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Melissa M. D'Alelio
Member of Executive Board
Tenacious and diligent, Melissa D’Alelio provides insight, analysis, and advocacy during complex commercial disputes. Melissa divides her sophisticated insurance practice between liability and property claims, representing clients in the investigation, litigation and trial of a broad spectrum of first and third party coverage, subrogation, reinsurance, and bad faith matters. She also counsels non-insurer clients in general business litigation and contract disputes, labor and employment matters, personal injury, and products liability.
Recognized as a Massachusetts Super Lawyer, Up and Coming Lawyer, or Rising Star every year from 2011 through 2016, Melissa has extensive experience representing insurance companies across the U.S. in high-stakes property coverage investigations, appraisals, and litigation involving collapse, design defect, earth movement, environmental exposure, and catastrophe claims such as hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, earthquakes, and fires. These disputes, which arise in a broad array of industries and professions, regularly involve analyzing ordinance and law, and business interruption claims. Melissa also handles computer fraud, hacking, and other cyber-crime property insurance claims, as well as policyholder misrepresentation and fraud claims.
Melissa’s practice includes representing insurers in the resolution and litigation of a broad range of liability coverage and claims handling disputes under primary and excess commercial, and other specialty line policies, evaluating their duty to defend and indemnify their insureds. Melissa is well versed in resolving claims involving personal and advertising injury, defective construction, additional and other insureds, priority of coverage, and allocation disputes.
Melissa’s extensive experience in resolving policy interpretation disputes in both the property and liability arenas enables her to assist insurers in drafting customized policy forms and endorsements. A former teacher, Melissa enjoys advising and training a wide variety of clients regarding compliance with insurance regulations, state and federal statues, and common law, recommending, as necessary, changes in policy provisions and business protocols and procedures.
Since 2011, Melissa has been Vice Chair of the American Bar Association’s Property Insurance Law Committee (PILC). In this leadership role, Melissa has spearheaded major advances in PILC membership and diversity, and has been instrumental in the planning and management of the PILC annual meeting. She is a frequent speaker on various property and liability insurance matters, both at PILC events and on behalf of the Property and Liability Resource Bureau (PLRB). She was also recently admitted to the Federation of Defense & Corporate Counsel (FDCC) and currently serves as Vice Chair of the Property Insurance Law Section.
Melissa is not only a frequent presenter and writer on litigation and insurance issues, but is deeply committed to the advancement of women in the insurance industry and diversity in the legal profession. She co-founded the firm’s Insurance Insight quarterly newsletter, which highlights and features women’s voices in the insurance industry. She also is a leader in the firm’s Diversity Committee, and has been an active member of the Massachusetts Women’s Bar Association (WBA) for over a decade. In fact, she was honored by the WBA for her service as Chair of the Law Student Committee, and selected by the WBA to participate in its Women’s Leadership Initiative in 2011, an honor given only to those handful of women who are identified by the bar association as talented and promising women attorney leaders in the state. Melissa led the Boston office’s Diversity Summer Internship Program for over 5 years, has served on the office’s hiring and recruiting committee for over 5 years, and is a former fellow, and active member of the national Leadership Council on Legal Diversity (LCLD) program, whose mission is to foster diversity within the legal profession and partner institutions with law firms which share that goal. Most recently, Melissa was named to the "2019 Women Worth Watching" list by Profiles in Diversity Journal.
The first college graduate and lawyer in her family, Melissa truly understands the importance of education, hard work, and perseverance. Born and raised in Boston, Melissa remains committed to her community. In the last decade that commitment has taken her to inner-city classrooms, where she taught high school students about advocacy, to a Louisiana neighborhood decimated by Hurricane Katrina, where she built houses with Habitat for Humanity, and to Immigration Court, where she devoted over 500 hours to securing asylum for an unaccompanied minor from Guatemala.
Earlier in her career, Melissa was honored to serve as a legislative intern to Massachusetts’ first woman majority leader, and as a judicial intern to the nation’s first African-American Chief United States Magistrate Judge. She was also an associate in the Global Risk Management sector of the Financial Aid Assurance Practice of PricewaterhouseCoopers. All that being said, Melissa believes some of her best training as a lawyer came from growing up in a large, Italian family, where she frequently negotiated and advocated over the dinner table. She enjoys continuing to hone these skills with her husband and three young children.
Ascent Hospitality Management v. Employers Insurance Company of Wausau, et al.
Secured Liberty Mutual’s first appellate victory in a COVID-19 coverage case when the Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court’s ruling (applying New York law) that Ascent had not suffered any direct physical loss or damage to property—a prerequisite for coverage— because neither government suspension orders nor the presence of the COVID-19 virus causes such loss or damage. The court also held that coverage for any business losses Ascent might have suffered from the presence of the virus on its properties was precluded by the policy’s contamination exclusion. The Eleventh Circuit agreed with the district court that government-ordered suspensions of business operations cannot be said to cause the requisite direct physical loss or damage under a commercial property insurance policy, and noted that while COVID-19 poses danger, it too does not inflict such loss or damage to property.
Kutest Kids Early Intervention Co. v. Ohio Security Insurance Co.
Represented Ohio Security Insurance Co. in a COVID-19 matter filed in Massachusetts federal court (applying Pennsylvania law). The plaintiffs asserted coverage claims resulting from government ordered shutdowns, basing their claims in part on regulatory estoppel and reasonable expectation doctrines. Our team successfully defended the client, winning a judgment on the pleadings dismissing the entire case with prejudice.
Tao Group Holdings, LLC v. Employers Insurance Company v. Wausau
Successfully represented Wausua in a motion to dismiss all of the policyholder’s pandemic-related coverage claims—along with its claims for bad faith and unfair claims practices—with prejudice. Tao had alleged that Wausau owed tens of millions of dollars in compensatory and punitive damages for its denial of coverage of Tao’s pandemic-related financial losses.
MSD Capital LP v. ACE American Insurance Company, et al.
Secured dismissal of a COVID-19 matter for Ironshore in which MSD filed suit for losses arising out of COVID-related closure of three hotels (a Fairmont in Santa Monica and two Four Seasons in Hawaii) for which MSD sought over $100 million in purported losses.
Burton Way Hotels, LLC v. Ace American Insurance Company, et al.
Won dismissal for Ironshore in a COVID-19 matter related to the Four Seasons Beverly Hills in which the insured claimed $25 million in losses. The court issued a ruling granting Ironshore’s demurrer without leave to amend.
Ortego Chiropractic v. West American Ins. Co.
Prevailed on West American’s motion to dismiss when the judge held that the plaintiff failed to allege “direct physical loss of or damage to” property. The judge also held that the plaintiff, whose business remained open for emergency procedures during the pandemic, failed to allege the additional requirements for Civil Authority coverage and that, in any event, the Policy’s Virus Exclusion precludes coverage for the plaintiff’s financial losses.
Zedan Outdoors, LLC v. Ohio Security Insurance Company
Secured a win for Ohio Security in the District of Oregon when the court dismissed plaintiff’s claims for coverage for pandemic-related business interest losses. The magistrate held that Zedan failed to state a claim for coverage by failing to allege facts showing it had sustained any “direct physical loss of or damage to” covered property—a prerequisite for coverage. The magistrate judge rejected Zedan’s arguments that a government-ordered suspension of business operations constitutes such physical loss or damage. Finding that any amendment would be futile, the magistrate judge recommended that the dismissal of plaintiff’s claims be with prejudice. In a two-page order, the district court agreed.
Green Apple Event Company, Inc. v. Liberty Mutual Group, Inc. et al.
Secured a win in federal court in California in which plaintiff alleged that the policy written by West American Ins. Co. covered its COVID-related business interruption losses. An event company, Green Apple claimed losses at four locations in California caused by state and local government orders restricting gatherings to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus. The district court granted the defendants’ motion to dismiss without leave to amend, finding Green Apple’s arguments unpersuasive.
J&S Kids v. Ohio Casualty Insurance
Secured a victory for Ohio Casualty in COVID-19 litigation matter in federal court in New York. Robins Kaplan was successful in securing a dismissal with prejudice.
The One Group Hospitality, Inc. v. Employers Insurance Company of Wausau
Secured the dismissal of a complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri for breach of contract and declaratory relief brought by The One Group Hospitality, LLC (TOG) – a company that owns 37 insured restaurants (Kona Grill; STK Steakhouse) across 20 states – alleging both that the government orders suspending business operations and the presence of the COVID-19 virus caused “direct physical loss or damage” to property.
3Sixty Duty Free & More Holdings v. Liberty Mutual Holding Company, Inc.
Represented Liberty Mutual in a COVID-19 coverage dispute related to company’s proprietary policy. Successfully removed the action to federal court and secured motion to dismiss plaintiff’s complaint in its entirety with prejudice in the Western District of North Carolina.
David and Lisa Lemelin v. Safeco Insurance Company of America
Defended Safeco Insurance Company of America against a claim for fire loss that occurred at the policy holders second home in Maine. The homeowner’s policy insured their primary residence in New Hampshire, not the Maine property. After filing a motion to dismiss, but before any opposition was filed, the matter was resolved through successful negotiation in favor of our client.
Represented Liberty Mutual in a coverage dispute involving a sewage backup that damaged an insured’s home. The case concerned a water damage exclusion that used the phrase “escape or overflow” in lieu of the more common “backup.” Such an exclusion had not yet been interpreted by any court in the nation. The matter was resolved when the U.S. District Court, District of Maine, granted summary judgment in favor of our client.
Defended Westport Insurance Corporation against a bad faith claim related to storm surge damage from Superstorm Sandyin which the lower court twice dismissed bad faith count and the First Department, Appellate Division of the New York Supreme Court agreed that there is no cause of action for bad faith claims handling in New York, rejecting efforts to extend prior bad faith precedent.
Secured unanimous decision of the First Department, Appellate Division of the New York Supreme Court, affirming summary judgment for client Westport Insurance Corporation in a Superstorm Sandy loss where Orient claimed over $40M in damage. It is one of the few New York decisions involving quota share insurance programs.
Obtained trial verdict on behalf of commercial client claiming breach of service and rental agreements.
- Named a "Women Worth Watching" by Profiles in Diversity Journal (2019)
- Named a "Massachusetts Super Lawyer," Super Lawyers (2013-2014)
- Named an “Up & Coming Lawyer,” Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly (2013)
- Selected by the Women's Bar Association of Massachusetts to participate in the Women's Leadership Initiative, an honor given only to those handful of women who are identified as talented and promising attorneys by the bar association (2011)
- Named a "Massachusetts Rising Star," Super Lawyers (2011-2012)
- Certificate of Appreciation from the Women's Bar Association for service as Chair of the Law Student Committee (2011)
- Boston Lawyer's Group Mentor Program
- Mock Trial Program Coach, Monument High School
- Walk to the Hill for Civil Legal Aid, Team Leader
- Private Bar Advisory Committee, Equal Justice Coalition
- U.S. Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit
- U.S. Court of Appeals, Third Circuit
- U.S. Court of Appeals, First Circuit
- U.S. District Court, Massachusetts
- Northeastern University School of Law, J.D. (2005)
- Mount Holyoke College, B.A. in English and Political Science, magna cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa (2001)
- Vice Chair, Property Insurance Committee, the Federation of Defense and Corporate Counsel ("FDCC")
- Vice Chair, Property Insurance Law General Committee, American Bar Association, Tort, Trial and Insurance Practice ("TIPS")
- Massachusetts Bar Association
- Massachusetts Women's Bar Association
- Defense Research Institute
- Mount Holyoke College Alumnae Association
- Women's Bar Foundation
- Massachusetts Resinsurance Bar Association
- Professional Loss Research Bureau
- Loss Executives Association
- Owning your personal brand
Panelist, Women in Insurance Virtual Summit, Webinar (May 25, 2021)
- At the Corner of Technology and Humanity: Artificial Intelligence in Insurance
Panelist, Federation of Defense & Corporate Counsel (FDCC) 2020 Corporate Counsel Symposium, Webinar (October 6, 2020)
- The Psychology of Persuasion
Robins Kaplan LLP 2019 Women in Insurance Seminar, Boston, MA (September 10, 2019)
- American Bar Association Property Insurance Law Committee 2019 Spring Conference, “Evolution: Property Insurance Law from Cargo to Crypto”
American Bar Association Tort Trial and Insurance Practice Section, Austin, TX (May 9, 2019)
- Superstorm Sandy: Reflecting Upon Her Teachings
Property and Liability Resource Bureau, Boston, Massachusetts (March 26, 2017)
- Hot Topics in Personal and Advertising Injury
American Bar Association, Property Insurance Law Committee, San Antonio, Texas (May 7, 2015)
- Hot Topics in Personal and Advertising Injury
Property and Liability Resource Bureau, Anaheim, California (March 28, 2015)
- Occupancy Requirement: Change in Risk
Property and Liability Resource Bureau, Indianapolis, Indiana (March 15, 2014)
- Hot Topics in Personal and Advertising Injury
Client Roundtable, Boston, Massachusetts (June 6, 2011)
- Family Responsibility Discrimination Claims
Client Roundtable, Boston, Massachusetts (October 16, 2007)
- Employment Handbooks
Client Roundtable, Boston, Massachusetts (October 8, 2007)
- Avoiding Employee Lawsuits: Common Mistakes That Result in Liability
Association of Developmental Disabilities Providers, Boston, Massachusetts (April 11, 2006)
- Dress Codes
Client Roundtable, Boston, Massachusetts (April 5, 2004)
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