Ryan S. Smethurst is co-head of McDermott’s Insurance Litigation & Counseling Team. He has tried numerous insurance coverage cases to judges and juries, has litigated insurance coverage appeals presenting questions of first impression, and has arbitrated reinsurance disputes to final award. For nearly two decades, Ryan has represented insurers in insurance coverage litigation and claims disputes with respect to their most difficult and high-profile exposures, including more than 11,000 personal injury actions against the City of New York and 140 of its contractors in In re World Trade Center Disaster Site Litigation; approximately 750 childhood sexual abuse cases against the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles and other Roman Catholic, Episcopal and youth organizations nationwide; and nine-figure environmental and asbestos liabilities.
In addition to his insurance disputes practice, Ryan counsels commercial and captive insurers and other insurance market participants regarding insurance claims and placements, policy and reinsurance wordings, allocation disputes, and insurance issues arising in transactions and government investigations. He has experience with multiple lines of commercial insurance products, including general liability, directors and officers, errors and omissions, employment practices liability, crime, pollution legal liability, marine, property (including time element coverages such as business interruption), and manuscripted coverages, as well as with treaty and facultative reinsurance agreements.
In his insurance practice, Ryan benefits from having litigated contract, tort, employment and class action cases arising in other (non-insurance) disciplines and industries. In this facet of his practice, Ryan has represented Citi, Computer Sciences Corporation, DaVita, McDonalds, Under Armour, and Verizon, among other clients.
Ryan also maintains an active pro bono litigation practice in which he focuses on service to underprivileged children. He recently served as a court-appointed guardian ad litem for two children in neglect and custody proceedings in the Superior Court for the District of Columbia. He supervised a team who won partial judgment following a bench trial for a father in Europe seeking the return of his daughter after her illegal abduction to Maryland. Ryan also litigated and won asylum for an Ethiopian man imprisoned and tortured for opposing the country’s ruling party during a contested presidential election. Ryan serves on the Firm’s global Pro Bono Committee.
- Co-lead trial counsel for Allianz in successful 2014 bench and six-week jury trials in inter-insurer contribution litigation arising out of thousands of asbestos cases against Freightliner Corporation nationwide and Freightliner’s Superfund liabilities in Oregon, Washington and Indiana (Allianz Global Risks U.S. Ins. Co., et al. v. ACE Prop. & Cas. Ins. Co., et al., No. 1204-04552, Multnomah County (Oregon) Circuit Court)
- Represented the WTC Captive Insurance Company with respect to its defense and historic $712.5 million settlement of 10,116 bodily injury and medical monitoring lawsuits against the City of New York and 140 of its contractors arising out of the rescue, recovery and debris removal efforts at Ground Zero and elsewhere on and after September 11, 2001 (In re World Trade Center Disaster Site Litigation, Nos. 21 MC 100, 21 MC 102, and 21 MC 103, US District Court for the Southern District of New York); also represented the WTC Captive with respect to its recovery of over $200 million from London Market Insurers following successful coverage litigation (WTC Captive Ins. Co., Inc. v. Liberty Mut. Fire Ins. Co., et al., No. 1:07-cv-01209, US District Court for the Southern District of New York)
- Represented a commercial insurer and served as liaison counsel to 12 other insurers of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles with respect to its $660 million settlement of 517 sexual abuse cases, the Archdiocese’s settlement with its insurers, and those insurers’ settlement with approximately thirty of the Archdiocese’s co-defendants and their insurers; lead reinsurance counsel for the commercial insurer with respect to its cessions arising from the settlement (The Clergy Cases I, Judicial Council Coordination Proceeding No. 4286, Los Angeles Superior Court)
- Represented a commercial insurer with respect to a successful petition for writ of mandamus arising out of a failed mediation of 90 clergy sexual abuse cases against the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange [County, California] (Travelers Cas. & Surety Co. v. Superior Court, 126 Cal. App. 4th 1131 (2005), cert. denied, No. S132595 (Cal. 2005))
- Represented a national healthcare provider in a bad faith insurance dispute arising out of the defense of a pharmaceutical malpractice case (Young v. HomeChoice Partners, Inc., No. 08C-10957-4, Circuit Court for Gwinnett County, Georgia)
- Represented The Church Insurance Company in insurance coverage, bad faith and fraud litigations and in reinsurance arbitrations arising out of approximately 75 childhood sexual abuse claims (Bd. of Trustees of Porter-Gaud School v. The Church Ins. Co., No. 2-01 0631 18, US District Court for the District of South Carolina)
- Legal 500 US, 2021 and 2022
- Chambers USA 2013 to 2022, District of Columbia, Insurance – Insurer side representations; according to Chambers interviewees, Ryan is “a very smart lawyer, strategic thinker and skillful trial attorney”
- Financial Times, 2012 recipient of Innovative Lawyers award for his work negotiating and drafting a 600-page settlement agreement and 25 administrative process agreements that resolved 10,116 tort cases against the City of New York and 140 of its private contractors in In Re World Trade Center Disaster Site Litigation by creating a neutral-administered claims evaluation process to distribute fairly and efficiently $712,500,000 million in settlement proceeds to first responders and others alleging injuries due to their work at Ground Zero and elsewhere in Lower Manhattan on and after 9/11
- Law 360 2011, Rising Star and named “one of five insurance attorneys under 40 to watch” in the United States
- American Bar Association, selected by his peers as an editor of the Complex Insurance Coverage Litigation Handbook, which was published in October 2010
- Alexandria Country Day School, board of trustees 2015 to 2018
- Belle Haven Community Association, board of directors 2013 to 2014
George Mason University School of Law, JD, cum laude, 1999
Cornell University, BA, 1993
District of Columbia
Courts / Agencies
US District Court for the District of Columbia
US District Court for the District of Maryland