Robert W. Phelan


Robert Phelan litigates inland marine, maritime and other transportation cases involving shipping law, international trade law and private international law throughout the domestic United States. Based in New York City, Robert has been admitted pro hac vice to litigate such cases on behalf of clients in federal District Courts in California, Delaware, Florida, Indiana, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Maryland, Mississippi, Pennsylvania, and Virginia.

Robert handles claims and recoveries for domestic and international clients arising from air, land or sea losses occurring in the United States, Central and South America, Europe, the CIS, and Asia. He regularly handles complex losses involving failures in yacht design, construction and maintenance. Robert also frequently represents seawall, pier or bridge claimants in allision cases, either as a subrogating plaintiff or as a defendant in maritime limitation actions. In recognition of his handling of maritime matters, Robert has attained the status of a Proctor in Admiralty in the Maritime Law Association of the United States. 

Representative admiralty matters include:

  • Secured recovery for a subrogated claimant from multiple limitation petitioners in a case that arose when a tug was towing a crane aboard a barge on the East River and the upright crane struck the Brooklyn Bridge.
  • Recouped monies for subrogated joint venture interests against a crane manufacturer and seller in litigation flowing from the Tappan Zee Bridge crane collapse of July 19, 2016.
  • Responsible for handling cargo claims arising from the 2015 Hurricane Joaquin sinking of the El Faro, a U.S. cargo ship heading from Florida to Puerto Rico with 33 lives lost, deemed the worst domestic maritime shipping disaster in over 35 years.
  • Successfully litigated Central America-Europe contamination claim for palm oil commodity broker against Charter Party shipowner.
  • Handled subrogation relating to capsizing of Seacor Power liftboat after it ventured out into stormy conditions on April 13, 2021, resulting in the deaths of 13 workers supporting offshore work on oil-producing platforms off the coast of Port Fourchon, Louisiana.
  • Represented subrogated carrier in the maritime arrest litigation and achieved a greater than 100% recovery of paid claim arising from the allision of the bulker Jalma Topic.
  • Successfully concluded a Rule C arrest and market subrogation litigation for property damage resulting from the collision of multipurpose ship Nomadic Milde and bulker Atlantic Venus on the Mississippi River.
  • Represented the subrogated insurer in federal litigation when the defendant failed to secure barges in advance of Hurricane Sandy, causing damage to seawall along the Passaic River, NJ.
  • Recovered payments for the insurer and a farm cooperative when a tugboat, M/V Wood, pushed barges that allided with a fertilizer facility along the Mississippi River in Palmyra, Mo.
  • Routinely represents international insurers in connection with multimillion-dollar yacht collisions and accidents in the Caribbean and Europe.
  • Prosecuted numerous property damage litigations both for and against yacht clubs in San Francisco and Antioch, Cal., and Mamaroneck, NY.

Robert also frequently handles Carmack inland marine transportation cases throughout the United States for clients regularly insuring domestic freight in interstate commerce. He has extensive experience handling transportation and storage damage to fine art and furniture owned by art collectors, on loan to museums and bought from auction houses and galleries. He has recovered for his clients for losses and damage to artwork created by artists and designers such as Anish Kapoor, Mary Corse, Kaws, Adam McEwen, Joan Patten, Sam Francis, Carlo Scarpa, and Yayoi Kusama, amongst others.

Robert also litigates commercial property and high net worth individual personal property matters in New York and New Jersey, handling matters for subrogation clients damaged in such high-profile NYC tragedies as the 1993 WTC Bombing, the 2006 Bartha mid-town explosion, the 2010 7-alarm fire in Chinatown, and the 2023 Ann Street parking garage collapse.

Robert earned a Bachelor of Science in foreign service from Georgetown University in 1995 and a law degree, cum laude, from the University of Minnesota Law School in 2000. Robert completed the Russian politics certificate program at Saint Petersburg Mining University in 1993 and the European Union Law certificate program at Uppsala University in 1999.



Robert Phelan Named Subrogation Community Leader for CLM

February 22, 2023

Cozen O’Connor is pleased to announce Robert W. Phelan, a member of the firm’s Subrogation & Recovery Department, has been named a Subrogation Community Leader for the Claims and Litigation Management Alliance (CLM).

Robert Phelan Receives Proctor in Admiralty Nomination by the Maritime Law Association of the United States

May 11, 2016

Robert W. Phelan, a member of Cozen O’Connor’s Subrogation & Recovery Department, received the nomination of Proctor in Admiralty by the Maritime Law Association of the United States (MLA).

Cozen O’Connor Names 17 Attorneys to Membership in the Firm

April 28, 2008

Cozen O’Connor has announced that 17 of its associates have been named members of the firm. ''We are extremely proud to welcome these highly qualified attorneys into membership in the firm,'' said Thomas A. Decker, president and chief executive officer of Cozen O'Connor, ''Their individual and combined contributions reflect the talent and strength of our firm.''


Does a Shipper Have a Duty to Procure Insurance when Shipping Artwork? [Alert]

February 22, 2023

Do shippers have a duty to procure insurance for damaged or lost property? This issue was recently raised in a case before the Southern District of New York.

Holiday Gift – Federal Maritime Recovery Law Updated After 170+ years [Alert]

December 27, 2022

Robert Phelan discusses the Small Passenger Vessel Liability Fairness Act and its potential impact on the insurance industry.

State Negligence Broker Liability Claims allowed by Supreme Court for Trucking Subrogation [Subrogation & Recovery Law Blog]

October 19, 2022

Frequently, freight brokers attempt to deny subrogation claims for cargo damaged in transit on a truck by arguing that they are accorded broker status and do not have the same strict liability as a “Motor Carrier” under The Carmack Amendment. However, a recent action by the United States...

Ocean and Inland Marine Claims – An Introduction for the Subro Professional [Subrogation & Recovery Law Blog]

January 18, 2022

COGSA, Carmack, Allisons, and Himalaya Clause.  These terms may not mean much for a traditional property subrogation professional, but if you are going to diversify into the world of ocean marine and inland marine subro, then these are a few of the many terms you will need to become familiar with....

Bailment Law in a New York Wonka Warehouse

September 09, 2019

A recent New York trial court level case, MBNY LLC v. Larkin Cold Storage Co., Inc., examined another loss within a different candy storage facility that has two implications for cargo/marine subrogation clients.

Events & Seminars

Past Events

NASP 2022 Annual Conference

November 06, 2022 - Marco Island, FL

Collisions and Allisions 101

December 03, 2020 - Webinar

Cranes and Artwork 101

November 15, 2019 - Webinar

Industry Sectors


  • University of Minnesota Law School, J.D., cum laude, 2000
  • Georgetown University, B.S.F.S., 1995
  • New Jersey
  • New York
  • U.S. District Court -- New Jersey
  • U.S. District Court -- Eastern District of New York
  • U.S. District Court -- Northern District of New York
  • U.S. District Court -- Southern District of New York
  • U.S. District Court -- Maryland
  • Maritime Law Association of the United States - Proctor in Admiralty
  • Claims and Litigation Management Alliance (CLM)

  • CLM, Subrogation Community Leader