Curtis Hutchens: Finding a Path to Resolution

Curtis Hutchens

In the latest Mediator of the Month feature, we sat down with Curtis Hutchens, who founded CH Mediation in 2013 to assist insureds, claimants, and their attorneys in deciding whether to defend, prosecute or settle lawsuits prior to trial. Previously, Hutchens served as a civil trial attorney, a claims counsel for Nationwide Insurance and chief claims counsel for Citizen Property Insurance Corporation. He has practiced law in Florida since 1989 and now maintains a statewide virtual practice.

AALM: When did you first know you wanted to become a mediator? What drew you to this change in your career?

CH: After 20 years working for two large insurance companies, I could see a path to resolution in most cases. I learned that many claims could and should have been resolved earlier in the process. I enjoy figuring out what prevents the case from settling and removing those barriers. In 2013, I founded CH Mediation to help attorneys and their clients make an informed decision whether they wanted to resolve the dispute, continue to prosecute or keep defending.

AALM: What do you most hope to accomplish in the future?

CH: I am expanding my ADR practice to include additional arbitrations with a focus on being the umpire in a three-person arbitration panel. Many commercial insurances policies require the arbitration umpire to have previously been employed in a senior position in claims at an insurance company.  Because of my previous employment with National Mutual Fire Insurance and Citizens Property Insurance, I am able to act as umpire.

AALM: What benefits do you believe mediation and arbitration offer clients and attorneys alike?

CH: Mediation creates an opportunity for claimants and attorneys to receive settlement funds earlier and with more certainty than waiting for trial. Of course, the earlier a case resolves, the greater the opportunities for risk management.

AALM: What experiences in your career have taught you the most?

CH: I benefited from several career altering disputes. I worked on an intellectual property case with the Unted States Patent and Trademark Office and companion cases in countries around the world. This dispute was really a business opportunity for both parties to create a working relationship on an ongoing basis. Once the parties saw the issue not as a dispute but a business opportunity to collaborate, the case settled to the satisfaction of all.

AALM: What is the best compliment you’ve received?

CH: I once had the opportunity to challenge the election results of a mayoral candidate. Ultimately the court agreed and declared the election invalid. The Secretary of Elections thanked me for taking the case because she knew the election was poorly run and wanted to re-do it but was unable to without a judicial order.

AALM: What events are you most looking forward to in the coming year?

CH: Because my practice is statewide and regional, I attend multiple events at varied locations. In late January, I attended the Windstorm Insurance Network annual conference to meet with attorneys and claims adjusters to discuss the latest developments in catastrophe disputes.  I am currently arbitrating many commercial property disputes arising out of Hurricane Ian. I am also looking forward to attending this year’s Miami-Dade Bench and Bar conference in March. And finally, I will attend the bi-annual conference of the National Association of Distinguished Neutrals in Montreal.

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