E. Ford Stephens


Ford Stephens is a partner in the firm’s Litigation department.  His practice focuses on insurance law, appeals and commercial litigation. Mr. Stephens has engaged in a wide spectrum of insurance litigation, including coverage disputes, individual and group benefit claims, bad faith, life and disability claims, accidental death, policy rescission and cancellation, agent conduct, and ERISA.  He represents clients from both the private and public sectors in a diverse range of commercial disputes, has handled appeals in federal and state courts in Virginia, and has appellate experience in other jurisdictions as well. 

Mr. Stephens has been active in bar leadership, formerly serving on the board of the Virginia Law Foundation as chair of its committee on Continuing Legal Education. He is a frequent lecturer on insurance and other topics at both national and statewide seminars, and is a contributing author to American Bar Association publications on ERISA and misrepresentations in the life, health and disability insurance application process, and several DRI publications.

Trials / Appeals / Alternative Dispute Resolution

• Virginia
• Supreme Court of Virginia
• U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia
• U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia
• U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit  
• U.S. Supreme Court

Representative Insurance Litigation and Insurance Coverage Matters
• Representation of insurers in coverage litigation involving CGL policies, homeowners’ policies, surplus lines policies, auto and UM/UIM policies, umbrella policies, workers’ compensation and classification endorsements.
• Advice on environmental liability insurance and D&O coverage issues.
• Defense of insurers and claims fiduciaries in ERISA litigation involving life, health and disability coverages.
• Representation of insurers in various types of accidental death claims, including deaths involving DUIs and acute alcoholism, in both state and federal court.
• Asserted misrepresentation as grounds for rescission of several types of insurance policies and in a variety of fact situations.
• Defense of insurers on claims involving allegations of bad faith.
• Representation of insurers relating to agent conduct in federal and state courts.

Representative Virginia Appellate Litigation
• Oral arguments in more than a half dozen appeals before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, and briefed more.
• Argument before the Fourth Circuit on UM/UIM coverage in a commercial policy.
• Argument before the Supreme Court of Virginia on a trial court's finding of no coverage under an all-risk policy.
• Argued to uphold a district court’s finding that a life insurance policy was void because of material misrepresentations in the application.
• Argument before both the Fourth Circuit and the Supreme Court of Virginia on an appeal regarding whether an insured had applied for, or consented to the issuance of, a policy.
• Presentation of oral arguments in products liability cases on appeal.
• Argued appeals involving a public nursing home, privileges at a public hospital and Medicaid reimbursements.

Representative Commercial Litigation
• Assertion of claims on behalf of an EMT agency for unpaid fees.
• Representation of clients in various contract claims.
• Representation of the Commonwealth in mandamus proceedings involving courthouses.

Representative Cases

University of Virginia, J.D., 1986

University of Virginia, B.A., 1983, with distinction


American College of Coverage Counsel
• Fellow

Defense Research Institute (DRI)
• Law Institute, 2022-present
• National Director, Board of Directors, 2019-2022
• Membership Committee, 2017-2022
• Insurance Roundtable Steering Committee, 2016-present; Co-chair, 2024; Chair, 2021; Vice Chair, 2019-2020
• Life, Health and Disability Committee, Chair, 2014-2016; Vice Chair, 2012-2014; Program Chair, 2011
• Insurance Law Committee
• Appellate Advocacy Committee

American Bar Association
• Tort Trial and Insurance Practice Section

Association of Life Insurance Counsel

International Association of Defense Counsel

Virginia State Bar
• Appellate Practice Committee of the Litigation Section
• Special Committee on Lawyer Malpractice Insurance, Former Member
• Litigation Section, Young Lawyer's Committee, Former Member

Virginia Law Foundation
• Former Chair, Committee on Continuing Legal Education, which oversees the non-profit educational division of the Virginia Law Foundation, 2007-2011

Attorney's Liability Assurance Society
• Former Claims Counsel and Loss Prevention Partner for the Firm

John Marshall Inn of Court
• Executive Committee, 2010-2013

The Bar Association of the City of Richmond


Leadership Metro Richmond
• Class of 2010

Central Virginia Legal Aid
• Volunteer, 1989-2011, 2013-2014

United Way of Greater Richmond
• Volunteer, 1992-1995

River Road Hills Association
• President, 2001-2003

Lower Ralston Court Homeowners Association
• President, 2003-2006


• AV Preeminent® Peer Review Rated

The Fellows of the American Bar Foundation
• Life Fellow

The Fellows of the Virginia Law Foundation
• Class of 2011

The Best Lawyers in America©  
• Insurance Law, Litigation-Insurance, 2015-2024

Virginia Super Lawyers
• Insurance Coverage, 2013-2024
• Business Litigation, 2010-2012  

Legal Elite (Virginia Business)
• Legal Services/Pro Bono, 2006, 2008, 2013
• Alternative Dispute Resolution, 2011

• Co-author, “Intervention, Abstention, And Other Coverage Issues," For The Defense, January 2023
• Contributing author, American Bar Association's publication, ERISA Survey of Federal Circuits, 2022 (also 2005, 2007, 2010, 2012, 2014, 2018 and 2020)
• Contributing author, DRI’s Insurance Policy Rescission Compendium, 2018
• Contributing author, American Bar Association's publication, Misrepresentation in the Life, Health and Disability Insurance Application Process: A National Survey, 2009 and 2015
• Regional editor and contributing author, DRI's Writing a Reservation of Rights: A North American Compendium, 2014
• "Statutory Interpleader in Federal Court—A Cure for Conflicting Claims," IADC Insurance and Reinsurance Newsletter, January 2014
• Co-author, “Avoiding the Pitfalls of Writing a Reservation of Rights in an Unfamiliar State,” The Voice, November 2013
• “The Vexation of Conflicting Claims: Rule and Statutory Interpleaders in Federal Court,” For The Defense, October 2012
• Contributing author, DRI’s Excess and Umbrella Insurance State-by-State Compendium, 2011
• Contributing author, DRI Removal Deskbook—Getting Your Case to Federal Court, 2011
• Co-author, “Coverage Within the Ivy Walls: Select Insurance Issues Involving College Students,” For The Defense, May 2009

• Co-presenter, “In, Out, and Judicial Declarations: Procedural Considerations in Declaratory Judgment Actions,” American College of Coverage Counsel Annual Meeting, 2023 
• Co-presenter, “In or Out? Abstention & Other Coverage Issues,” DRI’s Insurance Coverage and Practice Symposium, 2022
• Co-moderator, “Exploding Ethical Dilemmas,” DRI-IADC Virtual Insurance Roundtable, 2022
• Co-presenter, DRI’s Boot Camp for New Life, Health and Disability Lawyers, 2019
• Co-presenter, DRI’s Boot Camp for New Life, Health and Disability Lawyers, 2017
• Co-presenter, “Accidental Death and Dismemberment Update," DRI’s Life, Health, Disability and ERISA Claims Seminar, 2017
• Co-presenter, Eastern Claims Conference, 2017
• Co-presenter, Eastern Claims Conference, 2016
• Presenter, DRI’s Boot Camp for New Life, Health and Disability Lawyers, 2015
• Co-presenter, Eastern Claims Conference, 2015
• Co-presenter, “Protecting the Attorney-Client Privilege,” DRI’s Life, Health, Disability and ERISA Claims Seminar, 2014
• Co-presenter, Eastern Claims Conference, 2014
• Co-presenter, “Life Insurance Basics,” DRI's Boot Camp for New Life, Health and Disability Lawyers, 2013
• Co-presenter, Eastern Claims Conference, 2013
• Co-presenter, “Current Procedural Strategies and Issues in Coverage Litigation,” DRI’s Insurance Coverage and Practice Symposium, 2012
• Co-presenter, Eastern Claims Conference, 2012
• Co-presenter, 38th Annual TIPS Midwinter Symposium on Insurance and Employee Benefits, 2012
• Co-presenter, “Accidental Death Claims: Illness vs. Accident, Medical Mishaps and Drug Overdose,” Eastern Claims Conference, 2011
• Co-presenter, “Murder, Mayhem and Misery,” 37th Annual TIPS Midwinter Symposium on Insurance and Employee Benefits, 2011
• Co-presenter, “Insurance: Coverage, Claims and Contracts,” Virginia Bar Association’s 12th Annual Corporate Counsel Fall Forum, 2010
• Co-presenter, “An Insured’s Death or Injury in a DUI—Is it an Accident for Purposes of Insurance Coverage?” Eastern Claims Conference, 2010
• Co-presenter, “Taking it up on Appeal – Litigating in the Fourth Circuit,” Virginia CLE, 2009
• Seminar paper and presentation, DRI’s Life, Health, Disability and ERISA Claims Seminar, 2009
• Co-presenter, “Myth or Reality – Drunk Driving Fatalities are ‘Accidental’ for Accidental Death Insurance,” West LegalWorks, 2009
• Seminar paper and presentation, DRI’s Life, Health, Disability and ERISA Claims Seminar, 2006
• Faculty, The 24th National Regulatory Conference, 2006
• Seminar paper and presentation, Annual Meeting of the Virginia Association of Defense Attorneys, 2004
• Faculty, 34th Annual Advanced Business Law Seminar, Virginia CLE, 2003
• Facilitator, ALPS/VSB Risk Management Seminars; 2002–2005, 2007