Neil S. Lerner

Attorney Profile

Top Rated Transportation & Maritime Attorney in Los Angeles, CA

Cox Wootton Lerner Griffin & Hansen, LLP
 | 12011 San Vicente Blvd.,, Suite 600
Los Angeles, CA 90049
Phone: 310-440-0020
Fax: 310-440-0015
Selected to Super Lawyers: 2012 - 2019
Licensed Since: 1988
Practice Areas:
  • Transportation/Maritime (70%),
  • Insurance Coverage (20%),
  • Business Litigation (10%)
Attorney Profile

   Neil S. Lerner is a partner in the Los Angeles office of Cox Wootton Lerner Griffin & Hansen, LLP (CWL), a regional law firm (offices in San Francisco and Honolulu as well) serving the Western U.S. and the Pacific Rim. Neil practices maritime and transportation law (including trucking) and has been designated a Southern California "Super Lawyer" for 2012-2018. In his core business, he represents domestic and foreign insurers in first and third party cases, and local maritime and transportation companies in business litigation cases involving unfair competition and misclassification and in constitutional law cases involving preemption, public trust, water and navigational rights.

   Neil has been featured in the Los Angeles Times, the Los Angeles Daily Journal, Forbes Magazine and LA Magazine. He has been designated a “Go-To” lawyer by Corporate Counsel Magazine, the exclusive “Transportation Law Expert” by Legal Elite, a “Top Rated Transportation/Maritime Attorney in Los Angeles" by Super Lawyer and is rated “Superb” by AVVO. He was one of the first Certified Admiralty & Maritime Law Specialists in California and served for several terms on the state's Admiralty and Maritime Law Advisory Commission.  

   Recently, in his core practice of maritime and transportation law, he won summary judgment in a million dollar plus cargo case, argued for a federal motor carrier at the CA Supreme Court, settled a dispute with the Port of SD over navigation rights and the public trust doctrine, which saved his client a $20 million capital expense, won a five week jury trial involving negligent hiring of a salvor, exonerated a terminal operator from claims by an injured longshoreman under the joint venture immunity defense and obtained a judgment of exoneration in a Limitation of Liability action, arising out of a dockside fire that originated on his client's vessel and caused millions of dollars in vessel and dock damage. In December 2016, the DLSE (in LA) conceded his position that CA lacks jurisdiction to fine vessel owners who carry Jones Act insurance, but not state comp. This dovetailed with his previously forcing the CA DIR (in SD) to withdraw fines it levied on vessel owners for not carrying workers compensation insurance because they carried Jones Act coverage. Notwithstanding, that fight against CA continues.  

   His emerging practice area, given the recent influx of outside investment in the maritime and transportation industries, is advising private equity on due diligence issues re transportation (recently advised a private equity in NY on TNC issues re its participation in an Uber finance round, a private equity in Boston on TNC issues re its securing a stake in SambaSafety, a start-up TNC in Silicon Valley on a TNC application and a very prominent private equity in Washington D.C. on its acquisition of United Road Services. His last such diligence work, for a very prominent NY private equity seeking to acquire an Alabama motor carrier, ended in late January 2018.  He has also been advising his local maritime and transportation clients on GDPR compliance given its extraterritoriality scope and May 25, 2018 compliance date.    

   Neil often speaks on panels addressing emerging issues in maritime and transportation law. He was an invited panelist on “The Legal Framework of Insurance Policy Rescission and Claims Misrepresentation Webcast,” which aired February 02, 2017 and was produced by The Knowledge Group.  He was an Instructor at IAMI on May 2, 2017 regarding "Admiralty Law-Barratry & Marine Claims," in Nevada, and was a featured speaker on "bad faith and the duty to settle," on August 8, 2017, for The Knowledge Group.  He was also interviewed in the August 2017 Edition of Lawyer Monthly Magazine in the "Expert Insight" column on maritime & transport issues. Recently, he spoke before an industry trade group in Seattle, in a speech entitled "Change is Everywhere in the Maritime and Transportation Industries," which focused on the revolution underway in transportation stemming from driverless technology, blockchain, the emergence of state courts into transportation and the unprecedented influx of private equity.   

   On June 19, 2018, in a suspicious insurance claim involving the mysterious sinking of a commercial vessel in Hawaii, a claim that Neil's been investigating for a marine insurer client since January 2016, and analyzing and advancing the coverage determination, the perpetrator of that scuttling, the insured, pled no contest to Attempted Theft in the First Degree, a Felony, and will be sentenced on August 16, 2018.     

   Neil is best known, however, for representing Cigna in winning the Rex DeGeorge insurance fraud case, which started off the coast of Italy and ended in downtown LA with DeGeorge going to federal prison for sinking his vastly over-insured yacht, on its maiden voyage, in the Med. His true crime book about that 12 year saga, which involved “credible” death threats, Hollywood and ancient maritime doctrines, and which Federal Judge J. Spencer Letts called "the single most incredible story I’ve ever heard from the stand," is entitled "An Act of Piracy," and is contracted with NY publisher Morgan James. Although the draft of that manuscript is completed, Neil continues to interview witnesses who-even now-still contact him with new information about that fraudulent scheme.    


(This page may constitute Attorney advertising.  Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome.) 

Practice Areas

Transportation/Maritime (70%)
Insurance Coverage (20%)
Business Litigation (10%)

Transportation/Maritime (70%): Admiralty & Maritime Law, Transportation Law

Insurance Coverage (20%): Insurance, Bad Faith Insurance, Insurance Defense

Business Litigation (10%)

Focus Areas

Admiralty & Maritime Law, Transportation Law, Insurance, Bad Faith Insurance, Insurance Defense


Selected to Super Lawyers for 8 yearsbottom-image

Super Lawyers: 2012 - 2019

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White Papers

  • CALIFORNIA’S ONGOING UNCONSTITUTIONAL INTERFERENCE IN PORT TRUCKING (2012) - In the port trucking sector, for more than thirty years, California, at the behest of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, has sought to impose a state policy favoring the use of employee drivers over  independent contractor drivers on motor carriers.  To date, those efforts have been thwarted by a federal law that prohibits states from regulating motor carriers, which was specifically enacted to preempt an early California effort to impose that very policy.  Thus, any current state enforcement action is preempted and unconstitutional.  (Available upon request)

  • About Neil Lerner

    Admitted: 1988, California

    Professional Webpage:

    Honors and Awards:

    • Designated a Top 100 Civil Defense Litigators for Southern California, Top 100 Civil Defense Litigators, 2018
    • Selected to Southern California Super Lawyers, 2016
    • Selected to Southern California Super Lawyers, 2015
    • ExclusiveTransportation Law Expert, California, The Global Law Experts, 2015
    • Appointed in April 2015 to second four year term, through 2019, State Bar Admiralty and Maritime Law Commission, 2015
    • Best Maritime Law Firm-California, Corporate America, Legal Elite Award, 2015
    • Selected to Southern California Super Lawyers, 2014
    • Selected to Southern California Super Lawyers, 2013
    • AVVO rating "Superb", 2012
    • Selected to Southern California Super Lawyers, 2012

    Special Licenses/Certifications:

    • Certified Legal Specialist in Admiralty and Maritime Law by the State Bar of California, April 5, 2012   

    Bar/Professional Activity:

    • Appointed to California's Admiralty and Maritime Law Advisory Commission, 2012
    • State Bar California, Admiralty Law Specialist Certification Program, 2010

    Scholarly Lectures and Writings:

    • Speaker, Rescission of Marine Insurance Case Study, Board of Marine Underwriters of San Francisco, 1998
    • Speaker, Marine Insurance, American Marine Insurance Forum, 1999
    • Speaker, Maritime Law, Marine Underwriters of Southern California, 2000
    • Speaker, The Rex DeGeorge Case, IAMI, 2003
    • Speaker, Marine Insurance Fraud, International Association of Special Investigations Unit (IASIU), 2003
    • Honorary Speaker, State of Texas House of Representatives, 2004
    • Speaker, The Rex DeGeorge Case, Houston Marine Insurance Seminar, 2004
    • Speaker, Marine Insurance Fraud, International Association of Marine Investigators, 2005
    • Speaker, Marine Claims, Markel American Insurance Company Seminar, Cabo San Lucas, 2007
    • Speaker, Transportation Law, Transportation Law Association Annual Conference, 2007
    • Speaker, Insurance Fraud, NHCAA (Institute for Health Case Fraud Prevention), 2008
    • Speaker, Admiralty Law, Fort Lauderdale Mariners Club Annual Seminar, 2008
    • Panel Participant, Markel American Marine Insurance Defense Summit, 2010
    • Speaker, Seattle Marine Claims Association, "Pirates on the High Seas: New Risk, Old Risk or Fraud Risk?", 2010
    • Speaker, "Suggested Procedures For A Marine Terminal Incident" Long Beach, California, 2011
    • Speaker, CNA/U.S. Marine Claims, "The Role and Effective use of Policy Rescission in Litigating Marine Coverage Disputes", 2011
    • Panel participant, Markel Claims Counsel at the DRI seminar in NYC, "Recent trends in California Insurance Law," December 5th, 2012
    • Panel participant, International Association of Marine Investigators, 22nd Annual Training Seminar, 2012
    • Speaker, San Francisco Marine Claims Association, "The Effective Use of Plicy Rescission in Litigating Marine Coverage Disputes" , 2012
    • Panel Participant, Markel American Marine Summit, invitee of Markel to participate in roundtable discussions about legal, insurance and maritime issues, 2012
    • Author of (high seas) true crime book entitled "An Act of Piracy," about the Rex DeGeorge maritime-legal drama, scheduled to be published, under a publishing contract, by New York book publisher Morgan James Publishing

    Verdicts and Settlements:

    • Appeal win in case of Brandwein v. Butler et all, Case # D059413, Court of Appeal, Fourth District, Division One, upholding several fundamental principles of maritime law issued August 9, 2013
    • Perez v. Pacific Crane Maintenance, et al., Case No. NC 042866, Hon. Judith A. Vander Lans Presiding, 2011
    • Victory in a five week jury trial in Superior Court, San Diego, Department C-71, Case No. 37-2008-00090249, Hon, Ronald S. Prager presiding, 2010
    • Maritime law applied to uphold settlement after mini-trial.  In the Matter of the Complaint of Bruce Gibson, 2009 AMC 2249, 2009
    • One occurrence rule applied to multiple thefts under an inland marine motor truck cargo policy.  Budway Enterprises, Inc. v. Federal Insurance Company, 2009 WL 1014899, 2009
    • June 24, 2009.  Admiralty jurisdiction established.  In re the Matter of the Complaint of Mission Bay Jet Sports, LLC., 570 F.3d 1124, 2009
    • Commercial marine open cargo insurance policy coverage requires proof of actual physical loss.  Meridian Textiles, Inc., v. Indemnity Insurance Company of North American, 2008 AMC 1411. , 2008
    • Marine insurance rescission.  N.H. Ins. Co. v. C'Est Moi, Inc., 519 F.3d 937, 2008 U.S. App. LEXIS 5836, 2008 A.M.C. 931, 2008
    • Trial-Defense Verdict, Unfair Business Practices-Maritime Law-Pacific Adventure Cruises Inc., v. Sea Planes, Inc.  Verdicts & Settlements, LA Daily Journal, August 29, 2008
    • Marine insurance rescission and voiding granted for misrepresenting and concealing material facts on the insurance application.  Markel American Insurance Company v. Woolard, 2007 AMC 2597, 2007
    • Trial- Verdict for rescission of marine insurance policy., Markel American Insurance Company v. Fitt, 528 F. Supp.2d 1010., 2007
    • Insurance policy time for suit provision upheld.  Grober v. Markel American Insurance Co.,  2006 Cal. App. Unpub. LEXIS 8090, 2006
    • Trial and appeal, motor carrier litigation.  TOBIAS RENTERIA, individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. K&R TRANSPORTATION INC., a California corporation; 423 F.3d 1079, 2004
    • Marine Insurance Judgment-Pacific Insurance v. Kent, 120 F. Supp. 2d 1205, 2000
    • Trial and appeal-Verdict for rescission of marine insurance policy.  Cigna v. Polaris Pictures Corp., 159 F.3d 412, 1998
    • Elimination of tort of bad faith denial of contract.  Freeman & Mills, Inc. v. Belcher Oil Co., (co-counsel) 11 Cal. 4th 85, 44 Cal. Rptr. 2d 420, 900 P.2d 669, 1995
    • People ex rel. Harris v. Pac Anchor Transportation., Inc

    Representative Clients:

    • Harbor Breeze Cruises
    • Chartis Marine
    • Chubb Group of Insurance Companies
    • Boat U.S.
    • Cal Cartage Corporation
    • Travelers Insurance
    • Markel American Insurance Company
    • Princess Cruise Lines

    Other Outstanding Achievements:

    • "Meet American's Best Lawyers-LA's & OC's Finest," KTLK AM 1150
    • "Special Tribute to America's Best Lawyers," produced by Sky Radio Network and broadcast on the Forbes Radio Channel on American Airlines, featured guest interviewed on air


    • The International Fraud Update Newsletter, “Strictly by Accident,” page 2, by Neil S. Lerner
    • Los Angeles Business Journal, “The case against fraudsters,” page 46, by Neil S. Lerner
    • National Association of Fraud Investigators Newsletter, “Fraud: A Success Story,” page one, by Neil S. Lerner    
    • Fraud Focus Magazine, “Swamped with Suspicion, How Cigna Trumped the Boat Bully Who Sank One Yacht Too Many,” page 4, by Neil S. Lerner

    Educational Background:

    • Tulane University, B.A., Political Science, 1982
    • Bristol University (UK), B.A., Honor's Program of Political Study, Bristol England, 1980

    Industry Groups

    • Admiralty And Maritime Law Advisory Commission (until 2018)
    • Maritime Law Association
    • Transportation Law Association
    Office Location for Neil S. Lerner

    12011 San Vicente Blvd.,
    Suite 600
    Los Angeles, CA 90049

    Phone: 310-440-0020

    Fax: 310-440-0015


    Neil S. Lerner:

    Last Updated: 7/30/2018

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