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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 - 2022
Licensed in California 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 (including diving) and transportation law (including trucking) and has been designated a Southern California "Super Lawyer" for 2012-2019. 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 (2012-2/2018) and served for several terms on the state's Admiralty and Maritime Law Advisory Commission until 2/2018.  

   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 in transportation. Neil has provided transportation legal advice to private equity Och-Ziff re its participation in Uber’s Series E Financing, private equity ABRY Partners re its acquisition of SambaSafety, private equity The Carlyle Group re its acquisition of CB URS Holdings Corporation, private equity Gamut Capital Management re its effort to acquire PS Logistics, and to private equity York Capital Management re its acquisition of Mode Transportation LLC, which closed in September 2018. 

   In 2020, he's been advising his local maritime and transportation clients on compliance with changes in California law regarding independent contractors (Dynamex case, AB-5) and guiding them through the transition to either employee based business models or brokerage models. Due to market disruption in marine, in 2020, Neil's also been advising clients on reassessing their risks, transferring them to third parties and developing indemnity, hold harmless and additional insured clauses.               

   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 prescient speech entitled "Change is Everywhere in the Maritime and Transportation Industries," which focused on the disruption 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, on August 16, 2018, was found guilty, sentenced to prison and ordered to make restitution to the insurer, which he did in February 2019. As a result, Neil, and his investigative team, was nominated for investigator of the year by IAMI.             

   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
  • 70%Transportation/Maritime
  • 20%Insurance Coverage
  • 10%Business Litigation
Focus Areas

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


11 Years Super Lawyers
  • Super Lawyers: 2012 - 2022

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 S. Lerner

First Admitted: 1988, California

Professional Webpage:

Special Licenses/Certifications

  • Certified Legal Specialist in Admiralty and Maritime Law by the State Bar of California, April 5, 2012, expired February 2018   

Bar/Professional Activity

  • Appointed to California's Admiralty and Maritime Law Advisory Commission, expired in February 2018.  
  • State Bar California, Admiralty Law Specialist Certification Program, expired February 2018.

Scholarly Lectures/Writings

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

Representative Clients

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

Other Outstanding Achievements

  • "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
  • "Meet American's Best Lawyers-LA's & OC's Finest," KTLK AM 1150


  • The International Fraud Update Newsletter, “Strictly by Accident,” page 2, by Neil S. Lerner
  • National Association of Fraud Investigators Newsletter, “Fraud: A Success Story,” page one, by Neil S. Lerner    
  • Los Angeles Business Journal, “The case against fraudsters,” page 46, 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

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


  • Perez v. Pacific Crane Maintenance, et al., Case No. NC 042866, Hon. Judith A. Vander Lans Presiding, 2011
  • 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 Judgment-Pacific Insurance v. Kent, 120 F. Supp. 2d 1205, 2000
  • Insurance policy time for suit provision upheld.  Grober v. Markel American Insurance Co.,  2006 Cal. App. Unpub. LEXIS 8090, 2006
  • People ex rel. Harris v. Pac Anchor Transportation., Inc
  • Maritime law applied to uphold settlement after mini-trial.  In the Matter of the Complaint of Bruce Gibson, 2009 AMC 2249, 2009
  • 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 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
  • 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
  • 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
  • June 24, 2009.  Admiralty jurisdiction established.  In re the Matter of the Complaint of Mission Bay Jet Sports, LLC., 570 F.3d 1124, 2009
  • 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
  • Trial- Verdict for rescission of marine insurance policy., Markel American Insurance Company v. Fitt, 528 F. Supp.2d 1010., 2007
  • 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
  • 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
  • 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


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

Industry Groups

  • Admiralty And Maritime Law Advisory Commission (until 2/2018)
  • Maritime Law Association
  • Transportation Law Association
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Office Location for Neil S. Lerner

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

Phone: 310-440-0020

Fax: 310-440-0015

Last Updated: 10/19/2021

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