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Neil S Lerner

Admiralty and maritime Attorney at Los Angeles, CA

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  • State Years
    California - CA 36 years
    New York - NY 37 years
  • Licensed for 36 years
    State CA
    Acquired 1988
    Active No misconduct found
  • Licensed for 37 years
    State NY
    Acquired 1986
    Currently Registered No misconduct found

We have not found any instances of professional misconduct for this lawyer.

About Neil

Learn Neil’s areas of practice.

Practice areas
  1. Admiralty and maritime
    Neil practices maritime and transportation law in state and federal court.

    37 years

  2. Insurance fraud
    He is an expert in detecting, investigating and defeating insurance fraud.

    37 years

  3. Transportation
    He also represents local transportation companies in business litigation and class actions.

    37 years

  4. Insurance
    He also represents insurers in first and third party cases and coverage matters.

    37 years

  5. Energy and utilities
    He represents vessel operators in regulatory proceedings before the CPUC.

    13 years

Neil S. Lerner is a partner with Cox Wootton Lerner Griffin & Hansen, LLP (CWL), a regional law firm with offices in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Honolulu serving the Western U.S. and the Pacific Rim. Neil practices maritime and transportation law (including trucking) and has been designated a Southern California "Super Lawyer" for 2012-2018. 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 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 on California's Admiralty and Maritime Law Advisory Commission until February 1, 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 areas are unfair competition cases (two recent successful jury verdicts in trials involving unfair competition and unfair business practices) and advising private equity on due diligence issue re transportation and trucking (recently advised a private equity in NY on TNC issues re its participation in an Uber finance round, a private equity in Boston on TNC issues re its securing a stake in SambaSafety and a start-up in Silicon Valley on a TNC application).

   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. 

   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.


(This page may constitute Attorney advertising.  Please know that prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome.) 


Cox Wootton Lerner Griffin & Hansen, LLP
12011 San Vicente Blvd.
Suite 600
Los Angeles, CA, 90049


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AVVO RATING 8.4 (Excellent)

Work Experience

  • Partner
  • Sands Lerner
  • 1990 - Present
  • Associate
  • Wilner Narwitz and Klien
  • 1986 - 1990


  • George Washington University Law School
  • JD - Juris Doctor
  • 1985
  • Tulane University
  • BA - Bachelor of Arts
  • 1982
  • Bristol University (UK)
  • JYA
  • 1981

Sample of Legal Cases

  • In re Harbor Breeze Corporation
  • Win for client at regulatory hearing, license granted.
  • In re application of Sea Planes Inc. (CPUC)
  • All four licenses applied for were obtained.
  • Perez v. West Basin Container Terminals, et all.
  • Win for client on summary judgment.
View all legal cases


  • Maritime Law Association of the United States
  • N/A
  • Transportation Lawyers Association
  • N/A

Languages Spoken

  • English

Honors and Awards

  • Southern California Super Lawyer
  • Super Lawyers
  • 2013
  • Super Lawyer
  • Southern California Super Lawyers
  • 2012
  • Top Attorneys in Southern California
  • Los Angeles Magazine
  • 2012
  • Certified Specialist - Admiralty & Maritime Law (2012-2/2018)
  • State Bar of California
  • 2012
  • Admiralty and Maritime Law Advisory Commission (2012-2/2018)
  • State Bar of California
  • 2012
  • Author-Content Contributor
  • Library of Law-Section on Shipping Litigation
  • 2012
  • GLG Council Member
  • Gerson Lehrman Group
  • 2011
  • Special Tribute to America's Best Lawyers
  • Sky Radio Network
  • 2008
  • Go-To Lawyer Southern California (litigation)
  • Corporate Counsel
  • 2007
  • Meet America's Best Lawyers-LA'S & OC'S Finest
  • KTLK Talk Radio 1150
  • 2005
  • Honorary Speaker
  • Texas House of Representatives
  • 2004
View all awards


  • Morgan James (NY) (Under Contract)
  • An Act of Piracy (True Crime Book)
  • N/A
  • Los Angeles Business Journal
  • The Case Against Fraudsters
  • N/A
  • Fraud Focus Magazine
  • Swamped with Suspicion, How Cigna Trumped the Boat Bully
  • N/A
  • The International Fraud Update Newsletter
  • Strictly By Accident
  • N/A
  • National Association of Fraud Investigators
  • Fraud: A Success Story
  • N/A
View all publications

Speaking Engagements

  • Markel Claims Counsel, DRI.
  • Recent trends in California insurance law.
  • 2012
  • Markel American Marine Summit
  • Panel Participant
  • 2012
  • February Luncheon
  • The Use of Policy Rescission in Litigating Marine Coverage Disputes
  • 2012
  • 22nd Annual Training Seminar
  • Marine Fire Investigation
  • 2012
  • Special Event
  • Suggested Procedures for a Marine Terminal Incident.
  • 2011
  • CNA Conference
  • The Role and Effective use of Policy Rescission
  • 2011
  • Seatte Marine Claims Lunch
  • Pirates on the High Seas: New Risk, Old Risk or Fraud Risk?
  • 2010
  • Markel American Marine Insurance Summit
  • Insurance Defense
  • 2010
  • Institute for Health Care Fraud
  • Insurance Fraud-Health
  • 2008
  • Fort Lauderdale Boat Show
  • Foreign Corrupt Practices Act
  • 2008
  • Transportation Law
  • Trucking Industry Litigation-Recent Developments
  • 2007
  • Markel's Conference (Cabo San Lucas)
  • Marine Claims Tips
  • 2007
  • IAMI Annual Conference
  • Marine Insurance Fraud
  • 2005
  • Houston Marine Insurance Seminar
  • The Rex DeGeorge Case
  • 2004
  • International Association of Special Investigations Units
  • Marine Insurance Fraud
  • 2003
  • IAMI Annual Conference
  • The Rex DeGeorge Case
  • 2003
  • Marine Underwriters of Southern California
  • Maritime Law
  • 2000
  • American Marine Insurance Forum
  • Marine Insurance
  • 1999
  • Pacific Admiralty Seminar
  • Rescission of Marine Insurance Case Study
  • 1998
View all speaking engagements

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Los Angeles Admiralty and maritime Lawyer Neil S Lerner
Neil S Lerner
Admiralty and maritime Attorney
Los Angeles, CA
Licensed for 37 years