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Thomas M. Contois

Thomas M. Contois

Of Counsel

T (919) 755-8827
F (919) 838-3126

For nearly 20 years, Tom Contois has represented insurance carriers in coverage and bad faith disputes.  He is admitted in both North and South Carolina, and handles cases in both states.  With the assistance of Atlanta-based Smith Moore Leatherwood attorneys, and local counsel elsewhere, he has also handled cases in a number of other states, including California, Georgia, Florida, Kentucky, Louisiana, New York, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Virginia.  Several of these matters have included trials and arbitrations.

Tom's practice has focused primarily on first party commercial property, inland marine, and builder's risk coverages.  He has handled matters arising out of catastrophe losses, including Hurricanes Matthew, Katrina, Wilma, and Ike, and Superstorm Sandy, as well as earthquake, settlement, and other earth movement losses, fire losses including arson claims, corrosion claims, and others.  With builder's risk claims, his experience includes issues relating to coverage for design defects under the LEG3 endorsement.

Tom also advises carriers with respect to their obligations and the coverage issues presented by a variety of third party liability policies, including both occurrence-based and claims-made-and-reported coverages.  His experience includes advising carriers on, and litigating issues arising under commercial general liability policies, errors and omissions policies, pollution legal liability policies, employment practices liability policies, and excess and umbrella coverages.

In addition to coverage issues, Tom's work with carriers has frequently included defending against bad faith and other extra-contractual claims. 

He is a member of the Loss Executives Association, and has presented at the Property & Liability Resource Bureau Claims Conference.  He is a member of the Insurance Law Section of the North Carolina Bar Association, and the Torts and Insurance Practice Section of the South Carolina Bar.

Before joining Smith Moore Leatherwood, Tom was a partner in the Washington, D.C. office of a large international firm.  Prior to that, Tom was a trial attorney with the U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division, in the Disability Rights Section, the office charged with enforcing Titles II and III of the Americans with Disabilities Act.


Representative Work

  • Advised insurer on coverage issues arising from claim for building collapse resulting from failure of roof trusses.
  • Advised insurance market on coverage issues relating to reconstruction of a structure after a fire loss, including ADA and state building code compliance.
  • Advised insurer on coverage issues arising under aviation hull policy resulting from prop strike and engine damage.
  • Advised mutual insurance company on proposed revisions to policy form providing coverage for expenses and other losses resulting from electronic data breaches and other improper disclosures of protected information
  • ARE-East River Science Park LLC v. Lexington Insurance Co. (U.S. District Court, Central District of California, Civil Action No. 2:13-cv-01837).  Represented insurance carrier through trial in federal court in California in dispute arising out of Superstorm Sandy claim over application of the Named Storms deductible.
  • Fiserv Solutions, Inc., et al. v. XL Specialty Ins. Co. (Supreme Court of New York, Index No. 601096/09).  Represented insurance carrier in New York state court against hundreds of claims by multiple lenders arising out of a policy that insured the accuracy of valuations of residential real estate being used to secure home equity loans.
  • Board of Trustees of the Galveston Wharves v. Lexington Ins. Co., et al. (10th Judicial District Court, Galveston County, Texas, Case No. 11-CV-1330).  Represented insurance carrier in Texas state court in a multimillion-dollar claim alleging that the Port of Galveston suffered flood and storm surge damage as a result of Hurricane Ike.
  • International coordinating counsel for a major carrier for claims arising out of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan in March 2011.  Supervised counsel in Europe and Japan to provide a consistent and coordinated response to common claims issues, including issues arising out of Master/Local coverage programs.  Prepared analysis of various coverage issues, under carrier's form and manuscript forms of various major brokers, including contingent business interruption, power outage, civil authority, nuclear hazards, and others.  Created a claims handling guide for use by front line adjusters addressing these issues.
  • Pyramid Hotel Opportunity Venture LLC v. Lexington Ins. Co. (17th Judicial District, Broward Co., Florida, No. 07-3236 (07)).  Represented insurance carrier through seven-week trial in Florida state court in multi-million dollar claim arising out of wind and flood damage caused by Hurricanes Katrina and Wilma to a hotel in Ft. Lauderdale.
  • Strouse Greenberg Properties IV LP v. Lexington Insurance Co. (Civ. Dist. Ct. Parish of Orleans, State of La. No. 2007-8378).  Represented insurance carrier through trial in Louisiana state court in New Orleans in a multimillion-dollar claim arising out of wind and flood damage caused by Hurricane Katrina to an apartment complex in New Orleans East.
  • Toll Naval Assoc. v. Lexington Ins. Co. (US District Court, Eastern District of Pennsylvania, Civil Action No. 03-CV-6537).  Represented insurance carrier in a multimillion-dollar claim arising out of an arson fire at a historic structure in Philadelphia.
  • Represented a major carrier in a confidential arbitration proceeding in which the insured sought coverage for pollution clean-up costs at hundreds of locations.  The insured was a major lender for commercial real estate loans;  the policy provided that if loans defaulted, and the real estate securing the loans was contaminated, carrier would pay lesser of clean-up costs or loan balance.
  • Key3Media Group, Inc., v. Commerce and Indus. Ins. Co. (Sup. Ct. State of Ca. County of Los Angeles, Case No. BC278751).  Represented insurance carrier in multimillion-dollar claim for business interruption losses stemming from the terrorist attacks of 9/11.
  • Legend Asset Management v. Lexington Ins. Co. (Texas state court, Austin, TX, Suit No. NYBG-04016).  Represented insurance carrier in multi-million dollar claim asserting damage to seven apartment complexes in Texas allegedly due to soil movement.


  • Steptoe & Johnson LLP, Washington, D.C., 1999-2015
  • Trial Attorney, U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division, 1992-1999
  • Clerkship, United States Court of Appeals Judge Sam D. Johnson, United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, Austin, TX, 1990-92

* Past success does not indicate the likelihood of success in any future legal representation.

  • Duke University School of Law
  • Duke University
  • North Carolina, 1990
  • District of Columbia, 1999
  • South Carolina, 2017
  • North Carolina Bar Association
    • Insurance Law Section
  • South Carolina Bar
    • Torts and Insurance Practice Section
  • Loss Executives Association
  • Property Loss Research Bureau

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