Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Professor Jeffrey Stempel Wins Liberty Mutual Prize

In February 2010, Professor Jeffrey Stempel was named the winner of the Liberty Mutual Prize. The prize is awarded annually for an exceptional article on the law of property and casualty insurance, its regulation and corporate governance.

Entries are judged by a panel consisting of judges, attorneys, and professors having particular expertise in the insurance law field, who evaluate submissions on the basis of quality of analysis, originality, thoroughness of research, creativity, and clarity of thought and expression. Professor Stempel’s article, "The Insurance Contract as a Social Instrument and Social Institution," was "the clear and unanimous choice of the panel," according to the notification of the award.

The article will be published in 2010 by the William & Mary Law Review. In addition, Professor Stempel has been invited to formally present the article this fall at Boston College Law School.

According to Dean John Valery White of the Boyd School of Law, "This is a significant honor for Jeff and, by association, for the law school. While we all know Jeff's work is great, it is nice to see a confirmation of our assessment by others.”

Professor Stempel’s article suggests that insurance policies are not merely contracts but also are designed to perform particular risk management, deterrence, and compensation functions important to economic and social ordering. This fact, he writes, "has significant implications regarding the manner in which insurance policies are construed in coverage disputes." Specifically, traditional contract analysis should be supplemented by appreciation of the particular function of the policy in dispute as part of the insurance product's larger role as a social and economic instrument or institution.

The article examines in detail the frequently litigated issue of how many "occurrences" have taken place within the meaning of liability instance. It also considers issues of "business risk," "accidental" events, liquor liability exclusions, claims for inherent diminished value of vehicles involved in automobile collisions, trigger of coverage, and the workers' compensation implications of post-injury suicide.

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