Areas of Practice
- Asbestos, Silica & Related Bankruptcy Litigation
- Commercial Litigation, Insolvency & Creditors' Rights
- Environmental Coverage Litigation & Counseling
- Hazardous Products/Toxic Torts Coverage Litigation & Counseling
- Insurance & Reinsurance
- Professional Liability
- Business and Human Rights
- University of Maryland School of Law, J.D., with honors, 1995, Order of the Coif, William Strobel Thomas Prize
- Syracuse University, M.S.Sc., International Relations, 1995
- University of Rochester, B.A., 1988
Bar & Court Admissions
- District of Columbia
Washington DC 20036
John O’Connor is a partner in the Washington office of Steptoe, where he practices in the Litigation Department. Mr. O’Connor focuses principally on civil litigation matters.
Commercial and Business Litigation
Mr. O’Connor regularly represents clients in a wide array of commercial and business litigation matters. These matters have included a number of lawsuits litigating disputes among corporate shareholders or members of limited liability companies over ownership and/or control of business operations, as well as disputes between companies and departing employees. Mr. O’Connor has represented corporate clients in complex contract disputes, including matters of contract construction and claims seeking to rescind or reform contracts based on unilateral or mutual mistake. Mr. O’Connor has represented corporate clients in pursuing fraud claims arising from business transactions, including representation of Motorola in its successful efforts to obtain a $2.13 billion fraud judgment against the owners of a Turkish telecommunications company. In addition, Mr. O’Connor regularly represents clients in the petroleum industry in connection with disputes between franchisors and franchisees and the application of the Petroleum Marketing Practices Act (PMPA).
National Defense and Foreign Relations Litigation
Mr. O’Connor regularly represents defense contractors in a variety of matters relating to their performance of government contracts. These representations have involved defense of a government contractor against common-law tort claims, as well as claims brought under the Alien Tort Statute and Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), arising out of the contractor’s provision of personnel to support US military operations in Iraq. In the course of that representation, Mr. O’Connor has developed and pursued defenses based on the battlefield context of the conduct alleged, including defenses such as constitutional preemption of state-law tort claims, battlefield preemption, law of war immunity, derivative absolute official immunity, and the political question doctrine. In connection with this representation, Mr. O’Connor also conducted an internal investigation of the conduct alleged and coordinated responses to inquiries from Congress and various Executive agencies.
Mr. O’Connor also successfully defended a defense contractor, on derivative absolute official immunity grounds, against claims seeking to hold it responsible for injuries allegedly suffered by another contractor as a result of his client’s provision of contract management services to the US Army. In addition, Mr. O’Connor has represented defense contractors in disputes with other contractors concerning the parties’ respective obligations under contractor teaming agreements to jointly pursue government contract work. He also has successfully represented a client pursuing an expropriation claim against a foreign sovereign in proceedings before the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes.
Mr. O’Connor also has substantial experience in matters of military law. He has represented two government contractor employees in filing habeas corpus petitions in federal court challenging the US military’s constitutional power to try them by court-martial. Both cases ended with military officials abandoning court-martial efforts shortly after Mr. O’Connor filed habeas corpus petitions on behalf of his clients. Prior to joining Steptoe, Mr. O’Connor served ten years on active duty in the US Marine Corps, including three years as a judge advocate, where he prosecuted more than 200 courts-martial on behalf of the United States. Mr. O’Connor has written numerous articles for legal publications on various matters of military and national defense law and has been a featured speaker on a number of topics in these areas.
Insurance Coverage Law
Mr. O’Connor regularly represents insurance companies in court cases and arbitrations concerning property and liability insurance coverage issues. These representations have involved disputes concerning the application of insurance policies to liabilities arising out of asbestos, silica, lead paint, environmental contamination, pharmaceutical products, and other toxic torts. Mr. O’Connor’s insurance practice also encompasses representation of insurance companies in bankruptcy proceedings as well as against allegations of bad faith or violation of statutory claims-handling practices. Mr. O’Connor has written articles on insurance issues such as the rights of excess insurers with respect to underlying settlements, additional insured disputes, and the reformation of insurance policies due to mutual mistake. Mr. O’Connor also has been a featured speaker on a number of insurance-related issues for insurance industry audiences and other seminars.
Select News & Events
- "Asbestos Insurance Litigation," HB Litigation Conferences’ Audiocast, August 10, 2011
- Open Meeting, Open Email?
- New York Court Rules That an Insurer May Reserve its Rights After Underlying Litigation Has CommencedInsurance Coverage Case Advisory, Issue 47
May 10, 2013
- Bacteria Exclusion Did Not Relieve Insurer From Duty to Indemnify and Defend Wrongful Death Claim Arising From Hotel Guest Contracting Legionnaires’ DiseaseInsurance Coverage Case Advisory, Issue 41
March 29, 2013
- California Court Applies Products Hazard/Completed Operations Hazard Aggregate Limits to Policyholder’s Asbestos ClaimsInsurance Coverage Case Advisory, Issue 34
February 8, 2013
- New York Appellate Division Rules that Insured’s Awareness that Asbestos Could Cause Injury Was Not Sufficient to Bar Coverage Under the Expected or Intended ExclusionInsurance Coverage Case Advisory, Issue 27
December 14, 2012
- Insurer Has No Duty to Defend Alleged Disparagement Claim Where Allegedly False Advertisement Addresses the Policyholder’s Own Products But Makes No Negative Reference to Competitor’s ProductInsurance Coverage Case Advisory, Issue 22
November 2, 2012
September 14, 2012