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 claims against companies and their corporate officers and directors involving alleged securities violations, breach of fiduciary duty and other corporate misconduct, professional liability claims, and cyber liability claims, property damage and business interruption claims for losses arising out of hurricanes and other 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, professional liability claims, and cyber 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 has been ranked in Chambers USA: America’s Leading Lawyers for Business in the area of Insurance: Policyholder in 2019 (and the three preceding years). The Best Lawyers in America® has recognized Ms. Michael for excellence in Insurance Law in 2019 (and the preceding six years). She has been recognized as a top Washington D.C. “Super Lawyer” by Super Lawyers® magazine since 2011, including as a “Top Rated Insurance Coverage Lawyer” in 2019 and the eight immediately preceding years, as a “Top 50 Women Super Lawyer” in 2019 and the six preceding years, and as a “Top 100 Washington Super Lawyer” in 2017 and (two preceding years. Ms. Michael was recognized among the world’s leading insurance practitioners in Who's Who Legal: Insurance & Reinsurance in 2019. 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 2019 and each of the six immediately preceding years, and the Expert Guide to the World's Leading Insurance and Reinsurance Lawyers in 2019 and four preceding years.
Ms. Michael serves on the Board of Regents and Membership Committee of the American College of Coverage and Counsel, an honorary organization of the country’s top insurance coverage lawyers. She is Fellow of the Litigation Counsel of America, an honorary organization of the country's top trial lawyers. 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.
Ms. Michael co-chairs the Firm’s Retail and Consumer Goods Industry team. She has served as Co-Leader of the firm’s Insurance Recovery team and on the firm’s Executive Committee and Pro Bono Committee.
Secured 100% insurance recovery and favorable resolution of contractual indemnification claims arising from nationwide class action asserting consumer protection claims against major sports network.
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 insurance coverage counsel in ongoing bet-the-company coverage litigation between food and flavoring company and 10 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.
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.
Represent real estate investment company in connection with property damage and business interruption claims for newly renovated hotel severely damaged by Hurricane Michael.
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.
Secured insurance coverage for major debt collection company in connection with 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.
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.
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George Washington University Law School, LL.M. (1989) with highest honors
University of North Carolina School of Law, J.D. (1986) with honors
Hampshire College, B.A. (1981) with honors
District of Columbia
U.S. Supreme Court
U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit
U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit
U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia
Federal Claims Court
Board of Regents, American College of Coverage Counsel (2019-2021)
Co-Chair Annual Law School Symposium Committee, American College of Coverage Counsel (2018)
Past National Chair, American Bar Association, Insurance Coverage Litigation Committee of ABA's Tort Trial & Insurance Section
Vice-Chair, American Bar Association, Publications Chair and Member of Insurance Coverage Litigation Committee of Tort Trial & Insurance Section
Past Executive Editor, CGL Reporter
Past Executive Committee Member, Council for Appellate Lawyer
Website Managing Editor, American Bar Association, Insurance Coverage Litigation Committee of Litigation Section
Past Co-Chair of Employment Practices Insurance Liability Subcommittee of Insurance Coverage Litigation Committee of Litigation Section
Trustee, Washington Lawyer’s Committee
Fellow, Litigation Counsel of America
Articles Editor, North Carolina Journal of International Law & Commercial Regulation
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