Insurance & Reinsurance

Steptoe's Insurance Coverage Case Advisories

Called a “go-to group for complex matters and unique issues where you need attorneys who are able to absorb different yet related concerns” by Chambers USA, Steptoe’s insurance practice represents many of the world’s leading insurance companies in high-value disputes including arbitrations, trials, and appeals.  We also handle a wide-range of third-party coverage disputes involving drug manufacturers, environmental contamination, hazardous products, as well as first-party coverage disputes including cases arising from the effects of Japan earthquake and tsunami of 2011, Superstorm Sandy and several hurricanes (including Katrina, Ike, and others), 9/11 related cases, fires, and other large losses.  For the past four years, Law360 has named our practice an “Insurance Group of the Year.”

Our lawyers – noted as “excellent strategists” by The Legal 500 US – also serve as defense counsel for insureds in professional liability matters, construction litigation, and other matters.  We litigate and counsel clients on a broad array of issues ranging from hazardous product and environmental insurance coverage issues to reinsurance fraud, and are involved in many cutting-edge developments in these areas of the law.

With more than 70 lawyers based across the US, as well as in London, Brussels, and Beijing, we are one of the largest insurance, reinsurance, and surety practices in the nation, and represent clients in more than 30 different domestic and foreign jurisdictions.  We have many years of experience handling a wide range of matters including:

Representative Matters

  • Obtained a favorable settlement for Pavonia Life Insurance Company of Michigan in a dispute that arose in Maryland federal court. Pavonia was sued for the life insurance benefits but had reason to suspect fraud in the application process. During a court-supervised settlement conference the plaintiff was confronted with evidence of various misrepresentations, including false statements concerning prior health, military service, attempts to impersonate an attorney, and forgery. Steptoe confronted plaintiff with evidence of various misrepresentations, including false statements concerning prior health, military service, attempts to impersonate an attorney and forgery. After the presentation, the case settled for $25,000.
  • Scored significant victories for a number of Fortune 500 insurers in a major asbestos-related insurance coverage dispute, winning partial summary judgment as to the proper interpretation of the “completed operations hazard” definition contained in various historical insurance policies.  Steptoe also defeated a motion to certify questions of law to the Maryland Court of Appeals that sought to reverse favorable Fourth Circuit and Maryland precedent regarding the policy definition at issue and the allocation of indemnity costs.
  • Won a major victory for Travelers when the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia reversed a jury verdict and post-trial orders and ordered judgment as a matter of law entered in Travelers’ favor on the ground of late notice. U.S. Silica had been named as a defendant in thousands of lawsuits from 1975 to 2005 for injuries allegedly caused by exposure to its silica products.  In 2005, U.S. Silica reviewed its insurance to determine whether it had any coverage to pay its unreimbursed defense and indemnity costs incurred prior to 2005 and discovered in its company files three general liability insurance policies issued by Travelers to U.S. Silica’s corporate predecessor for a period from 1949-1958.  U.S. Silica then demanded that Travelers reimburse it for its pre-2005 settlement and defense costs.  A jury trial held in Morgan County, WV in 2013 resulted in a verdict in favor of U.S. Silica in excess of $8 million, but in reversing the jury verdict, the appeals court ruled that Travelers owed no coverage obligation to U.S. Silica because U.S. Silica had breached the insurance policies’ notice provision.
  • Represent Hudson Specialty Insurance Company’s participation in a $175 million layer of excess insurance written for New Jersey Transit, which has made a claim for losses occasioned by the October 29, 2012 landfall of “Superstorm Sandy” on the Northeast coast of the United States.  The case will involve relatively novel arguments first developed during the Hurricane Katrina litigation concerning the definitions of “Named Windstorm,” “Flood,” and “Storm Surge,” and is likely to require numerous underwriter and broker depositions concerning the parties’ intent. 
  • Obtained a per curiam ruling affirming two decisions for Travelers in the US District Court for the Northern District of Alabama.  The 11th Circuit upheld the district court’s ruling that Travelers had no obligation to indemnify Alabama Gas Corporation (Alagasco) for approximately $4 million it spent in remediating its former manufactured gas plant site in Huntsville, Alabama because all of the contamination at the site for which Alagasco was liable took place prior to the effective date of any proven Travelers insurance policy.  The appeals court also affirmed dismissal of Alagasco’s bad faith claims against Travelers, finding that Travelers had a “debatable reason” for denying Alagasco’s request for a defense against the EPA claims at issue at the time it made its coverage determination, and that Travelers did not “constructively deny” Alagasco’s claim.
  • Served as lead counsel on behalf of a major reinsurer in a confidential arbitration that was convened under the auspices of the American Arbitration Association (AAA).  The case was a complex matter involving claims and counterclaims worth tens of millions of dollars arising under a treaty of reinsurance covering long term care (LTC) risks originally ceded from, and reinsured by, predecessor companies.  The hearing was conducted over a five-day period before a panel of three arbitrators, all of whom were actuaries (advanced mathematicians).  The panel heard extensive opening and closing arguments and took testimony from 10 witnesses, after which we were able to obtain a favorable result for our client.
  • Obtained a favorable ruling from the Louisiana Court of Appeal (Fourth Circuit) on behalf of United States Fidelity and Guaranty Company (USF&G).  The case involved a challenge to the validity of an 11-year-old settlement agreement between USF&G and its policyholder, Eagle, Inc.  Another insurer sought to invalidate the agreement in order to recover defense cost payments from USF&G, on the theory that the agreement violated Louisiana public policy prohibiting post-accident changes to insurance policies.  The trial court granted summary judgment to the challenging insurer.  The appellate court reversed.  In so ruling, the Court of Appeal concluded that the agreement was valid and enforceable, and even if the settlement were considered a post-accident policy change, such a change would not violate Louisiana public policy as to another insurer.
  • Won a motion to dismiss from the Arizona Superior Court in Yavapai County on behalf of State Farm in a mass action tort case.  The case arises out of the highly publicized 2012 Yarnell Fire, in which a hot shot fire crew tragically died.  Multiple homeowners filed suit against State Farm and many other insurers alleging their homes were underinsured, and asserting, inter alia, claims for breach of contract, negligence, bad faith, and punitive damages.  The court granted State Farm’s motion to dismiss in its entirety, knocking out a significant part of plaintiffs’ case by dismissing plaintiffs’ breach of contract, negligence, and equitable contract reformation claims with prejudice. 
  • Served as international coordinating counsel for a major carrier for claims arising out of the earthquake and resulting tsunami in Japan in March 2011.  We supervised counsel in Europe and Japan to provide a consistent and coordinated response to common claims issues, including issues arising out of Master/Local coverage programs.  We prepared analysis of various coverage issues, under carrier’s form and manuscript forms of various major brokers, including contingent business interruption, power outage, civil authority, nuclear hazards, and others.  We also created a claims handling guide for use by front line adjusters addressing these issues.
  • Managed several insurance coverage arbitrations under the Bermuda Form and ADR proceedings involving these mass tort matters.  In the last few years alone, Steptoe has served as lead counsel for insurance companies in multi-party mediations which involved settlement of coverage claims for $1 billion, $600 million, $100 million, and $70 million in losses arising out of four separate blockbuster drugs and/or medical devices.
  • Represented a major insurer in New York state court against thousands of claims by multiple lenders arising out of a policy that insured the accuracy of valuations of residential real estate being used to secure home equity loans.  We successfully reached settlement agreements with each of the lenders in the lawsuit.


  • Ranked in Chambers USA 2007-2017; America's Leading Business Lawyers; Insurance: Dispute Resolution: Insurer (Nationwide)
  • Ranked in Band 1 in Chambers USA 2005-2017; America's Leading Business Lawyers; Insurance: Insurer (District of Columbia)
  • Ranked in Chambers UK 2013-2016; Insurance: Non-Contentious (UK-wide)
  • Ranked in Chambers UK 2012-2016; Insurance: Contentious Claims, Insurance: Reinsurance (UK-wide)
  • Ranked in Chambers UK 2010-2011; Insurance: General Claims (UK-wide)
  • Ranked in Legal 500 US, Insurance: Advice to Insurers, 2010-2017
  • Ranked in Legal 500 UK 2010-2012; Insurance and Reinsurance Litigation, Insurance: Corporate and Regulatory
  • Named a Law360 "Insurance Group of the Year," 2013-2016

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