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Lester J. Levy
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Lester J. Levy Esq.

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Upcoming Events
General Biography
Practice Areas
Business Commercial
Class Action & Mass Tort
Construction Defect
Employment Law
Environmental Law
Intellectual Property
Personal Injury
Real Estate and Real Property
Honors, Memberships, and Professional Activities
Background and Education

Lester J. Levy, Esq., a founding member of JAMS, has been an ADR professional for more than thirty years. He serves as an arbitrator, mediator, and court appointed neutral/settlement master/facilitator and is recognized for his ability to quickly grasp complex details and for his willingness to make fair and thoughtful decisions based on the facts and the law. He is frequently selected for his skill in handling matters with long-term implications and assisting parties with their most difficult cases.

Mr. Levy is recognized as a leader in the design and management of post settlement proceedings in class action and mass tort cases and is widely acknowledged as one of the most experienced environmental mediators in the country. He has a keen understanding of the scientific issues which underlie environmental disputes and works closely with technical experts to design creative and cost-effective solutions to complex environmental problems. He understands the legal and practical advantages and limitations of environmental insurance coverage, having successfully worked with all major insurance companies in settling large and small matters throughout the United States, and is often called on to design and implement coordinated processes to resolve mass claims in environmental, toxic tort and other areas of law. 

His longstanding ADR practice spans a variety of other areas including bankruptcy, business and commercial, construction, employment, financial services, insurance, intellectual property, personal injury, product liability, professional liability, real property and real estate, and securities realms.

Mr. Levy enjoys helping clients find creative and lasting solutions whether in complex multiparty, multiclaim conflicts to simple, but often no less contentious, two-party disputes. He is committed to ensuring that proceedings are fast, fair, and flexible and is regularly sought out to handle matters that have failed to settle. He is respected for his finely-honed ability to guide parties to settlement through a combination of personal engagement, patience, and tenacity. His extensive experience, sharp intellect and innate ability to connect with people helps him to get to the heart of the matter in dispute. 

ADR Experience and Qualifications

  • Class and Mass Actions & Mass Torts: Mr. Levy has handled dozens of class action matters and managed large-scale settlements. As the Chief Adjudicator for the Black Farmers Cases (Pigford v. U.S. Department of Agriculture), he designed, implemented, and oversaw the adjudication of more than 50,000 individual claims and awarded more than $2 billion in relief. 
  • Environmental Disputes: He has resolved thousands of environmental cases in virtually every area of environmental legal practice over the past twenty years and was selected by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to serve as a Neutral Allocator in its National Program. His mediations involve individuals, private property owners, corporations, insurance carriers, and governmental agencies, including the EPA and the United States Department of Justice (DOJ), state and local regulatory agencies, and attorneys general. His work straddles a wide variety of matters involving CERCLA, state superfund mediation and allocation processes, CEQA, NEPA, water and land use, toxic tort, and federal and state enforcement proceedings. 
  • Complex Insurance, Securities & Financial Markets Disputes: Mr. Levy has worked on a broad spectrum of insurance matters related to Directors & Officers (D&O), Errors & Omissions (E&O), Comprehensive General Liability (GCL), reinsurance, life insurance, asbestos, long tail environmental claims, construction defect, and property damage, with claims involving the allocation of contributions by multiple primary and excess insurers, and defense and indemnity obligations. He also resolves complex securities and financial markets disputes involving large banking institutions, hedge funds, directors and officers, municipalities, and trusts. 
  • Court Appointed Neutral/Special Master/Discovery Referee: He has been appointed by federal and state courts to oversee a variety of matters including discovery and settlement proceedings, attorneys’ fee motions, and an injunction issued by the court. He has managed the private adjudication of more than 25,000 civil rights claims under a Consent Decree entered by the Federal District Court in Washington D.C. and was appointed Discovery Referee by the Los Angeles Superior Court to oversee third-party discovery and sanctions. He was also appointed Judge Pro Tempore by Contra Costa Superior Court to decide motions for summary judgment in a class action involving limited partnerships and financial institutions, and Discovery Referee by the San Francisco Superior Court to oversee the deposition of the plaintiff in a high-profile tobacco product liability lawsuit, among other appointments.

Representative Matters

  • Bankruptcy
      • Special Master: Supervised mediation of multiple alleged elder abuse cases against bankrupt nursing home pursuant to order of Bankruptcy Court in Central District of Los Angeles
      • Mediator: several hundred claims and preferences in $6 billion Chapter 11 bankruptcy conducted pursuant to comprehensive ADR order of a bankruptcy court
      • Mediator: dispute between insurance carriers for bankrupt asbestos installer and tens of thousands of current and future asbestos-injury claimants with combined settlements exceeding $200 million
      • Mediator: multiple matters involving bankrupt steel manufacturer pursuant to order of a bankruptcy court 
      • Mediator: national class action alleging defective products liability claims against bankruptcy trustee
      • Mediator: several cases arising out of bankruptcy of technology company conducted pursuant to order of bankruptcy court
      • Mediator: hundreds of bankruptcy matters (e.g., preferences, fraudulent conveyances, pre-filing settlements, consensual plans regarding future claims, priority, corporate governance and liability, and insurance coverage)
  • Business Commercial
    • Breach of Contract

      • Mediator: class action alleging mis-assessment of account overdraft fees and ATM and debit card overdraft fees under breach of contract and violations of the Electronic Fund Transfer Act and New York General Business Law, among other claims
      • Mediator: dispute between owner of non-securitized loans and mortgage lender alleging breach of contract based on servicing failures and unpaid advances
      • Mediator: involving alleged breach of factoring contract assigning present and future account receivables in consideration for payment of working capital
      • Mediator: franchise dispute alleging pre-sale fraud and financial misrepresentations, post-sale lack of support, discriminatory enforcement of franchise agreement, misappropriation of advertising fees and excessive overcharging for mandatory purchases
      • Mediator: dispute arising from rescission of real estate franchise agreement in violation of New York State’s Franchise Act
      General Business/Banking/Financial Services
      • Judge For All Purposes/Special Master: presiding over 5,000 limited partnership claims against bank including motions for summary judgment in class action involving limited partnerships and financial institutions
      • Arbitrator: dispute involving sale of energy consulting business by U.S. company to French corporation
      • Arbitrator: claims against financial investment advisors regarding allegations of fraudulent solicitations, over-concentration in certain securities, churning, and price manipulation
      • Arbitrator: constructive discharge, fraud, and breach of contract claims, among others, involving sale of optometry practice to national chain
      • Mediator: Qui Tam action brought by state and over 1,400 political subdivisions during first phase of trial against bank involving allegations, among others, that bank failed to escheat unclaimed funds; more than $5 billion in damages sought
      • Mediator: class action by limited partners of hedge fund against general partner and related entities 
      • Mediator: class action alleging various types of misconduct involving real estate trusts
      • Mediator: alleged false advertising and deceptive business practices in violation of Lanham Act and New York General Business Law in connection with advertising and sale of competing mattress products
  • Class Action & Mass Tort
    • Business/Commercial 

      • Mediator: cases brought by private parties and foreign and domestic governmental agencies against North American and European air carriers for alleged agreements to set certain anti-competitive tariff rates
      • Special Master: designed and implemented mediation and arbitration of thousands of claims and preference actions arising out of Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceeding involving liquidation of large paper manufacturer 
      • Settlement Master: class action regarding corporate sales tax liability
      • Mediator: successive class actions brought throughout state against multiple national cellular carriers for alleged non-payment of sales and use taxes 
      • Special Master: allocated settlement proceeds and available apartments to class of tenants in low- and moderate-income housing development in connection with municipal redevelopment plan 
      • Settlement Master & Ombudsman: nationwide coordinated federal and state actions involving 24,000,000 credit card holders alleging excessive interest and late charges and promotion of “add-on products” promising illusory benefits and services 
      • Mediator: nationwide class action under Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act (FACTA) alleging non-compliant display of debit or credit card accounts 
      • Settlement Master: national employment class action brought by 200,000 special rate employees against the United States Department of Treasury for alleged failure to pay wage and hour benefits
      • Special Master: appointed to oversee multimillion-dollar dispute involving "employment practices liability" policy provisions
      False Advertising
      • Mediator:  false advertising class action against international manufacturer of running shoes relating to claims of musculoskeletal benefits
      • Mediator: nationwide class action alleging false advertising in connection with label statements such as “natural” and “non-GMO”
      • Advisor: International Commission on Holocaust Era Insurance Claims, settlement involving more than 55,000 claims for insurance benefits arising from  appropriation of life insurance policies during World War II
      • Mediator: $500 million settlement of national MDL class action involving life insurance purchasers who alleged misrepresentation in sale of “vanishing premium” life insurance policies
      • Mediator: national coordinated insurance coverage action involving more than 600 contaminated sites throughout the United States
      Mass Tort
      • Settlement Master & Mediator: settlement and allocation of awards to over 10,000 mass claimants affected by thirteen-day airborne environmental release of catacarb, a catalyst used in refining of gasoline products
      • Settlement Master & Mediator: mediated settlement and oversaw distribution of settlement funds to 65,000 mass claimants affected by airborne toxic plume resulting from fire at major oil and gas refinery 
      • Settlement Master: over 4,000 personal injury and wrongful deaths allegedly caused by introduction of cryptosporidium into city drinking water in Wisconsin
      Product Liability 
      • Special Master & Arbitrator: appeals from settlement of national class action alleging defective wooden deck sealant and paint product
      • Discovery Master: national product liability class action involving allegedly defective hardboard siding
      • Special Master: class action involving allegedly defective roofing tiles
      • Special Master: national class action involving allegedly defective wood sealant
      • Mediator: consumer class action involving allegedly defective high-pressure fuel pumps installed in multiple year models of foreign automobiles
      • Mediator: national class action alleging design defects in in-home heating units, with emphasis on availability of insurance to assist in remedial program settlement
      • Mediator: national product liability class action alleging design defects in  manufacture of sport utility trailers
      • Mediator: multi-million-dollar attorney fee dispute from settlement of national action involving NHTSA allegations of defective design of mini-van door latches
  • Construction Defect
      • Mediator: dispute among owners, contractors and subcontractors regarding allegedly defective construction of storage facility
      • Mediator: dispute among developer, contractor and plumbing contractor involving installation of allegedly defective piping
      • Mediator: alleged claims among owner, architect, general contractor, and subcontractors involving installation of carpeting in high-rise building
      • Mediator: dispute among owner, architect, and contractor regarding construction of commercial medical building
      • Mediator: claims between building owner and glass manufacturer regarding alleged inherent defect, installation, and maintenance of windows in large commercial building
  • Employment Law
    • Discrimination/Harassment/Hostile Work Environment

      • Arbitrator: dispute involving alleged violations of Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA)
      • Referee: appointed to monitor deposition of defendant in sexual harassment and racial discrimination case
      • Arbitrator or Mediator: numerous matters involving alleged claims of disparate treatment based on race, age, and gender of employees in various industries 
      Executive Compensation
      • Arbitrator: partnership dissolution dispute involving failure to “offer and sell” membership interest in limited liability company following alleged resignation
      • Mediator: executive compensation claims regarding separation agreement and severance package for long-term executive displaced by company reorganization
      • Mediator: dispute regarding alleged violation of confidentiality and non-compete provisions with respect to use of insurance brokerage customer lists and data
      Wage & Hour/Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)
      • Special Master: oversaw settlement of wage and hour litigation by Chinese-speaking employees of California-based daily newspaper
      • Arbitrator: FLSA and New York Labor Law dispute arising out of alleged violation of federal and state wage and hour laws by employer of chef in country club  
      • Arbitrator or Mediator: employment disputes arising under FLSA due to alleged failure to pay overtime wages
      Wrongful Termination
      • Arbitrator: involving allegations that claimant was wrongfully terminated in retaliation for complaining about respondent’s alleged failure to pay commissions
      • Mediator:  wrongful termination claim alleged to be in violation of public policy regarding psychiatric health care regulations
      • Mediator: whistleblower cases involving executives of financial institutions and government contracting firms
  • Environmental Law
    • CERCLA, State Superfund Mediation and Allocation Processes, and Related Matters

      • Special Master & Mediator: appointed by Federal District Court to conduct settlement proceedings among municipal officials, business owners, private parties, environmental regulators, attorneys’ general and insurance carrier involving intermingled plumes of groundwater PCE contamination resulting from discharges from multiple dry cleaners 
      • Hearing Officer & Arbitrator: overseeing propriety of public utility’s decision to discontinue service to industrial customer that repeatedly exceeded regulatory environmental discharge limits
      • Arbitrator: apportionment of liability under Gore Factors for contamination of  California land and waters from large open gold mine pits and dredge ponds
      • Arbitrator: numerous other cases involving allocation of costs of investigation and remediation involving numerous PRPs at CERCLA environmental sites under Gore Factors
      • Mediator: arising out of CERCLA dispute by municipality against Department of Defense (DOD) for alleged groundwater contamination caused during cleaning and storage of missiles maintained at DOD site
      • Mediator: CERCLA allocation mediation between settling and certain non-settling parties at large industrial superfund site involving application of Gore Factors
      • Mediator: involving coordinated private sessions between individual PRPs and insurance carriers regarding apportionment of liability for costs of investigation and remediation under CERCLA for TCE contamination at large aviation facility
      • Mediator: appointed by Federal District Court to mediate responsibility between owners, operators and generators for investigation and cleanup of PCP contaminated run-off ponds at two historical wood treating sites
      • Mediator: multi-party CERCLA superfund case involving historical DDT contamination in harbor and use of harbor dredging technologies in remedy selection process
      • Mediator: cost recovery action by EPA against multiple dry-cleaners and manufacturers of dry-cleaning machines for historical PCE groundwater contamination
      • Mediator: multi-billion-dollar CERCLA cost recovery action and natural resource damages (NRD) claims relating to historical operations at various large-scale mining sites throughout the Western United States
      • Mediator: claims by municipal school district for costs of investigation and remediation of contiguous industrial parcels to be converted into school site
      • Mediator: numerous other cases involving allocation costs of environmental investigation and remediation among neighboring gas station sites and dry-cleaning sites
      • Mediator: numerous disputes arising from Phase I and Phase II environmental investigations performed in connection with real estate sales and acquisition of real estate loans
      CEQA, NEPA, Water and Land Use
      • Special Master & Mediator: penalty action involving violations of wastewater discharge limits at municipal wastewater treatment plant
      • Mediator: action by water district against former and current operators of site allegedly responsible for releases of 1,4 dioxane which allegedly contaminated a potable water aquifer 
      • Mediator: alleged claims that drinking water supplies were threatened or affected by releases of gasoline containing MTBE from service stations
      • Mediator: NEPA and CEQA dispute between major university, municipality, county, and citizens groups over twenty-year development plans (water, housing, traffic, and population) 
      • Mediator: involving water quality and availability, transportation, and related growth issues for construction of 11,000 luxury homes in undeveloped tract of land  
      • Mediator: between landowner/developer, municipalities, citizens groups and water quality agencies over construction of championship golf course 
      Federal and State Enforcement Proceedings
      • Special Master & Mediator: penalty action by environmental public interest group involving violations of wastewater discharge limits at municipal wastewater treatment plant
      • Mediator: facilitated negotiation between major oil companies and State of Alaska environmental regulatory agencies over renewal of Oil Spill Contingency Plan in Anchorage
      • Mediator: environmental insurance coverage dispute by port district against insurer that issued primary and umbrella policies; issues included appeal of trial court’s rulings and claim handling concerns for the future with goal of reaching a coverage-in-place agreement 
      • Mediator: administrative action of first impression brought by DOJ against international ship broker for Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) relating to transport and disposal of ships bearing PCBs in waters outside the United States
      • Mediator: state-law enforcement action by Office of Attorney General against diesel oil and gasoline carrier and distributor that operated multiple service stations throughout United States
      • Mediator: state-law enforcement and contribution action against lead battery recycling company and multiple generators at large soil contamination site
      • Mediator: several California Prop 65 cases, including SFO and LAX, alleging failure to adequately warn of chemical exposure risks
      Professional Liability
      • Mediator: between landowner and environmental consultant regarding construction and operation of landfill
      • Mediator: between single PRP and environmental consultant over advice relating to dredging of harbor
      • Mediator: between property owner and environmental consultant regarding alleged deficiencies in Phase I and Phase II real estate investigations
      Toxic Tort & Property Damage
      • Special Master: adjudicated allocation of settlement funds, through abbreviated hearings, to 75 residential beach-front property owners for soil and groundwater contamination caused by leaking fuel lines 
      • Mediator: claims by residential subdivision property owners relating to health risks and real property diminution in value allegedly due to construction of homes over former landfill 
      • Mediator: hundreds of toxic tort, personal injury and property damage cases arising from  airborne release of chlorine gas from rail car accident
      • Mediator: disputes between franchisees and franchisors over costs of remediating soil and groundwater contamination at gasoline station
      • Mediator: personal injury, property damage and environmental cleanup claims by neighboring landowners arising from lead contamination at battery reconditioning facility
      • Mediator: asbestos mesothelioma case involving shipyard worker and family members allegedly exposed by proximity to asbestos covered work clothes
      • Mediator: mold exposure cases allegedly caused by inadequate ventilation in construction of new homes
      • Mediator: employee claims related to exposure to toxic odors in workplace
  • Insurance
    • General

      • Special Master: appointed to oversee multimillion-dollar dispute involving "employment practices liability" policy provisions
      • Arbitrator: dispute related to insurance coverage potentially available under various professional liability policies relating to 105 allegedly injured claimants in coordinated medical malpractice action
      • Appraiser: conducted various insurance appraisal proceedings involving losses of real and personal property destroyed by fire, earthquake, and flooding, including valuation of unique objects including wine, fine art, antiques, and classic automobiles
      • Mediator: nine-figure settlement of historical insurance coverage profile maintained by asbestos trusts, involving multiple layers of primary and excess insurance coverage over 30-year period of claimed asbestos injuries 
      • Mediator: surety disputes related to losses stemming from construction failures and cost overrun
      • Mediator: dispute regarding coverage under D&O policy for attorneys’ fees incurred in securities fraud action
      • Mediator: attorneys’ fees claim under advertising/trademark and bodily injury policy provisions brought by musician against famous rock band
      • Mediator: involving insured and broker E&O policy, over alleged failure to place adequate levels of insurance
      • Mediator: claims by beneficiaries of life insurance policies against insurers for alleged wrongful denial of benefits
      • Mediator: coverage dispute arising from fire at vineyard causing damage to valuable vine stock and inventory
      Environmental Insurance Coverage
      • Arbitrator: numerous fee disputes between attorneys and insurance companies over reasonableness of time spent and rates charged in defense of insured party
      • Mediator: numerous environmental insurance coverage cases, including issues of liability for defense and/or indemnity, trigger of coverage, allocation, pollution exclusions, expected or intended, voluntary payments, primary versus excess coverage, pilot remediation studies, exhaustion of limits and allocation of risk and settlement among co-primary and excess insurance policies, reinsurance, and pre-tender issues
      • Mediator: environmental insurance case on remand from state supreme court involving issues of first impression in connection with interpretation of defense and indemnity provisions of multiple historical CGL insurance policies
      • Mediator: nine-figure settlement of historical insurance coverage profile maintained by asbestos trusts 
      • Mediator: national coordinated environmental insurance coverage (“buy back”) action by railroad of its historical insurance program of primary and excess coverage by multiple insurers for losses at more than 600 environmentally contaminated sites throughout United States
      • Mediator: dispute between policy holder and insurer over availability of defense and indemnity coverage for pre-tender fees and expenses
      • Mediator: several disputes between policy holders and insurers that issued manuscript environmental stop gap and excess pollution remediation coverage
      • Mediator: cases with most environmental insurance issuers, present and past, involving lost policies, secondary evidence of coverage, defense vs. indemnity coverage, pilot remediation studies, exhaustion of limits and allocation of risk and settlement among co-primary and excess insurance policies, re-insurance, and pre-tender issues
      • Mediator: multiple reinsurance disputes between cedents and reinsurers
  • Intellectual Property
      • Arbitrator: dispute arising out of alleged breach of contractual obligations to pay for materials, services and licensing fees associated with patented process to create organic fertilizer 
      • Mediator: federal and state patent infringement actions between competing firms involving encryption technology, with settlement involving negotiation of software and hardware license agreements
      • Mediator: alleged breach of contract action involving development of proprietary software
      • Mediator: trade secret dispute between competing firms over state-of-the-art technology for recovery of contaminants resulting from manufacturing process
      • Discovery Referee: patent and unfair business practices litigation
  • Personal Injury
      • Arbitrator: personal injury action arising out of physical injuries suffered at trampoline park 
      • Mediator: pre-litigation dispute arising out of civil rape and sexual assault allegations
      • Arbitrator: numerous motor vehicle accident cases to determine and/or allocate fault and compensation for alleged personal injuries
      • Mediator: personal injury and wrongful termination claims by railroad employee alleged under Federal Employer Liability Act (FELA) 
  • Real Estate and Real Property
      • Arbitrator or Mediator: Real property transactions, broker liability, breach of contract, eminent domain, environmental contamination and remediation claims
      • Mediator: commercial landlord-tenant dispute arising out of lease termination due to failure to obtain a certificate of occupancy, with additional claims for property damage due to flooding of premises

Honors, Memberships, and Professional Activities

  • Former Fellow, College of Commercial Arbitrators
  • Energy & Environmental Trailblazer, National Law Journal, 2016
  • Registered Mediator, U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York
  • Member, ADR Panels:
    • Bankruptcy Court in the District of Delaware
    • Bankruptcy Court in the Southern District of New York
    • Northern California Federal District Court
    • Superior Courts of San Francisco, Marin, Sonoma, and San Mateo Counties
  • Served as Chair of ADR Committee for the American Bankruptcy Institute
  • Former Vice Chair & Member, Toxic Torts and Environmental Law Committee, Tort Trial & Insurance Section of the American Bar Association
  • Chair & Member, ADR Committee, American Bankruptcy Institute, 2005-2008
  • Vice Chair, ADR Committee of ABA Section on Environment, Energy and Resources (SEER)
  • Mediation/Negotiation Training at Harvard Law School (Roger Fisher, author of Getting to Yes)
  • Completed Virtual ADR training conducted by the JAMS Institute, the training arm of JAMS
  • Has written and lectured on ADR to bar associations and organizations including the American Bar Association, the National Association of Bankruptcy Trustees, the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators, the Practising Law Institute, ACR-GNY, the International Bar Association, law firms, private companies, and law schools throughout the United States
  • Former Adjunct Professor, Alternative Dispute Resolution, University of San Francisco Law School
Selected Publications

Background and Education

  • Munger, Tolles & Olson, San Francisco and Los Angeles, California, 1986-1994
  • Law Clerk, Hon. Irving R. Kaufman, United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, 1985-1986
  • J.D., magna cum laude, Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law
    • Chief Articles Editor, Cardozo Law Review, 1985
  • B.Mus., San Francisco Conservatory of Music, 1981
    • Classical Guitar Performance and Composition


This page is for general information purposes.  JAMS makes no representations or warranties regarding its accuracy or completeness.  Interested persons should conduct their own research regarding information on this website before deciding to use JAMS, including investigation and research of JAMS neutrals. See More

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