How Miller’s Standard Insurance Policies Annotated® Came to Be

December 1, 2014

Insurance LawMy First Job as an Attorney:  After law school and a clerkship at the Connecticut Supreme Court, I worked for Aetna Life & Casualty.  At that time, Aetna was a large multi-line insurer.  It sold Life, Health & Accident, and Property/Casualty Insurance.  I was working in the Aetna Law Department in a group that supported the Property/Casualty Division by, among other things, answering legal questions forwarded by the underwriters.

ISO:  Many of the policies sold by Aetna at that time were prepared by Insurance Services Office (ISO) on Water Street in lower Manhattan.  ISO was primarily a rating organization that combined the data of its affiliates to develop statistically sound rates.  It also provided related services to its member companies, including the creation of standard insurance policies.

That was Then:  I would regularly receive coverage questions regarding certain coverage provisions or exclusions, and was asked whether they could be modified by Endorsement for use in specified jurisdictions.  These questions typically originated with agents or brokers whose clients were willing to purchase a standard policy, provided it was tailored somewhat to cover a risk particular to the client.

For example, could the ISO “Truckers Policy” that covered tractor-trailers en route from Boston to Richmond be modified to delete the “pollution exclusion”, given the flurry of state and federal environmental regulatory activity in the early 1980s?

Back then, the best way to find cases discussing a coverage issue like the applicability of a “pollution exclusion” in a variety of states along the East Coast between Massachusetts and Virginia was the Digest or, if I was lucky, perhaps an ALR or law review article.

The Idea: With each coverage question, I thought how much easier my job would be if the policies sold by Aetna were annotated.  What if, in our example, the “Truckers Policy” had case citations with summaries dangling from each litigated provision, sorted by jurisdiction?

Moreover, not all coverage provisions were as readily decipherable as the “pollution exclusion.” An annotated policy wouldn’t require an initial understanding of the provision itself in order to find the cases that interpreted it.  The understanding would follow, after reading the cases.

The Scope: What if I started with ISO’s basic coverage forms, annotated them with five years’ cases, and created an Index?  Would other attorneys find this helpful?

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Permission: I spoke with ISO’s General Counsel about undertaking a project to annotate ISO forms.  ISO sent several boxes of tissue-thin policy pages, from which I selected the most basic forms: Personal and Commercial Auto, Homeowners, General and Professional Liability, and Commercial Property.  I also obtained permission from Aetna to annotate its Personal and Commercial Umbrella Policies, as ISO did not offer these forms until 2001.

Sweat Equity and Growth:  Five years later, Miller’s made its debut with 17,000 case annotations to 30 basic coverage forms and 50 endorsements in three volumes: Policies, Personal Lines Annotations and Commercial Lines Annotations.  The first order arrived before Thanksgiving in 1986.  I remember thinking, “Don’t get excited.  That’s just one curious person.”  But more orders came in.  Maybe an annotated set of insurance policies did fill a need!

There followed years of growth in the number of forms, annotations, and customers.  Customers offered valuable support and suggestions:

  • Include more non-ISO forms, like the “Standard Flood Insurance Policy” and the “Motor Carrier  Endorsement”;
  • Annotate coverage related topics, like the insurer’s duty to provide notice of a reduction in coverage, the validity of a UM waiver, and insurer “bad faith”;
  • Offer Miller’s on CD\ROM, which we did in 1995; and
  • Offer Miller’s on-line, which we did through a licensing agreement in 2003.

In 2009, Miller’s content was acquired by West, where it continues to expand and improve. In 2011, we annotated ISO’s “Management Protection Liability” Policies.

… And This is Now:  In January 2015, Miller’s 14-volume printed set will include almost 198,000 annotations for state and federal cases reported since 1978 to more than 100 policies and 1,000 endorsements in 15 lines of insurance.  Customers still like to browse the forms and Index in Volume I – Policies.

Customers can also browse the forms in two formats – text and ISO – in Miller’s on Westlaw® and Westlaw Next®.  And it is a beautiful thing!  Identify a coverage provision and link directly to the annotations and cases.  Or, let “Miller’s Index” lead you to that provision and, from there, to the annotations and cases.  There is no easier way to answer a coverage question.

And that is how Miller’s came to be.

Susan Miller

Next Blog:  Miller’s for the Non-Insurance Lawyer: Don’t Let the Language Wear You Down!