90 Prospect Street
St Johnsbury, VT 05819-2241
ph: 802-748-8324
dir: 802-473-4212
Overview

Experienced and savvy business litigation and insurance coverage counsel.

For more than 25 years, Bruce Palmer has been providing clients with cost-effective, practical advice and smart solutions to a wide range of business and insurance issues and disputes. Bruce brings a wide and varied experience to bear in his representation of both captive and regular insurers, policy holders, banks and borrowers, owners and contractors, plaintiffs and defendants. Niche areas of Bruce’s practice include litigation and mediation of commercial, business and insurance claims; insurance policy and endorsement drafting; claims handling advice; claims and coverage litigation; insurance coverage opinions; professional liability coverage; environmental pollution and property damage coverage and construction contracting and claims resolution. Bruce represents regional and national banks, single and group captive insurers, risk retention groups, secured lenders, real estate developers, construction companies and others in a wide variety of insurance, commercial, construction and environmental litigation. To each new matter, Bruce brings skills that lead to the efficient resolution of issues for clients with diverse viewpoints and concerns.

Experience
  • Recently convinced the Vermont Supreme Court that entrustment of a borrowed car to a third driver without the owner’s permission was a sufficient “use” of the car meriting coverage under the owner’s insurance policy, covering any person “while using” the owner’s car. This reversed a ruling by the Superior Court that some benefit from or actual physical use of the vehicle by the permissive borrower would be required to find coverage.
  • Successfully enforced a settlement agreement after one party refused to convey clear title to property as required by the agreement, and obtained an award of all the client’s attorneys’ fees incurred in the two year long enforcement effort.
  • Retained as counsel in litigation over insurance coverage for environmental liabilities under policies containing pollution exclusions, a subject matter Bruce has litigated repeatedly, and also concerning alternative coverage under the Vermont Petroleum Cleanup fund.
  • Provides ongoing claims handling and coverage advice under the captive insurance programs of fortune 500 companies and major international financial institutions. Bruce has also advised on coverage issues arising out of the recent Chinese wallboard products liability lawsuits and concerning the proper adjustment and claims handling for property losses sustained in Hurricane Katrina.
  • Has litigated issues and settled matters concerning insurance coverage for toxic tort claims in Utah, property damage and environmental liability claims in Vermont, Connecticut, New Hampshire and Massachusetts, professional liability claims in Florida and New York, and advertising injury claims and equipment losses in Vermont.
  • Writes insurance policies for programs covering commercial general liability, environmental impairment, professional liability, property loss, products liability, employment practices, business interruption, automotive liability, cyber risk, employee dishonesty, workers compensation, medical stop loss and terrorism risks and coverage, deductible reimbursement and other policies.
  • Regularly drafts and interprets contracts for owners and contractors engaged in large building projects and consults on construction issues and insurance and indemnity claims.
  • Serves as the Deputy General Counsel for the firm and consults with and advises his colleagues regularly on issues of professional responsibilities and risk management.
Education

University of Connecticut, J.D., summa cum laude, 1985

Admissions & Clerkships

Massachusetts, 1987

Rhode Island, 1986

Vermont, 1989

New Hampshire, 1990

U.S. Court of Appeals, First Circuit, 2001

Memberships & Activities
  • New Hampshire Bar Association
  • Rhode Island Bar Association
  • Vermont Bar Association
  • Vermont Professional Responsibility Board hearing Panel Member, 2009-2012
  • American Bar Association, 1989
Accolades & Awards
  • Recognized in Super Lawyers® 2011-2017 for his insurance coverage practice. Selection is based on a multiphase rating process with peer nominations and evaluations combined with third-party research.
  • Recognized as a Leading Lawyer by Chambers USA® for 2012, 2013 and 2014 for his Corporate Commercial and Captive Insurance work including multi-jurisdictional matters common to insurers.
  • Recognized in 2013 by Vermont Business Magazine as a top lawyer practicing in the areas of Insurance Coverage, Business Litigation and Construction Litigation.
Community Involvement
  • St. Johnsbury Athenaeum, Trustee
  • Danville School Enrichment Fund, President
  • Burke Mountain Academy, Former Board Member
Publications & Presentations

Duties and Liabilities of Officers and Directors of Financially Distressed Companies to Creditors, DRM Newsletter (April 14, 2011)

Reported Cases
  • State Farm Mutual Auto. Ins. Co. v. Colby, 2013 VT 80, 82 A.3d 1174 (2013) (coverage for negligent entrustment of auto to third person under policy Omnibus Clause)
  • RBS Citizens, N.A. v. Ouhrabka, 2011 VT 86, 190 Vt. 251, 30 A.3d 1266 (2011) (challenge to the exemption from attachment of tenancy by the entireties property)
  • Northern Security Ins. Co. v. Mitec Electronics, Ltd., 2008 VT 96, 184 Vt. 303, 965 A.2d 447 (2008) (scope of corporate general release barring claims against “affiliates.”)
  • R.L. Vallee, Inc. v. American Int'l Specialty Lines Ins. Co., 431 F. Supp. 2d 428 (D. Vt. 2006) (environmental property damage coverage for leaking Underground Storage Tank)
  • Okemo Mountain, Inc. v. United States Sporting Clays Ass'n, 376 F.3d 102 (2d Cir. 2004) (ambiguity in a general release)
  • Northern Security Ins. Co. v. Mitec Telecom, Inc., 3 F. Supp. 2d 483 (D. Vt. 1998); 38 F. Supp. 2d 345 (D. Vt. 1999) (duty to defend environmental damage claims)
  • Vermont Electric Power Co. v. Hartford Steam Boiler Inspection & Ins. Co., 72 F. Supp. 2d 441 (D. Vt. 1999) (all-risk property damage coverage for gradual destruction of electrical transformer)
  • United States v. Davis, 31 F. Supp. 2d 45 (D.R.I. 1998); 20 F. Supp. 2d 326 (D.R.I. 1998); 1 F. Supp. 2d 125 (D.R.I. 1998); 11 F. Supp. 2d 183 (D.R.I. 1998); 261 F.3d 1 (1st Cir. 2001) (CERCLA contribution action and related appeal)
  • Select Design v. Union Mutual Fire Ins. Co., 165 Vt. 69, 674 A.2d 798 (1996) (coverage for taking of customer list as advertising injury)
  • Judge Development Corp. v. Bank of New York, 814 F. Supp. 384 (D. Vt. 1993) (lender/developer dispute over mortgage discharge)
  • Vermont Gas Systems, Inc. v. United States Fidelity & Guar. Co., 805 F. Supp. 227 (D. Vt. 1992); 151 F.R.D. 268 (D. Vt. 1993) (environmental property damage coverage for manufactured gas plant)
  • Maker v. Bermingham, 32 Mass. App. Ct. 971, 592 N.E.2d 1339 (App. Ct. 1992), (liability of partners in a partnership based on judicial admissions)
  • Green Mountain Ins. Co. v. Maine Bonding & Casualty Co., 158 Vt. 200, 608 A.2d 1160 (1992) (effectiveness of cancellation notice)
  • Lopes v. G.T.E. Products Corp., 560 A.2d 949 (R.I. 1989) (workers compensation exclusivity)
  • Hingham Mutual Fire Ins. Co. v. Heroux, 549 A.2d 265 (R.I. 1988) (homeowners liability coverage for horse escape from unscheduled premises)
90 Prospect Street
St Johnsbury, VT 05819-2241
ph: 802-748-8324
dir: 802-473-4212
bpalmer@drm.com
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