1,000 residents and St. Clair County is 2.416 per 1,000 residents.

By comparison, the litigation index for the 35 other southern Illinois counties in the Fifth Judicial District, where Madison and St. Clair County are situated, is 1.413 lawsuits per 1,000 residents, according to the ICJL report. In the state's other 64 counties, the litigation index is 1.239 per 1,000 residents.

Aside from lawsuits filed by civil litigants, the county itself has been targeted dozens of times in the last decade with complaints ranging from civil rights violations among jailed inmates and others, personal injury, sexual harassment, retaliatory discharge, age discrimination, Americans with Disabilities Act violations and more.

Schoeberle said the total cost of the package of proposals that the county's Finance Department will consider this week is $468,708, up 2 percent over last year's $459,234 premium payment.

Insurance broker Dimond Brothers Insurance Agency of Granite City brought forward proposals from from five carriers - AIG (property only); Argonaut (liability only); The Hartford (property only - incumbent carrier); Illinois Counties Risk Management Trust (liability and property) and States (liability only - incumbent carrier).

Other factors besides the county's "litigation nature" were cited as reasons why some carriers declined to submit proposals.

Liberty Mutual and Travelers indicated they would not be competitive; Chubb indicated it was due to underwriting/pre-inspection reasons; One Beacon indicated Madison County is not in its "current risk appetite;" AIX Hartford could not match coverage forms - "not a viable option;" and Ironshore will not offer any policies with SIR (self-insured retention) under $5 million.

If the Finance Committee adopts the insurance premium proposal, the full board will take up the matter next week.

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Madison County