Harvey Levine goes the distance
Published in 2008 San Diego Super Lawyers magazine
on May 18, 2008
Updated on April 18, 2009
Harvey Levine waited until he was 50—just about the time many runners give up on running altogether—to run his first marathon. But for Levine, racing 26.2 miles was just another challenge to be met and overcome.
“I thought it would be an adventure,” says Levine, who, at 62, has since completed 70 marathons—with a best time just a hair over three hours—including eight Boston Marathons plus a few Ironman Triathlons. “It is a great symbol for life—pushing through pain, training, reaching a goal, experiencing a sense of accomplishment.”
Levine, of Levine, Steinberg, Miller, and Huver, has been going the distance most of his career as a bad faith lawyer in insurance litigation. He received not just one, but three law degrees—his J.D. from St. Mary’s in Texas, and his LL.M. and S.J.D. from New York University. His first job was as a legal liaison for the United Nations in Rome, not too far from where the original marathoner Pheidippides ran from Marathon to Athens to announce the defeat of the Persian army.
Since coming to San Diego in the early 1970s to take a faculty position at the University of San Diego School of Law—he taught torts and insurance litigation for 20 years while practicing law full-time—Levine has had more than 70 cases with verdicts or settlements in excess of $1 million. Those wins include everything from a $12 million settlement with Lloyd’s of London after San Diego Padres pitcher Randy Myers suffered a career-ending injury, to his well-publicized $120 million verdict against Allstate for alleged price gouging of homeowners’ policies. Currently, he is representing one of the children of Jennifer Strange, the Sacramento woman who died from water intoxication in a water-drinking contest. (Strange was trying to win a Nintendo Wii in a radio station contest to see which contestant could go the longest without urinating.) Former Chargers linebacker Steve Foley, who was shot by an off-duty police officer during a traffic stop, is another prominent client.
The trick for success in either marathons or the law, says Levine, is preparation. But his former colleague at USD, professor Bob Fellmeth, says it is more than preparation that makes Levine one of the most “effective trial attorneys in the nation” and has earned him the nickname “Mr. Bad Faith.”
“He knows that the key is to tell a story and let it do the selling,” Fellmeth says. “You don’t see a bombastic orator trying to evoke passion; you see your next-door neighbor telling you about the strange things that happened last year on vacation.”
But all Levine sees while standing in court is the finish line—with the insurance company honoring its side of the policy commitments. Levine says that whether he is representing thousands of people as part of a class action suit, a political party or an individual policy holder, he is happy to help “level the playing field against companies that are disregarding the law.” And his persistence has not gone unnoticed. Levine has served as president of the California and San Diego Trial Lawyers Associations, the latter of which named him Trial Lawyer of the Year in 1981, 1986 and 2002, and he is one of 16 lawyers to be inducted into the state Bar’s Trial Lawyer Hall of Fame.
While he might be tempted to just stop and look back on all his accolades and accomplishments, Levine says he’s too busy thinking about his next case.
“I want to continue the work I am doing in an effective way,” Levine says. “There is always a learning process, always another goal.”