By:  Charles F. Carr, President, Carr Allison

For 35 years I have had the pleasure of dealing with the best of the best in risk management.  Some were General Counsel, some were Risk Managers and some were Claims Superintendents.  When I first became a lawyer, there were three claims superintendents for State Farm’s regional claims office in Birmingham who became father figures to me:  Bob Calhoun, Bill Fields and Bob Stamps.  There were others, but these three adopted a naïve young lawyer and instilled confidence in him to try cases simply by saying:  “no settlement on this one…go try it.”

During that era, I thought every case should be tried.  Most were.  There were no mediations and no mediators.  There was not a lot of discovery.  Some weeks you would have three cases tried.  One would start on Monday and end Tuesday afternoon.  The next two would finally be over by Friday or would carry over into the next week.  There was never any concern about a runaway verdict.  I believed that when a case was sent to me by Bill or the two Bobs at State Farm, the case should be a winner if I just did my job.

By the 1980s, the vehicles driven and/or owned by my clients had 14 more wheels on them.  Injuries were no longer whiplash and broken bones.  I dealt with death, paraplegia, loss of sight or extremities and traumatic brain injury.  The defendants were no longer John Smith who lived in the same neighborhood as the jury but an impersonal corporate trucking company headquartered in Michigan or Ohio or California.

Two new risk management types crossed my path.  The first was Bill Burns.  Bill was Vice-President in charge of risk management for the claims handling subsidiary of Landstar, which was and remains one of the largest transportation companies in the United States.  Currently, Landstar has more than 9,000 lease operators and some 14,000 trailers.  More importantly, when I started working for them, Landstar had Bill Burns.

I can’t even begin to tell you how much Bill Burns taught me about transportation risk management and transportation litigation.  From the small town of Madisonville, Kentucky, Bill’s roots ran deep with Landstar.  He knew something about every big Landstar claim.  Bill was one of the first people who taught me about the empathic claims approach and anguished over every Landstar accident.  Bill was Landstar risk management.  He hurt along with anyone who was hurt by a Landstar unit.  When Bill visited the family of someone hurt in an accident, his sympathy was genuine.  It was as if his family had been hurt in that accident.  He wanted every family to know how sorry he was that they were having to undergo the trauma of that accident.

One of the worst for Bill occurred in February of 2007.  A Landstar lease operator ran a stop sign and collided with a vehicle occupied by a husband and wife, killing the husband and injuring the wife.  For years, Bill anguished over that accident.  Bill would have probably settled that case not long after the accident but the resolution control of that case shifted from Landstar’s retention level to that of a large excess insurer.  Bill told me that he thought the excess carrier was making a serious mistake in allowing that case to go to a jury, but for the first time in his career as a risk manager, Bill had no control over the outcome of the case.  The excess carrier allowed the value of that case to be determined by a Cobb County, Georgia jury that returned a verdict for more than $40 million.  Though Bill Burns played no part in causing that verdict, he continued to anguish over the result well after that verdict came in.  Bill is now retired from Landstar, leaving behind a legacy of “best in class” risk management.  He had some of the finest personnel working with him in Madisonville, most of whom now are also retired. He is enjoying his retirement years with his beautiful wife Bonnie and loving on children and grandchildren every day.

One of Bill’s best friends was, and continues to be, Bob Lund.  Bob Lund was VP of Risk for Schneider National when I first met him.  Schneider National continues to be another of the largest transportation companies in America.  Today it has more than 10,000 company owned tractors and some 3,000 owner operator tractors.  Bob had come from National Car Rental to Schneider in August 1992.  During his time at Schneider he surrounded himself with some of the most well-known names in transportation claims including Frank Stackhouse, Sara Johnson Miemec, Mehdi Arradizadeh and many others.

Want to know what a couple of those people think about Bob Lund?

Bob was my mentor, leader, role model for 23 years. He gave me the opportunity to grow and make decisions. He always supported me. When I made mistakes he guided me through them. Even when he left Schneider I could call him and ask him for his opinion. I am fortunate to have worked for him and even more fortunate to call him my friend.”

Sara Johnson Miemec, Litigation Director for Schneider National

“Bob taught me the technical skills of claims handling and people management. I also learned perseverance in difficult situations and standing on one’s principle was extremely difficult. I learned to be persistent and to keep an open mind to new ideas and new ways of doing things.  Additionally, Bob assisted and taught me, how to maneuver through the corporate environment.  Most importantly, he taught me to always do the right thing, cost effectively and ethically.”

– Mehdi Arradizadeh, VP of Risk Management for Anderson Trucking

A few years ago, Bob moved into the similar position at Swift Transportation and he and Evinda moved from Wisconsin to Phoenix.  Who else can say they were the VP of risk management for two transportation companies as large as Schneider and Swift?  At Swift, Bob brought in Doug Betkowski.  Upon Bob’s retirement from Swift, I asked Doug to comment on what it was like to work under Bob:

“We shared similar values and our approach to claims became the sine qua non for getting the bad ones settled.  We got the job done because we respected each other, worked as a team and pooled our experiences. But more importantly, he trusted me, backed my decisions and trusted my evaluations and my advice. As time went on and we became closer; I like to think we became friends and not just business associates. I respected him then and now for his patience, his good humor and his empathy for others. It’s not often you meet a man who not only talks the talk but walks the walk.”

Bob Lund Photo

Earlier this year, Bob Lund also retired from the transportation risk management business.  This picture was taken recently when Bob drove down from Wisconsin to visit Bill in Madisonville.  The two of them had so many things in common that it was natural that they became life-long friends.  Among the things that I saw they had in common were:

  • Both had a sixth sense for recognizing a problematic, potentially nuclear case and they were able to partner with some of the same transportation defense lawyers all over the country to get these cases resolved without having a jury resolve it for them.
  • Both were extremely respected and well loved by the lawyers that worked with them. Lawyers like me, Pat Dowd, Clay Porter, Phil Stanfield, Marvin Peterson and Mike Sharp were just a few that worked for both Bob and Bill.  You had better be prepared for a long interview if you ask any one of these transportation lawyers what they think of the Lund and Burns boys.
  • Both dealt with some of the best of the best in upper level management at their trucking companies. They each had the ear of their CFOs and CEOs.  Seldom did their recommendation for resolution of a claim get overruled by management above them.
  • Equally importantly, each has a wife that adored them then and adores them now…and vice versa.

In our next newsletter we will explore a little more about what these guys saw in their lifetimes of transportation risk management.  For now, we simply salute two of the greatest minds of our generation in the “Riskaverse”!


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