From Mathlete, to National Chemistry Olympiad, to Coverage Lawyer, April Gassler has spent her life solving complex problems. In her early career, April represented insurance and financial services companies in complex commercial disputes and nationwide class action litigation, at both the trial and appellate levels. For over a decade now, April’s practice has centered on counseling insurance industry clients on complex coverage issues arising from commercial general liability, directors’ & officers’ liability, and other types of professional liability insurance policies, as well as on representing those clients in insurance coverage and “bad faith” litigation. She also assists commercial real estate developers in the Washington, D.C. area in connection with a variety of insurance and litigation issues. In addition, April is a trained mediator with a growing Alternative Dispute Resolution practice.
April enjoys working with her insurance and real estate industry clients because no two matters are the same. While familiar issues may arise in multiple cases, the unique facts and circumstances of each — as well as the differences in applicable law — ensure that there is never a dull moment. In addition, as an avid crossword puzzler, April has a strong appreciation for the fact that while there may be many viable solutions to a single problem, it is important to consider which solution is the best fit under the circumstances. April’s clients appreciate her ability to quickly identify and analyze the core issues in a new matter and her collaborative approach to developing a resolution strategy. She responds to communications promptly and can be relied upon to provide expeditious and reliable advice and/or work product when an urgent issue arises.
April pursues a wide-range of interests outside of her legal career. She is involved in a variety of volunteer activities with the Kiwanis Club of Washington, D.C., of which she is a Past President. Some of her favorite projects include the Kiwanis Club of Washington, D.C.’s annual Student Leader Awards Scholarship Program, the Club’s work with Bright Beginnings, Inc. (a Washington, D.C. nonprofit that provides pre-school education to homeless families), and mentoring student leaders in the CKI Club at American University (a local chapter of the world’s largest collegiate service organization). April is also a prize-winning amateur baker, owner of three rescued beagles, and an LSU Tigers fanatic.
Such activities include meeting with defense counsel, helping negotiate defense arrangements, reviewing legal bills, preparing coverage correspondence, evaluating a primary carrier’s coverage and settlement positions, and participating in mediations and other settlement negotiations. The insureds involved have included contractors of all sizes, banks, private equity firms, hedge funds, national retailers, software companies, law firms, insurance agencies, travel agencies, mortgage servicing companies, trucking companies, movie theater chains, and educational institutions. Claims have included FDIC actions against failed banks, breach of fiduciary duty and fraud claims against D&Os, malpractice actions against various professionals, construction defects, employment-related disputes, and a variety of claims arising from a company’s cessation of business.
The claims were against an insured holding company that owned various businesses providing services to lenders and mortgage servicing companies in connection with mortgage defaults, foreclosures, and sales of lender-owned properties. One claim alleged that the holding company participated in a scheme to defraud the previous owner of the subsidiary mortgage servicing companies and sought over $40 million in damages. Another claim was brought by a state attorney general and alleged that an insured subsidiary and officer defrauded consumers in connection with real estate foreclosures. Based upon April’s investigation and consultation with the insurer’s underwriters, she determined that the insurer had a strong claim for rescission of a D&O renewal policy. In 2015, April represented the insurer in a declaratory judgment and rescission action in federal court that resulted in a favorable settlement for the insurer, including releases of two insurance policies.
After the Connecticut District Court granted a motion to dismiss, holding that an exclusion for claims arising out of the insolvency of an investment firm precluded coverage, April joined the litigation team on the appeal to the Second Circuit, where dismissal was affirmed. Associated Cmty. Bancorp, Inc. v. Travelers Cos., 421 Fed. Appx. 125 (2d Cir. 2011). The bank then brought another suit in the New York Supreme Court contending that amended complaints filed by the custodial accountholders provided new bases for coverage. The court granted the insurer’s motion to dismiss holding that several policy exclusions precluded coverage, including the insolvency exclusion, fee dispute exclusion and sale of securities exclusion. Associated Cmty. Bancorp, Inc. v. St. Paul Mercury Ins. Co., 2013 N.Y. Slip. Op. 30182 (Sup. Ct.), aff’d, 2014 N.Y. App. Div. LEXIS 4627 (June 24, 2014).
April represented the insurer in federal court in Maryland, seeking a declaratory judgment that late notice precluded coverage where the insured bank failed to provide notice of a claim until after a default judgment had been entered against it. The case involved a lawsuit brought against the insured bank in Illinois by a disbarred attorney appearing pro se and involving a failed real estate transaction. The insured bank was served via its registered agent and the suit papers were forwarded to the bank according to its standing instructions. However, due to a comedy of errors, the bank failed to respond to the suit and the disbarred attorney obtained a default judgment against the bank in the Illinois action, which he then sought to enforce against the bank in Maryland. The case involved questions of the court’s ability to exercise personal jurisdiction over a non-resident who sought to have a judgment enforced by the Maryland courts, interpretation of a multi-year claims-made policy’s notice provisions, and application of a state statute requiring an insurer to demonstrate prejudice to avoid coverage on the basis of late notice. See St. Paul Mercury Ins. Co. v. Am. Bank Holdings, Inc., 819 F.3d 728 (4th Cir 2016) (April was involved only in the district court proceedings; she did not participate in the appellate proceedings).
April was the senior associate on the litigation team that represented the primary CGL insurer after the verdict was entered in Missouri state court against its insured trucking company (who itself was, by then, a debtor in bankruptcy proceedings). The primary insurer declined to settle the case within its $5 million policy limit after several demands from an excess insurer to do so. The underlying case was brought by the survivors of a married couple who died in a massive, twelve-vehicle pile-up on a foggy Missouri interstate highway. The client obtained summary judgment on the excess insurer’s bad faith failure to settle the claim and the judgment was affirmed on appeal to the Eight Circuit. American Guarantee and Liability Insurance Company v. United States Fidelity & Guaranty Company, et al., No. 10-2275, 2012 U.S. App. LEXIS 2646 (8th Cir. Feb. 10, 2012).
This involved surveying the market and helping inform the client’s decision-makers about the pros and cons of this type of coverage. Once the decision was made to pursue the program in earnest, April assisted with the development of the client’s submissions to its insurance broker and, in turn, the market. She then reviewed quotes and proposals from various insurers, and worked closely with broker representatives and the client’s legal and risk management personnel, to craft customized policy language and endorsements suitable for the client’s portfolio.
Such matters include: (1) a claim in which a contractor’s underpinning operation triggered a release of noxious fumes that affected neighboring residents and caused construction delays; (2) a claim arising from a pervasive mold condition in the attic spaces of LEED certified townhomes located in two separate projects based upon the same building plans; (3) a claim arising from off-gassing of formaldehyde from fixtures installed in residential units. These claims involved insurance carriers who initially denied all coverage or sought to impose multiple self-insured retentions, effectively eliminating or drastically reducing the amount of insurance available to the pay the client’s losses. In each instance, as a result of the firm’s advocacy on behalf of its clients, the insurers reversed their positions and afforded coverage.