Helen K. 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, 2017 and 2018 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 2019 and each of the immediately preceding six 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, 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, 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.
- Negotiated favorable settlement of coverage dispute for media company involving nationwide bet-the-company class action brought pursuant to the Telephone Consumer Protection Act.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Assist high-end retailer with insurance recovery for property damage and other losses caused by Superstorm Sandy.
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.
- 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.
- Secured full coverage under predecessor company’s insurance policies for defense and settlement costs incurred in high stakes asbestos bodily injury coverage dispute.
- 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 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.
- 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. 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).
- Obtained favorable settlement from insurers in connection with several lawsuits asserting bodily injuries arising out of a building collapse.
- Obtained favorable settlement for liabilities arising out of the crash of a ValuJet plane in the Florida Everglades.
- 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.
- 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
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