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Melissa M. Cowan represents and advises insurers, third-party administrators, and employee benefit plans in first-party insurance matters at both national and local levels. For decades, she has actively litigated disability, accident, life, health, long-term care, and ERISA cases. Her results – including two separate jury verdicts for punitive damages against fraudulent insureds – have contributed to the development of insurance law within the Ninth Circuit. Her practice has expanded into class actions and complex commercial litigation, as well as defense of agents/brokers, religious organizations, and public law clients in general and business litigation.
Melissa is passionate about writing and speaking at national and regional forums. She strives for new ways to keep insurance issues practical and thought-provoking. Her special interests include fraud, “bad faith”, ERISA, litigation tactics, legal trends, and claims practices.
When not working tirelessly for clients, Melissa enjoys adventures with her family, musical theater, and UCLA Bruins volleyball and basketball. Her views on life and the law are exemplified in the philosophies of the great UCLA Coach John Wooden, who said, “It takes time to create excellence. If it could be done quickly, more people would do it.” In pursuit of excellence, “It is the little details that are vital. Little things make big things happen.”
- Lincoln Benefit Life Insurance Company v. Dallal, Central District of California Case No. 16-09307 (Aug. 13, 2018) (in a case of first impression for long-term care insurers, a federal jury found the defendant insureds committed fraud and awarded the insurer over $619,000 in damages and $300,000 in punitive damages).
- Lincoln Benefit Life Insurance Company v. Dallal, 2017 WL 5635423 (C.D. Cal. Apr. 11, 2017) (denying defendants’ motion to dismiss complaint for fraud in long-term insurance claim).
- Gonda v. Permanente Medical Group, Inc., 691 Fed.Appx. 397, 2017 WL 2241824 (9th Cir. May 22, 2017) (affirming judgment in favor of plan administrator and plan to bar plaintiff’s ERISA lawsuit due to waiver of ERISA claims under his settlement with employer).
- Tom v. Hartford Life and Accident Insurance Company, 2017 WL 778681 (N.D. Cal. Feb. 28, 2017) (after hearing live testimony at bench trial, court held that ERISA preempted plaintiff’s state law claims).
- Colman v. American International Group, Inc. Group Benefit Plan, 87 F.Supp.3d 1250 (N.D. Cal. Apr. 9, 2015), aff’d 691 Fed. Appx. 453, 2017 WL 2533411 (9th Cir. June 12, 2017) (affirming judgment for insurer and ERISA plan in long-term disability case involving mental illness limitation).
- Arko v. Hartford Life and Accident Insurance Company, 2014 WL 5514183 (N.D. Cal. Oct. 10, 2014), aff’d, 672 Fed.Appx. 693. (9th Cir. Dec. 23, 2016) (affirming judgment in insurer’s favor regarding denial of long-term disability benefits).
- Armstrong v. Hartford Life and Accident Insurance Company, 63 F.Supp.3d 1191 (E.D. Cal. Oct. 30, 2014) (granting summary judgment to insurer to legally bar lawsuit based on contractual limitations provision).
- Cain v. Hartford Life and Accident Insurance Company, 890 F.Supp.2d 1246 (C.D. Cal. 2012) (affirming insurer’s removal to federal court and denying motion to remand).
- Cook v. The Hartford, 2012 WL 2921198 (E.D. Cal. 2012) (granting insurer’s motion to transfer venue).
- Whinery v. Life Insurance Company of North America, 2012 WL 8652619 (C.D. Cal. Nov. 7, 2012) (holding that LINA did not abuse its discretion in denying accidental death benefits).
- Campbell v. Hartford Life Insurance Company, 825 F.Supp.2d 1005 (E.D. Cal. 2011) (affirming insurer’s removal to federal court and denying motion to remand).
- Bates v. Hartford Life and Accident Insurance Company, 765 F.Supp.2d 1218 (C.D. Cal. 2011) (granting motion to dismiss on plaintiff’s claims for unfair business practices and negligent infliction of emotional distress).
- Wessman v. Provident Life and Accident Insurance Company, 606 F.Supp.2d 1098 (C.D. Cal. 2009) (finding insurer did not abuse its discretion in denying long-term disability benefits).
- Kushner v. Lehigh Cement Co., 572 F.Supp.2d 1182 (C.D. Cal. 2008) (finding insurer did not abuse its discretion in denying long-term disability benefits).
- Sousa v. Unum Life Insurance Company of America, 528 F.Supp.2d 999 (C.D. Cal. 2007) (granting judgment to Unum on long-term disability claim when plaintiff failed to exhaust administrative remedies and failed to provide ongoing proof of loss).
- Schwartz v. Life Insurance Company of North America, 2006 WL 6185656 (S.D. Cal. 2006) (in hospital indemnity case, granting insurer’s motion to dismiss plaintiff’s claims for false promise, conversion, and California Business & Professions Code § 17200, and granting motion to strike treble and punitive damage claims).
- Sussman v. UnumProvident Corp., 65 Fed.Appx.123 (9th Cir. 2003) (affirming jury verdict in insurer’s favor in dispute regarding plaintiff’s individual disability claim).
- Light v. Provident Life and Accident Insurance Company, 2003 WL 22718206 (2d Dist. Cal.Ct.App. 2003) (affirming trial court’s judgment in insurer’s favor in dispute regarding plaintiff’s individual disability claim).
- Sussman v. UnumProvident Corp., 2001 WL 1352789 (C.D. Cal. 2001) (denying plaintiff’s motion for new trial after jury verdict in insurer’s favor).
- J.D., University of California, Los Angeles School of Law, 1994
- B.S., summa cum laude, Finance California State University, Long Beach, 1991
- State Bar of California
- United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
- United States District Court for the Central District of California
- United States District Court for the Eastern District of California
- United States District Court for the Northern District of California
- United States District Court for the Southern District of California
- Defense Research Institute
- International Claim Association
- The Association of Life Insurance Counsel
- The Life and AD&D Litigation Update: The 2019 Survival Guide
- Life and AD&D Litigation Update: The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly
- Is It “E-legal”?: The Legal Practicalities and Pitfalls of E-investigation, E-signatures, and E-litigation
- Rescission: Attacks and Comebacks
- Disability Insurance Litigation: Inside, Outside, Upside Down
- The Many Lives of a Death Claim
- The Intersection of ERISA and Bad Faith: A Roadmap of the Triumphs, Trials and Trends for 2014 and Beyond
- Super Lawyers Rising Star - 2008