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Neil is a Southern California Super Lawyer for 2012, 2013, 2014 and now for 2015, who practices maritime and transportation law in state and federal court. He represents insurers in first and third party cases as well as insurance fraud investigations and coverage matters, and local transportation companies in business litigation, unfair competition cases, class actions and transactional matters. 

He recently prevailed in a five week jury trial involving negligent hiring, two published appellate opinions, one published district court opinion, a second jury trial involving unfair competition claims between competing ferry companies, and an administrative hearing at the California PUC.  

In March 2011, he forced the California Department of Industrial Relations to withdraw fines it had issued to commercial vessel owners for not maintaining workers compensation insurance because vessel owners maintain Jones Act coverage instead.

In June 2011, he succeeded, for the third time in 15 months, in defending a terminal operator from claims by an injured longshoreman under the LHWCA joint venture immunity defense.

He has been featured in the LA Times, The LA Daily Journal, Forbes and LA Magazine and was designated a “Go-To” lawyer by Corporate Counsel Magazine for litigation. He continues to be a guest speaker at seminars worldwide on such topics as preventing fraud, combating piracy, fighting state interference in federally regulated industries, complying with the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and on navigation and exploration rights, domestic and international.  

He represented Cigna in the Rex DeGeorge case, which started in Italy and ended in LA with Mr. DeGeorge going to federal prison for insurance fraud for scuttling his vastly overinsured yacht on its maiden voyage. His true crime book about that case, which a federal judge called "the single most incredible story I’ve ever heard from the stand," is entitled "Act of Piracy," and is under a publishing contract with Morgan James (NY).   


In 2012, he became one of the first Certified Admiralty & Maritime Law Specialists in California. He was also appointed to the bar's Admiralty and Maritime Law Advisory Commission, on which he now serves. He is counsel for port trucker Pac Anchor in a case currently before the CA Supreme Court, People ex rel. Harris v. Pac Anchor Transportation., Inc, which is fully briefed as of Octobe 2012, and awaiting oral argument (which he will argue) and which will address a fundamental question of transportation law: whether a state may use its unfair business practice statute as an enforcement mechanism against a trucker in a preempted industry? He co-authored a White Paper on the subject in April 2012.  In August 2012, he was invited to author the maritime and admiralty law section of the Library of Law, an England based on-line international resource.


On October 12, 2012, he won a two week jury trial proving that his client had been the victim of unfair competition in the whale watching industry, which was based, in part, on the competitors misuse of Google adwords.      


He also participated, in 2012, as a participant in four industry roundtable seminars for the SF Marine Claims Association, the International Association of Marine Investigators, Markel American Insurance and, at the DRI seminar in NYC, for the Markel Claims Counsel seminar.    


In February 2013 he obtained a judgment and a permanent injunction against two whale watching competitors of his client arising out of the unfair competition trial he won in October 2012.  On June 10, 2013, he obtained a judgment of exoneration for a client in an Arizona federal court Limitation of Liability action, CV 11-8131, arising out of a dockside fire that originated on his client's vessel, and spread to others, and caused almost two million dollars in vessel and dock damage.  On June 14, 2013, he prevailed in the appeal of another anti-SLAPP motion.  On August 9, 2013, in a 52 page opinion, D059413, he prevailed in the appeal of a trial that he won in 2011 thereby upholding several fundamental principles of admiralty law, whichi is 218 Cal. App. 4th 1485 (2013).


On 1/1/14 his firm joined with SF based Cox Wootton to form Cox Wootton Lerner Griffin Hansen & Poulos.  On May 13, 2014, he won summary judgment on a $1.3 million cargo case in federal court upholding the $500 COGSA package limit for his client, Hartford Fire v. Total Terminals International.  In May 2014, he participated in the Markel Marine Summit, by invitation.  On May 28, 2014, he presented oral argument at the CA Supreme Court in the Pac Anchor case and the case now stands submitted. 



Practice areas


  1. Maritime: 50%
    29 years
  2. Insurance Fraud: 14%
    29 years
  3. Transportation: 14%
    29 years
  4. Insurance: 12%
    29 years
  5. Energy: 10%
    5 years


Payment types:

Cash, Check

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Contact info

Cox Wootton Lerner Hansen Griffin & Poulos, LLP

12400 Wilshire Boulevard.
Suite. 1300
Los Angeles, CA, 90025


NYCurrently registered 198603/13/2015
We have not found any instances of professional misconduct for this lawyer.
Avvo contributions
Legal answers
Award nameGrantorDate granted
Southern California Super LawyerSuper Lawyers2013
Author-Content ContributorLibrary of Law-Section on Shipping Litigation2012
Admiralty and Maritime Law Advisory CommissionState Bar of California2012
Certified Specialist - Admiralty & Maritime LawState Bar of California2012
Top Attorneys in Southern CaliforniaLos Angeles Magazine2012
Super LawyerSouthern California Super Lawyers2012
GLG Council MemberGerson Lehrman Group2011
Special Tribute to America's Best LawyersSky Radio Network2008
Go-To Lawyer Southern California (litigation)Corporate Counsel2007
Meet America's Best Lawyers-LA'S & OC'S FinestKTLK Talk Radio 11502005
Honorary SpeakerTexas House of Representatives2004
Work experience
TitleCompany nameDuration
PartnerSands Lerner1990 - Present
AssociateWilner Narwitz and Klien1986 - 1990
Association namePosition nameDuration
Maritime Law Association of the United StatesN/AN/A
Transportation Lawyers AssociationN/AN/A
Legal cases
Case nameOutcome
People v. Pac Anchor Transportation, Inc.Trial judgment for Defendant, reversed by Court of Appeals and now pending before the CA Supreme Court.
Markel Am. Ins. Co. v. WoolardDefault Judgment for Plaintiff
In re GibsonMotion to Enforce Settlement Granted
See all legal cases 
Publication nameTitleDate
Morgan James (NY) (Under Contract)An Act of Piracy (True Crime Book)N/A
The International Fraud Update NewsletterStrictly By AccidentN/A
Los Angeles Business JournalThe Case Against FraudstersN/A
National Association of Fraud InvestigatorsFraud: A Success StoryN/A
Fraud Focus MagazineSwamped with Suspicion, How Cigna Trumped the Boat BullyN/A
School nameMajorDegreeGraduated
Tulane UniversityLawJD - Juris Doctor1985
Tulane UniversityPolitical ScienceBA - Bachelor of Arts1982
University of BristolPoliticsJYA1981
Speaking engagements
Conference nameTitleDate
Markel Claims Counsel, DRI.Recent trends in California insurance law.2012
Markel American Marine SummitPanel Participant2012
February LuncheonThe Use of Policy Rescission in Litigating Marine Coverage Disputes2012
22nd Annual Training SeminarMarine Fire Investigation2012
Special EventSuggested Procedures for a Marine Terminal Incident.2011
CNA ConferenceThe Role and Effective use of Policy Rescission2011
Seatte Marine Claims LunchPirates on the High Seas: New Risk, Old Risk or Fraud Risk?2010
Markel American Marine Insurance SummitInsurance Defense2010
Institute for Health Care FraudInsurance Fraud-Health2008
Fort Lauderdale Boat ShowForeign Corrupt Practices Act2008
Transportation LawTrucking Industry Litigation-Recent Developments2007
Markel's Conference (Cabo San Lucas)Marine Claims Tips2007
IAMI Annual ConferenceMarine Insurance Fraud2005
Houston Marine Insurance SeminarThe Rex DeGeorge Case2004
International Association of Special Investigations UnitsMarine Insurance Fraud2003
IAMI Annual ConferenceThe Rex DeGeorge Case2003
Marine Underwriters of Southern CaliforniaMaritime Law2000
American Marine Insurance ForumMarine Insurance1999
Pacific Admiralty SeminarRescission of Marine Insurance Case Study1998