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Vol. 7, Iss. 2
March 7, 2018

Making Easy The Coverage Issue That “Would Tax Socrates”

I recently took up the issue of the tri-partite relationship with the students in my insurance coverage class at Temple Law School. This semester has been my first foray into teaching insurance to law students. It’s been a neat experience. My objective has been simple – OK, you guys had Torts. You learned about finding someone liable. Now, let’s talk about the real issue – where’s the money going to come from to satisfy that judgment?

I was concerned about tackling the tri-partite relationship with the students. After all, it has a reputation for being pretty complex. The Mississippi Supreme Court put fear in me with Hartford v. Foster (1988), saying this about the tri-partite relationship: “The ethical dilemma thus imposed upon the carrier-employed defense attorney would tax Socrates, and no decision or authority we have studied furnishes a completely satisfactory answer.” And then there’s Finley v. The Home Ins. Co. (Haw. 1998) which had this to say about the tri-partite relationship: “The magnitude of the difficulty in resolving the issue is reflected in the volume of litigation nationwide, and, in the instant case, the number of amicus curiae briefs representing divergent views.”

So it was with trepidation I entered classroom 7B at 10 A.M. on a recent Monday and took a deep breath. But, to be honest, it wasn’t so tough. I don’t see what all the fuss is about. I drew a simple picture on the board and, viola, this supposedly super-duper complex concept was as easy to explain as a hot knife through butter. If Socrates owned a magic marker he would have been fine.

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