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The Keene case is a landmark in insurance-law circles, both for its legal principle and its business promise. In fact, many credit that particular asbestos litigation with inspiring attorneys to really start specializing in insurance law. It was also the case that made Jerold Oshinsky’s career counseling corporate policyholders. “It created an industry,” Oshinsky recalls. “Insurance was a stepchild back then, and now every major firm in the country thinks it can do insurance coverage.” Years after Keene Corp. had acquired a building-products subsidiary, Keene started getting sued by people who had become sick because of exposure to asbestos products produced earlier by the subsidiary. The company’s insurance carriers were not overly eager to make payments on these claims. So Keene sued its multiple insurers in 1978. The company argued for a “continuous trigger” — meaning that coverage for an asbestos claim would be triggered if the insurance policy had been in effect at any time from the point when the claimant first inhaled the asbestos fibers through the point at which the claimant became sick. The insurers took a narrower view. In October 1981 the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit handed Keene the victory. Oshinsky and his partners represented Keene. At the time the case was filed in 1978, he was based in New York, but the next year, he moved to Washington, D.C., to open a branch office for his law firm — the firm now known as Anderson Kill & Olick. When the D.C. Circuit handed down its decision in 1981, he recalls, “We had half a dozen clients that came in immediately after wanting us to represent them.” In 1996 Oshinsky moved his practice to Dickstein Shapiro, which made him a name partner. (More recently, though, the firm followed the industry trend toward shorter names.) He heads up Dickstein’s insurance group, which has more than doubled in size from the 40 attorneys he brought over from Anderson Kill to more than 90 today. Those lawyers work in Dickstein’s Washington, New York, and Los Angeles offices. Besides coordinating that group, Oshinsky, 64, is busy representing policyholders, including a number of Fortune 500 companies, on everything from product-liability and asbestos claims to environmental damage and law-firm malpractice. In the past three years, he reports, he has worked on 350 matters for 167 clients. Much of his focus has turned to securities and other related liabilities, he says. “He’s able to concentrate on the jugular and ignore the capillaries,” says Mark Belnick, the former general counsel at Tyco who hired Oshinsky five years ago in his own directors’ and officers’ insurance case. “He has an uncanny ability to go right to the heart of the problem.” Oshinsky prides himself on his broad grasp of insurance laws in every state. “In the last 10 years, every case I’ve argued, I’ve never used a note,” he says. “It intimidates the hell out of the other side.” If you detect a well-placed touch of the theatrical, you’re not wrong. When Oshinsky isn’t practicing law, he’s acting in plays in Santa Barbara, Calif., his second home. He has trodden the boards as a German philosopher, a Nazi soldier, a gangster, and a motel clerk.

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