Michael has also been retained as special counsel representing public entities in insurance matters involving public officials and employment liability policies, commercial general liability and environmental coverage policies. Michael has extensive knowledge of the insurance programs offered by New Jersey’s Municipal Excess Liability Joint Insurance Fund (“MEL”) and the Plan of Risk Management of the Joint Insurance Funds, as well as the commercial markets that service public entities. Most recently, as special insurance counsel, Michael secured a substantial liability award for a public entity originally denied essential insurance benefits. A Panel of Arbitrators determined that the insurer had improperly denied coverage under a Public Officials and Employment Liability policy. In a subsequent ruling, the municipality was awarded consequential damages including pre-judgment interest and legal fees in successfully pursuing coverage. In June 2015, Michael secured an arbitration award for in excess of $2.2 million following an extensive legal fee application hearing pursuant to R. 4:42-9(a)(6). In a separate arbitration for a governmental entity, Michael recently prevailed in a case involving a sub-limit obtaining a ruling that the sub-limit was void and unenforceable as a matter of law as against public policy.
Governing bodies (including individual committee persons) and municipal entities regularly are the subject of lawsuits and investigations – the legal fees in defending such proceedings can be substantial. Public entities face a myriad of risks and exposures. Risks include lawsuits asserting civil rights claims, alleged violations of federal statutes and laws, including for RLUIPA (Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act) (42 U.S.C. §2000 cc (b)(1)), 42 U.S.C. §1983; Family Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”); and the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (“NJLAD”). Other risks include fire, product liability, fidelity, boiler and machinery, surety, burglary and theft, commercial multiple peril liability, toxic exposure, financial guaranty, credit, workers’ compensation, group accident and health, inland marine, allied lines, acts of terrorism, cyber risk, law enforcement liability, public official liability, zoning violations and other potentially insurable risks.
Public agencies also face costly criminal and civil rights investigations by federal authorities, and insurance coverage may exist to defray the cost of defending such investigations. Michael’s firm regularly represents clients who are the targets of state and federal investigations. Michael currently represents a substantial New Jersey municipality facing an investigation by the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the U.S. Attorney General’s Office where the municipality is faced with civil rights claims and claims under RLUIPA. Because of Walder Hayden’s prominence in white collar criminal defense, Michael has been asked by his partners to counsel clients on coverage matters that involve the potential for insurance policies to defray the costs of the defense of parallel civil lawsuits.