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December 20, 2023 Profile

Editorial Board Member: Samuel (Sam) Wardle

Samuel (Sam) Wardle is new to The Brief’s Editorial Board, making his first contributions to this Summer 2023 issue. “I was thrilled to solicit a great article from my colleague, Kendrick Wells, on the thorny issues surrounding whether a third-party claimant is a necessary party to an insurer’s declaratory judgment action against its insured. I was also honored to have Deborah Minkoff of Cozen O’Connor submit a deeply informative and timely article on insurance coverage issues arising in opioid litigation.”

As you may have guessed from the subject matter of the articles Sam solicited, he primarily practices insurance coverage and bad faith litigation. In fact, the articles contributed by Wells and Minkoff arose from discussions or presentations at the TIPS Insurance Coverage Litigation Committee’s (ICLC’s) annual meeting in Phoenix, Arizona, in February 2023. “Committees like the ICLC are what make TIPS such a special and active section of the ABA,” Sam says. “When I first joined, I was blown away by the number of brilliant, interesting people who are involved. Being part of the ICLC has genuinely made me a better lawyer.”

Sam came to insurance coverage law somewhat by accident. In a previous life as a newspaper reporter and editor, Sam covered local government, business, and the arts for a variety of North Carolina publications, even winning a North Carolina Press Association first-place award for breaking news in 2009. He left the Independent Weekly, a Durham-based progressive paper, in 2010 to attend law school after being inspired by numerous attorneys he met who were involved in government, public interest, and even media law. After graduating summa cum laude from the University of Miami School of Law in 2013, he practiced complex commercial litigation at the Miami office of an international law firm and clerked for a year for U.S. District Court Judge Paul Huck.

After he returned to his home state of Kentucky and joined one of Kentucky’s oldest firms, Frost Brown Todd, Sam found himself gravitating toward complex insurance coverage disputes and bad faith litigation. “Insurance coverage takes the most interesting parts of tort law and complex commercial litigation and combines them into a single area,” Sam says. “It was an unexpected, but perfect, fit for my unconventional background.”

Sam now represents a variety of insurers in bad faith and coverage cases in Kentucky and the surrounding states. In one of his most notable victories, he worked with Frost Brown Todd attorneys Chris Johnson and Chris Burnside—two of Kentucky’s top bad faith and coverage attorneys—to obtain the dismissal of a multi-million-dollar bad faith claim brought by a prominent personal injury attorney who had been injured and alleged that the insurer delayed payment on his claim. In another case, Sam wrote and won a motion for summary judgment in a significant federal lawsuit asserting coverage for unfair competition and tortious interference. Sam persuaded the court that the relevant policy’s “personal and advertising injury” coverage part did not afford a defense or indemnity for tortious interference.

Sam is most proud, however, of a recent Sixth Circuit victory in a pro bono asylum case. Working with his colleagues Justin Fowles and Allison Weyand, Sam assisted in drafting a successful appellate brief seeking the reversal of an immigration judge’s order, affirmed by the Board of Immigration Appeals, that denied asylum to a single mother who had fled death threats and gang violence in her native Honduras. The resulting ruling, Turcios-Flores v. Garland, 67 F.4th 347 (6th Cir. 2023), set new precedent in asylum law, holding that single mothers without male partners are “recognized ‘as a discrete class of persons’ within Honduran society” and are thus entitled to protection under 8 U.S.C. § 1158. “As a former reporter, I’ve always been passionate about public interest work, and it was incredibly satisfying to help Justin and Allison with this long-running effort to apply for asylum for a very deserving client.”

In addition to his busy practice, Sam is heavily involved in the legal community. He serves as technology and social media vice-chair for ICLC and hosted a roundtable on attorney-client privilege issues at the ICLC’s February meeting. He is a member of the Kentucky Bar Association’s Communications and Publications Committee and sits on the board of directors for his local Louisville Bar Association. He routinely contributes articles to local, statewide, and national publications on tort and insurance coverage issues. In his downtime, Sam takes his two kids, Henry and Clara May, hiking and reads mystery novels. He is also the past commissioner of the Frost Brown Todd Louisville office’s official Fantasy Football League.

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