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The San Francisco skyline at sunset.

I was delighted to attend the Claims and Litigation Management Alliance’s Annual Conference in beautiful San Francisco earlier this month. While I learned many lessons during my time at the CLM Annual Conference, one theme consistently emerged: What is going on with the younger generations? Whether it was a seminar, lunch session, or simply advice from seasoned professionals, it became apparent that age and experience play an essential role in the insurance industry.  

It is no surprise to anyone that Millennials and members of Gen Z tend to think differently than senior generations. Now that younger generations are entering adulthood and the workforce, it is pertinent that all industries keep up with the times.   

Millennials and Gen Z Are Hesitant to Join the Insurance Industry   

A 2024 study commissioned by CLM examined trends for insurance defense counsel. The study consisted of 375 attorneys, including associates, managing partners, and equity shareholders, and compared results from 2020 to 2024. One notable takeaway from the study is that “91 percent [of respondents] reported difficulty in attracting new attorney talent to their firms,” noting that 66 participants stated that it is “much, much more difficult.” Further, only 53 percent of those in the study would recommend insurance law to a new law school graduate.   

The study outlined possible reasons for this inability to recruit. Suggestions from non-associate attorneys included:  

  • Billing restrictions from carriers limit the work younger attorneys can do.  
  • Billable hour requirements place pressure on young attorneys.   
  • There is a lack of ambition and work ethic in the younger generations.   
  • An unwillingness exists to “meet the grind necessary to succeed at insurance defense work.”   

Among the most popular responses from associate attorneys:  

  • Job candidates seek flexible/remote work schedules that firms do not provide.   

The concerns of associates and non-associates clearly differ. Associates are likely members of younger generations, while the non-associates are experienced attorneys in the field. The senior attorneys’ comments reflect the common attitudes and practices in the field and a lack of belief in newer generations. In contrast, the associates’ comments idealize a healthy work-life balance. The gap is substantial. Can it be bridged?  

What Can Be Done?  

Change the Way You Market Insurance Law  

Insurance is more than just the co-pays and car accidents that most people are immediately familiar with. Insurance deals with a wide variety of areas, including wrongful death, products liability, motor vehicle accidents, natural disasters, employment, and essentially any other scenario in which a party can hold a policy. Not only is there an area of interest for everyone, but every day can look different in the field of insurance law.   

Understand the Value that Younger Perspectives Can Provide  

Gen Z is the most diverse generation of Americans. With diversity comes different backgrounds, understandings, opinions, and viewpoints. Problem-solving skills are critical to the practice of law. Employers and senior employees should be open-minded about approaching problems from different angles.

Value Work-Life Balance

While younger generations are more likely to focus on work-life balance and flexibility than generations before, this does not mean they lack passion for their work. Placing importance on the lives and livelihoods of employees leads to decreased turnover, increased morale, and a feeling of value that pays dividends in dedicated, quality results. As a member of Gen Z and defense counsel, it is worth sharing that I am lucky to have a job as a young professional where my employer treats me well, my work interests me, and I feel valued as a part of the team. 

Millennials and Gen Z in the Insurance World  

Employing defense counsel is one of many areas in which the younger generations will affect the industry. You will now find Gen Z and Millennials throughout every step of the claims process. Whether they encounter younger people as jurors, mediators, judges, claimants, or opposing counsel, defense counsel must be open-minded to different perspectives. 

Appealing to Millennial and Gen Z Perspectives 

From boycotts to marches to strikes, younger people are quick to use their voices to push for societal changes. The accompanying morals and attitudes include growing distrust of large corporations among Millennials and Gen Z. As defense counsel, it is crucial to demonstrate the facts of each case clearly and personalize your clients. 

Failure to do so will result in increased instances of outlandishly high damages—the infamous “Nuclear Verdicts.” These verdicts lead to increased costs for services and goods. The potential of verdicts resulting in big paydays prolongs the legal process, as plaintiffs will hold out if they believe they can obtain a larger settlement.  

Defense counsel must be aware of the views that younger generations have. Plaintiff’s counsel can successfully use “reptile strategy,” convincing those who determine the verdict to vote against corporate greed. Defense counsel must be able to allay these fears and ensure that the case is decided based on the facts. Younger generations are receptive to truth, honesty, and clarity. Experienced defense counsel should remember this as they adjust arguments and strategies to persuade younger juries and other parties involved in the claims process.  

The Experiences of a Gen Z Insurance Defense Attorney   

While it hasn’t yet been a year since I was sworn in at the Missouri Supreme Court, my rapid transition from law student to lawyer has taught me so much. Whether you are a young attorney looking for a path, an experienced attorney wondering how to attract the newer generations, or a professional in any field that deals with insurance (and that’s just about every field), here is why I chose this career path and why I am so happy I did: 

Developing Skills and Expanding Expertise 

There are myriad opportunities to explore and learn about the field. From products liability to personal injury, every case is different. My assignments range from in-depth research to attending court hearings, drafting court submissions, and everything in between. The case may revolve around science, business, or some niche subject you initially knew nothing about. Whatever it is, you gain expertise in something you never thought you would have. 

Understanding Nuance in Business and Insurance 

Like many of my Gen Z peers, I also felt that big businesses were often greedy and a threat to morality. Well, it’s more complicated than that. Accidents happen. Mistakes are made. And at the center of any business are humans. Civil litigation is necessary to ensure the fairest outcome for all parties.  

Working with Teams Across Industries 

Everyone is happy to help. With all the moving pieces in civil litigation, I constantly have questions. From coworkers, mentors, support staff, and co-defense counsel, none of them want to see you fail, and working as a team, regardless of generational differences, ensures the best outcomes for our clients.   

The Missouri Court of Appeals has narrowed the definition of "open and obvious" in premises liability cases.

It is well settled in Missouri that a property owner is not liable for injuries that occur as a result of an “open and obvious” danger on the property.  But what is “open and obvious”? A recent ruling by the Missouri Court of Appeals in Anslinger v. Christian Hospital Northeast-Northwest clarified and narrowed when a trip hazard on a walking surface is “open and obvious.” 

Premises Liability in Missouri 

Property owners owe a high standard of care to invitees—those whom the property owner specifically allows to enter the property. Under this standard, property owners have a duty to warn invitees of dangers on the property that they know of or have reason to know of. Additionally, property owners have a duty to inspect the premises for potential dangers. A defense to this high standard exists where a danger is “open and obvious” such that the invitee could reasonably be expected to see and avoid the danger.   

Anslinger v. Christian Hospital Northeast-Northwest 

In 2019, Patricia Anslinger tripped and fell at Christian Hospital when her foot caught a fold in one of the rubber mats that covered the hospital entrance. She subsequently brought a claim against the hospital, alleging that the hospital breached its standard of care when it allowed an unsafe condition (the floor mat) to exist without warning her of the potential trip hazard.  

The case went to trial in October 2022. The hospital, relying on an open and obvious defense, presented evidence that the fold was visible to Ms. Anslinger. In fact, during cross-examination, Ms. Anslinger even conceded that she would have seen fold had she been “looking straight down.”  

However, the Court ultimately disagreed with the hospital’s arguments, finding that the fold was not open and obvious despite Plaintiff’s concession. In rendering its decision, the Court initially noted that whether a condition is open and obvious is a matter of law and, therefore, that stipulations or concessions as to this question are not binding. Further, it distinguished the facts at hand from Crow v. Kansas City Power & Light, Co., a case on which the hospital relied, where an overhead power line was found to be open and obvious. The Court of Appeals found that Crow was inapplicable to the facts at hand because the hazard at issue in Crow was a “regular condition of land and… a large physical structure” which “lends itself to a finding of open and obvious as a matter of law.” The Court noted that a fold in rubber floor mats, like many other trip hazards, is neither a regular condition of the land nor a large physical structure, and therefore, that it cannot be open and obvious.  

In Anslinger v. Christian Hospital, the Court of Appeals stated that for a condition to be open and obvious it must be either a regular condition of the land or a large structure, and cited numerous Missouri cases in which trip hazards on walking surfaces also were not found to be open and obvious. Thus, the Court seems to narrow the open and obvious defense’s applicability for a common group of premises liability cases: trip and falls. 

A win for RDM 

Recently, Rasmussen Dickey Moore achieved a favorable result for an RDM client sued by a customer for injuries that resulted from a trip and fall over a curb entering the client’s business. The case was resolved during mediation for less than ten times the Plaintiff’s initial demand, saving our client the expense and uncertainty of litigation.  

As always, it remains important to work with a team that tracks recent court opinions and understands how they may affect your case. The attorneys at RDM have broad experience in the field of premises liability and can assist your business in defending against claims.  Contact RDM today to discuss your premises liability case.

The Illinois Supreme Court, where the Cothron v. White Castle class action lawsuit over BIPA claims was reviewed in 2023.

Last Fall, an Illinois Court saw the first class action lawsuit brought under the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act, an Illinois statute that allows individuals to make a claim against private entities that collect biometric data without first creating a publicly available policy on the data’s retention and destruction, obtaining the individual’s consent, and using reasonable care to protect the information gathered.

Rasmussen Dickey Moore attorneys RoseAnn Sorce and Nathan Lindsey have been following developments in BIPA litigation and the potential effects on Illinois businesses. Nate provided an overview of Illinois’ BIPA statute when it was enacted, and RoseAnn continued with a recap of Rogers vs. BNSF Ry. Co., the first BIPA class action lawsuit.

After the jury found for the plaintiff class in Rogers v. BNSF Ry. Co., legal experts expected the $228 million dollar verdict to lead to a flood of BIPA litigation. All eyes then turned to Cothron v. White Castle System, Inc., which would answer the question of whether each and every scan or transmission of biometric data constitutes a separate violation of BIPA.

Last month, the Illinois Supreme Court answered “yes” to this question, adding yet another notch in plaintiffs’ belts. 

Cothron v. White Castle System, Inc.

On behalf of a class of White Castle employees, White Castle manager Latrina Cothron claimed the fast-food giant violated BIPA when it disclosed employees’ fingerprint scans (obtained in order to grant employees access to their paystubs) to a third-party vendor. In response, White Castle argued that Cothron’s claims were untimely as they accrued in 2008, the very first time she scanned her finger and White Castle obtained her biometric data. White Castle further claimed that a BIPA violation could only accrue once—the first time the biometric data is collected or disclosed—while Cothron argued a new claim accrues each time biometric data is collected or disclosed. The District Court agreed with the Plaintiff, but certified White Castle’s order for immediate interlocutory appeal, moving the case to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals. The Seventh Circuit agreed that “the novelty and uncertainty of the claim-accrual question” warranted certification to the Illinois Supreme Court.

In deciding when a BIPA violation accrues, the Illinois Supreme Court focused on the plain and ordinary meaning of the language of BIPA. The Court looked at the statute’s use of the terms “collect” and “capture” and found that the definitions of these terms do not limit the actions to occurring only once. Therefore, the Court decided that each and every collection and subsequent disclosure is a separate violation of BIPA, a decision that has the potential to turn million-dollar claims into billion-dollar claims.

BIPA’s Effects on Illinois Businesses

Cothron v. White Castle’s effect on damage awards is clear. While the Illinois Supreme Court noted that damages are “discretionary rather than mandatory under the Act” and “there is no language in the Act suggesting legislative intent to authorize a damages award that would result in the financial destruction of a business,” the Court provided no guidance to lower courts on how to exercise this discretion. Instead, it called on the legislature to “review these policy concerns and make clear its intent regarding the assessment of damages under the Act.” However, legislative action to amend BIPA may be unlikely, as previous BIPA reform bills never even made it to a vote.

Additionally, the White Castle decision makes it more difficult for defendants to assert a statute of limitations defense. Now, defendants must look to the last collection or use of a plaintiff’s biometric data rather than to the first. In White Castle, this brought Cothron’s claims within the statute of limitations, despite the fact that White Castle first violated BIPA in 2008.

Protecting Your Business from Future BIPA Claims

With catastrophic damage awards made possible by the Court’s decision in Cothron v. White Castle, some Illinois entities may be dissuaded from using biometric data at all. For businesses that already do collect biometric data, whether for timekeeping or security access, there is no need to stop these practices altogether. Rather, these entities should make a plan to periodically revisit their biometric data collection policies to ensure that they are in compliance with BIPA as it continues to evolve.
Make sure your business has a plan in place. RDM’s Employment and Labor Law Team can review your company policies and help your business ensure compliance with BIPA and other applicable employment laws. Contact us today to discuss how we can help protect your business and your employees from complex and costly litigation.

Jane Bolin, Arabella Mansfield, Belva Lockwood, and Sandra Day O'Connor.

March is Women’s History Month, a time not only to look forward and envision a more equal world for the women that will come after us but also to remember the women that came before us and made it possible for women to be active members of the legal community. 

When I was in law school, it wasn’t uncommon to see women in the legal profession. Many of my professors were women, my classes had a relatively even ratio of women and men, and I interned under a female judge and female attorneys. Now, at Rasmussen Dickey Moore, I work in an office primarily made up of women. I don’t often pause to think back to a time when it was uncommon, or even prohibited, to be a female paralegal, lawyer, law professor, or judge.

However, many women have fought hard to gain a foothold in the legal profession, blazing a trail that provided an opportunity for my peers and me to pursue careers as attorneys and other legal professionals. We still have much work ahead of us to achieve true equity in the field, but several tenacious and undaunted women made great strides that allowed future generations like mine to enter the profession and make our mark.

Arabella Mansfield

Arabella Babb Mansfield was the first woman to pass the bar exam and be admitted to practice law, despite an Iowa state law that limited the practice to white males. Mansfield studied law for two years at her brother’s law office before taking the Iowa bar exam in 1869. She passed with high scores and went on to challenge the law that restricted women from the legal field. Mansfield was successful, and Iowa became the first state in the Union to allow women to practice law. Later in life, Mansfield would go on to be a leader in the women’s suffrage movement.

The National Association of Women Lawyers’ most prestigious award is named for Mansfield, as is the Mansfield Rule, an effort to boost underrepresented groups into leadership positions at over 100 of the nation’s largest law firms.

Belva Ann Lockwood

Belva Ann Bennett Lockwood studied at the National University Law School in Washington, D.C., completing her studies in 1870. However, the school refused to issue a diploma to her and another aspiring female attorney. Undeterred, Lockwood appealed all the way up to President Ulysses Grant, who promptly ordered that she receive her earned diploma.

After attempting to be admitted to the Supreme Court bar in 1876, Lockwood continued to battle for equal rights for women attorneys. President Rutherford B. Hayes signed a law in 1879 that allowed women to become members of the Supreme Court bar. In 1880, Lockwood became the first female lawyer to argue a case before the U.S. Supreme Court, arguing Kaiser v. Stickney. Lockwood would return to argue before the Supreme Court in United States v. Cherokee Nation, in which she successfully secured a payment of $1 million plus $4 million in interest—one of the largest judgments in favor of a Native American tribe at the time—for an unfulfilled treaty ceding Cherokee land in Georgia to the U.S.

Lockwood became heavily involved in politics in subsequent years, working towards women’s suffrage, world peace and disarmament, and other progressive causes. She also became the first woman to run for United States president in 1884, decades before the right for women to vote had been secured.

Jane Bolin

During her early years, Jane Bolin was discouraged by a career advisor at her undergraduate institution from applying to Yale Law School due to her race and gender. Nevertheless, Bolin went on to become the first Black woman to obtain a Juris Doctorate from Yale in 1931.

In 1939, she broke another glass ceiling when she became the first Black woman to serve as a judge—and for 20 years, she would remain the only Black female judge in the United States. 

Judge Bolin served four 10-year terms on the bench of the New York City Domestic Relations Court (now known as Family Court) and was noted for working to reform skin-color-based assignments for probation officers and end segregation in child placement facilities, pursuing her goal of demonstrating “a broad sympathy for human suffering.” Both in and out of the courtroom, Bolin worked tirelessly for civil rights and children’s education.

Sandra Day O’Connor

Sandra Day O’Connor eventually rose to the top of the profession, but her early years were met with discrimination not uncommon for the time. After graduating from Stanford Law School in 1952, O’Connor was unable to find a job as a lawyer due to her gender. The only job offer she received was as a legal secretary at a Los Angeles-based firm.

Despite this, she went on to be a deputy county attorney, state senator, trial judge, and federal judge before becoming the first female Supreme Court Justice in 1981 after near-unanimous (99 yes votes and one absence) confirmation by the Senate. Her tenure on the Court would last almost 25 years.

Despite the strides that women have made throughout history, we still have work to do to achieve true equality in the legal profession. According to the American Bar Association, 2014 was the first year that female-identifying first-year law students outnumbered male-identifying first-year law students. By 2022, women accounted for over 55% of all students in ABA-approved law schools.

But while more women are entering law school, the number of women working as lawyers still lags behind. In 1980, just 8% of all lawyers were women. That figure rose to 20% in 1991, 29% in 2000, and now sits at 38% in 2022. Furthermore, women are vastly underrepresented in leadership positions in the legal field. Just 23% of equity partners and 30% of federal judges were women in 2022. 

While the legal profession inches toward equality, it is the duty of every attorney, judge, and legal professional to do their part. It is exciting to see the ranks of law students and lawyers becoming more representative every year. And momentous events such as the appointment of Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court provide hope and inspiration for younger generations of women.

However, these advances require thoughtful and deliberate action. At RDM, our commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion provides mentorship and opportunities to lift the voices of young female attorneys as we develop a future generation of leaders. Everyone can take these measures—listen to young and diverse voices and help them prepare to take the lead. Be a part of history in the making. 

Recreational marijuana sales have begun in Missouri.

Recreational marijuana sales have started in Missouri following the passage of Amendment 3, shaking up the landscape for drug enforcement policies in Missouri as some employer actions in relation to employee use of marijuana are now prohibited by law.

Beyond making recreational use legal for those 21 years and older, Amendment 3 included new protections for medical marijuana cardholders prohibiting employers from discriminating or taking adverse action against an employee for off-employment site use of marijuana during non-work hours or testing positive for marijuana. This provision aligns with the protections other states have incorporated for medical marijuana users. For example, in Massachusetts and Connecticut, employers must have reasonable accommodations for medical marijuana patients. See Barbuto v. Advantage Sales and Marketing, LLC, 78 N.E.3d 37 (Mass. 2017), and see Conn. Gen. Stat. §21a-408p; Del. Code tit. 16, §4905A

Despite these protections, Missouri’s Amendment 3 still allows an employer to enforce a drug-free policy if the failure to enforce a policy results in monetary or licensing-related benefits under federal law. In addition, employers can also enforce a drug-free policy if the use of marijuana would impair the employee’s ability to perform job-related responsibilities, impair the safety of others, or conflict with occupational qualifications related to employment.

Notably, there are no further protections for recreational marijuana users without medical cards, meaning employees seeking these protections should ensure they have valid medical cards. Employers may still generally enforce drug-free policies against employees who are not medical card holders. Likewise, there is no change to an employer’s ability to terminate an employee who is under the influence of marijuana while at work. However, given the lack of reliable testing to measure recent marijuana use or impairment, employers should use caution.

Amendment 3 also included language allowing for certain marijuana-related criminal offenses to be expunged. Misdemeanor marijuana offenses are set to automatically be expunged by the courts, while felony convictions of possession of up to three pounds of marijuana are to be expunged within a year. In cases of possession of more than three pounds, the person seeking expungement must personally petition the court, but only after they have completed a sentence, probation, or parole period. There has been some skepticism regarding the ability of courts to meet these deadlines, and a supplemental budget has been requested to pay the state’s court clerks overtime to review.

Missouri employers should evaluate their current drug testing policies and practices to ensure they are in line with the new protections for medical marijuana cardholders adopted after the passage of Amendment 3. Policies related to impairment while at work should also be evaluated and documented if they are not. Rasmussen Dickey Moore’s employment attorneys closely watch new laws that affect Missouri employers. Call on us to ensure your employment policies are compliant with new recreational marijuana laws to make sure that you, your business, and your employees are protected.