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Vol. 7 - Issue 8
November 7, 2018


In Memoriam: Jerry Oshinsky On The Passing Of Joe Tydings

U.S. Senator Turned Policyholder Coverage Lawyer


On October 8, 2018, Joe Tydings, a Democratic Senator from Maryland from 1965 to 1971, died at age 90. I saw a brief note about his passing on Twitter. But, being unfamiliar with Senator Tydings, I didn’t give it much thought. Then I received an email from Jerry Oshinsky, of Kasowitz’s L.A. office. Now, all of I sudden, I was fascinated by Joe Tydings. It turns out that politics was only one of Joe Tydings’s careers. Another was policies. He was coverage counsel to policyholders.

Jerry was a long-time friend and colleague of Joe Tydings. He shared with me, and for Coverage Opinions readers, the following moving tribute to the life of the Senator-turned-policyholder lawyer.

Remembering Joe Tydings
By Jerry Oshinsky

Sadly my wife Sandy and I recently learned about the death of our old friend, law and tennis partner, former Maryland Senator Joe Tydings (2 days after Sandy’s 95 year old mom also had died.)

We first met Joe when he joined our policyholders’ insurance coverage practice at Anderson Kill Olick & Oshinsky, PC. I interviewed Senator Tydings (“call me Joe”) in D.C., after he left Finley Kumble, and told him that I was chairing an insurance program in New York City the next day. Joe came to the program and the rest is “history.”

At the time (1988), Maryland was an unfavorable venue for policyholders seeking insurance coverage from insurance companies. I suggested that his role in our practice would be to “make Maryland safe for policyholders.” And did he ever!! Maryland had held that the only policy that counted, in cases where pollution had occurred over a long period of time, was the last policy in the sequence, referred to by the courts as manifestation or discovery of the alleged injury or damage. The problem with that rule was that, by that time in the pollution sequence, our clients’ policies contained blanket exclusions for pollution. Joe jumped head first into the arena and persuaded the Maryland courts that all of the policies from the first polluting event until the discovery were available to provide coverage, following our lead in the historic 1981 decision in Keene v. INA that had applied the same continuous coverage principle to cases involving exposure to asbestos. The early policies did not contain the later imposed exclusions for pollution or asbestos and provided ample insurance coverage for our clients.

Likewise, the conservative Maryland courts had held that EPA orders to clean up pollution were not covered by insurance because they supposedly were “injunctive” and did not seek “damages” covered by insurance. Once again Joe got that case law overruled, bringing Maryland law in line with earlier precedent that we had established in other jurisdictions.

Joe introduced us to Mark Kolman from a Maryland firm who joined us and Mark became our top trial lawyer not only in Maryland, but nationally. Joe also brought in Nancy Hogshead as a summer law associate who is now very prominent in critical public affairs as the CEO of Champion Women. This is an organization leading national efforts, in all areas for Women equality in sports, including Title IX enforcement in Athletic departments, and compliance with modern standards of equality in the workplace. Nancy tied for the gold in the 100 meter swim in the 1984 Olympics among her three gold medals and one silver. We played the video of the dead heat in our conference room and, while knowing the result, everyone cheered for a very slightly different outcome! But it was okay.... two for the USA!

I recall that Joe had similar success for New Castle County, Delaware and Coors Beer in Colorado, among others. He also always provided wise counsel on life, politics, culture, and ethics – or whatever topic he might be asked.

In the 4th Circuit, the custom is that Judges come off the bench and shake hands with each attorney after the argument. Joe received that treatment in the 3rd Circuit after his argument in the New Castle County case.

On a personal note, Joe’s popularity was such that, at his marriage ceremony in about 1990, on the campus of his beloved University of Maryland, his guests included Supreme Court Justices Sandra Day O’Connor and Byron R. White. I sat at one table with Justice O’Connor and Sandy at another with Justice White. Both Justices spoke beautifully about their fondness and respect for Senator Tydings. (Justice White wore two different colored shoes to the wedding in his apparent haste to be on time.

JFK had suggested in 1963 that Joe run for the U.S. Senate and Joe indeed was elected in 1964. Ironically, when Joe ran for re-election to 1970, he lost by about 1% to Glenn Beall, Jr., after Joe had defeated Glenn Beall, Sr. six years earlier by 63% to 37%. Beall Junior was heavily supported by the NRA, who Joe had challenged even in that early time, and that was believed to have cost him the election. History does have a way of repeating itself. Joe played a prominent role in defeating two of President Nixon’s Supreme Court nominees in light of their opposition to civil rights. Joe’s principles were unshakeable. If he had been re-elected, as a close friend of the Kennedy family, he might have been a viable national candidate in 1976 or 1980, although it would have been interesting in 1980 with Ted Kennedy making a play. Conceivably, as a Marylander, and if he had kept his Senate seat, and as a Kennedy favorite, Joe might have shifted enough votes from Carter and swung the Nomination to Kennedy. Maybe too speculative, but it is never easy to predict the past!

Joe had these great pictures in his office including the Yalta Conference signed by every participant except Stalin. (Joe’s grandfather, Joe Davies, was the American interpreter). Joe sought out Svetlana Stalin, who would not sign, and explained in a letter to Joe that it was because of her disagreement with his politics! There was another photo of a tall, lanky Joe at age 20, talking with President Harry Truman. Joe also had a number of pictures with the Kennedys interspersed on his office credenza. Joe’s office was its own snapshot in history.

Joe’s adopted dad Millard Tydings was a friend of FDR; elected to the Senate four times and one of the very few in government to stand up publically to Joe McCarthy and the “Red Scare”.

Joe also was a favorite tennis partner of me and Sandy. Given his height (6’4”) and athleticism, probably developed from his log canoe rowing experience and his college sports days, he was a formidable player and never missed a serve. Sandy and I often played doubles against Joe and his partner at the time (Kate Clark in later years) and he would proclaim with a chuckle that the secret of his tennis success was “don’t hit the ball to the lady in the blue tennis shirt!” (Sandy!)

I can’t recall exactly when, but probably in the early 1990s, my partner Lorie Masters and Sandy and I were invited to hear Joe speak at a gun control rally. We then saw a different Joe: Joe the staunchest anti-gun advocate; Joe on the stump; Joe who the country never really appreciated; Joe, our immortal friend.

After Joe moved with our band of about 35 lawyers in 1996 to what became renamed as Dickstein Shapiro Morin and Oshinsky LLP, Sandy and I were having lunch with Senior Partner David Shapiro and Joe. David was the antithesis of Joe in many ways, height and weight differentials perhaps most prominent. As we walked, and Joe bounded ahead of us back to the office, David said: “look at that son of a gun! Look at him!”

That is my lasting image of Senator Joe Tydings—bounding ahead of us.......

October 12, 2018


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