Barbara A. O'Donnell
Ms. O’Donnell is an insurance coverage, bad faith and professional liability defense attorney with over 30 years of experience in resolving disputes throughout the Northeast. A member of the Federation of Defense and Corporate Counsel (FDCC) and the American College of Coverage Counsel (ACCC), Ms. O’Donnell holds an AV Preeminent Martindale-Hubbell rating and has been recognized as one of the leading insurance coverage attorneys on the Massachusetts and Corporate Counsel Super Lawyers list in each of the past ten years.
Ms. O’Donnell’s insurance coverage and extra contractual liability practice includes the resolution and litigation of a broad range of liability coverage and claims handling disputes under primary and excess commercial, professional, directors and officers, employment practices, and other specialty line policies. In her capacity as regional coverage counsel, she is well versed in resolving defective construction, additional insured, priority of coverage, and allocation disputes in all of the jurisdictions in the Northeast. Her extensive experience in resolving policy interpretation disputes also enables her to assist insurers in drafting customized policy forms and endorsements.
Drawing on the breadth of her coverage and industry experience, Ms. O’Donnell also counsels insurers, and presents educational sessions for their claims examiners, regarding claims handling obligations and effective ways to minimize exposure to extra contractual liability claims. For several years, Ms. O’Donnell served on the faculty of the FDCC’s Graduate Litigation Management Program which senior level corporate and insurance industry professionals attend to refine their skills by working through coverage and bad faith problems in an interactive workshop.
Ms. O’Donnell’s professional liability practice includes the representation of insurance agent/brokers when they face claims concerning unexpected gaps in coverage. Ms. O’Donnell’s extensive coverage background proves helpful in challenging the plaintiff’s ability to demonstrate a causal link between the agent/broker’s actions and the alleged gap in coverage.
Year Joined Firm
Areas of Practice
Liability Insurance Coverage
Bad Faith Defense
Professional Liability Defense
U.S. District Court District of Massachusetts
U.S. Court of Appeals 1st Circuit
U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York
U.S. District Court, Eastern District of New York
New York State Court
Boston College Law School, Newton, Massachusetts
J.D., Cum Laude – 1984
University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Virginia
B.A., Bachelor of Arts, With Distinction – 1981
News and Announcements
Publications and Presentations
- “Changes in Latitudes/Changes in Attitudes – Looking Back Over 25 Years of Coverage Litigation,” Fall 2017 issue of The Brief, an ABA Tort and Insurance Practice Section publication.
- “Navigating the Shifting Terrain of Faulty Construction Coverage Disputes,” November 2017 DRI Northeast Regional Claims Conference.
- “Making (and Avoiding) the Case for Bad Faith,” February 2015 ABA/TIPS Insurance Coverage Litigation Committee Midyear Meeting.
- “Navigating Extra Contractual Insurance Claims,” May 2015 ABA/TIPS Spring Meeting.
- “Current Battlegrounds in Defective Construction Coverage Disputes,” February 2014 CLM Regional Insurance Bad Faith/Construction Conference.
- “Asserting the Genuine Dispute Doctrine as a Defense to Extracontractual Suits,” Spring 2014 DRI For the Defense.
- “Defenses To Bad Faith Actions: Do They Exist And Do They Work,” March 2012 DRI Insurance Coverage Claims Institute.
- “Multiple Claimants and Insufficient Limits – Can Insurers Lessen their Exposure to Bad Faith Claims,” March 2012 Panel Presentation at Federation of Defense and Corporate Counsel Winter Meeting.
- “The First Wave of Decisions Interpreting Employment Practices Liability Policies,” The Brief, an ABA Tort and Insurance Practice Section publication (2005).
- “Insurance Policy Interpretation and Construction,” Opening Chapter in West Group/American Bar Association (ABA) treatise entitled “The Law and Practice of Insurance Coverage Litigation,” (2000 with annual updates).
- “Employment Practices Liability Coverage: The Underlying Exposures and Effective Ways to Obtain Meaningful Insurance C overages,” ABA/TIPS The Brief (Fall 2011).
- “Environmental Insurance Coverage: Limiting the Owned Property Exclusion,” Boston Bar Journal (1998).
- “An Overview of Insurance Agent/Broker Liability: Claims by Policyholders, Insurers, and Third Parties,” Massachusetts Law Review (1995).
- “Preparing the Facts: Taking Discovery and Preparing Affidavits to Support or Oppose Motions for Summary Judgment,” Best of MCLE Journal (1995).
Professional Associations and Memberships
- Fellow, American College of Coverage Counsel
- Member, Federation of Defense and Corporate Counsel
- Immediate Past Chair, Reinsurance, Excess and Surplus Lines Section
- Past Chair, Extra Contractual Liability Section
- Member, Admissions Committee
- Member, ABA Tort and Insurance Practice Section
- Immediate Past Co-Chair, Book Publications Board
- Member, Defense Research Institute
- Hearing Officer, Massachusetts Board of Bar Overseers (2014 to date)
Past Employment Positions
Zelle, McDonough & Cohen, LLP, Partner (2009-2017);
Robinson & Cole, LLP, Senior Associate and Partner (1999-2009); and
Sherin and Lodgen, LLP Associate and Counsel (1984-1999)
- Represent insurers in numerous coverage disputes concerning defective construction and faulty workmanship claims at condominium developments and commercial properties throughout the northeast. Disputes include limitations on AI coverage, application of competing other insurance provisions, insured contract obligations, defense cost contribution claims, trigger of coverage, and applicability of your work and other business risk exclusions.
- Obtained summary judgment upholding insurer’s right to deny coverage for faulty construction claims based upon condominium exclusion.
- Advise insurers regarding obligations and exposures when multiple claims exceed available policy limits, including availability of interpleader to resolve competing claims to policy limits.
- Counsel insurers regarding effective ways to frame coverage issues in underlying litigation, including by intervening for limited purpose of submitting special jury interrogatories or special verdict form to apportion liability, if any, between covered and non-covered claims and damages.
- First Specialty Insurance Corporation v. Pilgrim Insurance Company, Massachusetts Appeals Court No. 2012-P-1281. Obtained Appeals Court decision upholding CGL insurer’s right to deny coverage based upon application of auto use exclusion to negligent hiring and supervision claims brought against company that employed at fault driver in motor vehicle accident.
- Republic Franklin Ins. Co. v. United Educators, Massachusetts Appeals Court No. 2004-P-1730. Successfully defended educators liability insurer against action brought by general liability insurer seeking contribution toward settlement and defense costs paid on behalf of private educational institution in action brought by student alleging wrongful discharge, breach of contract and hazing.
- Obtained summary judgment for insurance agent charged with failing to secure adequate and/or requested insurance coverage.
- Represented D&O insurer in coverage litigation concerning the availability of coverage for multiple underlying actions brought against a religious institution and certain officers and directors alleging breaches of fiduciary obligations and accounting improprieties, including claims brought by the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office for the alleged misuse of charitable assets.
- Represented health care organization and directors and officers liability insurer in action filed in Rhode Island U.S.D.C. for declaratory judgment regarding the ability to deny coverage for amounts paid to settle claims under the False Claims Act on the grounds that the settlement constituted noncovered restitutionary relief, fines and penalties. The matter was resolved through mediation on favorable terms for the insurer.
- In a coverage dispute arising out of the criminal indictment of a health care organization’s CFO for alleging conspiracy to evade federal and state certificate of need regulations and HIPAA, represented the D&O insurer in coverage litigation concerning the enforceability of sublimit in a regulatory claim endorsement and the policy’s related claims provisions.
- Defended insurer named in dispute arising out of insured’s incorporation of contaminated ingredients into nationally distributed product that was recalled shortly after commencement of multimillion dollar advertising campaign. Successfully negotiated limited payment and dismissal of action based on analysis of impaired property and recall exclusions.