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MillerNash earns $36,672 defending Altman et al on sex assault allegations

As of March 10th. All but $5K was paid by UO’s insurance company. No answers from Dave Hubin’s PR team on the other questions at bottom, but somehow they think this is fully responsive. Here’s the 2011 Miller Nash bid to provide legal services to UO. A long post on the counter-claim that MillerNash attorneys Michelle Smigel and Michael Porter filed on behalf of Altman and UO filed against Jane Doe, and how the UO Senate and many others finally persuaded Coltrane to drop it, is here.

Initial Request Date: 02/27/2015
Status: Records Provided
Request Completion Date: 03/30/2015
This is a public records request for documents showing how UO is paying the Miller Nash attorneys. Specifically, I am requesting documents showing how much has been spent so far, and how much of that has been paid for by general academic funds, athletic department funds, and other sources such as insurance, UO Foundation money, etc

Dear Mr. Harbaugh-

In response to your request made 02/27/2015, the University of Oregon is a member of the Public Universities Risk Management and Insurance Trust (PURMIT). As of March 10, 2015 PURMIT has paid $36,672 on this matter. This total includes $5,000 deductible.

The office considers this to be fully responsive to your request, and will now close your matter. Thank you for contacting the office with your request.

Sincerely, Lisa Thornton


  1. risky business 04/02/2015

    Something about that reply to your public records request doesn’t seem “fully responsive.” As I understand it, for most losses the deductible is $5k, and that’s funded by the “department” sustaining the loss. An interesting rabbit hole there, for sure, but I digress. After the department pays its $5k, the university risk fund picks up the next level of expense before PURMIT kicks in. Finally, insurance (FM Global?) picks up the tab for losses exceeding some other level. So if PURMIT kicked in, there’s probably a gap between the deductible and the amount funded by PURMIT that is not explained by the response to your request. Which would mean you still have no idea how much money has been paid to Miller Nash. Unless there’s some special arrangement for sexual assault insurance? Given the high incidence, that doesn’t seem likely.

    • just different 04/02/2015

      I was wondering about this, so thanks for this info. Is it really the case that UO is insured to pay their lawyers and also to pay any claims if they lose? This would seem to imply that from a risk management point of view it’s the same to the university to litigate as to settle, so they might as well roll the dice and litigate.

      While that would explain a lot about UO’s weird decisions, it doesn’t make sense. Why would anyone ever settle if it were possible to get that kind of insurance coverage?

      • risky business 04/03/2015

        Because insurance won’t cover intentional acts, so to the extent the complaint alleges intentional torts and the university is found liable for them, insurance would cover neither the liability for the act nor the fees to defend the allegation.

        • just different 04/03/2015

          Fascinating, thank you. It would be interesting to see exactly what web of insurance coverage the university has, in order to understand what cost-benefit analysis (a.k.a. “the math,” as Brad Shelton put it) goes into making the legal decision to, countersue a rape victim, as but one example.

          Private entities will nearly always make the decision to settle if it would be more expensive to pay their lawyers to defend them. Public entities are much more willing to go to court, and public universities in particular will often go to the mat over remarkably small claims.

          I wish I understood exactly what the dynamics are. Is it just that universities are willing to go to extremes to defend their (enormous) historical authority and prerogatives, or is there some taxpayer-funded hedge that makes it financially advantageous for them to hash everything out in court?

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