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Harvey Levine

Veteran litigator caps off year with Hall of Fame induction, high-profile cases

For San Diego attorney Harvey Levine, 2007 was like any of his previous 30-plus years practicing law: busy, successful and marked by personal recognition.

In the summer, the veteran litigator was inducted into the California Bar Association's Trial Lawyer Hall of Fame, one of just 17 attorneys to be so honored and only the second San Diegan.

"It's very gratifying to be recognized by judges, lawyers and your peers," said Levine, a partner with Levine Steinberg Miller & Huver. "It's left me with a feeling of pride and accomplishment and a deep sense of appreciation. It's a great sense of identity to feel you're a part of that group."

Levine's year also featured a big victory in the courtroom.

In April, a trial court affirmed the $37.5 million jury verdict he helped Cisterra Partners LLC earn in its property dispute with the Irvine Co. The case was one of the top 100 verdicts in the United States in 2006, according to VerdictSearch.

Levine also spent the past 12 months working on several high-profile and multimillion-dollar cases.

He's representing the cities of San Diego and Carlsbad in a pair of separate cases against insurance company AIG (NYSE: AIG).

For San Diego, he's trying to ensure that AIG fulfills its coverage obligations in the city's legal battle with developer Rocque De La Fuente over an Otay Mesa business park. The city originally lost a $95 million jury verdict, a large portion of which was overturned on appeal. A new trial has been ordered on the remaining issues.

The city of San Diego claims AIG wrongfully refused to underwrite the city's defense in the case. Levine's legal team also is pursing an action against AIG for its duty to indemnify -- or pay damages if the city is found liable -- in the follow-up trial.

"It's a very challenging piece of litigation, given the financial challenges facing the city," Levine said. "I've put a lot of effort into -- and a lot of the members of the firm are putting effort into -- having AIG assume their contractual responsibilities."

In the Carlsbad case, which is in the early stages, Levine again is trying to guarantee the insurer meets its indemnification responsibilities. The city recently agreed to a $13 million settlement with homeowners related to a 2005 landslide in Carlsbad.

Levine is working on cases that have received national media attention as well.

He's representing the family of a Sacramento woman who died after competing in a radio contest to see how much water contestants could drink in order to win a Nintendo Wii. Levine's been traveling around the country taking depositions for that case.

"I think it will have a very significant deterrent effect with regard to contests that subject radio listeners and contestants to suffer bodily injury," he said.

He expects the case will go to trial in the spring or summer of 2008.

"I think that will be a trial that will be broadcast nationally if the court allows TV cameras," he said.

Levine's also the attorney of former Chargers linebacker Steve Foley in his lawsuit against the city of Coronado. Foley is suing the city over a shooting incident that ended his NFL career.

"I think as the facts are presented to the public, it will be an inside view as to the duties of off-duty officers who are not in uniform and not in marked cars," Levine said. "I think law enforcement entities need defined standards (for off-duty officers)."

The trial likely will be held late next year or early 2009.

Over the course of his career, Levine has secured more than 70 verdicts or settlements of at least $1 million each.

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