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Forrest Booth

Member | (415) 398-3344 Tel | (415) 956-0439 Fax


One Embarcadero Center
Suite 2600
San Francisco, CA 94111
415-398-3344 Tel
415-956-0439 Fax

Areas of Practice

  • Insurance
    • Admiralty, Maritime, & Energy
    • Insurance Coverage & Underwriters Representation
    • Insurance Defense
    • Product Liability


  • Amherst College, B.A., cum laude,
  • Harvard Law School, J.D., 1975


  • Martindale-Hubbell AV rated

Forrest Booth is a member of the firm in the Insurance Group, and heads the firm’s maritime and energy practice.  He has extensive trial experience, both in jury and non jury trials, as well as considerable appellate experience in both state and federal courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court.

Mr. Booth represents marine insurers, vessel owners and operators, marine equipment manufacturers, oil and gas companies, charterers, brokers, pilots, marinas and marine and oilfield service providers.

Mr. Booth also serves as a consultant and an expert witness on marine insurance and maritime law issues, and he has testified in both state and federal courts as an expert.  He has also been an expert on U.S. maritime law in the courts of the United Kingdom and Australia.

Mr. Booth is a graduate of the Harvard Law School, and served as a member of the Board of Directors of the Maritime Law Association of the United States.

Extended Bio

Mr. Booth’s primary areas of legal practice include:

Litigation, admiralty and maritime claims, insurance coverage, marine insurance, oil and gas and energy matters. Expertise in representing shipowners, vessel pilots, Underwriters and P&I Clubs in the London and Scandinavian markets, and in Asia. Expert witness on marine insurance.

Mr. Booth’s specific experience includes:

Admiralty: Defending claims involving personal injuries, collisions, cargo damage, oil pollution, charter parties, maritime contract disputes, pilotage, marine insurance coverage, ship building and ship repair, vessel arrests, products liability, oil industry indemnity agreements, marine salvage, maritime fraud, stevedoring, and cargo subrogation.

General Liability: Defending a broad array of claims and business disputes involving personal injuries, property damage, products liability, construction defect, breach of contract, commercial and oil and gas/energy matters. Defense of and advice regarding CGL coverage claims.

Biographical Information:

Employment History:
Joined Severson & Werson 2006 (Member)
Cozen O’Connor, San Francisco, CA, Senior Partner (2000-2006)
Booth Banning, LLP, San Francisco, CA, Senior Partner (1990-2000)
Hancock, Rothert & Bunshoft, San Francisco, CA, Partner (1978-1989)
McCutchen, Doyle, Brown & Enersen, San Francisco, CA, Associate (1976-1978)
Graham & James, Washington, D.C., Associate (1975-1976)

Military: Lieutenant, U.S. Navy, 1968-1972.

B.A. cum laude, Amherst College, Amherst, MA. J.D., Harvard Law School

Admitted to Practice:
Washington, D.C., 1976. California, 1977.
Supreme Court of the U.S., 1979.
Numerous U.S. District Courts and Circuit Courts of Appeals.

Professional Affiliations: Best Lawyers in America; American Bar Association: International Law and Practice, Litigation and Tort, and Insurance Practice Sections; State Bar of California; The Maritime Law Association of the United States (MLA); Pacific Admiralty Seminar (PAS); International Bar Association (IBA); Asia-Pacific Lawyers Association; Association of Average Adjusters (UK); and Defense Research Institute (DRI).


  • Speaker, American Pilots’ Association Annual Convention, Las Vegas, Nevada, 2010, “Update on the COSCO BUSAN Litigation”
  • Speaker, International Marine Claims Conference, Dublin, Ireland, 2010, “Marine Pilots; Essential Colleagues or Convenient Scapegoats?”
  • Speaker (webinar) 2010, “What Insurance Lawyers Need to Know About the Legal Ramifications of the Gulf Oil Spill”
  • Speaker, International Marine Claims Conference, Dublin, Ireland, 2008, “Marine Claims: There Are No Facts, Only Interpretations”
  • Speaker, International Bar Association, Prague, Czech Republic, 2005, “The Effect of 9/11 on the Insurance Industry in the United States”
  • Speaker, International Project Development Conference, Houston, Texas, 2004, “Insuring Against Project Loss: Construction, Shipping and Political Risk Insurance”
  • Speaker, 3rd International Energy Claims Adjusting Conference, Lillehammer, Norway, 1998, “Subrogation”
  • Speaker, Pacific Admiralty Seminar – 1998, “Who Owns Sunken Treasure? The Supreme Court, The Abandoned Shipwreck Act and the BROTHER JONATHAN”
  • Speaker, Pacific Admiralty Seminar – 1990, “Bad Faith: Legal Trends in Suits Against Insurers”
  • Speaker, Houston Mariners Club Marine Insurance Seminar, 1990, “Bad Faith – Representation of Assureds in Claims Negotiations”
  • Speaker, Southeast Admiralty Law Institute, 1990, “Conflicts of Interest in Maritime Practice”
  • Speaker, Third International Maritime Law Conference of the Law Society of British Columbia, 1986, “Defending a Liability Claim: Conflicts of Interest and Their Resolutions”
  • Speaker, Pacific Admiralty Seminar -1983, “Bankruptcy of Insurers”


  • "The Collision of Property Rights and Cultural Heritage; The Salvors' and Insurers' Viewpoints", published in Art and Cultural Heritage: Law, Policy and Practice (Barbara Hoffman ed., 2005)

  • "Who Owns Sunken Treasure? The Supreme Court, The Abandoned Shipwreck Act and the BROTHER JONATHAN", 11 U.S.F. Mar. L.J. 77 (1998).

  • "'Bad Faith' - Legal Trends in Suits Against Insurers", 4 U.S.F. Mar. L.J. 1 (1992)


  • Forrest Booth spoke on the topic "Treasure Salvage: the SS ISLANDER, near Juneau, Alaska" at the US/Canada Military Law Symposium on September 13-14, 2014 in Seattle, WA.

  • Forrest Booth was a featured speaker for ExecSense Webinars discussing the topic "What insurance lawyers need to know about the legal ramifications of the gulf oil spill".


  • Big Win for maritime group for London Underwriters in Brandwein v. Certain Underwriters, et al.

    The Court of Appeal rejected all of those arguments, and adopted our position that Utmost Good Faith is an integral part of marine insurance law in California, just as it is under English law and the ... Read More

  • Severson & Werson attorneys nominated as Northern California Super Lawyers 2011

    Forrest Booth - Transportation/Maritime David Ericksen - Construction Litigation Duane Geck - Bankruptcy & Creditor/Debtor Rights Mark Kenney - Business Litigation Rhonda Nelson - Emplo... Read More

  • Big Win for Severson & Werson's Insurance Group

    Severson won the dismissal of Wells Fargo Insurance Services from a suit in San Francisco Superior Court which alleged that the brokerage firm had committed professional negligence.  Forrest Booth of... Read More

  • Forrest Booth was selected by his peers for inclusion in The Best Lawyers in America 2012 in the fields of Admiralty & Maritime Law.

    Since its inception in 1983, Best Lawyers has become universally regarded as the definitive guide to legal excellence. Because Best Lawyers is based on an exhaustive peer-review survey in which more t... Read More

  • Forrest Booth selected by Best Lawyers as the 2011 Lawyer of the Year for Admiralty & Maritime Law

    Only a single lawyer in each practice area in each community is being honored as the “Lawyer of the Year” for 2011. Best Lawyers compiles its lists of outstanding attorneys by conducting exhaustiv... Read More

Representative Cases

  • Represented insurance broker in defense of negligent misrepresentation and professional negligence claims.

  • Obtained judgment for contract salvor seeking to recover cargo of gold lost in Alaskan waters in 1901; decision affirmed on appeal.

  • Represented defendants in purported class action involving neighborhood dispute and nuisanace claims

  • Received judgment for subrogated London property insurers after federal court trial in Guam.

  • Obtained summary adjudication of statutory defenses available to the San Francisco Bar Pilots, resulting in their dismissal from the COSCO BUSAN civil litigation.

  • Obtained summary judgment for Underwriters in over $28 million coverage litigation brought by a major oil company arising out of construction of a pipeline in Myanmar (Burma).

  • Obtained summary judgment for London marine insurers in a major environmental pollution case in federal court in Los Angeles; appeal by plaintiff was dismissed.

  • Obtained dismissal on motion for London market insurers on the basis of lack of personal jurisdiction, in a complex matter in Los Angeles Superior Court; decision was affirmed on appeal.

  • Represented London Underwriters in some of the largest and most complex environmental pollution coverage cases, including Aerojet, Lockheed Martin, Exxon-Mobil, and Shell-Rocky Mountain Arsenal.

  • Head of the firm’s maritime practice, Forrest Booth, recently won an important case for London Underwriters, which is likely to be very helpful in adjusting marine and energy claims in California in the future. In Brandwein v. Certain Underwriters, et al., decided by the California Court of Appeal in San Diego, the assured had argued that his vessel was underinsured, that Underwriters knew or should have known that, that the brokers were the agents of Underwriters, and that Underwriters were therefore liable for twice the agreed value of the hull. The Court of Appeal rejected all of those arguments, and adopted our position that Utmost Good Faith is an integral part of marine insurance law in California, just as it is under English law and the MIA1906. The Court upheld the longstanding rule that a prospective assured has an obligation to disclose all material facts about the risk, even if he is not asked to do so. The Court even arguably extended the existing case law, holding that the duty of Utmost Good Faith extends to allow the assured’s broker to rely on the assured’s disclosures, without making inquiry into whether the assured has further information relevant to the risk. Since the assured had disclosed no facts that would have advised Underwriters, or the brokers, that the vessel was worth more than the purchase price, the agreed value was the limit of his recovery. Although the Court of Appeal initially ordered its decision not to be published in the official reports, we petitioned the Court to order it published, in light of the important issues considered and decided in the lengthy opinion. The Court reversed itself and granted our request for publication. Therefore the decision is binding precedent and can be cited to all courts for any purpose. If you would be interested in a copy of this decision, contact Forrest Booth ( who will be pleased to send it to you.