Wystan M. Ackerman

Partner

  • Overview

    Biography

    Wystan Ackerman focuses his practice on three main areas: class actions, appeals, and insurance coverage litigation.

    Class Actions

    Mr. Ackerman chairs the firm's Class Action Team and writes the blog Class Actions Insider. He is one of Connecticut's leading class action defense lawyers, and has a national class action defense practice. Mr. Ackerman has been involved in defending more than 60 class actions in numerous jurisdictions, including Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Arkansas, Missouri, Illinois, Oklahoma, Texas, Arizona, and California. In many of those cases, Mr. Ackerman prevailed on a dispositive motion. He successfully petitioned the United States Supreme Court to grant certiorari and was co-counsel on the merits in Standard Fire Insurance Company v. Knowles, 133 S. Ct. 1345 (2013), in which the Court rejected a plaintiff's attempt to evade federal jurisdiction by stipulating that the amount sought would not exceed the $5 million threshold under the Class Action Fairness Act. Mr. Ackerman has defended putative class action cases involving insurance and financial services, products liability, data breaches, healthcare, consumer contracts, and securities. He has extensive experience defending major insurers in putative class actions involving homeowners' insurance, auto insurance, underwriting and business practices, and also advises insurers regarding the defense of their insureds in class actions. Mr. Ackerman chairs the Class Action Special Litigation Group of the Commercial Litigation Committee of the Defense Research Institute (DRI).

    Appeals 

    Mr. Ackerman also has a national appellate practice, mainly focused on insurance. He has been involved in more than 40 insurance-related appeals, including in the First, Second, Third, Fourth, Fifth, Eighth, and Eleventh Circuits, as well as in various state appellate and supreme courts, and the U.S. Supreme Court. Mr. Ackerman regularly represents national insurance industry associations as amici curiae in appellate and supreme courts. He has been involved, as either counsel for the insurer or for an amicus curiae, in many of the most significant insurance coverage-related appeals in the last ten years. He currently chairs the Appellate Section of the Federation of Defense and Corporate Counsel (FDCC) and contributes to the firm's Massachusetts Appellate Blog. He has also served on the pro bono panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. Mr. Ackerman takes pride in writing briefs that are succinct and compelling, and is often asked to serve as a "moot court" judge in appeals being handled by other attorneys.

    Insurance Coverage Litigation

    Mr. Ackerman also has extensive experience litigating and advising insurers on coverage issues. His coverage practice is national in scope. High-profile coverage cases he has litigated include In re Katrina Canal Breaches Litigation (flood exclusion issues arising from Hurricane Katrina), Valued Policy Law litigation in Louisiana and Florida, and TravCo Ins. Co. v. Ward (Chinese-made drywall).  

    Mr. Ackerman has been listed as a Second Circuit Litigation Star in Benchmark Appellate (2013) and is listed in Benchmark Litigation (2013-2016). He is listed as a Connecticut Super Lawyer in the area of Class Action for 2015 and 2016, and was listed as a Rising Star in Connecticut Super Lawyers® in 2013 and 2014 in the area of Class Actions and from 2009 to 2012 in the area of Insurance Coverage Law (Super Lawyers is a registered trademark of Key Professional Media, Inc.). 

  • Experience
    • Experience

      Experience

        Appellate

      • Successfully represented insurer in the Supreme Court of the United States (lead counsel on petition for certiorari and co-counsel on merits) in Standard Fire Insurance Company v. Knowles, 133 S. Ct. 1345 (2013) (invalidating stipulation by named plaintiff attempting to limit amount in controversy to below $5 million).

      • Successfully briefed and argued appeal in precedent-setting liability insurance case in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, establishing that insurer had no duty to defend where no lawsuit had been filed against the insured, that a demand letter under Mass. Gen. L. ch. 93A did not trigger a duty to defend, and that there was no duty to settle where the theory of liability against the insured was novel. Sanders v. Phoenix Ins. Co., __ F.3d __, 2016 U.S. App. LEXIS 21773 (1st Cir. Dec. 7, 2016). The decision was featured prominently in Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly.

      • Successfully litigated appeal in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in case involving whether insurer had duty to defend a university in a high-profile case involving an alleged international child kidnapping following the breakup of a same-sex civil union. The Fourth Circuit ruled in favor of our client, reversing the district court's decision finding a duty to defend. Liberty Univ., Inc. v. Citizens Ins. Co. of Am., 792 F.3d 520 (4th Cir. 2015).

      • Successfully obtained reversal by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit of a district court judgment finding that manufacturing defect exclusion in yacht insurance policy was ambiguous. The First Circuit panel, which included retired Supreme Court Justice David H. Souter, agreed with our client's position, and directed the district court to enter judgment in favor of our client. Ardente v. Standard Fire Ins. Co., 744 F.3d 815 (1st Cir. 2014).

      • Represented a major insurance industry association as amicus curiae in Sher v. Lafayette Ins. Co., 988 So. 2d 186 (La. 2008), in which the Louisiana Supreme Court reversed a state appellate court and ruled that the water damage exclusion used in most homeowners insurance policies was applicable to the flooding that occurred in New Orleans at the time of Hurricane Katrina, an issue with an estimated exposure to the insurance industry of more than $1 billion.

      • Class Actions

      • Successfully defended one of the world's largest insurers in a putative class action in the New York Supreme Court in Manhattan alleging that the insurer's subrogation practices violated New York law. The trial court granted our motion to dismiss, the Appellate Division, First Department affirmed, and the New York Court of Appeals denied review. Ehrlich v. American Int’l Group, Inc., 128 A.D.3d 587 (N.Y. App. Div. 1st Dep’t 2015).

      • Successfully represented insurer in a series of putative class actions in six different jurisdictions involving market conduct/claim handling practices. All were resolved either on a dispositive motion or by settlement of the class representative's individual claims. Successfully conducted a three-day evidentiary hearing on class certification in a Florida state court, which resulted in a decision denying class certification that was affirmed on appeal.

      • Successfully represented insurer in putative class action in the Northern District of Florida involving allegations that insurer overcharged for building ordinance and law coverage and failed to comply with a Florida statute. The district court granted our motion to dismiss, and the Eleventh Circuit affirmed. Allen v. USAA Cas. Ins. Co., 790 F.3d 1274 (2015).

      • Successfully represented insurer in Oklahoma federal court in putative class action alleging that insurer’s claim department practices and employment compensation practices for claim professionals caused underpayment of claims. After the court granted our motion to strike the class action allegations, the plaintiff agreed to voluntarily dismiss the case with prejudice.

      • Defended insurer in a case brought in the Central District of California in which the plaintiff sought to bring a class action involving two classes of allegedly aggrieved policyholders. The first class was allegedly deprived of payment of general contractor overhead and profit as a part of its damages. The second class was allegedly deprived of payment of sales tax as a part of its damages. After extensive discovery and motion practice, the class action allegations were voluntarily dismissed and the case was resolved on favorable terms.

      • Defended manufacturer in putative class actions involving alleged defects in consumer products in Connecticut and Illinois federal courts.

      • Served on the defendants' steering committee, taking a lead role in a putative class action filed by the Louisiana attorney general against over 200 insurers involving the Louisiana Road Home program established after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

      • Insurance Coverage Litigation

      • Represented an affiliate of a national insurance company in a declaratory judgment action seeking a declaration that there is no coverage under property insurance policies for the cost of replacing and remediating the effects of Chinese-made drywall. After oral argument before the federal district court for the Eastern District of Virginia, summary judgment was entered in favor of our client in the first federal court case in the country deciding coverage issues for Chinese drywall under homeowners policies. On appeal, the coverage issues were certified to the Virginia Supreme Court, which ruled unanimously in favor of our client's position.

      • Member of trial team for $100 million Hurricane Katrina commercial property case. First Hurricane Katrina case the client insurance company allowed before a New Orleans jury. Tried to verdict and settled on appeal for less than 2 percent of the claim.

      • Representation of insurers in complex insurance dispute in federal court, Eastern District of Louisiana, involving Hurricane Katrina property damage and business interruption claim for over $27 million and bad faith claims of over $100 million, where bad faith claims were dismissed based on summary judgment briefing and expert was precluded from testifying as to damages included in initial report based on motion in limine. The plaintiff voluntarily dismissed the case for the purpose of taking an appeal, and the district court's rulings were affirmed on appeal.

      • Represented commercial property insurers in several multimillion-dollar cases involving business interruption and property damage losses sustained due to the 9/11 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center. Successfully briefed Daubert motion to exclude testimony of insured's proposed damages expert (2005 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 4566) and motion for summary judgment on the "period of restoration" and consequential damages (2005 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 5389).

      • back to top
    • Professional Associations

      Professional Associations

      Federation of Defense and Corporate Counsel

      Connecticut Bar Association
      Insurance Law Section, Executive Committee

      Connecticut Bar Foundation
      James W. Cooper Fellow (2017)
    • Honors + Awards

      Honors + Awards

      Listed as a Local Litigation Star in Benchmark Litigation since 2015

      Listed as a Future Star in Benchmark Litigation for 2013 and 2014

      Listed as a Second Circuit Litigation Star in Connecticut in Benchmark Appellate, 2013

      AV® Preeminent™ Peer Review Rated in Martindale-Hubbell™ (Martindale-Hubbell Peer Review Ratings is a trademark. AV Preeminent is a certification mark of Reed Elsevier Properties, Inc.)

      Listed in Connecticut Super Lawyers® in the area of Class Action for 2015 and 2016 (Super Lawyers is a registered trademark of Key Professional Media, Inc.) 

      Listed as a Rising Star in Connecticut Super Lawyers® in the area of Class Action in 2013 and 2014 and Insurance Coverage Law from 2009 to 2012 (Super Lawyers is a registered trademark of Key Professional Media, Inc.)

      Connecticut Law Tribune, recognized in 2012 New Leaders in the Law Yearbook

  • NEWS + PRESS
    • Publications

      Publications

      "The Next Big Wave of Insurance Class Actions," published in Law360 (4/13/2015)
      • » more info

      "U.S. Supreme Court Addresses Requirements for Removal in Dart Cherokee Basin v. Owens," published in DRI Business Suit (1/30/2015)

      "Turning New Guns on Old Targets: Class Actions Against Insurance Companies," published in FDCC Quarterly (Fall 2014)

      "Strategies for Removal under the Class Action Fairness Act," published in Corporate Counsel (Spring 2014)

      "Class Action Fairness Act Interlocutory Appeals," published in In-House Defense Quarterly, a publication of the Defense Research Institute (Fall 2012)

      "Recent Developments in Insurance Class Actions," published in For the Defense, a publication of the Defense Research Institute (May 2012)

      "Class Actions Against Insurers? No Sure Thing," published in Connecticut Law Tribune (11/2011)

      "Does Daubert Apply at Class Certification? Eighth Circuit Tries to Find Middle Ground," published in The Business Suit, a publication of the Defense Research Institute (9/2011)

      "Defending Class Actions on Coverage Issues," published in For the Defense, a publication of the Defense Research Institute (5/2011)

      "The Supreme Court's 2011 Class Action Decisions: Their Impact on Insurance Class Actions," published in New Appleman on Insurance, article is forthcoming (2011)

      "Recent Developments and Anticipated Trends in Defending Products Liability Class Actions," published in Inside the Minds: Litigating Products Liability Class Actions, published by Aspatore Books/Thomson Reuters (2011)

      "Handling the Flood Coverage Litigation: Lessons Learned from Katrina," published in Coverage, co-authored with Seth A. Schmeeckle, a partner at Lugenbuhl, Wheaton, Peck, Rankin & Hubbard, an American Bar Association insurance litigation publication (May/June 2010)

      Chapter entitled "Property Insurance Under Homeowners' Policies: Structure, Recent Changes, and Emerging Issues," published in CAT Claims: Insurance Coverage for Natural and Man-Made Disasters, edited by Steven Plitt, Dennis J. Wall, and John K. DiMugno (2008), published by West

      "Property Insurance Litigation Arising from Hurricane Katrina: The Battle Moves to the Appellate Courts," published in Claims Quarterly, co-authored with Gregory P. Varga and Daniel F. Sullivan (December 2007)

      "The Connecticut Supreme Court on the Creation of a Constitutionally Distinct Judicial Department in the 1818 Constitution," published in Connecticut Supreme Court History (December 2007)

      "Does Vandalism Include Arson?" published in ABA Property Insurance Committee, Tort and Insurance Practice Section (Fall 2006)

      "Using Daubert Effectively in Business Interruption Cases," published in Committee News, a newsletter published by Property Insurance Law Committee of the American Bar Association's Tort, Trial and Insurance Practice Section (Fall 2005)

      "Precluding Defendants from Relitigating Sentencing Findings in Subsequent Civil Suits," published in Columbia Law Review, Note, 101 Colum. L. Rev. 128 (2001)
      • » more info

      "Recent Developments in Insurance Coverage" (Fall 2012), published in ABA Tort & Insurance Law Journal, Class Actions Section, co-author

    • Presentations

      Presentations

      "Insurance Law Developments," at the PCI Northeast General Counsel Seminar, sponsored by the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America (9/19/2017)
      • » more info

      "What’s All of This Insurance Good For?" at Corporate Counsel Symposium of Federation of Defense and Corporate Counsel, panel member (9/18/2014)

      "Supreme Court Practice," at Federation of Defense and Corporate Counsel Annual Meeting, co-presented with Meloney Perry and Joseph Babbington (7/31/2014)

      "21st Century Practice of Law," at Federation of Defense and Corporate Counsel Annual Meeting, panel membe (7/29/2014)

      "Judicial Management: New York and New Jersey," at HarrisMartin Superstorm Sandy Insurance Coverage Litigation Conference, panel moderator (5/9/2014)

      "First Party Property Insurance," at Connecticut Bar Association CLE Program (1/23/2014)

      "The Class Action Fairness Act and Federal Jurisdiction," at CLE International Class Action Seminar, panel member (10/4/2013)

      "Turning New Guns on Old Targets: Class Actions Against Insurance Companies," at Federation of Defense and Corporate Counsel Annual Meeting, panel member (8/2/2013)

      "Causation: How to Determine What Caused a Property Loss," at Thomson Reuters Webinar, co-presented with Jay M. Levin (7/16/2013)

      "Flood vs. Wind: Coverage Issues Following Superstorm Sandy," at HarrisMartin Superstorm Sandy Insurance Coverage Litigation Conference, panel member (6/26/2013)

      "Class Action Settlement Structures," at Federation of Defense and Corporate Counsel Winter Meeting, co-presented with Christopher DePhillips, Tiffaney Janowicz, and Joel Fineberg (3/6/2013)

      "Class Actions and Bundled Coverage Actions," at HarrisMartin Litigation Conference on Storm Sandy, co-presented with Seth A. Schmeeckle and Richard L. Fenton (2/26/2013)

      "Superstorm Sandy: Causes of Loss — Key Issues," at HB Litigation Conference, New York, NY, co-presented with Jan Larson (12/12/2012)

      "Class Actions on Insurance Coverage Issues," at American Bar Association's Litigation Section, Insurance Coverage Litigation Committee, CLE Seminar, co-presented with Raoul Cantero, Jeff Leon, and Barbara Frederick (3/2/2012)

      "The Supreme Court's 2011 Class Action Decisions: How Will They Impact the Insurance Industry," presented to insurance industry association (7/2011)

      "Business Interruption Claims Arising out of the Earthquake and Tsunami in Japan," presented to an insurance industry association (4/2011)

      "Insurance Coverage Class Actions," at American Bar Association's Tort Trial and Insurance Practice Section, Insurance Coverage Litigation Committee Midyear Meeting (2/2011)

      "Business Interruption Insurance," at Connecticut Bar Association, Insurance Section meeting (1/2010)

      "Property Coverage Legal Update: Hurricane Katrina Litigation," at New England Claims Executives Association, co-presented with Gregory P. Varga (2/12/2008)

      "Recent Changes and Emerging Issues in Homeowners' Insurance Policy Forms," at Annual CLE Program of the Property Insurance Law Committee of the American Bar Association's Tort Trial & Insurance Practice Section (4/2006)

    • News

      R+C in the News

      • September 28, 2017

        Wystan Ackerman Serves on Panel for the Northeast General Counsel Seminar

        • » more info
      • March 7, 2017

        Five Robinson+Cole Lawyers Selected as James W. Cooper Fellows of the Connecticut Bar Foundation

        • » more info
      • March 15, 2016

        Robinson+Cole Lawyers Recognized in JD Supra’s 2016 Readers Choice Awards

        • » more info
      • April 17, 2015

        Wystan Ackerman Addresses Insurance Class Actions in Law360 Article

        • » more info
      • May 14, 2014

        Robinson+Cole's Appellate Group Wins Connecticut Law Tribune's Litigation Department of the Year Award

        • » more info
      • January 2, 2014

        Robinson+Cole's Business Litigation Group Receives Top Ranking in Benchmark Litigation 2014

        • » more info
      • March 21, 2013

        U.S. Supreme Court Decision in Standard Fire Insurance Company v. Knowles, A Class Action Fairness Act Case

        • » more info
      • February 12, 2013

        Robinson & Cole’s Appellate Group Receives Top Rankings in National Publication

        • » more info
      • December 10, 2012

        Wystan Ackerman, Ed Heath, and Jeff White are New Leaders in the Law

        • » more info
      • June 28, 2012

        Wystan Ackerman Analyzes Georgia Supreme Court Ruling in Law360 Story

        • » more info
      • December 29, 2011

        Wystan Ackerman Authors Book Chapter on Defending Products Liability Class Actions

        • » more info
      • December 14, 2011

        “Insurance Class Actions Insider” Recognized as a Top Blawg

        • » more info
      • September 1, 2011

        In Wake of Hurricane Irene: Five Tips for Insurance Carriers

        • » more info
      • May 9, 2011

        Insurance Class Actions Blog Analyzes Impact of Recent Supreme Court Cases

        • » more info
      • March 3, 2011

        Robinson & Cole Amicus Brief Analyzes Controversial Loss of Consortium Claim

        • » more info
      • June 8, 2010

        Robinson & Cole Attorney Coauthors Article Published in American Bar Association Insurance Litigation Publication Coverage

        • » more info
      • April 6, 2010

        Robinson & Cole Attorney Quoted in Hartford Business Journal on Recently Announced Southern Connecticut Bancorp, Inc. Merger

        • » more info
      • January 21, 2010

        Robinson & Cole Partner Participates as Panelist During Connecticut Bar Association Program on Business Interruption

        • » more info
      • November 12, 2008

        Robinson & Cole Announces New Partners

        • » more info

      R+C News Releases

      • October 17, 2017

        Robinson+Cole Lawyers Recognized by Super Lawyers®

        • » more info
        • View article
      • September 29, 2017

        Robinson+Cole Recognized by Benchmark Litigation

      • October 18, 2016

        Robinson+Cole Lawyers Recognized by Super Lawyers®

        • » more info
        • View article
      • November 3, 2015

        Robinson+Cole Recognized in Benchmark Litigation 2016

        • » more info
        • View article
      • October 19, 2015

        Robinson+Cole Lawyers Recognized by Super Lawyers®

        • » more info
        • View article
      • October 30, 2014

        Robinson+Cole Recognized by Benchmark Litigation

      • October 17, 2014

        Robinson+Cole Lawyers Recognized by Super Lawyers

        • » more info
        • View article
      • October 22, 2012

        Super Lawyers® Names 49 Robinson & Cole Attorneys to 2012 List and Recognizes 26 as Rising Stars

        • » more info
        • View article