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WINNING COMBINATION

Greg Ryan’s Perfect Blend of Experience and Expertise Makes Him a Powerful Ally for Policyholders in Complex Coverage Litigation

"There is often a tendency to approach similarly situated clients and their matters in the same, template way. We recognize that each client’s needs are unique and we prioritize those individual needs to deliver tailored results,” says Greg Ryan, Founder of Ryan & Associates, APLC.
Ryan is speaking from experience. With nearly 37 years of experience in all aspects of insurance law, Ryan has earned a reputation as a highly skilled advocate, who enjoys a reputation for both excellence in advocacy for his clients, and civility in working with fellow attorneys.
For the past 25 years, Ryan has represented policyholders across all types of insurance, including professional liability, property losses, and homeowner/general liability coverage. He has also carved a successful niche in representing construction industry clients, including residential developers, residential and commercial contractors, and subcontractors. Though he and his team exclusively represent policyholders, Ryan says that the trial experience, and mentorship he received early in his career working in insurance defense, served as the foundation for his success in coverage litigation.

Early Interest & Experience in Insurance Law

Ryan’s interest in the law was initially piqued while serving in the United States Marine Corps as an Infantry Captain, where he enjoyed friendships with Judge Advocate Generals (JAGs). “The advocacy interested me because I loved the competitive nature of it,” he says. After leaving the Marine Corps, he went on to earn his J.D. from California Western School of Law, graduating with honors in 1980.
Ryan says that everything about the first firm he joined, where he would ultimately become partner, and spend the first decade of his career, was a natural fit for him. At Rhoades, Hollywood & Neil, Ryan recalls that the team environment was reminiscent of his time in the USMC owing in large part to Senior Partner, Gen. Mike Neil. “After serving in the military, I was very much an organization man. I was comfortable with teamwork, and enjoyed the excellent leadership we had. We attended social events together, there was a lot of focus on morale building. The culture was perfect, because it reminded me of the Marine Corps,” he recalls.
More importantly, he says, the guidance and training he received as a new lawyer was second-to-none. Though he initially thought he wanted to work in the field of medical malpractice, he says, “As a young lawyer, my mentors specialized in insurance litigation. They were John Rhoades, who went on to be a premier US District Court judge in San Diego, and Harrison Hollywood, who went on to be a respected San Diego Superior Court Judge. These were insurance gurus, and I could walk in and ask questions anytime I wanted,” Ryan recalls.
Moreover, he was able to cut his teeth in trial experience very early on, through his work in insurance defense. That early experience would serve to be a strong foundation on which a long and successful future in insurance law could be built—even though he would soon change his focus to fighting for coverage for policyholders. He did just that, when together with a close friend, he became a partner in Sparber, Ferguson, Ponder & Ryan. Ryan spent more than a decade as a partner there.
However, after 23 years as a partner in a firm, Ryan says he was just ready for a change, and set out on his own. “I found independence and a resurgence of enthusiasm in going solo in 2002,” he explains. Ryan was pleasantly surprised to find how much he enjoyed working autonomously. He also found himself continuing to receive plenty of referrals from fellow attorneys, which kept him busy from the day he decided to open the doors to Ryan & Associates, 15 years ago.

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Expertise Earns Referrals to High Stakes Cases

By the time Ryan had established his own firm, the AV-Preeminent rated attorney had earned industry-wide respect, along with referrals from his colleagues, including opposing counsel. So, although he brought some clients with him to his new firm, he credits his peers for the smooth transition to solo practice. “After 23 years, you tend to get to know a lot of attorneys,” Ryan jokes. “But I will always be grateful to the attorneys who sent and continue to send referrals. There is a special fraternity amongst litigators in San Diego, and by and large we all do like each other,” he adds.
In fact, it was a fellow attorney who recommended and referred Ryan the challenging and highly visible case of The Society of Lloyd’s v Robert C. Blackwell, et.al. Charged with representing all 26 California investors (“Names”), this extraordinary lawsuit was one of eight cases Lloyd’s of London filed against “Names” in Arizona, California, New Mexico, Utah, Pennsylvania, Nebraska, Nevada and Georgia to enforce English judgments. It followed four other cases filed in earlier years in New York, Illinois, Texas, and Florida. All told, Lloyd’s had English judgments against 250 Americans in 33 states.
The case gained a lot of attention, due to the potential it had to completely wipe out high net worth Americans who had to fight the behemoth in English courts. “Up until the 1970’s “Names” were required to be English. Then they began allowing Americans to become “Names,” but the investors would have to sign all contracts in England. Lloyd’s had never had a loss for 100 years, so some signed over everything they had to back policies issued by Lloyds,” Ryan explains.
At the same time, according to Ryan, “Lloyd’s knew that huge asbestos lawsuits were coming. They continued a practice of ‘recruit to dilute’ the losses they knew they would have. In the U.S., nondisclosure is fraud. In England, there must be actual misrepresentation or false claims. Non-disclosure is not fraud.” Worse for the American “Names,” all disputes surrounding the investment were required to be resolved in England under English law. Not only were judgments rendered in England, but then Lloyd’s came to San Diego, where Ryan spent years in District Court and the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, fighting to the bitter end for the American Names Association.
In another high-profile case, which resulted in a published decision by the California 4th District Court of Appeals, Ryan represented McMillin Companies in McMillin Companies, LLC v. American Safety Indemnity Company. “The case dealt with insurance companies claiming an “offset” (deduction) against damages for my client’s settlements with other insurance companies. The 4th District Court of Appeals held that the settlements did not affect McMillin’s damages claim,” Ryan explains. The win was significant for Ryan, as well as the insurance industry, as it provided an unambiguous definition of damages for breach of the duty to defend. This victory was also reported on Law360.com.
Additionally, Ryan handles cases which don’t make headlines, or change laws, but are nonetheless incredibly rewarding. For example, he recalls a case from 2010 that still makes him proud. “I represented a 97-year-old widow who lost her home in a fire. Her homeowner’s carrier denied her claim. She was the sweetest client I ever represented. The insurance company forced her through litigation for two years in US District Court where she prevailed. The insurance company appealed and she prevailed again before the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals one year later. She never gave in and neither did we,” he says. Ryan has also represented wildfire victims pro bono, helping them to obtain their coverage for damaged and destroyed homes.

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Excellence Leads Firm to Evolve

Though Ryan enjoyed his solo practice, over the past four years, his firm has grown to include attorneys Debbie H. Kim and Katherine R. Aul, both of whom joined Ryan soon after graduating from law school at University of San Diego School of Law and California Western School of Law, respectively. The decision to expand the firm was the direct response to meeting a demand for Ryan’s experience, particularly given the changes in the construction industry over the last decade. The three attorneys are supported by two legal secretaries and two paralegals.
Ryan’s own desire to pay forward the mentorship he received as a young attorney also played a role in the growth of the firm. “I consider myself very lucky. I have a great team of qualified attorneys and terrific staff,” Ryan says. “I hope to provide the same mentorship and guidance I received, while also giving them a ‘trial by fire’ experience. That’s the way I learned. There’s no substitute for just diving in and getting experience,” he says.
For Ryan and his team, this is a particularly exciting time to be working on coverage cases. Indeed, according to Ryan, new developments in the law, and ongoing changes in language of policies try to limit coverage for policyholders. In particular, Ryan and his team continue to fight for policyholders who need the resources of their insurance company to help provide coverage for them in all areas and circumstances.
“We are currently working on an appeal to the Fourth District Court of Appeal in California regarding specialized endorsements in commercial general liability policies. This case could play a significant role in shaping the insurance and construction industry’s use and interpretation of the endorsements,” he says.
With this case and others ahead of him and his team, Ryan says the firm is poised to add additional attorneys in the coming years. “We take pride in our reputation and litigation and trial experience not just in our practice area, but in the California legal community. We have built long-lasting relationships with attorneys throughout the insurance industry at large. We enjoy working with other lawyers, including opposing counsel. We work hard to establish a friendly trust-based relationship with counsel. We know it is possible to disagree without being disagreeable.”
Indeed, the future looks bright for Ryan, who has been named a San Diego “Top Attorney” by San Diego Magazine numerous times, along with being included in lists such as “Best Recommended Insurance Attorneys.” So, what’s next for him and his growing team?
“We’ve litigated and tried cases in California State and Federal Courts. We have pursued appeals in the California Court of Appeals and the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, and we have a diverse team. Our focus will continue to be on providing our clients with the most effective and efficient representation, built on a foundation of decadeslong experience,” he says.

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» EDUCATION

  • California Western School of Law, San Diego, California, J.D. cum laude, Law Review: International Law Review – 1977–1980
  • Bemidji State College, Bemidji, Minnesota, B.A., Psychology (Philosophy), Dean's List – 1972

» HONORS AND AWARDS

  • AV Preeminent Martindale Hubbell Rating, 1988–Present
  • San Diego's "Top Lawyers" – San Diego Magazine, 2015–2017
  • Bar Register of Preeminent Lawyers
  • Best Directory of Recommended Insurance Attorneys

» PROFESSIONAL ASSOCIATIONS AND MEMBERSHIPS

  • Panelist for The Seminar Group for the Insurance in the Construction Industry seminar – 2013, 2014, and 2017
  • American Bar Association, Member
  • San Diego County Bar Association, Member
  • Consumer Attorneys of San Diego, Member

» BAR ADMISSIONS

  • California
  • U.S. District Court Southern District of California
  • U.S. District Court Central District of California
  • U.S. District Court Northern District of California
  • U.S. Court of Appeals 9th Circuit
  • U.S. Supreme Court

Contact
Greg J. Ryan, Esq.
Ryan & Associates, APLC
1010 Second Avenue, Suite 2500
San Diego, CA 92101
(619) 239-4848
greg@giryan.com
www.giryan.com

Jennifer Hadley

Jennifer Hadley is a Staff Writer for Attorney Journal

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About the Author: Jennifer Hadley is a Staff Writer for Attorney Journal

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