Elected to Phi Beta Kappa after having earned a B.S. in Biochemistry and minors in Chemistry, Math, Psychology, and Zoology & Physiology in 1997, Seth’s undergraduate training developed his analytical and problem solving skills. Applying those skills during law school led Seth to earn a seat on the Louisiana Law Review from 1998-2000. Seth became a shareholder of the firm in 2006.
Seth’s practice areas focus on the representation and counseling of insurance companies in liability coverage and property coverage disputes in both Louisiana and Texas. He strives to provide his insurer clients with a focused and innovative solution to the most complex of issues. Seth has argued before the Louisiana Supreme Court, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, the state appellate courts, and state and federal district courts on behalf of his insurer clients.
His liability coverage practice involves all claims arising under general liability policies and employer’s liability/worker’s compensation policies of insurance. Special focus in Seth’s practice area concern construction defect coverage-related litigation and the additional-insured issues associated with those claims. Additionally, he has significant experience in general liability coverage disputes involving environmental, toxic tort, and long-latent disease issues.
Throughout his career, Seth has guided insurers through their litigation concerning the validity of various exclusions in liability policies, provided pre-litigation counseling, developed both reservation-of-rights letters and cost-sharing agreements, litigated bad faith issues focused on demands for policy limits and the reasonability of settlements, and handled class actions. On occasion, Seth has been able to expand his coverage litigation into the admiralty realm.
Seth’s property coverage practice has spanned Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, Ike, Gustav, Isaac, Superstorm Sandy, and includes representation of NFIP insurers in addition to insurers not providing coverage for flood. His work involves pre-litigation counseling, the taking of examinations under oath, counseling insurers during arson investigations, guiding insurers through the appraisal process as well as litigating both residential and commercial property losses. Included in his property coverage practice is the litigation of key coverage issues surrounding the viability of the water damage exclusion, overhead and profit issues, the meaning of “expenses incurred,” lack of coverage for fallen trees which caused no damage, valued policy law issues, the proper methodology for calculating business income losses both generally and those associated with the actions of civil authority, and bad faith claims.
Liability Coverage Representative Cases
- Cassandra Lewis v. Nail Studio Professional Nail Care et al., Civil District Court for the Parish of Orleans, No. 2017-09862, 7/15/19, unpublished (application of professional services exclusion precluded coverage for bodily injuries sustained during a pedicure service)
- La. United Bus. Ass’n. Casualty Ins. Co. v. J&J Maintenance, Inc. et al., (E.D. La. 10/13/16), 2016 WL 6038031 (in finding no additional coverage was available for allegations solely premised on the putative additional insured’s own negligence, the court held that the only complaints to be considered are complaints filed against the putative additional insured and not other pleadings filed by other parties against other parties)
- Maldonado v. Kiewet Louisiana Co., (La. App. 1st Cir. 3/24/14), 2014 WL 120744 (no additional-insured status extended to General Contractor under Subcontractor’s policy for multi-million dollar bodily injury trial verdict despite the plaintiff being an employee of the Subcontractor because the plaintiff’s allegations did not contain any allegations of fault attributable to the Subcontractor/Employer)
- Burrows v. Executive Property Management Co., (La. App. 4th Cir. 3/12/14), 2014 WL 1028541 (employer’s liability exclusion precluded coverage for injuries occurring during course and scope of employment despite contention by plaintiff that they were alleging non-employment related causes of negligence)
- Weinstein, et al, LLC v. Anthony Hinyard D/B/A Acadian Paint Contracting, et al, (La. 3rd Cir. 3/11/13), unpublished (reversal in favor of insurer finding the owned property exclusion and the real estate manager exclusion barred coverage in a multi-million dollar construction defect case)
- In re Jillian Morrison, L.L.C., (5th Cir. 6/4/12), 482 Fed. Appx. 872 (question of additional-insured status not ripe where party seeking additional-insured status has not yet been sued)
- St. Paul Fire & Marine Ins. Co. v. Board of Commissioners of the Port of New Orleans, (5th Cir. 3/15/11), 418 Fed. Appx. 305 (exercising its maritime jurisdiction, the Court held that the New York choice of law provision in an excess policy was valid and enforceable such that the insurer were entitled to forego providing a defense to the insured under New York law based on late notice)
- Little v. USAA Cas. Ins. Co., (5th Cir. 4/2/10) (breach of contract case by employer against policyholder did not seek damages for malicious prosecution and therefore Coverage B was not implicated and no defense of the policyholder was required)
- Leaming v. Century Vina, Inc., (La. App. 4th Cir. 6/1/05), 908 So. 2d 21 (no additional-insured status extended to Lessor under Lessee’s policy where injury occurred in the shopping mall parking lot, which was not part of the lease, and Lessee was not responsible for maintaining the parking lot but rather the Lessor)
Property Coverage Representative Cases
- Smith v. Travelers Property Cas. Ins. Co. of America., (5th Cir. 7/26/19), 932 F. 3d 302 (claim against property insurer was time barred, and the insurer’s post-denial willingness to re-inspect the insured’s property did not operate to nullify the prior accrual date of her claims.)
- Johnson v. GeoVera Specialty Ins. Co., (5th Cir. 9/27/16), 657 Fed. Appx. 301 (no coverage under homeowner policy where insured prejudiced insurer where insured demolished property prior to insurer’s ability to participate in appraisal invoked by insured, refused to provide photographs and videos, and refused to submit to an examination under oath).
- Voinche v. Capps., (La. 10/24/14), 150 So. 3d 297) (obtained reversal on summary judgment in favor of an insurer in a UM case involving a death where the evidence established that the insured's risk manager was authorized to reject UM coverage despite the risk manager never having been expressly told to waive the UM coverage)
- Hoffman v. Travelers Indem. Co. of America., (La. 5/7/14), 2014 WL 1800079) (term “expenses incurred” means only those expenses for which an insured is responsible after application of a contractual write-down amount such that policyholder had been properly compensated and class action of which she was the lone class representative was dismissed)
- Commstop v. Travelers Indem. Co. Connecticut, (W.D. La. 5/17/12), 2012 WL 1883461 (decrease in business income due to increased difficulty in patrons accessing store as a result of a construction project did not trigger either civil authority coverage or business income coverage)
- Legier & Company, APAC v. The Travelers Indemnity Company of Connecticut, (E.D. La. 4/28/10) 2010 WL 1731202 (appropriate formula for calculating “actual loss of business income” is [projected net income minus total projected operating expenses] + [actual continuing normal operating expenses [including payroll] – gross profits actually earned)
- Kushner Lagraize v. Phoeinx Ins. Co., (E.D. La. 9/9/09), 2009 WL 2922122 (insurer had no duty to pay for business interruption that occurred before coverage began under the policy terms, which provided that civil authority coverage began twenty-four hours after damage to property within 100 miles of premises subject to civil authority action. And insured made no allegation of direct physical loss or damage)
- Nguyen v. St. Paul Travelers Ins. Co., (E.D. La. 10/6/08), 2008 WL 4534395 (class action premised on general contractor overhead and profit dismissed because defendant has right to individually assess the damage being repaired to determine if a general contractor was warranted such that class treatment was not appropriate)
- Chauvin v. State Farm Fire & Cas. Co., (5th Cir. 8/6/07), 495 F.3d 232 (Louisiana’s Valued Policy Law did not apply where total loss of home was caused by both covered and uncovered causes of loss)
- In re: Katrina Canal Breaches Litigation, (5th Cir. 8/2/07), 495 F.3d 191 (water damage exclusion barred coverage resulting from levee failures inundating homes with water).
- Jay P. Farmer and Seth A. Schmeeckle, “The Duty to Defend and the Affirmative Defense,” Insurance Coverage Law Bulletin (Apr. 2016)
- Rebecca A. Moore and Seth A. Schmeeckle, “ ‘Customary Operations’ or a Vacant Building?,” Insurance Coverage Law Bulletin (Sep. 2015)
- C. Austin Holliday and Seth A. Schmeeckle, “Setoon, Starr and Beyond,” Insurance Coverage Law Bulletin (Nov. 2013)
- Heather N. Sharp and Seth A. Schmeeckle, “New ISO Forms Impact Construction Contracts,” Insurance Coverage Law Bulletin (Sept. 2013)
- Sara E. Coury and Seth A. Schmeeckle, “Civil Authority Provisions in Property Policies,” Insurance Coverage Law Bulletin (Nov. 2012)
- Travis B. Wilkinson and Seth A. Schmeeckle, “Coverage Issues Under Homeowners’ Insurance Policies in Chinese Drywall Cases,” Insurance Coverage Law Bulletin, Vol. 10, No. 8 (Sep. 2011)
- Wystan M. Ackerman and Seth A. Schmeeckle, “Handling the Flood of Coverage Litigation: Lessons Learned from Katrina,” Coverage, Vol. 20, No. 3 (May/June 2010)
- Anne E. Briard and Seth A. Schmeeckle, “Is an Insurer Obligated to Defend the Prosecution of Affirmative Claims on Behalf of Its Insured?” Insurance Coverage Law Bulletin, Vol. 8, No. 4 (May 2009)
- Gregory C. Fahrenholt and Seth A. Schmeeckle, “A New Approach: Disclaiming Coverage for Arson to a Vacant Building in Standard Fire Policy States,” Insurance Coverage Law Bulletin, Vol. 7, No. 10 (Nov. 2008)
- Seth A. Schmeeckle and Ralph S. Hubbard III, “Selecting Defense Counsel and Controlling the Defense: Who Makes the Call When Rights are Reserved?” Insurance Coverage Law Bulletin, Vol. 3, No. 3 (Apr. 2004)
Speeches & Addresses
- New Orleans Bar Association: 2019 Year in Review – Significant Developments in Insurance Coverage and Extra-Contractual Liability (Jan. 23, 2020)
- PLRBCentral Regional Adjusters Conference: Negotiations Strategies with Casualty Claims (September 5 and 6, 2017)
- New Orleans Bar Association: The Appraisal Clause: Viewpoints from the Policyholder and Defense Counsel CLE (Jul. 16, 2015)
- USDC NJ Hurricane Sandy Arbitrator Training Conference (Jul. 23, 2014)
- USDC EDNY Storm Sandy Mediation Training (May 22, 2014)
- HarrisMartin’s Superstorm Sandy Insurance Coverage Litigation Conference (Feb. 26, 2013)
- ABA YLD Spring Conference: Insurance Coverage in Times of Natural Disaster (May 15, 2009)
- CNA Commercial and Property Casualty Insurance Company: Catastrophic Claims (Aug. 16, 2007)
Organization & Management of Large Insurer Defense Groups
- In 2002, Seth commenced his service as Deputy Liaison Counsel in the Bryson Adams, et al. v. Environmental Purification Advancement Corporation, et al, Civil Action No. 99-1998, USDC-WDLA involving the organized defense effort of more than fifty different families of general liability insurers.
- Following Hurricane Katrina in 2005, Seth was named co-Liaison Counsel for the Defendants in the In Re Canal Breaches Consolidated Litigation, No. 05-4182, USDC-EDLA, to serve as one of two Liaison Counsel for the defendants involved in the post-Katrina levee breach litigation wherein Seth was charged with the coordination of the alleged defendant tortfeasors, defendant general liability insurers, and more than 200 defendant property insurers.
- In 2007, Seth served the first party insurance industry as Coordinating Counsel for a large volume of first party insurers in the consolidated litigation before Judge Eldon E. Fallon of the USDC-EDLA involving a multitude of lawsuits filed by Chase Home Finance LLC against multiple property insurance carriers.
- In 2010, Seth was selected to the Insurance Steering Committee for the In Re: Chinese Manufactured Drywall Products Liability Litigation, No. 09-md-2047 USDC-EDLA representing both liability and property insurers.
- In 2013, Seth was selected to the Insurance Steering Committee for the In Re: Hurricane Sandy Cases, No. 14 MC 41 USDC-EDNY representing a property insurer.