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Harold E. Johnson  Williams Mullen Headshot

Harold E. Johnson

Partner
Richmond, VA
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  • 804.420.6447
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  • 804.420.6507

Hal Johnson focuses his practice on education and insurance. As chair of the firm’s Education Practice, he works with educational institutions on various matters, both inside and outside the courtroom. He advises colleges and independent schools regarding board-level governance; Title IX investigations and compliance in the areas of sexual assault and athletics; FERPA and privacy issues; student conduct codes and disciplinary proceedings; endowment management and the Uniform Prudent Management of Institutional Funds Act (“UPMIFA”); employment disputes and tenure denial decisions; policies regarding free speech and political speech on campus; Department of Education and/or Office of Civil Rights investigations; facilities management, as well as risk management and insurance needs. Hal also has served as an independent investigator for sensitive or complicated internal investigations regarding complaints over faculty conduct, as well as student discipline and sexual misconduct cases. He has defended educational institutions in various types of litigation, including Title IX litigation, civil rights and due process claims for wrongful student dismissals, as well as personal injury and wrongful death cases. 

Hal’s involvement with higher education goes beyond providing legal counsel to his clients. Hal serves on the Board of Trustees of Mary Baldwin University, and he is a member of the Executive Committee of that Board. He also is a member of the board of the Commonwealth Alliance for Rural Colleges, and he chairs the Richmond Regional Selection Committee for the University of Virginia's Jefferson Scholar Program. Hal is a member of the National Association of College and University Attorneys, and he recently accepted an invitation to participate in the United Educators’ Defense Counsel Advisory Committee conference.

Hal also devotes a significant portion of his practice to insurance, and he regularly advises clients regarding their insurance needs and represents them when disputes over coverage arise. Hal handles insurance coverage work for several insurance companies, and he advises both individual and corporate policyholders on various types of insurance, including property, liability, directors and officers and environmental insurance policies. He has litigated a variety of insurance coverage cases through judgment and appeal in both state and federal courts. 

In addition to his work in the insurance and education arenas, Hal handles general commercial litigation for the firm’s clients. In courts throughout Virginia, he has litigated contract cases, business tort and defamation claims, state and local tax appeals, personal injury and wrongful death claims and other assorted litigation. 

Hal is listed in Virginia Business’ “Legal Elite” (2008, 2010-present); Virginia Super Lawyers for General Litigation (2018-present); and The Best Lawyers in America© for Litigation - Insurance (2020-present). He was previously listed in Virginia Super Lawyers Rising Stars (2008-2017).

Hal is a member of the Virginia State Bar, the American Bar Association, the Virginia Association of Defense Attorneys and the Defense Research Institute.

Hal received his Bachelor of Arts degree with distinction from the University of Virginia, where he was a Jefferson Scholar and an Echols Scholar. He received his Juris Doctor degree from the University of Virginia School of Law.

In addition to his litigation practice, Hal also serves as the firm’s Secretary and General Counsel.

Reported Cases

  • Bristol Metals, LLC v. Messer, LLC, No. 21-1244, 2022 WL 17222216 (4th Cir. Nov. 23, 2022)
  • Murray v. Liberty Univ., Inc., No. 6:22-CV-00025, 2022 WL 4082483, at *1 (W.D. Va. Sept. 6, 2022)
  • Bundy v. CitySwitch II, LLC, No. 320CV00618FDWDSC, 2021 WL 4142677, at *1 (W.D.N.C. Sept. 10, 2021)
  • Danville Commercial Indus. Storage, LLC v. Selective Ins. Co. of S.C., 442 F. Supp. 3d 921 (W.D. Va. 2020)
  • Noetic Specialty Ins. Co. v. N. Carolina Mut. Wholesale Drug Co., 453 F. Supp. 3d 842, 844 (E.D. Va. 2020)
  • George v. Averett Univ. of Danville, Virginia, No. 4:19-CV-00008, 2019 WL 3310517, at *1 (W.D. Va. July 23, 2019)
  • Kohl's Dep't Stores, Inc. v. Virginia Dep't of Taxation, 294 Va. 57, 60, 803 S.E.2d 336, 338 (2017)
  • Corporate Executive Bd. v. Virginia Dept. of Taxation, 2017 WL 3879140 (Arlington County Circuit Court, 2017).
  • Elliott v. Carter, 292 Va. 618, 621, 791 S.E.2d 730, 732 (2016)
  • Selective Way Ins. Co. v. Crawl Space Door Sys., Inc., 162 F. Supp. 3d 547, 549 (E.D. Va. 2016)
  • Livia Properties, LLC v. Jones Lang LaSalle Americas, Inc., No. CIV.A. 5:14-00053, 2015 WL 4711585, at *1 (W.D. Va. Aug. 7, 2015), aff'd sub nom. Livia Properties, II, LLC v. Jones Lang LaSalle Americas, Inc., 646 F. App'x 322 (4th Cir. 2016)
  • Commonwealth ex rel. Bowyer v. Sweet Briar Inst., No. 150619, 2015 WL 3646914 (Va. June 9, 2015)
  • Minnesota Lawyers Mut. Ins. Co. v. Batzli, 442 F. App'x 40, 41 (4th Cir. 2011)
  • TMS Envirocon, Inc v. BB&T Insurance Services, Inc. 2011 U.S. App. LEXIS 10615 (4th Cir. 2011)
  • Beausoleil v. Peterbilt Motors Company, et al., 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 58445 (E.D. VA 2010)
  • RMA Lumber, Inc. v. Pioneer Machinery, LLC, et al., 2009 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 93472 (W.D. Va. 2009)
  • ACL Realty Corp. v. .Com Properties, LLC, 2007 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 39131 (W.D. Va. 2007)
  • Campbell v. Mahan, 77 Va. Cir. 465; 2006 Va. Cir. LEXIS 185, (Nelson County Cir. Ct., 2006)
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Education
  • University of Virginia School of Law (J.D.), 2003
  • University of Virginia (B.A.), 1999
    • Echols Scholar
    • Jefferson Scholar
Professional & Community Affiliations

Professional Affiliations

  • American Bar Association
  • Defense Research Institute
  • Virginia Association of Defense Attorneys
  • Richmond Bar Association

Community Involvements

  • Mary Baldwin University - Board Member
  • Jefferson Scholar Program for the University of Virginia, Richmond Regional Selection Committee - Co-Chair
  • Virginia College Fund - Board Member
  • Youth Basketball Coach
Bar & Court Admissions

Bar Admissions

  • Virginia State Bar
Honors

The Best Lawyers in America© - Litigation - Insurance (2020-present)

Virginia Business - "Legal Elite" (2008, 2010-2020)

Virginia Super Lawyers - General Litigation (2018-present)

Virginia Super Lawyers Rising Stars - General Litigation (2008-present)

Experience

Reported Cases

  • Bristol Metals, LLC v. Messer, LLC, No. 21-1244, 2022 WL 17222216 (4th Cir. Nov. 23, 2022)
  • Murray v. Liberty Univ., Inc., No. 6:22-CV-00025, 2022 WL 4082483, at *1 (W.D. Va. Sept. 6, 2022)
  • Bundy v. CitySwitch II, LLC, No. 320CV00618FDWDSC, 2021 WL 4142677, at *1 (W.D.N.C. Sept. 10, 2021)
  • Danville Commercial Indus. Storage, LLC v. Selective Ins. Co. of S.C., 442 F. Supp. 3d 921 (W.D. Va. 2020)
  • Noetic Specialty Ins. Co. v. N. Carolina Mut. Wholesale Drug Co., 453 F. Supp. 3d 842, 844 (E.D. Va. 2020)
  • George v. Averett Univ. of Danville, Virginia, No. 4:19-CV-00008, 2019 WL 3310517, at *1 (W.D. Va. July 23, 2019)
  • Kohl's Dep't Stores, Inc. v. Virginia Dep't of Taxation, 294 Va. 57, 60, 803 S.E.2d 336, 338 (2017)
  • Corporate Executive Bd. v. Virginia Dept. of Taxation, 2017 WL 3879140 (Arlington County Circuit Court, 2017).
  • Elliott v. Carter, 292 Va. 618, 621, 791 S.E.2d 730, 732 (2016)
  • Selective Way Ins. Co. v. Crawl Space Door Sys., Inc., 162 F. Supp. 3d 547, 549 (E.D. Va. 2016)
  • Livia Properties, LLC v. Jones Lang LaSalle Americas, Inc., No. CIV.A. 5:14-00053, 2015 WL 4711585, at *1 (W.D. Va. Aug. 7, 2015), aff'd sub nom. Livia Properties, II, LLC v. Jones Lang LaSalle Americas, Inc., 646 F. App'x 322 (4th Cir. 2016)
  • Commonwealth ex rel. Bowyer v. Sweet Briar Inst., No. 150619, 2015 WL 3646914 (Va. June 9, 2015)
  • Minnesota Lawyers Mut. Ins. Co. v. Batzli, 442 F. App'x 40, 41 (4th Cir. 2011)
  • TMS Envirocon, Inc v. BB&T Insurance Services, Inc. 2011 U.S. App. LEXIS 10615 (4th Cir. 2011)
  • Beausoleil v. Peterbilt Motors Company, et al., 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 58445 (E.D. VA 2010)
  • RMA Lumber, Inc. v. Pioneer Machinery, LLC, et al., 2009 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 93472 (W.D. Va. 2009)
  • ACL Realty Corp. v. .Com Properties, LLC, 2007 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 39131 (W.D. Va. 2007)
  • Campbell v. Mahan, 77 Va. Cir. 465; 2006 Va. Cir. LEXIS 185, (Nelson County Cir. Ct., 2006)

THE CASES LISTED BELOW ARE ILLUSTRATIVE OF THE MATTERS HANDLED BY THE FIRM.  CASE RESULTS DEPEND UPON A VARIETY OF FACTORS UNIQUE TO EACH CASE.  NOT ALL CASE RESULTS ARE PROVIDED.  CASE RESULTS DO NOT GUARANTEE OR PREDICT A SIMILAR RESULT IN ANY FUTURE CASE UNDERTAKEN BY THE LAWYER.
Representative Experience
Insurance:

  • Procured contribution from primary and excess insurance carriers following initial denial of coverage for various trade secret misappropriation claims against large health-care company operating internationally. Contribution from carriers allowed case to settle and avoided calamitous result for company.    
  • Advised Fortune 500 company regarding directors & officers insurance coverage and communicated with carriers and defense counsel regarding available coverage in wake of securities class action litigation and derivative shareholder demands.
  • Represented insurer in multi-million property claim arising out of alleged hurricane damage to hotel property, resulting in arbitration award of roughly 25% of the amount claimed.
  • Represented insurer in $86 million lawsuit filed by food manufacturer in wake of total loss by fire. 
  • Conducted investigation and EUO for property insurer in dubious claim submitted by insured business regarding allegedly stolen equipment, resulting in abandonment of claim by insured.
  • Drafted extensive coverage opinion on behalf of national insurance carrier regarding available coverage for various types of property damage associated with sewage backup at large, well-known day care facility.
  • Represented property insurer in dispute with insured restaurant related to first-party claims in the wake of Hurricane Isabel.
  • Represented environmental liability insurance carrier in dispute over coverage for first-party claims for property damage and clean-up costs by named and additional insureds arising out of contamination resulting from dry cleaning operations.
  • Drafted detailed coverage opinion for various excess insurers regarding coverage obligations arising out of oil spill in Panama.
  • Defended insurance company against coverage and bad faith claims made by doctor who claimed disabilities under a policy.
  • Defended excess insurer in coverage dispute with insured pharmaceutical company over hundreds of claims involving injury resulting from use of the insured's medical products.
  • Defended insurance agent against claims alleging that our client did not properly advise its client of potential liability claims against the client, which resulted in the carrier's denial of an eventual claim on grounds of late notice.
  • Represented internationally-known entertainer to secure insurance coverage following a dispute over coverage arising out of an incident with a tour bus that resulted in multiple personal injury claims.
  • Defended insurance agent claims alleging that our client did not properly advise its client of potential liability claims against its client, which resulted in the carrier's denial of an eventual claim on grounds of late notice.
  • Represented policyholder in dispute with mutual insurance company comprised of jewelry store owners regarding calculation of loss for employee dishonesty claim.
  • Obtained jury verdict on behalf of attorney in dispute about notice to malpractice insurer regarding prompt notice of malpractice claim.
  • Provided coverage opinion for financial institution related to availability of directors and officers coverage for potential claims arising out of merger with another institution.
  • Obtained full coverage limits on behalf of industrial client in arbitration dispute with insurer regarding coverage for personal injury claims by employee arising out of exposure to asbestos.
  • Conducted insurance review for trucking company to assess appropriate types and levels of property and liability insurance coverage.
  • Conducted insurance review for international branding company to assess property and liability coverage needs related to array of issues arising out of client’s domestic and international operations.

THE CASES LISTED BELOW ARE ILLUSTRATIVE OF THE MATTERS HANDLED BY THE FIRM.  CASE RESULTS DEPEND UPON A VARIETY OF FACTORS UNIQUE TO EACH CASE.  NOT ALL CASE RESULTS ARE PROVIDED.  CASE RESULTS DO NOT GUARANTEE OR PREDICT A SIMILAR RESULT IN ANY FUTURE CASE UNDERTAKEN BY THE LAWYER.
Education:

  • Serve as outside general counsel for three independent colleges and/or universities in Virginia.
  • Represented board of Sweet Briar College in various litigation matters following board’s decision to close the college, leading to amicable settlement.
  • Represented large private university in insurance coverage litigation related to claims against university for various business torts. 
  • Represented small Virginia college in OCR investigation related to website accessibility, leading to resolution of investigation without opening a formal proceeding.
  • Represented small Virginia college accused of wrongful denial of tenure.  Resulted in withdrawal of claims before lawsuit was filed. 
  • Represented single-sex university in connection with opposition and threatened litigation from alumnae group following decision to open a co-educational program.
  • Counsel two colleges on management of Title IX reports and grievance processes.
  • Represented private university in claims alleging civil rights violations and Title IX claims by students.   
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