With several decades of experience representing clients in thousands of matters, Stephen “Steve” L. Cotter promptly and efficiently handles complex litigation through all stages of conflict. He has successfully represented insurance carriers and businesses in a broad range of disputes, including automobile and marine accidents, wrongful death, products liability and catastrophic injury claims, as well as especially challenging matters related to toxic torts.
Steve is an avid advocate for his clients and will try cases to conclusion to secure a favorable outcome in the face of complex, high-stakes litigation. He has defended businesses through hundreds of jury trials and appeals in state and federal courts.
Steve began his legal career as an assistant attorney general in Georgia handling constitutional and public policy “impact” actions, which include class and mass actions. In private practice, he served as an administrative law judge (ALJ) by appointment by the Governor to hear disputes related to several state departments.
He served as an adjunct professor at Emory Law School in the field of litigation, taught at the Georgia Defense Lawyers Trial Academy and has presented to various professional and industry groups on a variety of contemporary legal topics. Steve has also been extensively published, most especially in the insurance field.
- Lawyer of the Year,” The Best Lawyers in America, 2016
- The Best Lawyers in America, 2010 – present
- Georgia Super Lawyers, 2004 – present
- AV® Rated by Martindale-Hubbell (Preeminent for 25 years)
- State Bar of Georgia
- International Association of Defense Counsel
- Old War Horse Society
- Atlanta International Arbitration Society
- Council on Litigation Management
- Presenting a marine accident reconstruction of a high-speed boating collision convinced the jury to return a defense verdict in a wrongful death case.
- Represented defendant in wrongful death wherein the jury verdict was $0 liability despite it finding negligence per se.
- Successfully defended against $22 million product recall claim resulting in a $0 verdict following a month-long jury trial, which was upheld on appeals.
- Served on the Coordinating Committee for defense of a nine-digit multidistrict litigation (MDL) national class action regarding thousands of deceased who were not cremated.
- Two-week trial resulted in very modest verdicts which were one-tenth of the last demand in trial due to the application of “pure comparative negligence” under the Death on the High Seas Act.
- Complex notice of cancellation was upheld by both the Georgia Supreme Court and the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, and all money was returned to carrier in two wrongful death suits.
- Defense verdict in an age and retaliatory discharge case.
- An expert’s failure to eliminate all other possible causes; appellate court upheld summary judgment.
- Supreme Court affirmed the summary judgment of spoliation of evidence can only occur after the owner of the property is on notice of “contemplated litigation.”
- Defended a marine wrongful death claim of a billionaire (Forbes #369).
- Complex commercial litigation to control Georgia’s sole domestic source of cement.
- Catastrophic burn injuries received from industrial boiler explosion.
- Multiple varied product liability matters ranging from toxic to mechanical and medical devices.
- Mass diacetyl cases involving bronchiolitis.
Publications and Presentations
- Cotter, et. al., “Insurance,” Mercer Law Review, Georgia Survey Issue, 1999–2015
- Co-author, “Spoliation of Evidence — Contemporary Status and Trends,” IADC, Business Litigation, May 2010
- Cotter & Carter, “Insurance Compensation for Crime Victims,” Georgia Bar Journal, 1989
"The Hedonic Damage Expert," DRI (Products Liability Section), San Diego
“Expert Witnesses: Why, When, Who, What and How,” ICLE, State Bar of Georgia, October 2009
Georgia Defense Lawyers Association – Faculty, Trial Academy
Walter F. George School of Law at Mercer University (J.D., cum laude)