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If Connecticut Insurance Commissioner Susan F. Cogswell wins in her bid to exert jurisdiction over New York City’s leading taxi insurer, American Transit Insurance Co., a lot of out-of-state insurers may suddenly feel compelled to get licenses in Connecticut. For the insurer, the case boils down the definition of “doing business” in Connecticut. The agency is claiming that sending one letter and making one phone call to help settle an insurance claim are enough to create jurisdiction, and possibly a requirement for Connecticut licensure of adjusters. Attorney General Richard Blumenthal said the litigation was launched to determine whether a state law was broken, and to obtain more facts. The case arose from an October 2002 collision in Groton, Conn., when a New York cab insured by ATIC damaged the car driven by Mickey Reavis, of Stonington, Conn. Reavis wasn’t satisfied with the amount offered by ATIC, on the basis of an appraisal made by what the insurer says is a Connecticut-licensed independent adjuster. He complained to the insurance commission, and also called ATIC, which settled the dispute with at least one phone call and one letter. The company’s lawyer, Jay H. Sandak of Stamford, Conn.’s Sandak, Hennessey & Greco, said his client is strongly opposed to the notion that settling a claim would force an insurer to submit to Connecticut’s courts, the agency’s investigative subpoenas, and require its employees to become licensed in Connecticut. Under the logic of the case, said Sandak, insurance company employees would be violating licensure laws any time they accepted a phone call to negotiate settlement in any state where the company isn’t licensed, which in ATIC’s case is 49 states. “Clearly the state legislature never intended that,” he said. The case is currently being battled on its initial, jurisdictional level. In an Aug. 6 opinion, Hartford, Conn., Superior Court Judge Robert E. Beach Jr. concluded that Connecticut has jurisdiction. Sandak has filed a motion for reargument. Beach based his jurisdictional decision, in large part, on the 1957 U.S. Supreme Court case of McGee v. International Life Insurance Co., in which a single “purposeful” letter to the California policyholder from the Texas insurer was considered enough to confer specific personal jurisdiction. In Sandak’s motion to reargue, he emphasizes that, unlike McGee, the Connecticut accident victim and ATIC were not contractually bound to each other. So far, Sandak said he hasn’t found other reported instances of a regulatory turf battle like this. “I think we’re on new ground here,” he said.

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