Susannah Carr is an experienced trial lawyer. She prides herself in applying her trial skills—and a common-sense, outcome-oriented approach—to a wide range of commercial disputes and high-stakes personal injury cases. Susannah’s principal focus, however, is insurance recovery: advising and litigating on behalf of business, governmental, and individual policyholders in coverage disputes. She is experienced in the start-to-finish prosecution of claims under the full range of commercial-line policies, including commercial general liability, management liability/D&O, employment practices liability, professional liability, and business property. She is equally accomplished representing individual policyholders in major claims under homeowners and flood insurance policies.
Susannah is among the most experienced policyholder lawyers in the Northwest for complex “long tail” claims—securing coverage for environmental property damage and asbestos bodily injury liabilities resulting from business operations occurring decades ago. She has assisted her clients in securing tens of millions of dollars in insurance proceeds for such losses, often after leading an “insurance archaeology” effort resulting in the discovery and reconstruction of previously “lost” policies. Another focus is flood insurance: she is one of the few lawyers in Washington State with experience recovering under policies issued as part of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP).
Susannah authored the Washington State chapter in the American Bar Association’s book, Reasonable Expectations: Interpreting Insurance Policies in Common Law Jurisdictions, and co-authored the chapter on insurance coverage for environmental property damage for the Real Property Deskbook of the Washington State Bar Association. She regularly speaks on insurance-recovery topics at local and national continuing legal education conferences.
After law school, Susannah served as clerk to the Hon. Anne L. Ellington of the Washington State Court of Appeals. She has been named a Rising Star by Washington Law & Politics Magazine every year since 2010.
Precedent-setting environmental insurance recovery case
Gull Industries, a longtime Seattle-based gasoline distributor, faced environmental clean-up obligations for 220 gas stations. When Gull sought to recover the cost of these clean-ups, which it undertook voluntarily, from various insurers under its CGL policies, the insurers denied the claims. Frank Cordell and Susannah Carr (along with co-counsel at Marten Law) engaged in a multi-phase case to recover the insurance proceeds. In 2014, in the first trial, a King County Superior Court jury returned a verdict in favor of Gull. Issues in this ongoing "master class" environmental case include the effect of non-cumulation clauses, reconstruction of lost policies from years ago based on fragmentary evidence, and prevailing against the insurers’ “expected or intended” policy language defense.
Long-tail coverage counsel to Weyerhaeuser Company
For nearly 30 years, GTTC’s lawyers have served as coverage counsel to iconic Northwest business Weyerhaeuser Company. Frank Cordell has been lead counsel to Weyerhaeuser in a wide variety of coverage matters, including long-tail claims. Along with Susannah Carr, he currently represents the company in litigation against the London Market, AIG and other insurers over coverage for liability arising out of the Kalamazoo River Superfund Site – one of the largest and most costly Superfund sites in history. Susannah Carr and Frank Cordell currently represent the company in litigation against the London Market, AIG, and other insurers over coverage for liability arising out of the Kalamazoo River Superfund Site, one of the largest and most costly Superfund sites in history.
Unanimous multi-million dollar jury verdict in negligent maritime death case
In 2010, 33-year-old Lia Hawkins was part of a small crew working in a Ballard shipyard as part of a project to turn a 300-foot long oceanographic-research vessel into a luxury floating hotel. She worked part time as an office assistant but, to avoid losing her job, helped the others with large-scale demolition of sections of the ship, including throwing heavy metal refuse through a gap in the ship’s fourth-floor railing into a recycling container four decks below. Lia disappeared from the workplace, leaving her car, keys and purse behind; her drowned body was later found in the water next to the ship.
Her estate filed a maritime wrongful death action, alleging that Lia’s employer had failed to maintain a reasonably safe workspace on the ship, including having Lia—untrained in maritime matters generally and ship construction specifically—handling the demolition work. After a two-week jury trial in U.S. District Court in Seattle, Mark Wilner and Susannah Carr (along with co-counsel) obtained a unanimous $3.45 million verdict. In addition, the court awarded prejudgment interest and other relief, for a total judgment amount of over $4 million. The Court subsequently directed the U.S. Marshal’s service to seize the ship and auctioned it off to help pay the judgment.
Insurer balks at cost of defending Port of Bellingham
An insurer for the Port of Bellingham claimed it had no duty to defend the Port in a wrongful death action arising from a serious fire at a marina owned by the Port. Susannah Carr represented the Port against the insurer. On summary judgment, the U.S. District Court ruled that the insurance company was obligated to pay for the Port’s defense in this significant wrongful death case.
Unique skills result in payment of restaurant’s flood insurance claims
To protect the business’ property as well as tenant improvements, the owner of a Seattle-area Italian restaurant purchased a flood insurance policy through the National Flood Insurance Program. When the restaurant suffered flood damage, the insurer refused to pay the restaurant’s claims for its leasehold improvements. Susannah Carr helped the restaurant operator appeal to FEMA and file suit to challenge the insurer’s denial of coverage. On summary judgment, the U.S. District Court held the claim was covered under the policy. As a result, the restaurant received its full limits under the policy. Susannah is one of the few lawyers in Washington State who assist policyholders with flood insurance recovery.
Outside the office, I am an avid competitive sailor. I’ve completed two Atlantic crossings, and in 2000 I had the privilege of being on the U.S. Sailing team and competing in the U.S. Olympic Trials. Now that I have an active legal practice and family, I stick closer to home and happily race my 17-foot Thistle, Liquid Sunshine, on Lake Washington.