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Judge orders insurance CEO to attend settlement conference

June 10, 2019

Despite repeated objections, an insurance company’s CEO has been ordered to personally attend an upcoming settlement conference in a contractor’s defamation suit against the insurer.

Nationwide Insurance CEO Stephen R. Rasmussen failed to persuade either a magistrate judge or the presiding judge that his presence was unnecessary at a settlement conference in a lawsuit brought by ARAC Roof it Forward.

ARAC claims Nationwide made allegedly defamatory statements about the contractor to its insureds. After an initial settlement conference proved unsuccessful, Indiana Southern District Magistrate Judge Mark Dinsmore wrote that Nationwide’s representative appeared to have a predetermined settlement position. Further conferences, he wrote, “would be futile without the presence of a high level member of [Nationwide’s] management, which is why the court ordered both parties’ CEOs to attend.”

Nationwide appealed to Chief Judge Jane Magnus-Stinson, who overruled the insurer’s appeal last week in Arac v. Nationwide, 1:17-cv-04468.

“Although Nationwide may be unhappy with the Magistrate Judge’s decision, Nationwide may not ask this Court to substitute its own opinion for that of the Magistrate Judge,” Magnus-Stinson wrote. “…Nationwide clearly disagrees with the Magistrate Judge’s evaluation of the proceedings and conclusion that the presence of both parties’ CEOs at the upcoming settlement conference would aid in the resolution in this matter. But Nationwide’s disagreement does not equate to clear or legal error, and the Magistrate Judge amply justified his decision with a discussion of relevant law and observations from the first, unsuccessful settlement conference in this matter.”

The settlement conference is set for June 27.

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