In this episode…
On this episode of our podcast Discussions at the Round Table, host Michelle Loux connects with Louis Fey to gain insight on what he wishes he knew during his early days of insurance related expert witness work. He talks about how COVID has changed the role of testifying expert and also details his storied career in mediating cases and how he developed his ability to defend his position overtime and learned to improve his expert writing skills.
Note: Transcript has been lightly edited for clarity.
Host: Michelle Loux, Assistant Project Manager, Round Table Group
Guest: Louis Fey: Principle, Insurance Consultant, Fey Consulting, LLC
Announcer: This episode is brought to you by Round Table Group, the Experts on Experts®. We’ve been connecting attorneys with experts for over 25 years. Find out more at roundtablegroup.com.
Michelle Loux: Welcome to Discussions at Round Table. I am your host, Michelle Loux. My guest today is Louis Fey, an insurance expert with over 40 years of experience and multiline claim underwriting and insurance agency management. Today we are going to talk about what you wish you knew now. Since you first started as an expert, what have you learned along the way?
Louis Fey: When you do insurance expert work you run into a lot of fine lines there between what is a legal conclusion and what is not. So, I guess if there is one thing that I wish I knew when I first started it was where that line is. I do not think I am ever going to figure out where that line is completely because it keeps moving. It is very dependent on the judge that is looking at the case, but more and more, I have streamlined my thought process on where it is. I prevent myself from being dragged in by opposing counsel into pining on the law, so that is probably the biggest thing.
Michelle Loux: What prompted you to become an expert witness? Were you approached or was it something that you pursued?
Louis Fey: I was called by a plaintiff attorney that I retained when I was working at Travelers as a major case director. I was handling a major fire up in Virginia and there was a builder’s risk carrier involved for one of the buildings and they denied coverage. So, I retained a plaintiff attorney to pursue the builder’s risk insurer so they would cover the loss. I researched it and he is one of the premier plaintiff’s property insurance attorneys. There are not too many of them around, but he is the property specialist. We worked together on that case and then the minute I left Travelers, he called me up and said, hey, can you serve as an expert for me on a case? I am like what do I need to do? Can you walk me through it? Then, I said, great, yeah, sure I will do it for you, and I have been doing it since 2007.
Michelle Loux: Do you find you are pulled in as an expert in a wide variety of insurance matters?
Louis Fey: A wide variety of different things. it is something new all the time. I have had everything from fire to auto, bad faith, underwriting disputes, and coverage disputes, which is interesting. When you talk about where the lines are drawn, I can opine on what the industry attend is behind insurance provisions and how the policy is supposed to be interpreted, but then, if the judge applies the law of the jurisdiction, that could be completely different from what the industry standards are. That is the kind of a tightrope. I have some life insurance cases and some group health cases. I have done a couple of bankruptcy cases, so, it is all over the place.
Michelle Loux: For bankruptcy, is that commercial in addition to personal or residential?
Louis Fey: Pretty much everything. The bigger cases are always the commercial cases, but the bankruptcy cases were on the value received by the insurance policy was kind of a real niche. I just got done testifying on a fraud ring in Louisiana. If you Google search New Orleans truck accident fraud ring you will find it and there are an estimated 100 accidents and over 300 people claiming injuries because of these staged accidents. A favorable verdict came in last night.
Michelle Loux: I recall reading about a deadly ice storm that hit Texas resulting in a 100-car pileup. How do you insure something that has not happened before? Do you find anything like those in your previous experience?
Louis Fey: Well, this little thing called the pandemic brought up a lot of those issues and I have my position on the coverage for that. I think contamination is a direct physical loss to a covered property because it must be remediated, right? So, you cannot leave it. The problem is you cannot see it. You do not know if it is contaminated or not, but if people are getting sick that are visiting your establishment, then potentially, you are contaminated. Once you trigger coverage, what are the damages, and the other side of the coin is you could remediate the entire business in a day. If you wanted to bring in a crew to fumigate and disinfect everything what is the loss? It should be limited and there is a time limitation on business interruption. I have never gotten to the point where anybody asked me about what the damages are or about whether coverage is triggered or not. So, I stop at that line and say, I was not asked to evaluate damages.
Michelle Loux: Speaking of COVID, are you right now in your office building?
Louis Fey: We had a mask mandate in the common areas where everybody had to wear a mask, but once you were in your office you could take it off. Now only the people that are not vaccinated, have to wear masks.
Michelle Loux: Okay.
Louis Fey: I am double vaccinated plus a booster, so hopefully I am good to go.
Michelle Loux: Right. Did you ever have a mentor or someone that helped you early on navigate the waters of how to be an expert witness or communicate with attorneys effectively?
Louis Fey: I think because I had such a prolonged career in directing litigation and mediating cases that I was good at presenting my case, the facts, and defending my position. Over time at Travelers, I had a direct report who was like a schoolteacher. They dissected my language and how I wrote my reports. They red-lined and circled things just like back in school. I quickly learned how to write, which I thought I knew before I was there, but apparently not. That helped me probably more than anything. I think the verbal presentation and testifying on the stand come came naturally to me. I do not get nervous or scared, so that does not bother me. Many experts come in and they are nervous and shaking. So, it is not for everybody. Not everybody is cut out to be an expert, that is for sure. I know a lot of insurance people that are very knowledgeable. I think the verbal presentation and testifying on the stand come came naturally to me. I do not get nervous or scared, so that does not bother me. Many experts come in and they are nervous and shaking. So, it is not for everybody. Not everybody is cut out to be an expert, that is for sure. I know a lot of insurance people that are very knowledgeable, but they would never want to get on the stand and testify about anything. They hear the word attorney or litigation they run. It is not for everybody, but I enjoy the speaking and testifying part. I have never had a problem with that. My writing skills have progressed. I have seen some of my early opinions and read some of the stuff I have written lately. I am at the point where if I read something I wrote maybe six months ago I do not remember it, but when I am writing I am like, that is pretty good.
Michelle Loux: Slap yourself on that back.
Louis Fey: Oh, that is cool.
Michelle Loux: That is perfect. I was also going to wrap it up and ask you if you do any international cases or mostly within the United States?
Louis Fey: Just the United States at this point. I am trying to think if I have had anything. I also worked for an insurance agency at the same time, so I have two early businesses. Fey Consulting is my expert witness part, but on the agency side, we placed business worldwide, so I have been involved in international things, but I do not think I have handled any expert cases. I did handle something for a Japanese firm with business cards that had Japanese lettering, but the claim was in Texas. Not international, so I guess the answer is no.
Michelle Loux: Sure. During COVID is there anything that you have had a change. Have you done video depositions or had to talk to a judge by video or phone call yet?
Louis Fey: Yeah, I have done lots of video depositions. I did one mediation and new trials by Zoom. I have talked to a lot of attorneys. They will do everything they can to not do a Zoom trial because of the presentation of the jury, being in front of the jury, and looking them in the eye. That has a big impact on how the case comes out. Testifying this week at federal court I found plexiglass. The Court reporter was in front of me. They had the attorney that was either direct or cross-examining me was over to the side. I could not see them because of the people sitting in front of me, so I had to lean over in a way that prevented me from talking to the jury. It has changed things a bit, but hopefully, we will get back to normal shortly. The judge asked the jury if it was okay if I remove my mask to testify, and if it was okay for the attorneys questioning me to remove their masks and the jury agreed so. All testimony was done without masks. Thank goodness because it comes out muffled.
Michelle Loux: Right. Were you asked to show a COVID vaccine card before?
Louis Fey: Federal courts make you show your vaccine card before you come in the building. Then they give you a little sticker saying you have been screened. You have to wear your sticker.
Michelle Loux: Well, I enjoyed listening. Thank you so much. Is there anything that you wanted to add before we close out?
Louis Fey: No, I do not think so. I have enjoyed being an expert and I am probably going to start winding it down in a couple of years, but it is definitely interesting.
Michelle Loux: Yeah, you never know what you are going to be asked to opine on.
Louis Fey: Yeah, there are very odd things pop up and that is a new one, so that is the way it goes, right? The only things in life worth knowing are those that you learn after you know it all.
Michelle Loux: That is right. That is when it gets good. Well, Lou, I appreciate all your time today and you enjoy your upcoming holidays.
Louis Fey: You too. I appreciate it.
After a quarter century helping litigators find the right expert witnesses, Round Table Group’s network contains some of the world’s greatest experts. On the Discussions at the Round Table podcast, we talk to some of them about what’s new in their field of study and their experience as expert witnesses.
Louis G. Fey Jr. has over 40 years of hands-on multi-line insurance industry experience, Lou is an expert on claim handling standards, claim practices, claim procedures, bad faith, underwriting standards and practice, coverage, policy drafting, and agency errors and omissions. Louis is a CPCU, CIC, AIC, at Fey Consulting LLC, helping clients identify defenses and strategies, clarify coverage issues, and assisting with other insurance professionals or insurance companies, and evaluate allegations of bad faith or agent’s E&O.
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