Kevin R. Van Duser has been a partner at the Sugarman Law Firm since 2005. As a litigation and trial lawyer, he has significant courtroom experience and has successfully tried cases throughout New York State. His practice has focused on the defense of professional malpractice claims, commercial and contract matters, products liability lawsuits, labor law claims, premises liability actions, and personal injury lawsuits including catastrophic injury cases.
Mr. Van Duser serves as the Chair of the Insurance Coverage Department at the Sugarman Law Firm, where he handles insurance coverage disputes involving high value claims on behalf of insurers, individuals, estates, and businesses. He is also a member of the firm’s Toxic Tort Department where he litigates claims involving exposure to lead-based paint, asbestos products, industrial chemicals, and environmental hazards.
Recognitions and Honors
▪ Selected, Top 100 Lawyers in America magazine
▪ Rated, AV Preeminent, Martindale-Hubbell in Litigation
▪ Rated, AV Preeminent, Martindale-Hubbell in Insurance
According to Martindale-Hubbell, AV Preeminent is the highest rating a lawyer can achieve and is a "testament to the fact that a lawyer's peers rank him or her at the highest level of professional excellence." The ratings are based upon performance in the areas of Legal Knowledge, Analytical Capabilities, Judgement, Communication Ability, Legal Experience, and General Ethical Standards.
▪ AV Preeminent Judicial Award, Martindale-Hubbell
According to Martindale-Hubbell, the AV Preeminent Judicial Award is the highest possible rating in both legal ability and ethical standards, reflecting the confidential opinions of the judiciary, and is a testament to the fact that judges rank him at the highest level of professional excellence.
▪ Selected, Premier 100 Trial Attorney, American Academy of Trial Attorneys
The Attorneys selected as Premier 100 Trial Attorneys have been recognized by the bench and bar as leading Trial Attorneys in the United States as found by the AATA. A Premier 100 Trial Attorney has satisfied stringent criteria and standards as established by the AATA Board of Directors. As noted by the AATA, Premier 100 Trial Attorneys are those attorneys with only exceptional legal credentials and a dedication to premier representation of their clients. There are over 1.2 million attorneys in the US and less than 1% are selected to receive the AATA Premier 100 designation.
▪ Selected, America’s Most Honored Professionals Award
This is awarded by the American Registry for continuous professional recognition by trade groups, peers, and clients, an accomplishment realized by the top 100% of American Professionals.
▪ Selected "10 Best Attorneys" for New York 2016 and 2017 by the American Institute of Family Law Attorneys (AIOFLA). According to the AIOFLA, recognition as one of "New York's 10 Best Attorneys" is given "to those select few who have reached the top of their profession while doing so with the client's satisfaction being of the most paramount importance." This achievement is attained by those attorneys who have "the highest degree of professional achievement in his or her field" and "an impeccable Client Satisfaction rating". It recognizes the highest level of approval "by both your pears and most importantly - your clients".
Professional and Community Affiliations
▪ New York State Bar Association
▪ Onondaga County Bar Association
▪ American Association for Justice f/k/a Association of Trial Lawyers of America
▪ Defense Research Institute (DRI)
▪ American Council of Engineering Companies of New York (ACEC New York)
▪ Board of Trustees for the Make-a-Wish Foundation of Central New York (2006-2011)
▪ CNY Make-A-Wish Board’s Executive Committee and Governance Committee
▪ Syracuse Business Journal's 40 Under Forty, awarded annually to a select group of leaders who have made significant civic and professional contributions to the Syracuse Community.
▪ New York State Bar Association's CLE - Labor Law Claims, Coverage & Litigation (12/15/16)
Additional Insured Endorsements & Coverage
Priority of Insurance in New York
Insurance Coverage for Contractual Indemnification Obligations
Pursuing 1B Coverage
▪ New York State Bar Association CLE: Insurance Coverage Update 2015 (05/08/15)
Coverage Disputes and Litigation
Emerging Claims, Handling the Claim and Litigating the Lawsuits
Claims Involving Ebola; Superstorm Sandy; Cyber Crimes; and, Ride Sharing
Business Interruption Coverage
Exclusions that May Bar Coverage
Creativity to Find More Coverage
Will the Traditional Insurance Policy Respond to Any of These Claims?
Discovery and Recent Decisions
▪ New York State Bar Association CLE: Law School for Insurance Professionals (9/30/14)
Back to the Basics and Beyond
Crafting a Proper Disclaimer
The Right to Independent Counsel
Claw Back on Defense Costs
The Aftermath of the K2 Decision
▪ New York State Bar Association CLE, Local Chairman: Advanced Insurance Coverage
Emerging Issues, Developments, and Strategy (5/2/14)
▪ New York State Bar Association CLE: Law School for Insurance Professionals (10/10/13)
Tips for Writing a Great Coverage Position Letter and Avoiding the Common Pitfalls
Partial Denials in New York
When is the Insured Entitled to Independent Counsel?
What are reasonable fees?
What Do You Need to Tell the Insured?
Update on Case Law Regarding Timeliness and Specificity
Does Insurance Law 3420 Apply Between Insurers?
The Impact of the K2 Investment Decision on Claims Handling
▪ All New York State Courts
▪ United States District Court, Northern District of New York
▪ United States District Court, Western District of New York
▪ United States Court of Appeals, Second Circuit
▪ Syracuse University College of Law, J.D., 1997
CALI Award for achievement in Trial Advocacy
▪ Bradley University, 1991
Bachelor of Science, International Business and Finance
▪ Onondaga Community College
Recent Trial Activity
November 2016 Motor Vehicle Accident – Mr. Van Duser represented defendants at a jury trial in a lawsuit alleging severe injuries following a high speed police chase through several residential areas through multiple upstate New York counties. Plaintiff’s injuries included compression fractures of lumbar vertebrae at L3, L4, and L5 requiring bracing of the fractures with a TLSO brace and right sided thigh cuff; L5 bilateral pedicle fractures; right L1 TP fracture; L2 and L3 transverse process fractures; right T4 traverse process fracture; interruption of L5-S1 joint; Grade 1 splenic laceration; right adrenal hemorrhage; sternal/manubrium fracture with mediastinal hematoma; small displaced fracture of the right acetabulum; left psoas hematoma; left 10-12th posterolateral rib fractures; multiple lacerations and abrasions. Following 4 full days of trial, all parties reached an amicable compromise, with Mr. Van Duser’s clients contributing just 20% towards settlement.
March 2015 Breach of Contract - Mr. Van Duser, assisted by Stephen Davoli and Heather Berry, represented a Financial Advisor being sued for an alleged breach of contract relating to the sale of a Financial Advisor Practice with a book of business value estimated in excess of $50,000,000. A Counterclaim was served on behalf of the client alleging that the seller violated the Covenant Not to Compete contained in the contract for the purchase of the business. After a six day non-jury trial, the judge found in favor of Mr. Van Duser’s client, dismissed the claim against him, and granted judgment on the Counterclaim. The judge further found that the client was entitled to proceed to a trial in the future to determine the amount of damages owed on the Counterclaim. The decision was issued in March 2015.
January 2015 Custody - Mr. Van Duser, assisted by Shelby Redmond, represented the grandparents of twins seeking custody of the children against the biological parent. On the first day of trial, the parties agreed to a settlement highly favorable to Sugarman’s clients.
December 2014 Insurance Coverage - Mr. Van Duser represented a well-known insurance carrier in a lawsuit brought against it by one of its insureds alleging the carrier improperly disclaimed coverage relating to a flood loss on the insured’s property. After jury selection, the two sides reached an amicable compromise.
April 2014 Custody - Mr. Van Duser, assisted by Shelby Redmond, represented a mother in a contentious custody dispute where each side was seeking physical custody of their young daughter. After a two day trial, and post-trial briefs, the court found in favor of Mr. Van Duser’s client and awarded physical custody of the child to the mother, as well as final decision making on the issues of medical and education of the child, two highly contested issues at trial.
November 2013 Guardianship - Mr. Van Duser represented an individual petitioning to have a guardian appointed for an alleged incapacitated person (AIP). After a trial on all issues pursuant to Article 81 of the Mental Hygiene Law, the petition was granted and a guardian was appointed which provided her with expansive powers to attend to the AIP’s personal needs.
October 2013 Personal Injury, Premises Liability - Mr. Van Duser, assisted by Stephen Davoli and Heather Berry, represented a national hotel chain in a personal injury lawsuit alleging severe injuries as a result of an accident in the parking lot of one of its local hotel locations. After a four day trial, the jury rendered a verdict in favor of Mr. Van Duser’s client, finding that the hotel was not negligent in the maintenance of its property.
Recent Notable Decisions
Legal Malpractice Litigation: The client was an attorney being sued for legal malpractice relating to an alleged failure by the attorney to properly represent her client in contractual matters. The Complaint against the attorney further alleged damages relating to defamation, intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligent infliction of emotional distress, and various code violations. Plaintiff sought damages against the attorney, including punitive damages, in excess of $75,000,000. After nearly five years of litigation, the judge granted Mr. Van Duser’s Motion to Dismiss and all claims against the attorney were dismissed in their entirety. The Order of Dismissal was issued in May 2015. The client paid no damages.
Motor Vehicle Litigation: The client was an individual being sued for damages relating to personal injuries sustained in a motor vehicle accident. It was alleged that the client was negligent in the operation of her motor vehicle, and that the negligence caused the accident and serious bodily injuries. After a Motion to Dismiss, the case against Mr. Van Duser’s client was voluntarily dismissed in May 2015. The client paid no damages.
Breach of Contract Litigation: The client was a well-known restaurant chain in a lawsuit where it was alleged the restaurant breached its contracts with various suppliers. The suppliers brought a complaint alleging damages as a result of a violation of the supplier agreement, lost revenues caused by the diversion of sales, lost profits from the tortious interference with the suppliers’ contracts, and loss of business, sales, and profits as a result of fraud. Following four and a half years of litigation, Mr. Van Duser obtained an Order of Dismissal of all claims against the restaurant. The Order was issued in March 2015. There was no appeal, and the client paid nothing in damages.
Insurance Coverage Litigation: The client was a well-known insurance carrier in an insurance coverage dispute with one of its policyholders over Supplement Underinsured Motorist (SUM) benefits. The policyholder sought to enforce a default judgment against the insurance carrier that she obtained against the driver of another vehicle and his insurance company following a motor vehicle accident in which the policyholder was allegedly injured. Upon a motion seeking a declaration of the rights of each party, the trial court ruled in favor of Mr. Van Duser’s client holding that the default judgment was not conclusive on the issue of damages under the terms of the SUM Endorsement of the insurance policy since the carrier did not have a full and fair opportunity to challenge the nature and extent of the alleged damages. The Appellate Division, Fourth Department, affirmed the trial court’s decision in January 2015 and ruled that the SUM carrier is entitled to challenge the damages and further entitled to all necessary investigation and discovery allowed under the SUM Endorsement in order to challenge the alleged claims at arbitration.
Copyright Litigation – Engineer: The client was an Engineer in a claim brought in Federal Court, Northern District of New York. Plaintiff alleged copyright infringement and violations of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act against the client and a number of other defendants involved in the construction and sale of houses built with architectural plans allegedly copied from Plaintiffs’ designs. Plaintiff sought damages against the client which included preliminary injunctive relief, a permanent injunction, over $15,000,000 in compensatory payments, and attorneys’ fees and costs. A summary judgment motion on various grounds was made before the District Court, which granted the motion and dismissed all claims against the client. The matter was appealed to the United States Court of Appeals, Second Circuit, which affirmed the lower court’s decision in June 2014, and held that the claims against the client were properly dismissed since there was no “wrongful copying” of the plaintiffs’ designs. The client paid no damages and, further, the U.S. Court of Appeals ordered the plaintiff to pay the client for costs associated with the appeal.