Insurance Journal senior writer Dave Thomas recently interviewed Michelle Duffett, president of the Professional Liability Underwriting Society (PLUS) and owner of Illinois -based Insight Insurance Services. Duffett is the first female president of PLUS. PLUS will hold its 2002 conference in Orlando, Fla. Nov. 10-13.
Dave Thomas: What is your role with PLUS and your responsibilities?
Michelle Duffett: I am the president and my term will end at the conference. I’ve been on the Board for five years. The duty of the president is to move forward with the mission of the Organization and its short-term goals. The Organization has been around since 1988 and we have approximately 4,000 members. We also have a fairly large population of members in Great Britain and Canada. We’ve had members from Germany, South America, Australia and Japan. Our two largest areas are New York and Chicago. Wherever you will find professional liability insurers’ you will find PLUS members. Our mission is to provide education.
Thomas: What have you seen in the last year as far as trends in professional liability?
Duffett: The thing that jumps out at me more than anything else is the difficulties certain market segments are going through like medical malpractice, and directors & officers coverage has really been under fire. There are a lot of other factors besides 9/11. The direct terrorism problems and claims arising out of 9/11 are not directly professional liability issues.
Thomas: Is there one area of the country having more problems than others?
Duffett: No geographic areas jump out at me. It may be more specific to individual lines particularly medical malpractice comes to mind. States like Pennsylvania have had a number of carriers pull out and there is really a void. Someone with an appetite could go in and find the market very receptive. I don’t know that it would necessarily mean that if you had a good product that you’d be less well received in Illinois, for example, as it tends to be a national problem. I’m not seeing or hearing from my peers that any states are being targeted. Having said that, one of the areas I work in is architects and engineers professional liability. In that line, we have mold concerns. With that regard, Texas is a concern and Florida has been a concern. The entire Pacific Coast of California, Oregon and Washington are also concerns.
Thomas: What feedback do you get from agents regarding professional liability?
Duffett: For the most part, prices are going up and underwriting is becoming more restrictive. The independent agents are seeing pricing going up everywhere. In that regard, increases for professional liability are not as bad in many cases as increases in other areas. The availability is more noticeable. Anyone that has some claims problems or a little tougher or more unusual risk is really struggling to find coverage.
Thomas: What do you see for 2003 in professional liability?
Duffett: What I’m hearing is that 2003 isn’t going to be significantly different. I don’t know that we’ll see a whole lot of continual price increases, but we certainly won’t see any decreases. What happens at the 1/1/ reinsurance renewals will have a large impact on what kind of pricing or policy term changes we see in the next year.
Thomas: Any advice for first-time attendees to the Conference?
Duffett: Networking is a very important function of the conference to exchange information with your peers and clients. The most benefit will be from the general session and there’s a myriad of shorter sessions on individual topics like mold, D&O, and so on. Anything in their particular areas of expertise I would strongly encourage them to go to.
For more information on PLUS, log onto: www.plusweb.org.