Sol Kroll, a veteran Manhattan insurance lawyer who helped found the firm that became Wilson Elser Moskowitz Edelman & Dicker, died on Thursday. He was 94.
His practice spanned more than seven decades, during which he became known for his representation of global insurance companies. His early practice focused on medical malpractice, and he went on to represent clients from all aspects of the insurance industry including brokers, agents and reinsurance firms.
Notably, Kroll represented a hospital in Bing v. Thunig, 2 NY2d 656 (1957), a case where the New York Court of Appeals held the hospital liable for its employee's negligence, eliminating the concept of charitable immunity for hospitals. He also represented insurance underwriters in Schiff v. Flack, 51 NY2d 692 (1980), a case that clarified that malpractice insurance does not extend to non-professional activities.
Kroll provided counsel to insurance industry clients spread across the United Kingdom, France, Japan and the United States.
"He was the first truly global insurance lawyer," said his son, Elliott Kroll, an Arent Fox partner who also represents insurance industry clients and worked with his father for more than 20 years.
The elder Kroll immigrated to New York from Russia in the early 1920s, passing through Ellis Island with his parents and three sisters.
He earned his J.D. at St. John's University School of Law and was admitted to the bar in 1942.
At a bar association meeting in 1947 he met his wife of 64 years, Ruth, who was also a lawyer. She practiced maritime, immigration and family law throughout her career and died in April 2012.
The pair was asked to serve as prosecutors in the Nuremburg trials but they chose to start a family instead, said Elliott Kroll.
In the 1950s, when Kroll started representing insurance industry clients worldwide, he traveled overseas by boat to meet them in person. From 1960 to 1964 he served as county attorney in Putnam County before returning to insurance law.
In 1962, he helped found the firm that became Wilson Elser, then left in 1979 to found Kroll & Tract.
He worked closely with specialist insurer Lloyd's of London and was the first U.S. general counsel to the Institute of London Underwriters. He also represented the country of France in negotiations with the United States and Sweden on insurance aspects of tax treaties in major insurance M&A transactions. Beginning in the early 1990s, he served for 20 years as director of the Insurance Federation of New York. And until a few years ago, Kroll served as general counsel for StellaRe, a firm that manages European reinsurance companies entering the U.S. market.
He retired from the now-defunct Kroll & Tract in 2000.
"He was a very gracious man," Elliott Kroll said. "He had a wonderful sense of savvy and street smarts, and he was a lot of fun. He had a great sense of humor and liked to go out and dance."
As a hobby, Kroll enjoyed molding clay sculptures of busts, which he gave as gifts to his children and colleagues. He also wrote poetry. Last June, he attended the reopening of a time capsule in Putnam County that was buried in 1962, when he was county attorney.
"Fifty years ago he'd written a letter to the people of 2012 saying he hoped advances in science and medicine would lead to better lives for people and he hoped we'd live in a peaceful world," Elliott Kroll said.
In addition to his son Elliot, Kroll is survived by another son, Gerald Kroll, a solo litigator in Santa Barbara and Los Angeles; two daughters, Judy and Elise; nine grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.