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Defending claims related to COVID-19 is far from Rhonda Tobin’s first experience with millions of dollars’ worth of losses.
Ms. Tobin, who has spent all three decades of her law career with Robinson & Cole LLP, represented a large commercial property insurer in several multimillion-dollar cases involving business interruption and property damage losses in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
Now it’s litigation stemming from the pandemic, where she finds herself defending insurance clients against the wave of business interruption claims related to government-mandated lockdowns.
“Given the amount that is at stake, virtually every business has been affected,” she said.
While the arguments often are similar — policyholders say the virus caused direct physical loss under the terms of business interruption policies, while insurers contend the virus hasn’t created such losses — no day is ever the same, Ms. Tobin said. It’s what attracted her to the business of litigating insurance claims.
“It’s what excites me. Just when you think you’ve seen it all, some new risk comes along,” she said.
“No two cases are the same, no two catastrophes are the same, and no two exposures are the same,” said Ms. Tobin, who has also been involved in “me too” litigation.
That she’s an attorney who likes the courtroom is another plus when it comes to insurance law, she said. Upon graduating from Duke University School of Law she announced to her classmates she was heading to a firm in Hartford, Connecticut, for her first job. “They said, ‘Oh, you are going to Hartford? You are going to do insurance law,’” which she admits didn’t sound glamorous.
“And it took about a week to be an insurance lawyer at the firm,” she said, adding that her internships whet her appetite for litigation. “The people who went to court all the time were the insurance lawyers. … I just wanted to go to court.”
Stephen Goldman, managing partner at Robinson & Cole, has worked closely as co-counsel with Ms. Tobin on numerous cases. “She is a great lawyer and a great leader,” he said.