Helen Michael concentrates her practice in complex commercial litigation, with a particular emphasis on insurance coverage disputes. During nearly 30 years of representing policyholders, Ms. Michael has handled high-stakes cases in all key coverage areas. These disputes include property damage and business interruption claims for losses arising out of hurricanes and other natural disasters, products liability, bodily injury and environmental claims arising from class action and other cases, claims involving violation of consumer protection statutes and other allegedly unfair trade practices, intellectual property claims, construction defect claims, employment practices liability claims, claims against companies and their corporate officers and directors arising out of alleged securities violations and other alleged corporate misconduct, and numerous other errors and omissions liability and directors and officers liability claims. Her work for Fortune 100 and other corporate policyholders has taken place in a variety of settings, including mediation, arbitration, trial and appeal. Ms. Michael also regularly counsels her clients during the policy placement renewal process to help ensure they obtain insurance appropriate for the principal risks presented by their businesses.
Working closely with her clients to determine objectives, formulate effective strategies, and position disputes for the best outcomes, whether through negotiation, or at trial or on appeal, Ms. Michael has a proven track record of success. Through mediation and other forms of alternative dispute resolution, Ms. Michael has collected many millions in insurance assets for her clients. Among trial successes, Ms. Michael has secured among the largest jury verdicts reported in 2001 and 2003. Among successes on appeal, Ms. Michael has obtained a ruling on a question of first impression in 2010 reconfirming the breadth of insurers’ duty to defend class action cases. In total, Ms. Michael has assisted her clients in recovering more than a billion dollars in insurance proceeds.
Ms. Michael also has substantial experience in class action practice and the formulation of effective strategies for defeating mass tort and other consumer claims, including theories governing the piercing of the corporate veil and the imposition of successor liability. She has counseled numerous clients on developing protocols and structuring transactions to guard against incurring vicarious liability for the obligations of corporate affiliates.
Ms. Michael has been recognized as a leading lawyer in insurance law and business litigation in numerous publications. She is listed in the 2016 and 2017 editions of Chambers USA: America’s Leading Lawyers for Business in the area of Insurance: Policyholder. The Best Lawyers in America® has recognized Ms. Michael for excellence in Insurance Law in 2017 and each of the immediately preceding four years. She has been repeatedly recognized as a top Washington D.C. “Super Lawyer” by Super Lawyers® magazine since 2011, including as a “Top Rated Insurance Coverage Lawyer” in 2016 and the six immediately preceding years, as a “Top 50 Women Super Lawyer” in 2017 and five preceding years and as a “Top 100 Washington Super Lawyer” in 2017 and five preceding years. She also has been named by Legal Media Group as a leading lawyer in its prestigious Expert Guide to the World's Leading Women in Business Law in 2017 and each of the four immediately preceding years, and the Expert Guide to the World's Leading Insurance and Reinsurance Lawyers in 2016 and 2017.
Ms. Michael serves on the Membership Committee, as well as on the Litigation and Trial Practice Committee of the American Colleague American College of Coverage and Extracontractual Counsel, an honorary organization of the country’s top insurance coverage lawyers. She is Fellow of the Litigation Counsel of America.
Ms. Michael also is a leader in the American Bar Association Torts, Trial and Insurance Section, where she has served as a national chair of the Insurance Coverage Litigation Committee, and presently serves on the Task Force for Healthcare Reform,
Ms. Michael has served as Co-Leader of the firm’s Insurance Recovery team and on the firm’s Executive Committee and Pro Bono Committee. She is a Co-Chair of the Firm’s Retail and Consumer Goods Industry team.
- Claims advocacy and coverage advice for one of the country’s largest cement manufacturers regarding substantial business interruption and property losses caused by Hurricane Harvey.
- Assist high-end retailer with insurance recovery for property damage and other losses caused by Superstorm Sandy.
- Secured insurance coverage for major debt collection company in connection property damage caused to a number of its Texas facilities as a result of a severe hail storm.
- Represent financial institution in a high stakes dispute against the senior management of the bankrupt firm Dewey & LeBouef LLP involving a complex mix of securities fraud, insurance coverage and bankruptcy issues, and secured notes issued to Dewey in the total amount of $150 million.
- Obtained substantial insurance recovery for hedge fund in insurance coverage litigation seeking coverage for hundreds of millions losses incurred in connection with criminal and other governmental investigations, and criminal and civil lawsuits alleging wrongful acts committed in the provision of investment and tax management services.
- Secured favorable settlements of high stakes coverage litigation brought against private equity company’s professional liability insurers incurred in connection with several class actions and numerous other multiparty actions alleging errors and omissions in connection with the marketing and sale of annuities to senior citizens, which sought damages in excess of $80 million.
- Secured favorable settlements of coverage disputes with life insurance and annuity company’s coverage dispute with professional liability insurers for losses incurred in connection with several class actions and numerous other multiparty cases involving insurance policies used to fund employee benefit plans, which sought damages in excess of $50 million.
- Served as lead counsel for venture capital firm in connection with high stakes dispute under directors and officers liability policy regarding insurance for liabilities incurred in connection with government investigations and civil litigation involving alleged Ponzi scheme.
- Recovered full policy limits for private equity company in complex coverage dispute involving employment claims.
- Obtained substantial insurance recovery for high-end fashion company resolving insurance coverage dispute arising out of high stakes litigation a former director brought against the company and its current directors alleging breach of fiduciary duty and numerous other claims.
- Secured favorable settlement of coverage dispute with professional liability insurers on behalf of the largest national debt collection company involving losses incurred in connection with several nationwide class actions alleging statutory privacy and consumer protection claims.
- Negotiated favorable settlement of coverage dispute for media company involving nationwide bet-the-company class action brought pursuant to the Telephone Consumer Protection Act.
- Serve as lead counsel for chemical company in complex coverage litigation involving environmental liabilities in which trial court has just resolved case-dispositive choice-of-law question in client’s favor.
- Serve as lead insurance coverage counsel in ongoing bet-the-company coverage litigation between food and flavoring company and 15 of its insurance carriers involving mass tort claims alleging bodily injuries caused by exposure to the butter flavoring, diacetyl, distributed by the client. <
- Secured favorable resolution of coverage dispute involving losses incurred in multiple products liability actions alleging tort and consumer protection claims brought by flight attendants allegedly injured by uniforms made by client’s affiliate.
- Negotiated favorable settlement of coverage dispute involving a nationwide products liability action after arguing appeal in which the Massachusetts Appeals Court resolved in the client’s favor a question of first impression regarding whether a prayer in a class action complaint seeking injunctive relief was sufficient to trigger the carrier’s defense obligation. See Omega Flex, Inc. v. Pacific Employers Insurance Company, 78 Mass. App. Ct. 262 (2010), review denied, 459 Mass. 1103 (2011).
- Obtained favorable settlement for contract mining company following trial court’s grant of summary judgment resolving a question of first impression under Idaho law and ruling that costs the client incurred in conducting a remedial investigation and feasibility study that by the government constituted defense costs that the insurance company must pay in addition to policy limits. See Wells Cargo, Inc. v. Transport Insurance Company, No. 1:08-CV-00491-BLW, 2011 WL 5080143 (D. Idaho Oct. 26, 2011).
- Secured favorable settlement of high profile coverage litigation involving losses incurred in several class actions cases filed in California, New Jersey and Massachusetts alleging that the client’s collection and use of customers’ zip codes violated their rights to privacy as established, among other by, California’s Song-Beverly Act.
- Obtained favorable settlements on the eve of trial for policyholder in an action against more than 35 insurance companies for environmental liabilities incurred at more than 150 sites.
Pro Bono Representation
Ms. Michael was part of a team of firm attorneys who developed a series of webinars with the D.C. Bar Pro Bono Program’s Community Economic Development (CED) Project, on risk management and insurance matters, focused on issues faced by non-profit organizations. The firm was honored as the co-recipient of the D.C. Bar’s 2011 Frederick B. Abramson Award for its work on this project. Ms. Michael also has provided pro bono representation in numerous other matters, including election, asylum and employment discrimination matters.
Represent one of the world's largest suppliers of hydroelectric equipment and are presently defending and asserting claims involving a hydroelectric project near San Diego, California. The dispute involves claims exceeding $30 million among the owner, designer, equipment supplier, and contractor.
Represent the public owner on the largest construction project undertaken in the United States. We have been working with the owner’s team, including local counsel, since 2005 defending major contractor claims involving differing site conditions, impacts and inefficiencies associated with excavation work and other alleged delays and changes. In the same manner as FIDIC-format construction documents provide, all project disputes are presented to a disputes review board (DRB). Our extensive DRB experience preparing, evaluating, presenting and defending claims has been particularly beneficial to the public owner.
Represented a Florida construction company, specializing in contracting and construction management services, in defeating claims by qui tam plaintiff under the False Claims Act arising from the construction of The Seven Oaks Dam in Southern California. The district court for the District of Columbia granted our motion for summary judgment on the plaintiff's claims, and the court of appeals for the D.C. Circuit affirmed. No money was awarded to the plaintiff.
Represented a pipeline contractor in a Texas state court in the defense of $40 million in claims asserted by a pipeline owner and the assertion of a $14.8 million counterclaim against the pipeline owner arising from the construction of a 31-mile pipeline project in Indiana and Illinois. During the course of this representation, we obtained rulings that: the pipeline owner was guilty of spoliation of its project emails; the pipeline owner was guilty of spoliating the surplus pipe from the project; the pricing terms in the contract were unambiguous and applied regardless of the actual costs incurred by our client, which eliminated the owner’s primary defense to $2.8 million of the claims asserted by our client; excluding evidence of settlement offers made by our client, which the owner intended to use as admissions of liability; denying the owner’s motion for summary judgment on our client’s claim for interest under the Texas Prompt Pay Act; and prohibiting the owner’s damages expert from opining that our client was responsible for the vast majority of the owner’s claims. The pipeline owner and our client subsequently settled the claims between them. The terms of the settlement are confidential.
Represented the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority (MWRA) on the U.S. $4 billion Boston Harbor Project, which involved over 100 separate design and construction contracts, and during the peak of construction was one of the largest public works projects in the United States. The treatment plant and associated facilities on Deer Island in Boston Harbor provide 61 communities and 2.5 million people with state-of-the-art wastewater treatment with a capacity of over 900 million gallons per day. Construction included new primary and secondary treatment plants, a new headworks, a sludge-to-fertilizer plant, a dedicated power plant, a 5-mile inter-island tunnel and a 9.5 mile effluent outfall tunnel. As a fully integrated member of MWRA’s management team, worked directly with the MWRA’s legal and technical staff on a day-to-day basis to avoid as many problems as possible and to resolve quickly and efficiently those problems that could not be avoided during the construction of a massive tunnel/wastewater project.
Represents a pipeline contractor in Texas state court against one of the largest pipeline owners in the United States arising out of a 135-mile pipeline crossing Louisiana. The pipeline owner is claiming damages against our client in excess of $45 million, plus attorneys’ fees, costs, and interest. Our client is asserting a counterclaim against the pipeline owner in excess of $51 million, plus attorneys’ fees, costs, and interest. The parties are engaged in extensive discovery.
Represent one of the world's largest suppliers of hydroelectric equipment and are presently defending and asserting claims involving a hydroelectric project in Minnesota.
Kilpatrick Townsend successfully completed its representation of a pipeline contractor in Alabama federal court against two affiliated subcontractors. The subcontractors asserted over $15 million in claims against our client. We moved to dismiss one of the subcontractors’ claims on the grounds of improper forum. The court granted our motion, and the parties later settled the claims on favorable terms for our client. The terms of the settlement are confidential.
Represented a Florida construction company in claims against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers regarding The Seven Oaks Dam in Southern California. The Seven Oaks Dam was, at the time, the largest civil works project under construction by the Corps and is the largest earthen dam ever built in North America. The client encountered differing site conditions and defective specifications during construction of the dam, and filed to recoup the extra costs it incurred. After we successfully tried several claims before the Armed Services Board of Contract Appeals, the Corps agreed to mediate the client's largest claim which stemmed from the placement of 15 million cubic yards of material on the dam. The mediation was successful and the Corps ultimately agreed to resolve all of the outstanding claims on the dam, with a total recovery for the client in excess of $40 million.
University of Georgia School of Law, J.D. (1995) magna cum laude, Managing Editor of Georgia Law Review, Order of the Coif, Woodruff Scholar
Georgia Institute of Technology, Bachelor of Industrial Engineering (1985) with highest honors
Georgia Supreme Court (1995)
U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia (1995)
Florida Supreme Court (1996)
U.S. Court of Federal Claims (1997)
U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Georgia (1997)
U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida (2008)
U.S. District Court of the Eastern District of Arkansas (2009)
Georgia Law Review, Managing Editor
Boy Scout Troop 298, Scoutmaster
Cub Scout Pack 298, Pack Committee Chairman and Past Cubmaster
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