As relayed in last week’s Leaders Update, an unfortunate lawsuit has brought to light new information about the liability coverage of local Leagues and Illinois individual League members. On behalf of the board, I am sharing our new understanding with you and making some recommendations regarding governance of your local League.
Recap of the lawsuit
Last fall, a member of the LWV Downers Grove/ Lisle/ Woodridge, along with that LWV, were sued after an Observer Corps Report was published on the LWV’s Facebook page. The plaintiff alleged “defamation” for a statement made in the report.
LWVIL’s Travelers Insurance has paid for the cost of defense. At first, the claim was denied with our insurer stating that the local LWV in question was not listed as a member LWV of LWVIL and therefore the local LWV and its member would not be covered by the liability policy for LWVIL. However, when it was brought to the insurer’s attention that our LWVIL bylaws, as well as each of our local LWVs’ bylaws, state that any member of any local LWV is also a member of LWVIL and LWVUS, the insurer agreed to pay the claim.
The original lawsuit was dismissed, but the plaintiff has filed an appeal.
Based on this experience, we strongly recommend that your League:
Ensure that your membership roster is accurate and regularly updated.
LWVUS requires that the roster be updated once annually, by January 31. It is better practice to regularly maintain your roster.
New members must be added regularly
, with complete and correct membership category and contact information. Should there be a need for insurance coverage involving a member, that individual’s membership needs to be documented and verifiable.
Follow your bylaws.
Your practices for membership (as well as other matters addressed in your bylaws) should not differ from what your bylaws say. Bylaws should be regularly reviewed and amended so that they meet the current needs of your League and reflect current practices.
We now understand that every League member residing in Illinois or who joins a League in Illinois is covered under the LWVIL umbrella policy, regardless of whether a local League has paid for coverage. Many, but not all, local Leagues have paid for that coverage based on their total membership. About half of LWVIL’s insurance expense has been passed through to the local Leagues annually.
LWVIL has recently had to increase the amount of insurance coverage that we carry in order to provide the amount required by meeting venues, especially in the Chicago area. The additional coverage comes with an increased cost of about 30% annually. The FY2018-19 budget includes cost sharing revenue from the local Leagues. Therefore, the LWVIL Board has decided to continue billing local Leagues for insurance in the fiscal year that begins on July 1.
Because sharing in the cost of insurance is not a requirement for being covered, the Board will rely on the recommendation of the Budget Committee to determine whether LWVIL will bill local Leagues for insurance in future years. The policy suggested by the Budget Committee with the approval of the board will be presented at the LWVIL Convention in 2019.
Please share this guidance with your League’s board of directors, especially your treasurer, membership chair, and roster manager.
Please forward this email to the current leadership of your League if your term of office has ended.
Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions.
Yours in League,