Partner at ZELLE LLP
For almost three decades, Steve has been at the forefront of significant issues facing the commercial property insurance industry. As a young lawyer in 1992, Steve was asked by a client to evaluate subrogation potential for their significant Hurricane Andrew loss exposure. At that time, the general industry belief was that hurricanes did not present subrogation opportunities as the damage resulted from an “act of god.” Steve disagreed, living in Miami for almost three years and obtaining subrogation recoveries totaling almost $50 million for his client. That work led to Steve becoming a sought-after subrogation attorney for large weather-related losses. For the next decade, Steve devoted his practice to suing contractors, engineers, architects, and materials suppliers when buildings failed in moderate weather events.
Shortly after the 911 Terrorist Attack, Steve’s practice moved to New York where he devoted a decade of his career to leading the $5 billion subrogation action against airlines and aviation security companies alleged to be responsible for negligence at airport security checkpoints. As a lead lawyer on the Plaintiffs’ Executive Committee, Steve was involved in directing all aspects of the action on behalf of the entire group of property damage plaintiffs, working alongside the nation’s top plaintiffs’ aviation lawyers representing families pursuing wrongful death cases. In 2011, the subrogation litigation settled for $1.2 billion, reportedly still today the largest cash payment subrogation recovery ever obtained by the insurance industry.
Upon Steve’s return to Texas in 2011, he noticed an increasing number of lawsuits against his clients arising from hail damage claims. Since that time, Steve’s practice has been devoted entirely to leading the insurance industry's response to the emerging hail risk. His practice has focused primarily on addressing the issues arising in hail damage claims and resulting litigation. In addition to representing his clients in litigated disputes, Steve spends considerable time working with the insurance industry and other interested stakeholders in finding solutions to theabuses and outright fraud prevalent in these matters. This includes the development of policy form changes and legislative solutions, as well as the identification and pursuit of actions against fraudulent actors involved in these matters. His work in rooting out improper conduct has given Steve the reputation of being the insurance industry enforcer fighting improper and illegal conduct in weather-related litigation.
Recently, Steve has become actively involved in the insurance industry's response to business interruption claims arising from the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to representing his clients in individual and class actionmatters, Steve is working with insurance industry trade groups in formulating and directing the overall response to the issues arising in these matters.
An entertaining and informative speaker, Steve is frequently asked to present for industry groups and clients concerning his work on significant industry risk exposures. His bi-annual “Texas Hail Claims – What The Hail Is Going On?” conference has become an industry favorite. His presentation detailing his decade of work on the historic911 Terrorist Attack litigation is commonly referred to as the most interesting CE presentation attendees have ever attended. Steve also writes frequently on issues involving his insurance litigation practice.