Firm News

News about our firm and from around the Subrogation World

PIPE FREEZE SEASON! Subrogation Targets, Tips & Checklist

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Once again, forecasts in the Midwest are calling for plunging temperatures that frequently result in pipe freeze claims.

Located in frigid Ohio, RMI has years of subrogation experience on freeze failures and helping insurers recover on losses occurring during what our firm refers to as “pipe freeze season.”

Our property division includes counsel who have years of experience in freeze failures, one with an engineering degree and concentration in fluid dynamics.  A support staff member also is an engineering graduate.

The last 2021 and 2022 winter seasons saw RMI recover $1,260,000.00 on freeze claims, and we are again prepared to help insurers weather the predicted storms.  Freeze failures involve complex issues. RMI has a proven track record of immediate response, engaging the proper experts in cold weather related losses and recoveries. Freeze failures encompass sprinkler system installation, maintenance by service companies, construction errors, and faulty plumbing standards set forth in NFPA 13 (Standard for Installation of Sprinkler Systems), and NFPA 25 – Inspection Testing and Maintenance of Fire Protection Systems.

Subrogation Checklist & Tips:

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RMI ADDS NEW SHAREHOLDERS AMANDA MARTANOVIC AND DUSTIN SMITH IN THE NEW YEAR!

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Attorneys Amanda Martanovic and Dustin Smith have been named as new shareholders at Roberts, Matejczyk & Ita (RMI).  

 “Our firm and clients have been well served over the past years by Amanda and Dustin’s diligent work ethic, knowledge of the law and commitment to excellence. The promotion to shareholders is a well-deserved step in their careers and marks an exciting development in RMI’s continued growth in the insurance subrogation field,” noted RMI managing shareholder Glenna Roberts.

Attorney Amanda Martanovic

Attorney Amanda Martanovic has led the auto subrogation division at RMI for the past several years.  

 In addition to managing a team of experienced counsel and legal assistants, Amanda has litigated cases in every county in Ohio. Throughout the years, Amanda has successfully litigated various types of subrogation claims with a focus on automobile cases. Her cases have involved complex issues that relate to underinsured and uninsured motorist claims, medical payments, parental liability, rental/loaner car liability, trucking, and coverage disputes.

Amanda has been recognized nationally in the subrogation industry. For the past four years, the National Association of Subrogation Professionals (NASP) selected Amanda as an Automobile Track Leader for the association’s national conference. In that capacity, she oversaw the annual conference auto subrogation sessions and assisted with program curriculum. Amanda has also been a past presenter on automobile subrogation topics at the annual conference. She holds a CSRP designation from NASP, awarded to industry professionals who have met stringent academic and experience requirements followed by passing a comprehensive examination of subrogation topics.

Amanda obtained her undergraduate degree in Political Science and History from Miami University. She obtained her J.D. from Cleveland State University, Cleveland-Marshall College of Law in 2014. Prior to joining RMI, Amanda interned in the City of Cleveland’s Law Department assisting with various cases including property damage claims.

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ENTERING THE HOME STRETCH, 2022 PROPERTY SETTLEMENTS UPDATE:

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FIRE, WATER AND COLLAPSE CASES WITH IMMEDIATE SITE VISITS LEAD TO LARGE LOSS 2022 RECOVERIES

 

As RMI’s property division enters the 2022 home stretch, the firm has resolved by settlement a series of large loss recoveries on fire, explosion, water loss and collapse cases. Taken together the recoveries have resulted in millions of dollars in recoveries for clients.

The property division of RMI not only contains seasoned and respected subrogation counsel, but two members of the property division, including counsel and a recent addition to the support staff, are engineering graduates of the Ohio State University. 2022 highlights to date:

2022 Explosion Recoveries

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RMI’S AMANDA MARTANOVIC TO SERVE AS AUTO TRACK LEADER AT NASP NATIONAL CONFERENCE IN FLORIDA

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The National Association of Subrogation Professionals will hold their 2022 Annual Conference, “Come to the Island” from November 6 through November 9, 2022, at Marco Island in Florida.

Industry professionals will be presenting informative and timely topics in the Auto, Property, Product Liability, Health, and Workers Compensation areas of subrogation. 

RMI Attorney Amanda Martanovic was again chosen to be a track leader for the Auto Track portion of the conference, representing her fourth straight year to do so.  In that capacity, Amanda has helped coordinate a thorough and informative curriculum on automobile subrogation.

Amanda leads the auto subrogation division at RMI.  In addition to overseeing a team of experienced counsel, legal assistants and collectors, Amanda has litigated automobile cases in every Ohio county.   

Amanda holds an NASP Certified Subrogation Recovery Professional (CSRP) designation. The designation is awarded to subrogation industry professionals who have met stringent academic and experience requirements, followed by passing a comprehensive examination of multiple subrogation topics.

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ATTORNEY JASON PICKELL JOINS RMI - Licensed in both Ohio and Indiana

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RMI is pleased to announce that Jason Pickell has joined the firm. Attorney Pickell, licensed in both Ohio and Indiana, is the sixth attorney to join the firm’s dedicated subrogation practice.

 “Jason is a natural fit for RMI, with a background in subrogation and experience working at an insurer. It is an added benefit given his licensing in two states,” noted RMI managing partner Glenna Roberts.

“He has excellent communication skills, and our firm has been impressed with the rapport he establishes with our client’s insureds in obtaining initial information on a loss, and explaining the subrogation process,” noted Roberts.

 Jason hit the ground running at RMI working property files in both Indiana and Ohio. He has attended multiple scene exams with RMI attorneys since joining the firm. He also has past experience working automobile subrogation assignments at an Indiana law firm. At RMI, Jason will be working both property and automobile assignments.

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Webinar: Propane Explosions: Investigation, Failure Modes, Scene Exam and Litigation Essentials

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UPCOMING WEBINAR:

     RMI Partner David Matejczyk and Jerry Tindal, M.S.M.E., P.E., C.F.E.I. of SAFE Laboratories and Engineering, in conjunction with the National Association of Subrogation Professionals (NASP) and the International Association of Arson Investigators (IAAI) will be presenting a joint webinar on propane explosions on June 14, 2022 at 2:00 pm. 

     Investigating and subrogating propane explosions differs in many respects from other gas explosions. Subrogation fact patterns on propane supplied by a piping system, to losses involving portable cylinders will be explored.

     Participants will learn about propane caused losses as they relate to NFPA 54, NFPA 58, federal regulations and industry standards; and how deviations can result in subrogation opportunities. The webinar will include a protocol for propane explosion scene examinations, including essential on site testing. 
A checklist for adjusters and counsel, legal theories of liability and common defenses will be presented. Finally, participants will be provided with sample discovery materials that are essential in a propane related loss. 
 
     RMI’s David Matejczyk has extensive experience litigating propane explosions involving propane transfer, use, piping and portable cylinders. During his career David has obtained seven and six digit recoveries on liquefied petroleum gas (propane) explosions.  Jerry Tindal, MSME, PE, CFEI of Safe Labs, Inc is a well-known expert in the area of propane related explosions. Appointed by the Governor of South Carolina to the states’ Liquefied Petroleum Gas Board, he has investigated propane explosions throughout the country during a career that has spanned over two decades.   

 

     Registration is available at the NASP website (subrogation.org).

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SUBROGATING PIPE FREEZE & SPRINKLER SYSTEM FAILURES $1,260,000 in Recent Sprinkler & Freeze Settlements

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Once again, the Midwest is gripped with plummeting temperatures and resulting claims from pipe freeze losses.  

RMI recently recovered $1,260,000.00 on multiple pipe freeze and sprinkler system failures. On these recoveries RMI and a qualified expert were engaged immediately after the losses.  

The recoveries encompassed sprinkler system maintenance and inspection, construction errors, and faulty plumbing workmanship. The sprinkler failure cases involved complex issues as to the standards set forth in NFPA 13 (Standard for Installation of Sprinkler Systems), NFPA 25 – (Inspection Testing and Maintenance of Water-Based Fire Protection Systems), and construction errors.

Plumbing failures occur when water in a system freezes. Water expands when it changes from liquid to solid, and if there are not sufficient air pockets a pipe break will ensue. Often the failure is not evident until a thaw or warming in temperature, sometimes two to three days after the bitter cold spell ends. The resulting escape of water can be catastrophic.  

Adjuster Checklist / Subrogation Tips:

Subrogating the pipe freeze failure loss is unique from other losses. A primary challenge is that mitigation efforts usually begin immediately to avoid further damages. Often the subrogation target is also an entity the insured calls as part of remediation. Some tips:

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News from RMI...Settlements on all Subro Fronts!

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The first half of 2021 at RMI was highlighted by significant settlements in our property division; continued success, settlements and expansion of our auto division; and a host of recoveries in the RMI health care/workers compensation division.

On the property side, RMI’s time tested formula of immediate scene exams at loss sites continued to yield results in the first half of 2021.  Product liability settlements in the first two quarters involved dehumidifiers, dryers, dishwashers, gas and water hoses and related connections.  Significant six digit settlements were reached in claims involving explosions, electrical fires, and structure collapse cases.  A trend noticed during Covid 19 showed an uptick in rental property cooking fires, and several early resolutions occurred on those losses. 

This past month, RMI partner David Matejczyk and Brian Churchwell of Churchwell Fire Consultants provided a webinar in conjunction with NASP and the IAAI on fires and explosions involving death and serious injuries.    

RMI’s auto division continues to grow, aided by an upgrade in collection software and additional legal assistants joining the firm. The auto division has litigated and recovered on complicated legal issues involving out-of-state policies, under-insured and coverage matters.  On the subrogation auto industry side, RMI’s Amanda Martanovic has again been selected as the Auto Subrogation Track leader for the 2021 National Association of Subrogation Professional’s upcoming 2021 Annual Conference.

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OHIO LEGAL ALERT - Ohio Civil Rule Amendments on Discovery and their Impact on Subrogation

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The Ohio Supreme Court this summer modified its Rules of Civil Procedure as it relates to discovery practice. Ohio Civil Rule 26 was overhauled to more closely track the federal rule, with some special nuances, and requires more uniformity among the 88 counties and their courts.

Although many of the local rule requirements remain in effect, here are some changes now applicable state wide to all cases filed in Ohio:

Initial Disclosures and Discovery Plan. The new rules impose on the parties the affirmative duty to make “initial disclosures” quickly, no later than the first pretrial or case management conference. Unless privileged or protected from disclosure, the requirement is to disclose without a discovery request the following:

The name and, if known, the address and telephone number of each individual likely to have discoverable information – along with the subjects of that information – that the disclosing party may use to support its claims or defenses.

A copy of all documents, electronically stored information, and tangible things that the disclosing party has in its possession, custody, or control and may use to support its claims or defenses.

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$614,974.00 Recovered on Three Consecutive Spontaneous Combustion Fires - Same Product and Fact Patterns!

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During the last five months, RMI recovered $614,974.00 on three spontaneous combustion fires, each in a different part of Ohio, but all involving the same product and fact patterns.

All three fires were initially believed to be related to other causes, but later determined to be the result of improper use of staining products.

Two of the losses were during the final phase of construction projects.  All three cases involved Minwax brand staining products.  In all instances the manufacturer’s warning and instructions as to proper use and rag disposal were not followed.

The first recovery involved a $204,974.00 settlement in eastern Ohio (Trumbull County) involving an extensive office remodeling project.  The settlement was close to the total recoverable loss.  Initially, the fire was believed to be related to an electric heater in the origin area.  A review of burn patterns, systematic ruling out of an electrical failure, and the evidence of staining being accomplished in another area of the building shifted the focus.

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RMI Presentations on Product Liability at NASP “Virtual” Spring Conference

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Product liability was the theme of this past month’s National Association of Subrogation Professionals Spring Conference. The conference, originally scheduled to take place in Nashville, Tennessee, was converted to a virtual conference.

RMI Attorney Dustin Smith, along with Mike Jacob, PE of Veritas Engineering presented a program on Cost-Effective Investigations of Product Liability Claims Involving Plumbing Products and Appliances.

RMI Attorney David Matejczyk, along with defense Attorney Tracy Knox of Barnes & Thornburg presented a program titled “Chess Match...What are They Thinking? Plaintiff and Defense Perspective on the Product Liability Loss.”

Product Liability Claims Involving Plumbing Products and Appliances

The presentation by Dustin Smith and Mike Jacob reviewed common water-based product failures in both the residential and commercial context. The presentation examined current trends and failure modes in brass fittings, polybutylene and cross-linked polyethylene hoses and other plumbing products.

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RMI $651,335.00 SUBRO VERDICT UPHELD BY OHIO APPELLATE COURT

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March 16, 2020

In a unanimous decision, the Ohio 10th Appellate District has upheld a $651,335.00 jury verdict in favor of a subrogated insurer and its insured. The case, COMTEX, et al. v. Turner / PSC Metals was tried in the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas, and argued in the appellate court by RMI Attorneys Glenna Roberts and Dustin Smith.

The February 20, 2020 ruling upheld a verdict that had been challenged in post-trial motions and then on appeal since the verdict was rendered back in 2017. The original verdict after a four day trial involved a commercial subrogation claim asserting a large nationwide metal recycling corporation had wrongfully converted product belonging to the insured.

The appellate court ruled that the trial judge properly decided a duty to mitigate instruction was inapplicable under the facts of the case. The opinion noted “the duty to mitigate arises only where the injured party has knowledge that it has sustained damages.” The court also held that under Ohio law, contributory fault is not available as an affirmative defense in a conversion case. The appellate court further ruled the trial court did not err in denying the defense motions for judgment notwithstanding the verdict and for a new trial.

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RMI COUNSEL GUEST PRESENTERS AT OHIO IAAI CONFERENCE ON PUBLIC & PRIVATE COORDINATION OF FIRE INVESTIGATIONS

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Event attended by over 300 Ohio fire fighters, public investigators, members of the State Fire Marshal’s Office and private investigators.

RMI Attorneys Glenna Roberts and David Matejczyk were honored to be guest presenters at the IAAI Northern Ohio Chapter Annual Seminar on fire investigations held on February 23 at Ashland University.

The RMI portion of the seminar addressed coordination issues involved between public and private investigations. Topics covered included control and transfer of the scene from the public investigator, safety considerations, overhaul as it impacts cause and origin determination, sharing of information and resources, forensic exams and fire causation trends in Ohio. The program included excellent discussion, interaction and sharing of ideas among the attendees.

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EXPANSIONS AND SETTLEMENTS AT RMI!


Fall News from RMI... Indiana Property Loss Expansion Property Settlements Auto Settlements & Personnel Expansion    NASP Auto Track Leader Health Care Settlements Live Burn a Success!  The past months at RMI were highlighted by expansion of the firm's property practice into Indiana, significant settlements, and new personnel in ...
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BURN IT - TO LEARN IT! Insurance Adjuster/Subrogation LIVE BURN Seminar - June 7, 2019 in Hilliard, Ohio

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INVITATION...

RMI is pleased to have been asked to again participate and co-sponsor the 2019 information packed fire investigation and insurance adjuster/subrogation LIVE BURN seminar “Burn it – to Learn it!”

The live burn is being held Friday, June 7, 2019, 9:30 am at the Norwich Township Fire Department, 5181 Northwest Parkway in Hilliard, Ohio.

Your company's adjusters, subrogation units, managers and in-house counsel are invited to attend "Burn it – to Learn it!" Please feel free to forward this to others in your organization who might desire to attend.

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Subrogation Fires & Explosions Involving Death or Serious Injury / RMI Co-Presenter at NASP Litigation Skills Conference in Palm Springs

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RMI Partner David Matejczyk along with Brian Churchwell, PE, CFEI, CFI of Churchwell Fire Consultants were co-presenters on the topic of Subrogation Fires and Explosions Involving Death or Serious Injury at this past month's NASP Litigation Skills Conference held in Palm Springs, California.  During their respective careers, both presenters have been involved in numerous fire and explosion investigations with a death or serious injury component.

The program explored the complex ethical and legal issues to the investigator, subrogation unit and counsel.  Topics addressed during the program included investigator contacts and coordination with government officials; transfer of scene from public investigator to insurer; heightened evidence preservation; proper interview timing of injured insured or surviving family members; establishing a family contact and unrepresented insureds.

The program included the special nuances of NFPA 921 - Chapter 25, Death and Injuries.  Also addressed were issues involving cooperation and  coordination with the insured’s counsel; legal and ethical duties involving the injured or deceased insured; estate issues; pros and cons of intervention, coordinated or separate filing of the subrogation case and the insured’s personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit. 

 

The presentation also included active participation and input from insurers, attorneys and experts from across the country involved with this serious and important topic.  

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RMI DEHUMIDIFIER FIRE SETTLEMENTS $462,000 Aggregate in Recent Settlements

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RMI recently resolved three dehumidifier fires with an aggregate recovery of $462,000.00 in settlements. The losses involved fires in southern, central and western Ohio.

Although the losses involved two different foreign manufacturers, all involved the same failure mode. In all three fires the dehumidifiers overheated, ignited combustible materials within the product with fire then extending to adjacent combustibles.

More specifically as to the product defect, each case involved an internal failure of the thermal protection device in the dehumidifier.

Dehumidifiers have been the subject of wide recalls in the United States. However, the Ohio Rules of Evidence do not permit the introduction of a recall into evidence to prove liability. An additional challenge is that the manufacturers involved are foreign corporations.

On all three losses RMI was involved in the early stages. The firm ensured that the proper entities (including the US supplier and seller) were on notice, scene preserved, that an NFPA compliant joint scene exam was held followed by a forensic lab examination to identity the failure mode.

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RMI AWARDS & PRESENTATIONS AT NASP 20th ANNUAL CONFERENCE

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This past month the National Association of Subrogation Professionals (NASP) held its 20th annual conference in Orlando, Florida. RMI has been involved in NASP since its inception and was proud to be part of the 20 year celebration of subrogation professionals. Attorneys from our property and auto divisions were also presenters at the conference.

At the Sunday night reception, NASP President Kevin DeGarmo presented RMI partners Glenna Roberts and David Matejczyk with 20 year perfect attendance awards.  Dave was the conference chair at the inaugural (and two subsequent) NASP Annual Conferences. Both are past board members of the organization.

The following morning, RMI Attorney Amanda Martanovic received her Certified Subrogation Recovery Professional (CSRP) designation.  Amanda oversees the automobile subrogation division at RMI. Amanda was also a co-presenter in the automobile track at the conference. The session “Let’s Play Categories: Dealing with Challenging Insureds” explored multiple issues involving auto subrogation.

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AMANDA MARTANOVIC RECEIVES SUBROGATION CSRP DESIGNATION

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RMI Attorney Amanda Martanovic received her Certified Subrogation Recovery Professional (CSRP) designation at the National Association of Subrogation Professionals (NASP) Annual Conference held this month in Orlando, Florida.

Attorney Martanovic oversees the automobile subrogation division at RMI.

The CSRP designation is a significant accomplishment in the subrogation field. The designation is awarded to industry professionals who have met stringent academic and experience requirements followed by passing a comprehensive examination of multiple subrogation topics.

The first step of the designation requires five years experience in the area of insurance subrogation.

Amanda first started her career in subrogation while clerking at RMI. Upon graduation, Amanda was a natural fit at the firm. She began litigating cases for insurers throughout the state of Ohio. In 2018, Amanda was named manager of the automobile subrogation division at the firm. In that role she continues to litigate cases throughout the state in addition to overseeing a team of paralegals in RMI’s auto recovery unit.

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RMI SETTLES $550,000.00 GAS EXPLOSION CASE: Second large loss gas explosion settlement in back to back months

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RMI in back to back months has recovered by way of settlement two significant six digit gas explosion cases.

This past month the firm settled a natural gas explosion that destroyed an insured’s commercial building in Columbus, Ohio. The previous month RMI resolved a residential explosion that completely destroyed a home. On both losses, the firm was retained within twenty-four hours after the explosions.

The $550,000.00 commercial building settlement was very close to the calculated actual cash value of the loss.

Despite being on site immediately, there was “catch up” involved as the gas company had already commenced return to service repairs.

The loss involved a main gas line servicing several city blocks. Luckily, an evacuation of the insured’s building occurred minutes prior to the blast that rocked the downtown area. The blast destroyed the insured’s building and displaced multiple commercial tenants.

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