William M. Shernoff (born c.1949) is a prominent American trial lawyer based in Claremont, California/Beverly Hills, USA. He is one of the pioneers of a branch of law known as "insurance bad faith", in which he investigates the alleged bad faith and misconduct of insurance companies. This began in 1971 with his first insurance case. He has since become a senior/managing partner of Shernoff Bidart Echeverria Bentley, LLP, heading a team of 10 litigation lawyers who are widely known as the "bad faith insurance lawyers". Shernoff is also the author and co-author of several books on law, including Bad Faith (1984), Payment Refused (1986), How to Make Insurance Companies Pay Your Claims and What to Do If They Don't (1990) and Fight Back & Win (1999). He has served for many years on the Board of Directors of the national insurance consumer organization, United Policyholders.
In 1974, Shernoff won a $5 Million punitive damages verdict for a roofer whose disability payments had been cut off (the seminal case that established the bad faith tort against insurers).
In 1979, Shernoff won a landmark case amounting to $86 million for the MGM Grand Hotel in Las Vegas when the insurance company failed to meet its obligations after the fire which devastated the hotel. Also in 1979, he persuaded the California Supreme Court to establish new case law that permits plaintiffs to sue insurance companies for bad faith seeking both compensatory and punitive damages when they unreasonably handle a policyholder’s claim (Egan v. Mutual of Omaha).
His most successful case was in the early 1990s related to Cyclone Val, a tropical cyclone that devastated American Samoa in December 1991. In 1991, American Samoa had purchased a $45-million "all risk" insurance policy from the firm Affiliated FM Insurance. However, the firm would only pay up $6.1 million for the damages, arguing that the insurance did not cover water damage, only that driven by the wind. Shernoff investigated and discovered that the insurance company had altered American Samoa's insurance policy to exclude damages caused by "wind-driven water", despite it still covering hurricanes. The case was taken to court and in 1995 the jury awarded the American Samoa Government $28.9 million, and then added twice that amount ($57.8 million) for punitive damages. The total award in the final judgment was $86.7 million, which is stated to be the largest insurance bad faith judgment in the state of California, in 1995.
Shernoff is highly acclaimed in the legal profession in the United States and has ranked on the The Best Lawyers in America, every year since its first edition in 1983.
Shernoff grew up on a rural farm in Wisconsin, the son of a lawyer whom he admired and wanted to follow in the legal profession. Shernoff married Jilda Trolio in Beverly Hills in the 1990s. They have one daughter, Summer.
- "Attorney William Shernoff". Beverley Hills Time Magazine. December 9, 2009. Retrieved December 16, 2010.
- "Our Board of Directors". United Policyholders. Retrieved December 16, 2010.
- JURY AWARDS $86.7 MILLION TO AMERICAN SAMOA GOVERNMENT FOR BREACH OF HURRICANE INSURANCE POLICY, September 26, 1995