Margo S. Brownell
Partner
Head of Insurance Coverage Group

Margo Brownell represents commercial policyholders in high-stakes insurance coverage disputes. Her expertise is in obtaining multimillion-dollar, multi-layer insurance recoveries for national and international companies facing mass tort and/or class action liabilities, and negotiating and/or litigating coverage claims under all types of liability policies, most frequently commercial general, product liability (including medical technology and life sciences), directors and officers liability, professional liability, cyber-liability, employment practices, and intellectual property liability coverage. She also handles complex commercial cases involving corporate-owned life insurance (COLI) as well as other types of life insurance products. In addition, she litigates property claims, such as those arising from major catastrophic events like the terrorist attacks of 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina as well as claims under financial institution bonds and commercial crime policies. Margo also handles reinsurance issues and represents reinsurers, as well as risk retention groups. She served as an Adjunct Professor of Law at the University of Minnesota Law School, where she taught insurance law and founded the Insurance Law Clinic.

Prior to becoming a lawyer, Margo was a free-lance journalist for Newsweek International, The Nation, and The New York Observer, among other publications, and was a U.S. Peace Corps volunteer in Marrakech, Morocco.







Selected Experience

  • In re: Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis (Bankr. D. Minn. 2015). Court-appointed Special Insurance Counsel for over 100 parishes sued in hundreds of clergy abuse lawsuits, as part of the Archdiocese Chapter 11 reorganization. Obtained tens of millions of dollars in insurance coverage settlements under missing insurance policies, which settlements were part of the $210 million settlement of Archdiocese and Parish clergy abuse claims, and represented the largest settlement by a diocese in bankruptcy to date in the United States.
  • States Self-Insurers Risk Retention Group, Inc. v. City of Waukegan, et al., No. 1:2017cv01028 (N.D. Ill. 2018). Lead counsel for States RRG in coverage litigation regarding Waukegan’s claim for $15 million in insurance coverage for its liability to compensate a man who was falsely imprisoned for 20 years and then released after being exonerated by DNA evidence. Obtained dismissal of Waukegan’s claim through an early motion for judgment on the pleadings.
  • Zurich American Ins. Co. v. Uponor North America, Inc. et al, Case No. 19HA-CV-13-4791 (Dakota County Dist. Ct. 2013). Lead counsel for Uponor North America, Inc. in complex coverage action brought by Zurich against Uponor and its other primary insurers seeking a declaration of no coverage for liability claims brought against Uponor in class action litigation arising from alleged defects in Uponor's yellow brass plumbing fittings installed in homes and condominiums nationwide. Successfully resolved through mediation and settlement.
  • Avon State Bank v. BancInsure, Inc., 787 F.3d 952 (8th Cir. 2015). Lead counsel for Avon State Bank in successful federal district court case and Eighth Circuit appeal involving coverage dispute under a Fidelity Bond for the Bank's liability to third parties arising from an employee's misappropriation of Bank funds in furtherance of a Liberian advance-money scheme.
  • Charles Dugan, Jr. v. Supervalu, Inc. et al., Case No. 27-CV-13-1906 (Hennepin County Dist. Ct. 2013). Successfully represented Supervalu in dispute regarding rights to ownership and benefits under corporate-owned life insurance policies. Case settled prior to final adjudication.
  • National Union Fire Ins. Co. of Pittsburgh, P.A. v. Donaldson Company, Inc., Case No. 10-CV-4949 (D. Minn. 2010). Represented Donaldson Company, Inc. in suit by insurer seeking to recoup millions of dollars insurer contributed to settlement of underlying product liability litigation against Donaldson under a commercial general liability policy with a batch clause endorsement.
  • U.S. Bank National Association v. Federal Insurance Company, 2010 WL 3928123 (W.D. Mo., Oct. 4, 2010). Lead coverage counsel for U.S. Bank in its capacity as trustee of creditors' trust in the Chapter 11 reorganization of Interstate Bakeries Corporation (IBC), in coverage action against Federal Ins. Co. and five excess insurers arising from the insurers' denial of coverage under IBC's directors and officers liability policy for alleged wrongful acts of IBC's former CFO.
  • OneBeacon American Ins. Co. v. Cortiva Midwest LLC, et. al, Case No. 2:09-CV- 04950-SRC-MAS (D.N.J. 2010). Successfully represented New Jersey-based company that owns spas and massage schools nationwide in litigation arising from insurer's denial of coverage for class action lawsuit alleging Cortiva's violations of the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act. Coverage action settled prior to final adjudication.
  • Premier Pet Products, LLC v. Travelers Property Cas. Co. of America, 678 F. Supp. 2d 409 (E.D. Va. 2010). Represented company that manufactures dog-training collars in insurance dispute over whether its trademark infringement liability was covered under the Advertising Injury provisions of its commercial general liability policy. Case ultimately settled prior to final adjudication.
  • General Cas. Co. of Wisconsin v. Wozniak Travel, Inc., 762 N.W.2d 572 (Minn. 2009). Successfully represented group of Minnesota commercial policyholders as amicus curiae in a case certified to the Minnesota Supreme Court on the question of whether the advertising injury coverage of Wozniak Travel Inc.'s commercial general liability policy covered trademark infringement liability.
  • State Farm Fire and Cas. Co. v. Universal Recovery Systems, et al., Case No. 62-CV-08-2253 (Hennepin County Dist. Ct. 2008). Successfully represented Minnesota company in dispute against State Farm for coverage under a commercial general liability policy for a lawsuit alleging tortious interference with contract. Case settled favorably for client prior to final adjudication.
  • Bourgeois v. American Family Mut. Ins. Co., Case No. 27-CV-07-3134 (Hennepin County Dist. Ct. 2008). Obtained jury verdict for homeowner in coverage action against American Family for progressive water damage loss to the Bourgeois home.
  • Florists' Mut. Ins. Co. v. Wagners Greenhouses, Inc., 535 F. Supp. 2d 947 (D. Minn. 2008). Lead counsel for horticultural company in coverage dispute arising from whether claims for the sale of diseased plants was covered under the company's products/completed operations coverage of its commercial general liability coverage.
  • Wilsons The Leather Experts, Inc. v. Peter J. Paek and Federal Insurance Company, Court File No. 07-2315 (D. Minn. 2007). Successfully represented Wilson's leather in litigation against Federal Insurance Company for coverage arising under commercial crime policy for losses due to employee kickback scheme. Case settled prior to final adjudication.
  • Kean Argovitz Resorts v. Willard Smith v. Lakes Entertainment, 2000-15830 (80th Dist. Ct., Harris County, Tex. 2005). Obtained jury verdict in favor of publicly traded entity in the business of financing and managing Indian gaming operations in a dispute with joint venture partners and others seeking to unwind two significant projects under a fraudulent conveyance theory.
  • LeMond Cycling, Inc., et al. v. PTI Holding, Inc., Case No. 03-5441 (D. Minn. 2005). Obtained $3.5 million jury verdict for three-time Tour de France champion Greg LeMond in a dispute over PTI's breach of a licensing agreement involving the licensing and branding of a line of LeMond bicycle accessories.
  • Industrial Risk Insurers, Inc. v. Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, Case No. 02 Civ. 7170 (S.D.N.Y. 2002). Represented insurer in World Trade Center subrogation litigation over issues of negligent design and operation of high-rise office building on World Trade Center site.
  • Factory Mutual Ins. Co. v. Ford Motor Co. (Arbitration Proceeding, 2002). Represented insurer in $300 million subrogation action involving catastrophic explosion at Rouge Powerhouse in Dearborn, Michigan.
  • American Foods Group, Inc. v. Supervalu, Inc. (American Arbitration Association Proceeding, 2001). Represented Supervalu, a national food distributor, in dispute over cause and liability for e. coli contamination of beef products and resulting personal injuries.

Professional Activities

American Bar Association: Tort Trial & Insurance Practice Group, Chair 2005-2006; Business Litigation Committee; Insurance Coverage Litigation Committee
Minnesota State Bar Association: Civil Litigation Section, Civil Jury Instruction Guide (JIG) Subcommittee on Insurance Law
Hennepin County Bar Association
Trial Lawyers for Public Justice
Global Rights for Women: Founding Member
Minnesota Women Lawyers: Board of Directors 2005-2007; Leadership Committee, Co-Chair 2003-2004; Professional Development Committee, Co-Chair 2002-2003
University of Minnesota Law School: former Adjunct Professor, Insurance Law
Barnard College: Admissions Interviewer since 2004
Minnesota Food Co-op Boards (MNFCB): Co-Founder and Steering Committee Member
Linden Hills Co-op: Board of Directors 2010-2012
Friends of the Boundary Waters: Board of Directors 2013-present; Vice Chair 2018

Recognition

2018 Women in Business Award Winner, Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal

Fellow, American Bar Foundation, 2006-present

Recognized on Minnesota Super Lawyers® list, 2017-2018 (Minnesota Super Lawyers® is a designation given to only 5 percent of Minnesota attorneys each year, based on a selection process that includes the recommendation of peers in the legal profession.)

Top Women Attorneys in Minnesota® list, 2018 (The annual edition of the Top Women Attorneys in Minnesota list features attorneys who received the highest point totals in the previous year's Minnesota Super Lawyers® and Rising Stars balloting, research, and blue ribbon review process.)

Recognized on Minnesota Rising Stars list as part of the Super Lawyers® selection process, 2008, 2011 (Minnesota Rising Stars is a designation given to only 2.5 percent of Minnesota attorneys each year, based on a selection process that includes the recommendation of peers in the legal profession.)

p 612.672.8393   f 612.642.8393
3300 Wells Fargo Center, 90 South Seventh Street
Minneapolis, MN 55402
Bar Admissions
Minnesota, 2001
U.S. District Court
  • Minnesota, 2001
  • District of Columbia, 2003
  • W.D. Michigan, 2002
U.S. Court of Appeals
  • Eighth Circuit, 2010
  • Ninth Circuit, 2008
Education
University of Michigan Law School
J.D., cum laude, 2000
Barnard College, Columbia University
B.A., cum laude, 1984
Major: Religion
Notable

MARGO  WAS SELECTED AS A 2018 WOMEN IN BUSINESS AWARD WINNER BY MINNEAPOLIS/ST. PAUL BUSINESS JOURNAL. SHE IS ALSO RECOGNIZED ON BOTH THE 2018 MINNESOTA SUPER LAWYERS® LIST AND THE 2018 TOP WOMEN ATTORNEYS IN MINNESOTA LIST BY SUPER LAWYERS®.

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