James R. Murray

Insurance Coverage Litigation

Partner
1825 Eye Street NW Washington, DC 20006-5403
T: (202) 420-3409 murrayj@dicksteinshapiro.com

Biography

Jim Murray is the professional development leader of Dickstein Shapiro’s Insurance Coverage Group, the leader of its Bankruptcy Insurance Practice, and a member of the firm’s Executive Committee. He is a nationally-recognized trial lawyer with more than 25 years of courtroom experience. He assisted his clients in securing more than $300 million in insurance recoveries in the last two years alone and well over $1 billion in the last decade on matters involving almost every line of insurance.

In 2013 and 2011, Law360 named him an MVP in Insurance Coverage (one of five nationally in 2013, one of three in 2011 and the only insurance coverage attorney ever to receive this recognition twice). In Chambers USA: America’s Leading Lawyers for Business, commentators have credited Jim with "as much start-to-finish trial experience as any coverage lawyer out there” and with “the ability to earn immediate respect in the courtroom.” In the 2014 edition of Chambers, one client observed that he “has the ability to be a consummate professional but speaks in layman’s terms to the jury.  He’s a very personable, straightforward individual who has the ability to cut to the chase.”  His trial experience is broad, including insurance coverage and bad faith, securities and bank fraud, professional liability, trademark infringement and environmental contribution matters.

See Jim in a jury trial and in an appellate argument.

AREAS OF CONCENTRATION

Representative recent examples of Jim’s matters include:

  • Jim recently represented Clear Channel Communications, Inc. and Clear Channel Outdoor Holdings, Inc. in a major coverage dispute under a D&O policy. He is currently lead trial counsel for a Fortune 100 company involving a $100 million fidelity claim in federal court in the Midwest. In New York state court, he is lead counsel for El Ad, Inc., an international real estate company and developer of the Plaza Hotel, in a lawsuit involving a multi-million dollar Sandy loss in lower Manhattan.
  • In 2013, Jim obtained a bad faith jury verdict against an insurance company in Idaho state court in a case involving a wrongful death claim under a hospital liability policy. The same jury also awarded $9.7 million in punitive damages.
  • Jim has extensive experience involving professional indemnity and directors and officers lines of coverage and served as lead coverage counsel to a Fortune 500 consulting firm involving claims in excess of $120 million.
  • He has served as lead counsel for the FDIC, as conservator for IndyMac Federal Bank, F.S.B., in a mortgage insurance lawsuit in federal court in California. The case settled with the reinstatement of more than $100 million in mortgage insurance.
  • Jim was appointed special insurance coverage counsel to the Oregon Province of Jesuits, as debtor, relating to liabilities for underlying allegations of clergy abuse. In 2011, the bankruptcy court approved settlements of almost $120 million between the debtor and its historical insurance companies.
  • He has served as trial counsel in several complex coverage lawsuits relating to underlying asbestos liabilities in excess of $100 million and he argued a motion to the Delaware Chancery Court that resulted in an unprecedented ruling applying an “all sums” allocation methodology under New York law.
  • In 2010, he was co-trial counsel in the first bad faith case to go to a jury in New Jersey in a decade.
  • Also in 2010, Jim was trial counsel in a securities fraud case in Seattle that settled favorably in the third week of a jury trial, a few days before closing arguments.
  • In 2012, he served as special insurance counsel to the City of Spokane relating to the City’s successful resolution  of a wrongful death action arising out of the beating of Otto Zehm by certain City police officers.
  • In 2011, Jim testified as an expert witness in Montana bankruptcy court on issues relating to the interplay between insurance, tort and bankruptcy law under a directors and officers insurance policy.

Jim had been involved at the forefront of insurance coverage battles for decades:

  • He was co-trial counsel in one of the early (1990) landmark environmental insurance coverage trials that resulted in favorable jury verdicts for the policyholder (Boeing v. Aetna, et al.). He has been involved in additional matters for Boeing, including serving as counsel in multisite environmental insurance coverage actions in Washington, Kansas, and Oregon against London Market Insurers and many other insurance companies.
     
  • He was lead counsel for McDonnell Douglas (pre-Boeing merger) in a nine-site insurance coverage action in federal court in Los Angeles, as well as for McDonnell Douglas (as a subsidiary of Boeing) against Fremont Indemnity in an insurance coverage arbitration in San Francisco involving historical worker’s compensation disputes. He has served as lead counsel for Boeing against Pacific Indemnity Company in Los Angeles Superior Court regarding insurance coverage for historical environmental liabilities of certain predecessor companies.
     
  • Jim is nationally known for his experience on behalf of policyholders in matters involving underlying claims of sexual abuse. In addition to serving as special insurance counsel to the Oregon Province of Jesuits, Jim has served, since 2003, as insurance coverage counsel to the Catholic Archdiocese of Seattle. In 2004, he was appointed by the federal bankruptcy court in the Eastern District of Washington as lead special insurance coverage counsel to the Catholic Diocese of Spokane. In this capacity, he filed suit in federal district court on behalf of the Diocese, which resulted in insurance settlements forming a critical part of a successful bankruptcy reorganization plan. He is currently representing the Roman Catholic Diocese of Helena in coverage litigation in Helena, Montana.
     
  • Jim was co-lead trial counsel for a major health care provider in a two-week insurance coverage and bad-faith arbitration and was retained as special coverage counsel to Washington county to prosecute an insurance coverage arbitration relating to two discrimination lawsuits against the county. He argued Fluke v. Hartford in the Washington Supreme Court on behalf of Weyerhaeuser, Costco, and Puget Sound Energy regarding insurance coverage for punitive damages and choice-of-law principles (9-0 policyholder victory).

Jim has been involved in many non-insurance matters over the years:

  • He was co-trial counsel with Charles F.C. Ruff in United States v. Menichino in federal court in Tampa, Florida. He represented IBM in a contribution trial against General Electric, Stauffer Chemical and several other parties. He was appointed a federal court Special Master by Hon. William H. Dwyer in Moscow Distillery Cristall v. PepsiCo, a case involving substantial claims of trade dress infringement. He has served as litigation counsel to the Society of Former Special Agents of the FBI, Inc.

Industry Recognition

Jim’s work in high-profile and exceptionally challenging cases across the country has earned him consistent praise from clients and opposing counsel alike:

  • A Delaware Superior Court recently approved a $123.1 million class action settlement involving underlying claims of sexual abuse, noting in its published opinion that “…the Court must commend Beebe and its nationally renowned coverage counsel, James R. Murray, Esquire, for their tireless efforts in overcoming many obstacles to obtaining insurance coverage […].”
     
  • The 2012 edition of Chambers USA reported “particular praise for his calm and common-sense approach to cross-examining.” As one source explained, Jim “understands the issues and where the bottom line is, and he makes the winning argument based on reason.”
     
  • The 2012 Benchmark Plaintiff edition ranked him as a national “Litigation Star” and, according to the 2012 edition of Legal 500, he “knows the insurance industry and how to maximize claims.”
     
  • The Chief Financial Officer of the Society of Jesus, Oregon Province, summarized his views in commenting to Best Lawyers: “I cannot imagine anyone as able to calmly represent what we stand for in the midst of the storm as Jim.”
     
  • In a June 2011 Law360 interview, a former adversary representing AIG singled out Jim as a litigator he feared facing in court, telling the publication, “Jim is a savvy trial lawyer capable of quickly and effectively adjusting his presentation during trial.”
     
  • Another former opposing counsel on behalf of London insurers recently told U.S. News “my view is that Jim provides the highest level of advocacy on behalf of his clients. He is a formidable though professional and fair adversary.”
     
  • Of all his accolades, Jim is most proud of juror feedback, such as these unsolicited comments from a Jury Foreperson: “Mr. Murray, I wanted to convey to you what a comprehensive and methodical case you presented to the jurors over these past weeks. There was hardly a juror in that room who didn’t at one time voice that of all the attorneys present, any one of them would hope for your representation. Your demeanor was professional, non-judgmental, non-condescending and sans ‘smoke and mirrors’ tactics. Thank you for an eye-opening experience.”

BACKGROUND

Jim was formerly a partner in the litigation and insurance practices of the Washington, DC office of Covington & Burling LLP, where he served on the firm’s Partnership Evaluation and Business Development Committees. From 1996 to 2007, he was a founding and managing partner of Gordon Murray Tilden LLP, a trial practice boutique in Seattle, Washington.

He was a clerk for the Honorable James Hunter III of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit from 1981 to 1982 and was special assistant to William H. Webster, Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, from 1983 to 1985.

In 1981 he was a Teaching Fellow in Moral Reasoning in the Philosophy Department at Harvard University (Professor Fried). Jim was a summer associate, during different summers, at Paul Weiss, Rogers & Wells, and Donovan Leisure Newton & Irvine, all in New York City.

PROFESSIONAL ACTIVITIES

Jim is a member of the firm’s Pro Bono Committee and its past-chair. He is a Fellow of the American College of Coverage and Extracontractual Counsel, an invitation-only organization of preeminent lawyers representing the interests of both policyholders and insurers dedicated to improving the quality of the practice of insurance law and to increase civility and professionalism in the field.

He was an adjunct professor in trial advocacy at the University of Washington School of Law for many years and serves on the faculty of the National Institute for Trial Advocacy (both trial and deposition programs).

Jim has served as secretary of the Montana State Rhodes Scholarship Selection Committee and was on that committee for more than a decade. He currently serves on the advisory board of the University of Montana College of Arts and Sciences.

OUTSIDE THE FIRM

Jim is married to Lynne Bivona and has a son and daughter. He was raised on a farm on the Fort Peck Reservation in Eastern Montana.  He plays folk and country music when he has time and for many years has caught the occasional gig with his brother in their Northwest band Smoke Creek.

Full Biography

Experience

  • Obtained a bad faith jury verdict against an insurance company in Idaho state court in a case involving a wrongful death claim under a hospital liability policy. The same jury also awarded $9.7 million in punitive damages.

  • Served as lead counsel for the FDIC, as conservator for IndyMac Federal Bank, F.S.B., in a mortgage insurance lawsuit in federal court in California. The case settled with the reinstatement of more than $100 million in mortgage insurance. 

  • Appointed special insurance coverage counsel to the Oregon Province of Jesuits, as debtor, relating to liabilities for underlying allegations of clergy abuse. In 2011, the bankruptcy court approved settlements of almost $120 million between the debtor and its historical insurance companies.

  • Trial counsel in a securities fraud case in Seattle that settled favorably in the third week of a jury trial, a few days before closing arguments.

  • Served as special insurance counsel to the City of Spokane relating to the city’s settlement of a wrongful death action arising out of the beating of Otto Zehm by certain city police officers.

  • Represented Immunex, as a subsidiary of Amgen, in King County Superior Court in Seattle and in the Washington Court of Appeals (Division One) arguing the issue of whether an insurance company is entitled to “reimbursement” of the money the insurer pays in defense of a policyholder if there is a later determination by a court that there was no coverage under the insurance policy. In July 2011, the Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s ruling in favor of Immunex on this issue in a lengthy published decision. Argued the insurer’s appeal to the Washington Supreme Court in May 2012 and in March 2013 the Washington Supreme Court issued a published decision in favor of Immunex.

  • Represented T-Mobile, Inc. (formerly Voicestream) in federal district court and in the Ninth Circuit against several insurers for the costs of defending certain underlying lawsuits alleging cellular injury from the use of cell phones.

    Jurisdiction: U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

  • Represented Wells Fargo in an insurance coverage claim involving interpretation of the standard-form vandalism exception to the vacancy exclusion.

  • Represented Heller Ehrman in breach of contract and malpractice lawsuits.

  • Represented IBM in federal court in Albany, New York involving environmental contribution claims by Stauffer Chemical and General Electric, among others.

View all Experience

News and Views

View all News and Views

Honors and Awards

  • Legal 500

  • National Trial Lawyers: Top 100 Trial Lawyer

  • Washington DC Super Lawyers

  • Chambers USA: America's Leading Lawyers for Business

  • Benchmark Litigation

  • Law360 MVP

  • Benchmark Plaintiff: The Definitive Guide to America's Leading Plaintiff Litigation Firms and Attorneys

  • International Who’s Who of Insurance & Reinsurance Lawyers

  • The Best Lawyers in America

  • Washington, DC Super Lawyers

  • Chambers USA: America's Leading Lawyers for Business

  • International Who's Who of Insurance & Reinsurance Lawyers

  • The Best Lawyers in America

  • Legal 500: The Client's Guide to the US Legal Profession

  • Washington, DC Super Lawyers

  • Chambers USA: America's Leading Lawyers for Business

  • Benchmark Plaintiff: The Definitive Guide to America's Leading Plaintiff Litigation Firms and Attorneys

  • The Best Lawyers in America

  • Legal 500: The Client's Guide to the US Legal Profession

  • Washington DC Super Lawyers

  • Chambers USA: America's Leading Lawyers for Business

  • Washington, DC Super Lawyers

  • International Who's Who of Insurance & Reinsurance Lawyers (367 attorneys named in 43 jurisdictions worldwide)

  • The Best Lawyers in America

  • The International Who's Who of Insurance & Reinsurance Lawyers (360 attorneys named worldwide)

  • Washington DC Super Lawyers

  • Chambers USA: America's Leading Lawyers for Business

  • Washington DC Super Lawyers

  • Finalist, Lawdragon 500 Leading Lawyers

  • Finalist, Lawdragon 500 Leading Lawyers

  • Washington Law & Politics "Super Lawyer"

  • Chambers USA: America's Leading Lawyers for Business

Bar Admissions

District of Columbia
New York
Washington
U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York
U.S. District Court for the District Eastern District of Washington
U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington
U.S. Supreme Court
U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit
U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit
U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit
U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia

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