John A. Lee

John A. Lee



Practice Groups

John A. Lee, a partner in the Global Insurance Services Practice Group, counsels and defends clients involved in insurance cases, especially those pertaining to complex environmental issues.

With an extensive background in environmental science and nearly 20 years of experience as a trial and appellate civil litigator, John has successfully defended client matters as diverse as multi-party coverage disputes, million-dollar environmental site remediation, PCB, asbestos, and lead exposure claims, alleged construction negligence, and premises and professional liability. He also has handled over 50 workers’ compensation disputes and negotiated a successful resolution of a Lanham Act case regarding trademarks and competition.

Possessing a master’s degree in meteorology, John brings to his practice an uncommonly deep understanding of the environmental issues underlying the legal challenges his clients are facing. As an environmental consultant, John undertook over 50 Phase I and Phase II Environmental Site Assessments for both government and private sector clients.  He has experience with CAA, CWA, RCRA, and NPDES compliance matters, and is familiar with fate and transport modeling and toxic exposure risks. Because of his extensive environmental science knowledge, he is particularly skilled at both cross-examining and preparing expert witnesses in environmental cases. His experience in both insurance law and environmental science allows him to act as a nexus connecting clients, his attorney colleagues, expert witnesses, and often judges, ensuring that all parties share an understanding of the legal, environmental, and regulatory issues at stake, a cross-disciplinary authority that allows him to provide his clients with comprehensive counsel as well as powerful defense. John is also a frequent contributor to the firm's Environmental Law Monitor blog.

Additionally, John has been involved in pro bono human rights work since receiving his law degree. That work includes, among other matters, representing the former mayor of La Paz, Bolivia in a case that was successfully tried before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in 2016; representing an attorney from Mexico in a case before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights involving the construction of a dam outside of Mazatlan, Mexico; undertaking an investigation of a gold-mining operation in the Cajamarca region of Peru to determine whether suit could be filed against the mine operator in US court under the Alien Tort Statute, and bringing an appeal to the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions regarding a citizen of Bangladesh sentenced to death for his alleged role in the assassination of President Sheik Mujibur Rahman in 1975. He currently is associated with the International Senior Lawyers Project in New York, and is a member of Human Rights Watch Chicago Committee.

Representative Matters
  • As defense co-counsel, successfully defended national insurer in multi-party insurance coverage declaratory judgment action involving liability for remediation costs stemming from the billion-dollar cleanup of PCB contamination of the Lower Fox River in Wisconsin; undertook primary role in preparing environmental expert witness and evaluating fate and transport modeling evidence for use in joint defense.
  • Currently serving as trial and appellate counsel in multi-party Connecticut insurance coverage declaratory judgment dispute arising out of several thousand underlying cases in which claimants alleged bodily injury due to asbestos exposure.  
  • Resolved over 50 worker’s compensation claims for two national third-party administrators, one of which was valued in excess of $1 million, stemming from the bankruptcies of several national insurance carriers. 
  • Successfully defended a national third-party administrator for transportation services in multiple suits involving the issue of whether the underlying claimant was an employee or an independent contractor.
  • Served as co-defense counsel in successful defense of Argonne National Laboratory in multiple actions involving contract disputes stemming from alleged toxic exposure, construction negligence, and premises liability.
  • Managed the environmental experts in a coverage case involving a multi-site industrial laundry remediation and a complex forum battle, which resulted in the filing of a writ of mandamus with the Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit.
  • Worked with environmental experts in successful summary judgment action in coverage case involving the recovery of CERCLA cleanup costs related to the remediation of a contaminated oil refinery in Cushing, Oklahoma.
Professional Affiliations
  • Chicago Bar Association
  • American Meteorological Society
  • Humans Rights Watch — Chicago Committee
Community Involvement
  • Pro bono work:
    • Center for Civil and Human Rights, Notre Dame University
    • Center for International Human Rights, Northwestern University
    • International Senior Lawyers Project
    • National Immigrant Justice Center, Asylum case from The Gambia
  • Harold Washington College, Chicago — Adjunct Professor teaching meteorology and other environmental courses
Admitted to Practice
  • Illinois
  • U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois
  • U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin
  • U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit
  • DePaul University College of Law, J.D., 1998
  • University of Wisconsin, M.S., 1988
  • University of Wisconsin, B.S., 1985
Publications/ Presentations
  • Co-Author, "Climate Change Lawsuits – New Theories and Old Defenses," ABA – TTEL Committee News, Summer 2018
  • Co-Presenter, "The Environmental Impact of Climate Change," Perrin Environmental Risk & Litigation Conference, New York City, NY, June 12, 2018
  • Presenter, "Recovering Payments Through Third-Party Claims," Property and Liability Resource Bureau (PLRB) Annual Conference, Orlando, FL, April 15, 2018
  • Co-Presenter, "Weathering the Storm: Effective Mitigation Tools for Environmental Crisis Management," GS Containing Disasters Seminar, Chicago, January 22, 2018
  • Author, “The Social Cost of Carbon and Its Impact on Enviro Law,” Law360, January 30, 2018
  • Co-Author, "The Occupational Disease Exclusion: Making New Law With an Underappreciated Policy Provision," FC&S Legal: The Insurance Coverage Law Center, March 15, 2017
  • Co-Author, "Global Warming Has Not Inspired Wave of Lawsuits," Business Insurance, April 30, 2012
  • Co-Author, "Special Report: Environmental Audit Immunity Laws and Self-Disclosure Policies: A State-By-State Comparison," 35 Env’'. Rep. (BNA) No. 28, at S2-S87, July 9, 2004 (Reprinted as the inaugural edition of BNA's EHS Strategies, No. 1, August 2004)
  • Author, "The Underlying Legal Theory to Support a Well-Defined Human Right to a Healthy Environment as a Principle of Customary International Law," 25 Columbia Journal of Environmental Law, No. 2, at 283-346, Spring 2000
  • Co-Author, "Special Report: Environmental Audit Immunity Laws: A State-By-State Comparison," 28 Env't. Rep. (BNA) No. 7, at 331-56, June 13, 1997 (Reprinted in: 21 Chem. Reg. Rep. (BNA) No. 14, at 381-406, July 4, 1997;'s Article of the Month for August 1998)