Cozen O’Connor: Handler, Michael D.

Michael D. Handler

Member

Seattle

(206) 808-7839

(206) 621-8783

Michael D. Handler has more than 18 years of legal experience litigating matters involving contractual and extracontractual claims and advising insurers regarding some of their most challenging and interesting matters across the country. 

Michael has extensive experience in addressing and resolving controversies for his global insurance company clients. He has briefed and argued many complex insurance coverage cases, often litigating issues of regional and national importance. He has addressed a wide variety of insurance scenarios, most commonly involving class actions and significant injury actions arising from alleged product defects, construction defects and accidents, employee conduct within and outside the scope of employment, environmental remediation and specialized pollution insurance products, life, health and disability claims, professional liability and professional services, and alleged bad faith insurance claims-handling.

Michael was elected to co-chair, then to chair the Northwest Insurance Coverage Association, a business league of insurance claims professionals and attorneys based in Seattle. His term as chair concluded in 2009.

In 2013, Michael co-authored the latest edition of the Washington State Bar Association's chapter publication “Insurance Issues for the Insurer,” which comprehensively addresses the "state of the law" in environmental insurance coverage matters. Thomas M. Jones & Michael D. Handler, “Insurance Issues for the Insurer” in Washington Real Property Deskbook Series: Vol. 7 Environmental Regulation (Wash. St. Bar Assoc. 4th ed. 2013). He also gave a series of presentations on important recent developments regarding extracontractual claims in Oregon, Washington and other jurisdictions around the country.

Michael has an undergraduate degree from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, and he obtained his law degree from Boston University School of Law in 1993.

In his spare time, Michael is an accomplished singer of jazz and popular standards.  He has most recently been performing with the BlueStreet Jazz Voices, at venues around the Seattle area.

Experience

News

Michael Handler Discusses the AvMed Breach and Rare Settlement in SC Magazine

March 27, 2014

In an article titled “AvMed breach settlement awards plaintiffs regardless of suffered fraud,” Michael Handler (Global Insurance, Seattle) discusses the class action suit against a breached health care insurance provider, which has ended in a rare settlement awarding plaintiffs, regardless of proven fraud.

Cozen O’Connor’s Michael D. Handler And Diane Finafrock Named to Leadership of NICA

March 27, 2008

Cozen O’Connor’s Michael D. Handler And Diane Finafrock Named to Leadership of NICA

Publications

Reimbursement to Insurer for Defense of Non-covered Claims [Professional Liability Defense Quarterly]

October 08, 2018

Michael Handler, a member in the firm's Global Insurance Department, authored "Reimbursement to Insurer for Defense of Non-covered Claims" for the Professional Liability Defense Quarterly.

Individual Claim Adjuster Is Subject To Bad Faith and Consumer Protection Lawsuit [Global Insurance Alert]

April 03, 2018

Michael D. Handler and Jordan A. Hess discuss the Washington Court of Appeals reversal of a trial court’s dismissal of the bad faith claim against a claims adjuster, holding that individual insurance adjusters could be liable for violating the CPA if they caused financial injury by engaging in unfair or deceptive acts or practices that impact the public interest.

Three Western Courts Hold Carbon Monoxide Is a Pollutant but Washington Makes New Anti-Insurer Rules

May 02, 2017

Michael D. Handler and Thomas M. Jones discuss three recent rulings that are consistent with the trend of courts around the country concluding carbon monoxide is a pollutant under a liability insurance policy.

Setting Priorities [Best's Review]

March 01, 2017

Michael Handler of the Global Insurance Department discusses the state of insurance for present-day data breach claims in Best's Review.

Alert! -- Washington Supreme Court Limits “Insurance Fair Conduct Act” [Avoiding Insurance Bad Faith Blog]

February 07, 2017

Earlier this month, the Washington Supreme Court strictly limited Washington’s “Insurance Fair Conduct Act” (IFCA) private cause of action. Enacted in 2007, IFCA provides for uncapped triple-damages awards, and mandates attorney fee awards.  However, the statute’s enabling provisions restrict IFCA...

Washington Supreme Court Limits “Insurance Fair Conduct Act” — Three Things Insurers Must Know [Global Insurance Alert]

February 03, 2017

Michael D. Handler discusses yesterday's Washington Supreme Court decision interpreting the state’s 2007 IFCA — the decade-old legislation that created a new statutory cause of action against an insurer, prescribing penalties for violating any one of 37 regulations set forth in the WAC.

WHOSE SETTLEMENT IS IT, ANYWAY? NEGOTIATING CONSISTENT WITH AN INSURER’S STRONG COVERAGE DEFENSES [Avoiding Insurance Bad Faith Blog]

December 21, 2016

This author suggested, in an earlier May 2016 Bad Faith blog article, that an insurer can measure on a “strength scale” its insurance coverage defenses while it defends its insured against underlying claims and lawsuits under a reservation of rights. The “strength scale” of coverage defenses,...

Should You Withdraw The Reservation of Rights To Avoid Entry of a Consent Judgment? [Avoiding Insurance Bad Faith Blog]

June 01, 2016

An insurer that defends its insured against a third party’s lawsuit, while reserving rights to deny coverage to its insured for any judgment, may face a decision point when underlying settlement discussions become ripe to resolve the case.  In some states, the insurer must decide whether to stand on...

Will Discovery Unlock Your Claim File? Federal or State Court Jurisdiction Could Make The Difference [Avoiding Insurance Bad Faith Blog]

May 20, 2016

Differences between federal court and state court procedure can be important for insurers that find themselves involved in “bad faith” litigation.  If a lawsuit alleging extracontractual claims is filed in federal court, or if it is removable to the federal court’s jurisdiction, the parties’...

Connecticut Supreme Court Likely To Affirm Personal Injury Coverage For Data Breach Requires Actual Publication To Third Parties [Cyber Law Monitor Blog]

April 30, 2015

The Connecticut Supreme Court heard oral arguments Monday April 27th on an appeal testing the scope of coverage afforded for a business’s data loss or theft events under its Commercial General Liability insurance’s “Personal Injury” coverages.   Based on the Justices’ comments and questions posed...

Rescission: How to Remain in Good Faith When Investigating Voiding the Insurance Policy [Litigation Management Magazine]

September 15, 2014

Michael D. Handler of the Global Insurance Department in the Seattle office, writes an article for Litigation Management Magazine on rescission of insurance policies. “The path through rescission of an insurance policy is fraught with perils, even for insurers that attempt to proceed in the utmost good faith,” writes Handler.

No Duty to Defend in Sony’s Cyberattack Suits [Cyber Law Monitor Blog]

April 01, 2014

A recent decision by a New York state trial court judge has the potential to spark an enormous expansion of the data breach coverage marketplace. Until now, many policyholders have been reluctant to buy additional insurance under the assumption that data breach losses would be covered under existing...

PlayStation Problems: No Defense in Sony’s Cyberattack Suits [Global Insurance Alert]

March 13, 2014

On February 21, 2014, a New York state trial court judge ruled that Zurich American Insurance Company has no duty to defend the Sony Corporation in lawsuits relating to a 2011 cyberattack on its PlayStation network. This decision is among the first in the country to address coverage issues for large scale data security breaches. Judge Jeffrey Oing rendered an immediate decision after hearing oral argument, recognizing the issue’s importance and the likelihood of an appeal.

State by State Rescission Standards--Select Jurisdictions

December 16, 2013

Summary of state by state rescission standards for select jurisdictions.

Maximus Opinion Permits Functional Exhaustion of Underlying Insurance [Global Insurance Alert]

June 25, 2012

Maximus Opinion Permits Functional Exhaustion of Underlying Insurance - Global Insurance Alert - Excess insurers should carefully note both trends in the law, and particular policy language, that may potentially influence whether their policyholders can exhaust underlying policies without actually receiving payment of the full underlying limits. In its recent opinion in Maximus, Inc. v. Twin City Fire Insurance Company, No. 11-CV-1231, the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia determined that an ambiguously worded follow-form excess policy permitted this result.

Confidentiality Agreements and Standstill Provisions; the Delaware Chancery Court Broadly Construes Confidentiality Agreements and Enjoins a Hostile Bid Despite the Absence of Standstill Provisions Relating to Stock Transactions [Global Insurance Alert]

June 19, 2012

Confidentiality Agreements and Standstill Provisions; the Delaware Chancery Court Broadly Construes Confidentiality Agreements and Enjoins a Hostile Bid Despite the Absence of Standstill Provisions Relating to Stock Transactions - Global Insurance Alert - In a significant recent decision, Martin Marietta Materials, Inc. v. Vulcan Materials Company, the Delaware Chancery Court reiterated the preference of Delaware courts to enforce confidentiality agreements and to construe them broadly as a matter of public policy.

Winter 2009 [Insurance Coverage Observer]

January 29, 2009

In this issue, we identify key coverage developments from the year 2008. We summarize recent court decisions dealing with coverage for toxic torts, environmental losses, construction defect and property losses. We also address new decisions in the areas of insolvency and reinsurance.

Washington State's New Bad Faith Law is Applied Prospectively Only [Insurance Coverage Alert!]

March 17, 2008

Washington State's New Bad Faith Law is Applied Prospectively Only - Insurance Coverage Alert! - The new Washington State “Insurance Fair Conduct Act” (“IFCA”) does not apply retroactively, according to a Federal Judge in Seattle. On February 1, 2008, Magistrate Judge James P. Donohue of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington ruled that Washington’s “presumption [against retroactivity]
controls: RCW §48.30.015 should be applied

Insurance Coverage Observer [Winter 2008]

February 26, 2008

In this issue, we consider a number of emerging issues and also identify key developments in coverage in 2007. We summarize new court decisions dealing with toxic torts, environmental coverage, insolvency and regulatory issues, and construction defect. We feature a key construction defect coverage case in Illinois with important implications. We address global warming in the context of directors with officers liability coverage. Finally, we discuss the emerging areas of fax blast and food contamination, and the impact of the reauthorization of TRIA.

Insight: Fair Conduct Laws Are Anything But [BEST'S REVIEW]

February 01, 2008

Insight: Fair Conduct Laws Are Anything But - BEST'S REVIEW - "Be fair to one another." It’s one of the simplest rules of any relationship. Yet ongoing
legislative attempts to require fairness in the insurer-insured relationship involve unilateral requirements for insurers that are inapplicable to policyholders. Case in point: Washington State’s recent voter-approved Referendum 67.It ratifies the state’s Insurance Fair Conduct Act, which provides a new statutory basis for a wide range of so-called "insured bad faith" claims.

Washington State Voters Approve New “Bad Faith” Act [Insurance Coverage Alert]

November 09, 2007

Washington State Voters Approve New “Bad Faith” Act - Insurance Coverage Alert - On November 6, 2007, the voters of Washington State approved a new statutory basis for a wide range of so-called “insurer bad faith” claims. Under the “insurance fair conduct act” (“Act”), “penalties” may be imposed against insurers that are found to have “acted unreasonably” or that are found to have violated any one of at least 37 existing Washington Administrative Code rules adopted by

Voters’ Referendum Will Either Delay or Reject Washington’s Insurance Fair Conduct Act [Insurance Coverage Alert]

August 28, 2007

Voters’ Referendum Will Either Delay or Reject Washington’s Insurance Fair Conduct Act - Insurance Coverage Alert -

Washington State Passes New Bad Faith Law With Penalties, Requiring 20-Day Notice Before Litigation [Insurance Coverage Alert - 5/21/2007]

May 21, 2007

Washington State Passes New Bad Faith Law With Penalties, Requiring 20-Day Notice Before Litigation - Insurance Coverage Alert - 5/21/2007 - Effective July 21, 2007, Washington State’s new “insurance fair conduct act” (“Act”)
will expand the range of private claimants’ remedies against an insurer for a proven
“bad faith” denial of coverage. Statutory penalties, including un-capped treble
damages, are made available under the Act for (1) an insurer’s unreasonable denial of
a claim for coverage or payment of benefits

Washington State Legislature Considers Bill on New Insurance Bad Faith Claims and Remedies [Insurance Coverage Alert - 3/7/07]

March 07, 2007

Washington State Legislature Considers Bill on New Insurance Bad Faith Claims and Remedies - Insurance Coverage Alert - 3/7/07 - The Washington State Legislature is considering a bill called the

Oregon Enforces the Anti-Assignment Provision of a Commercial Insurance Contract [Insurance Coverage Alert - 12/08/06]

December 08, 2006

Oregon Enforces the Anti-Assignment Provision of a Commercial Insurance Contract - Insurance Coverage Alert - 12/08/06 - The Oregon Supreme Court recently issued its decision in Holloway v. Republic Idemnity Co. of America, SC S52951 (Nov. 9, 2006), upholding the plain language of a broadly worded anti-assignment clause that provided

What is a Pollutant in the Context of the Application of the Absolute and Total Pollution Exclusion? [Cozen & O'Connor Whitepaper]

March 01, 2006

What is a Pollutant in the Context of the Application of the Absolute and Total Pollution Exclusion? - Cozen & O'Connor Whitepaper - The scope of this paper is to address those situations where the court’s analysis of these
exclusions turned on the issue of whether the substance at issue is a “pollutant” or otherwise
qualified as pollution within the operative exclusion. Particular attention will be paid to the heavily litigated areas of carbon monoxide, lead paint, asbestos, biological contaminates,
chemical fumes, and welding rod fumes.

Industry Sectors

Education

  • Boston University School of Law, J.D., 1993
  • University of Pennsylvania, B.S.E., 1990
  • Connecticut
  • Massachusetts
  • Oregon
  • Washington
  • American Bar Association
  • King County Bar Association
  • Northwest Insurance Coverage Association
  • Washington State Bar Association