Claims + Damage Recovery (Apr 12-14)

This program focuses on sharing best practices and building relationships with other leaders in claims and collection management, and offers insights from guest speakers who have been expert witnesses in claims investigations. Discussions address a wide variety of issues around balancing the need to protect utility assets with the ever-increasing priorities of providing an excellent customer experience. Participants learn from industry professionals who provide services to our members, and discuss issues common to Western utilities such as fire and storm recoveries, inverse condemnation, settlement and negotiations and proper record keeping.

General Details

  • Program Chair(s)
  • Jim DeFrates, NV Energy

    • Program Location
    • NV Energy
    • 6226 W. Sahara AveLas Vegas, NV 89146
    • Who Should Attend
      • Managers or supervisors responsible for claims and collections functions
      • Senior claims investigators and adjustors
      • Collections leadership
      • Legal counsel responsible for claims areas
      • Insurance specialists
      • Service companies supporting the claims and collection areas
  • Registration Options
  • Member: $429 USD
    Regular: $829 USD

    Member registration prices increase $100 after March 22, 2017. Registration fee includes all meeting materials, a welcome reception, all meals on the second day including a networking dinner and breakfast and lunch on the final day.

  • General Cancellation Policy
  • Due to contractual obligations, cancellations received 15 business days prior to the program will receive a full refund. Cancellations received 6 to 14 business days prior to the event will receive a refund, less a $100 administrative fee. No shows and last minute cancellations, 5 business days prior to the event or less, will be responsible for the full registration fee. Substitutions from your organization for the same event are always welcome.
  • Participation Policy
  • Western Energy Institute programs and events are open to energy companies (including gas production and electric generation, gas and electric transmission and gas and electric distribution utilities). Select programs and events are open to energy industry product and service suppliers. Programs and events are closed to all media representatives and to the general public.
  • For more information contact Kara Wolfe, Program Manager at (503) 688-2794.


Wednesday, April 12, 2017

5:30 PM - 7:30 PM

Networking Reception

Join us at Border Grill for networking and hor d'oeuvres, cosponsored by AEGIS Insurance Services, Inc. and JNR Adjustment Company, Inc. Border Grill sits within the Forum Shops at Caesars Palace and offers modern Mexican fare in an open-concept space. 

Thursday, April 13, 2017

7:30 AM - 8:00 AM

Networking Breakfast

Enjoy a hot breakfast at NV Energy sponsored by KPMG.

8:00 AM - 9:30 AM

Welcome to NV Energy + Attendee Introductions
Facilitator(s): Jim DeFrates, Claims Manager, NV Energy

NV Energy will welcome us to Las Vegas and we will kick-off conversation through round-robin attendee introductions. Come prepared to share a recent triumph or a current challenge.

9:30 AM - 9:45 AM

Networking Break

We will break for 15 minutes.

9:45 AM - 10:45 AM

Claims isn't in a Silo
Facilitator(s): Sarah Creighton, Enterprise Risk Supervisor, Eugene Water & Electric Board

How can we leverage information from the claims department to improve the utility’s overall risk management strategy? In what ways does our job interact with other roles and play into broader strategies? Join us for this interactive roundtable discussion to learn how others’ daily activities roll into a larger scope, and come prepared to share how your role impacts others. Additionally, the group will explore programs that add value to the larger picture, including public awareness programs.

10:45 AM - 11:00 AM

Networking Break

We will break for 15 minutes.

11:00 AM - 12:15 PM

Preparation for and Effective Counters to “Plaintiffs’ Reptile Theory"
Facilitator(s): Rob Ramos, Director, Risk & Claims Management, Southern California Edison
Speaker(s): Brian Cardoza, Senior Attorney, Southern California Edison

For the past several years, plaintiffs’ attorneys have turned to what is popularly known as the “Reptile Theory” of jury persuasion to deliver impressive verdicts. The Reptile Theory is designed to invoke fear into the jury and have them psychologically believe that it is in their own self-interests and that of the community to rule against the defense for safety reasons. A plaintiff applying reptile tactics will establish this imminent danger and then provide the jury with the opportunity to defend the community and themselves by returning a verdict against the defendant. If successfully applied, the jury will be convinced that in the interests of public safety, it MUST “make an example” of the defendant through their damage award. In the grips of the reptile frame-of-mind, jurors will believe the awarded damages discourage future violations of basic safety rules, keeping them out of harm’s way.

Once in motion, a reptilian strategy can prove effective so it is important to see it coming and stop it in its tracks. In this session, we will explore ways to recognize and combat reptile tactics in each stage of your defense.

12:15 PM - 1:45 PM

Networking Lunch

Enjoy a catered lunch onsite sponsored by Phoenix Loss Control.

1:45 PM - 3:00 PM

Third Party Contractors + Asset Protection
Facilitator(s): Marci Pence, Manager, Claims, Puget Sound Energy
Speaker(s): Dane Lobb, Dennis Bott, Damage Prevention Administrator, Southwest Gas Corporation

With utilities facing millions of dollars in damaged infrastructure each year, how can we strive toward an enhanced understanding of how damage is caused and how to best mitigate its effects through preventative measures? Join this session for insights on how to track and analyze data, work with repeat offenders and train trade allies. Our speaker will highlight his organization’s efforts and relay best practices in establishing a set of standards. You’ll come away with insights on improving your relationship with third party contractors and protecting your organization’s assets. 

3:00 PM - 3:30 PM

Networking Break

We will break for 30 minutes.

3:30 PM - 5:00 PM

Rapid Fire Roundtable
Facilitator(s): Sarah Creighton, Enterprise Risk Supervisor, Eugene Water & Electric Board, Mark Seaton, President, JNR Adjustment Company, Inc., Darrel Moss, Clara Benavidez
Moderator(s): Jim DeFrates, Claims Manager, NV Energy

We will kick-off this rapid fire roundtable session by highlighting two topics before opening the floor to discussion. Attendees should come prepared for conversation on the below subjects:
1. Customer Conversations. Sharing best practices in maintaining control over a difficult customer exchange and offering advice on molding conversations so they remain productive and positive.
2. Maximizing Recovery on $5k – $20k Claims. What can be done with these large quantity claims that fall into that “decision-making” area? We will discuss best practices in handling scenarios where the amount of your damages are too large to ignore (write off), and not large enough to grab the attention of the legal group to file suit and collect.

6:00 PM - 8:30 PM

Networking Dinner

Join us for a hosted networking dinner at Carmine's, located within The Forum Shops of Caesars Palace. Carmine's offers Southern Italian cuisine within a family style experience.

Friday, April 14, 2017

8:00 AM - 8:30 AM

Networking Breakfast

Enjoy a hot breakfast at NV Energy sponsored by Unified Investigations & Sciences, Inc.

8:30 AM - 9:30 AM

Customer-centric Approach to Claims
Facilitator(s): John Buonagurio, Manager, Claims Services, Salt River Project

Join for this session as Salt River Project provides a general overview on how they approach and handle claims in a cost-effective manner, while also enhancing the customer’s experience. Through specific examples, we will learn how organizations can meet the personal needs of the customer while maintaining the integrity of the claims department’s standards. Conversely, we will discuss barriers that may prevent an organization from following a similar philosophy. Come prepared to share your organization’s approach to customer service opportunities.

9:30 AM - 10:00 AM

Networking Break

We will break for 30 minutes.

10:00 AM - 11:30 AM

Claims Preparation for Catastrophic Events
Facilitator(s): Mike Cummings, Liability Claims Supervisor, Southern California Gas Company
Speaker(s): Mike Cummings, Liability Claims Supervisor, Southern California Gas Company, Rob Ramos, Director, Risk & Claims Management, Southern California Edison, Mike Moreno, Claims Manager, Southern California Gas Company

If your organization experienced a catastrophic incident today would your team be prepared to react? Do you have resources and vendors on standby? Are you prepared for an unprecedented volume of claims? Join us for this session and garner insights from Southern California Gas Company and Southern California Edison on how you can ready yourself for a catastrophic curve ball.

11:30 AM - 12:30 PM

Wrap-up + Lunch

Join us at the wrap-up session, where we evaluate the forum and turn our sights toward 2018. A to-go lunch is provided.

12:30 PM - 12:30 PM

Program Adjourns

Hotel + Travel

  • Caesars Palace
  • 3570 S Las Vegas Blvd
  • Las Vegas, Nevada 89109
  • Phone: (702) 770-7000

  • Click here to make your reservation now.
  • Reservation Instructions
  • Book online or contact the hotel directly at 866.227.5944 to reserve your room. Identify yourself as being with WEI to receive a special rate of $129/night + applicable resort fees. This rate is guaranteed until March 13, 2017 or until the room block is full.


Thank you to our sponsors!

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Meet The Speakers

Sarah Creighton

Eugene Water & Electric Board

Enterprise Risk Supervisor
Learn More

Sarah Creighton joined Eugene Water & Electric Board (EWEB) in 2015 and since 2016 has served as their Enterprise Risk Supervisor. Her background in insurance and claims has proven useful in successfully navigating the various responsibilities of that role, which include traditional risk management functions, such as insurance procurement and claims management, as well as ethics, privacy, compliance, public records, and records retention. Sarah graduated with a BA in Business Administration from Webster University in 2002 and received her Chartered Property Casualty Underwriter (CPCU) designation that same year. More recently, she received her Associate in Risk Management with an emphasis in Enterprise Risk Management (ARM-E) in 2016. When not at work, you can find Sarah exploring the great Pacific Northwest with her husband, two fast-growing boys, and one little dog.

John Buonagurio

Salt River Project

Manager, Claims Services

Rob Ramos

Southern California Edison

Director, Risk & Claims Management

Michael Cummings

Southern California Gas Company

Liability Claims Supervisor

Brian Cardoza

Southern California Edison

Senior Attorney
Learn More

Mr. Cardoza is a trial lawyer with over 25 years of litigation experience prosecuting and defending utility and product manufacture clients. Mr. Cardoza has tried over 40 cases to verdict in both California State and Federal courts. He was unanimously elected to the prestigious American Board of Trial Advocates (ABOTA), an invitation-only organization of national trial attorneys dedicated to defending the American civil justice system and evaluating the standards of integrity, honor and courtesy in the legal profession. Mr. Cardoza has extensive law and motion experience and has served as lead counsel in numerous appellate actions. Mr. Cardoza is a frequent lecturer on topics ranging from wildland fires, fire cause and origin and general trial practices. Mr. Cardoza received a Bachelor of Arts Degree from the University of California, Berkeley and Juris Doctor from Boston College Law School.

Jim DeFrates

NV Energy

Claims Manager

Mark Seaton

JNR Adjustment Company, Inc.


Marci Pence

Puget Sound Energy

Manager, Claims

Mike Moreno

Southern California Gas Company

Claims Manager

Jim DeFrates

NV Energy

Claims Manager

Dennis Bott

Southwest Gas Corporation

Damage Prevention Administrator
Learn More

Dennis Bott, Administrator/Damage Prevention, Southwest Gas.
Dennis started in the Damage Prevention industry in 2000, working as a utility line locator. Later he was promoted into management and worked his way into the Nevada / California State Director position for ELM until 2015. Dennis moved on to work for the City of Mesa in Arizona, overseeing the city’s locating program. A short year later, in 2016, Dennis was selected by Southwest Gas to fill the first Damage Prevention Administrator position within the company. Dennis joined as a Board Member with the Nevada Regional Common Ground Alliance in 2016. In 2020 Dennis accepted the Chair nomination for the NRCGA Board of Directors. Dennis is currently enrolled at Ashford University, working on a major in Business Administration.