John A. Lee

John A. Lee

Partner

Office

Practice Groups

John A. Lee, a partner in the Environmental and Global Insurance Services Practice Groups, counsels and defends clients involved in direct environmental and 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 clients in matters as diverse as multi-party coverage disputes; environmental site remediation; PCB, asbestos, and lead exposure claims; alleged construction negligence; and premises and professional liability. He has also handled multiple workers’ compensation disputes and negotiated a successful resolution of a Lanham Act case regarding trademarks and competition. His environmental work involves both direct defense and insurance coverage for environmental matters.

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 across the country. He has experience with CAA, CWA, RCRA, and CERCLA 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 a frequent contributor to the firm's Environmental Law Monitor blog and has published numerous articles on various environmental topics.

Additionally, John has been extensively 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 a human rights attorney from Mazatlan, Mexico in a case before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights; 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. He currently is associated with the International Senior Lawyers Project in New York, and is a member of Human Rights Watch's Chicago Committee.

Representative Matters
  • As defense co-counsel, successfully defended a 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.
  • Currently serving as defense counsel for multi-national corporation in RCRA suit filed by Illinois municipality involving former wood treatment facility.
  • 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.
  • Resolved over 50 workers' 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.
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
Education
  • DePaul University College of Law, J.D., 1998
  • University of Wisconsin, M.S., 1988
  • University of Wisconsin, B.S., 1985
Publications
Presentations
  • "The Environmental Impact of Climate Change" (Co-Presenter), Perrin Environmental Risk & Litigation Conference, New York City, NY, June 12, 2018
  • "Recovering Payments Through Third-Party Claims," Property and Liability Resource Bureau (PLRB) Annual Conference, Orlando, FL, April 15, 2018
  • "Weathering the Storm: Effective Mitigation Tools for Environmental Crisis Management" (Co-Presenter), GS Containing Disasters Seminar, Chicago, January 22, 2018