Women’s Forum

Areas of focus within Women’s Forum

In 2004, Sedgwick created a program designed to revolutionize the way gender is addressed in our firm, and potentially within the legal industry. Since its inception, the internal training and client events offered through the Women’s Forum have been nationally recognized for their innovation and for successfully addressing the obstacles professional women face. The effect of the Sedgwick Women’s Forum can be felt in the growing number of Sedgwick’s women partners, women leaders, and the attorneys who cite the Women’s Forum as their reason for choosing to work at Sedgwick. 

   WF Kiki Quote 2016

Annual Report

We are pleased to present our 2016 Women’s Forum Annual Report. It is always incredible to see the results of our hard work compiled annually as we celebrate our 2016 contributions to our firm, our clients and our communities as well as our many accomplishments and recognitions. The theme of this year’s annual report is “Vision.” We chose this theme because our vision empowers us to make a difference in the legal industry and the communities we serve. In such a challenging industry, it is the collective vision of all Sedgwick attorneys that made both our work and our successes possible in 2016.

Accomplishments, Awards & Accolades

Sedgwick women lawyers are frequently recognized for their legal expertise and their many contributions to the legal industry and their communities. We are proud to highlight some of those recent accomplishments below.

Industry/Community Leadership

  • Associate Diana Karnes was elected to the Auxiliary Board for the Center of Conflict Resolution (CCR), a not-for-profit organization that works with individuals, communities, courts and other institutions to manage and resolve conflict.

  • Partner Rachel Reynolds was selected to join the Executive Board of the Washington Defense Trial Lawyers, effective July 2016. She will serve as secretary for 2016-2017, treasurer for 2017-2018, president-elect for 2018-2019 and president from 2019-2020.

  • Counsel Lisa Henderson was elected to the Gamma Phi Beta’s House Corporation Board at Southern Methodist University.

  • Associate Patricia Daza-Luu was selected to serve as Litigation co-chair for the Women Lawyers Association of Los Angeles for the term September 2017-2018. As part of her role and responsibility, she and her co-chairs will put on the Annual Litigators Forum. The past forum focused on Privacy and Data Protection. For more information, see: http://www.wlala.org/events/EventDetails.aspx?id=604305.

  • Counsel Beth Yoffie has been appointed to the Editorial Board of the CGL Reporter. Written by practicing coverage attorneys, this monthly publication provides annotations of the most critical insurance cases involving general liability and other business-related policies, and provides commentary on each case and its implications to risk management, insurance and legal professionals.

  • Associate Cara Vecchione served on the planning committee for The National Association of Women Lawyers (NAWL) Annual Meeting and Awards Luncheon held on July 14, 2016, at the Grand Hyatt in New York. Over 800 lawyers from across the country and abroad participated in this year’s event, which included CLE programming, an awards luncheon and networking opportunities focused on increasing diversity and parity in the legal profession. Sedgwick lawyers Katelin O’Rourke GormanLaurie KamaikoSoo Kim and Mara Hsiung were also in attendance.

  • Partner Barbara Werther has been appointed chair of Division 13 of the American Bar Association (ABA) Forum on Construction Law. As chair, Werther works as part of the Forum’s Governing Committee and leads the Government Construction Division, providing information, education and assistance in the area of public contracting at both the state and federal levels.

  • Partner Cindy Motley has been elected president to the Midwest Claims Association (MCA), formally known as the Chicago Claims Association.

  • Partner Rachel Reynolds was selected to the ABA/TIPS Leadership Academy. The TIPS Leadership Academy will bring together a diverse group of approximately 25 attorneys from across the nation who have been identified as emerging leaders. The Academy serves the public by providing participants with the knowledge and skills necessary to develop a vision to lead the legal profession and to improve leadership service in the community as a whole.
  • Marilyn Klinger has been elected to the national Governing Committee of the ABA Forum on Construction Law. As a member of the Governing Committee, Klinger works to forward the mission of the Forum: “Building the Best Construction Lawyers,” emphasizing the education and professional development of construction lawyers and the three core elements of the Forum — “Programs, Publications, People.”

  • Counsel L. Kimberly Steele was appointed chair of the Insurance Law Section of the State Bar of Texas. As chair of the Section, Steele will govern with the other Insurance Law Section officers and council members while working toward the future growth and improvement of the Section. The Section offers a variety of benefits to its members through its website (insurancelawsection.org), The Journal of Texas Insurance Law, its weekly case law email bulletins “Right Off the Press” and its planning and participation in a variety of legal education programs and seminars. Steele assumed her role as chair on June 16, 2016.

Recognition/Accolades

  • Associate Diana Karnes was named a 2016 Emerging Lawyer by Leading Lawyers, a division of Law Bulletin Publishing Company, in three categories: (1) Commercial Litigation; (2) Directors & Officers Liability Law; and (3) Insurance, Insurance Coverage & Reinsurance.

  • Associate Shari Keiser was named a 2016 Emerging Lawyer by Leading Lawyers, a division of Law Bulletin Publishing Company, in three categories: (1) Personal Injury Defense Law: General; (2) Products Liability Defense Law; and (3) Toxic Torts Defense Law.

  • Partner Barbara Werther has been included on Thomson Reuters 2016 Washington, D.C., Super Lawyers list.

  • Partners Alison BeanumKanika Corley and Sheryl Rosenberg have been recognized as 2016 Southern California “Rising Stars” in the annual Super Lawyers “Rising Stars” list published by Thomas Reuters.

  • Partner Valerie Shea has been recognized as a 2016 Florida Super Lawyer in the annual list published by Thomas Reuters.

  • The National Bar Association (NBA) has selected partner Kanika Corley for its 2016-2017 “Top 40 Under 40 Nation’s Best Advocates” List. The annual awards recognize outstanding lawyers from across the nation under the age of 40 who demonstrate a high level of achievement in the legal field, including advocacy, innovation, vision, leadership and overall legal and community involvement.

  • Partner Rachel Reynolds was elected to the Executive Board of the Washington Defense Trial Attorneys, which will culminate in her serving as statewide president in 2020.

  • Partner Lillian Stenfeldt has been recognized as a 2016 Northern California Super Lawyer in the annual list published by Thomas Reuters.

  • Partner Rachel Reynolds was named to the 2016 Washington Super Lawyers “Rising Stars” List.

Court Victories

  • In a copyright infringement case against the firm’s client, a renowned artist, in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California, partners Caroline Mankey and Robert Helfing prevailed on summary judgment on the ground that the idea of two dolphins swimming underwater, with one swimming upright and the other crossing horizontally, is not protected by copyright.

  • On January 19, 2016, partner Cindy Motley and associate Diana Karnes successfully won a dismissal with prejudice by convincing an Illinois federal court that the plaintiff engaged in witness tampering. The court agreed with the defense and granted the motion to sanction the plaintiff in a national origin and retaliation case.

  • In February 2016, partner Agelo Reppas, won a favorable appellate ruling on behalf of an insurance client in a case involving an insured that remediated mold at a condominium complex it managed, even though no third parties had made any claims or filed any lawsuits against it. The insured sought coverage from the client. Based on Agelo’s outstanding work, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment of the district court, which held that Sedgwick’s client had no duty to indemnify the remediation costs.

  • On February 4, 2016, partner Cindy Motley and associate Diana Karnes obtained a significant victory from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, which affirmed a dismissal of a wrongful death case based on the lack of personal jurisdiction. At the trial level, Cindy argued the client was not subject to the jurisdiction of the court and moved to dismiss the case. The district court agreed and dismissed the case with prejudice. On appeal, the briefs written by Cindy and Diana argued that our client’s alleged contract with the travel website, accepting the booking for plaintiff’s stay in Mexico, was too attenuated a link to establish personal jurisdiction over the Mexican hotel owner. At oral argument, Cindy persuasively stressed that this purported “contact” with Illinois did not support the estate’s attempt to hail the foreign corporation into an Illinois court. The Seventh Circuit agreed.

  • Partner Susan Koehler Sullivan and associate Patricia Daza-Luu recently obtained terminating sanctions against the plaintiff in an insurance bad faith case, after plaintiff and certain family members refused to cooperate in the discovery process. Susan and Patricia had already obtained monetary sanctions against plaintiff as a result of a previous discovery motion.

  • On April 14, 2016, partner Rebecca Hull obtained judgment for her clients (an employee benefit plan and its insurer) on the parties’ cross-motions for judgment under ERISA. The Northern District of California, reviewing a claim denial de novo, agreed that the claim was not payable and denied accidental dismemberment benefits for an amputation the claimant had elected to undergo five months after an auto accident. The claimant’s doctor said the amputation was substantially necessitated by the claimant’s diabetes and related medical conditions. The court rejected all of the claimant’s arguments regarding alleged ambiguities and other asserted issues about the plan language.

  • Partner Delia Isvoranu obtained a summary judgment in a contentious and inflammatory employment case. A Greek physician in a prestigious Fellowship Program for a Sedgwick client (an employer) alleged that his supervisor, and others, made rampant offensive comments about his religion, his perceived sexuality, marital status and national origin. He also complained about alleged fraudulent billing practices by the hospital and claimed he was retaliated against for reporting the alleged fraud. The employer contended that plaintiff was terminated for legitimate reasons, including over 20 complaints about plaintiff’s behavior and performance from various individuals. Sedgwick represented the employer and five individually named physicians. The plaintiff asserted eight causes of action for harassment, discrimination, retaliation, and violation of his due process rights. He claimed over $5 million in damages because he was terminated from the Fellowship Program which he contends now precludes him from becoming a specialist. The court granted the employer’s motion for summary judgment.

  • Partner Mike Bernstein and counsel Jeannine Jacobson obtained a summary judgment for Sedgwick clients, a self-funded medical plan for a major corporation and its claims administrator, in an ERISA matter in Florida federal court. The plaintiff sought behavioral health benefits for the treatment of an eating disorder at multiple levels of care, including residential, partial hospitalization and intensive outpatient treatment. The plan’s claims administrator denied her claims for treatment on the grounds that such treatment was not medically necessary since the plaintiff could have been safely and effectively treated at a less intensive level of care. Although the plaintiff attempted to challenge the denial of her claims, the district court rejected her arguments as being based on single episodes (rather than the medical records as a whole) and the failure to show more than disagreement with the multiple psychiatric peer reviews conducted by the claims administrator. Based on these peer reviews, the district court instead upheld the denial of benefits as de novo correct and reasonable. Furthermore, the district court concluded there was no conflict of interest due to the self-funded nature of the plan.

  • Partner Anthony Anscombe and associates Mary Beth Buckley and Diana Karnes — successfully convinced a plaintiff to voluntarily dismiss their client from a lawsuit pending in Illinois. In this case, plaintiff alleged that he was severely injured after his semi-truck was rear-ended by another semi-truck, allegedly owned or leased by Sedgwick’s client. The Sedgwick team filed a motion to dismiss the complaint, arguing they did not own the semi-truck at any time and that they did not lease the vehicle until after the accident. The motion convinced the plaintiff to voluntarily dismiss our client from the case, rather than brief the issue. Our client was dismissed from the case approximately five months after being named a defendant and without having to respond to any discovery.

  • On June 9, 2016, partner Katelin O’Rourke Gorman achieved summary judgment for an insurer client — at issue was whether the Professional Services Exclusion in a Directors & Officers (D&O) policy applied to preclude coverage for a consumer fraud class action. The D&O limits at issue totaled $10 million. After two days and several hours of oral argument, the Judge ruled from the bench in our client’s favor.

Publications/Presentations

  • Associate Diana Karnes co-authored “An Uphill Battle For Providers Contesting Network Exclusion,” Law360 (February 9, 2016).

  • Partner Catalina Sugayan, co-chair of the firm’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee, is quoted in the Law360 article titled “How Minority Attys Encounter BigLaw Bias.”

  • Partner Catalina Sugayan also spoke at the Public Risk Management Association’s Annual Conference in Atlanta in the session, “Excessive Force: Prevent Your Town or City From Making Headline News and Paying Costly Claims.” Sugayan discussed recent cases and emerging civil and DOJ litigation, and covered topics such as police body cams, citizens recording police officers and the use of electronic weapons.

  • Partner Rachel Reynolds spoke at the ACI Asbestos Claims and Litigation Conference in Chicago, Illinois, in June 2016. Reynolds’ presentation was titled “Generation Why? Millennial Jurors and the Navy Case.”

  • Partner Katelin O’Rourke Gorman co-authored the U.S. chapter of the recently published book, Directors’ Liability and Indemnification: A Global Guide (3rd Edition). Co-authors and the book editor are Sedgwick colleagues.

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