Robert “Chip” Birthisel

Robert “Chip” Birthisel




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Chip Birthisel is a founding partner in our Tampa office. He practices transportation and maritime law, personal injury and wrongful death defense, marine pollution, general liability defense, and insurance law. His practice includes international and domestic litigation and transactions. He is a retired Coast Guard officer, who spent his final years on active duty as a law specialist and trial attorney assigned to the U.S. Department of Justice, Aviation and Admiralty Litigation Section.

Chip represents a wide range of transportation, maritime, and general litigation clients, providing a myriad of services including litigation of maritime and land-based wrongful death and personal injury, maritime lien, bunker, P & I, cargo, and hull and machinery claims. He represents many of the world’s largest insurers and has provided coverage opinions and defense, and litigated declaratory judgment actions on behalf of numerous insurers. He also handles contractual matters (charters, bills of lading, sales, brokerage and finance agreements, concession agreements, franchise and license agreements, vehicle lease and purchase agreements, owner/operator agreements), from drafting to litigation.

His practice includes rendering advice on all marine regulatory matters, including coverage placement, flagging of vessels, classification society compliance, and U.S., flag state, and international (i.e. SOLAS, IMO, and Law of the Sea Conventions) regulatory compliance. In addition, he has provided counsel regarding the establishment of a variety of maritime businesses including cruise line operations, cargo lines, Ocean Transportation Intermediary licensing and compliance (VOCC, NVOCC, and Freight Forwarders), and marine and land-based terminal operations. He renders advice daily on compliance with U.S. Customs and Border Patrol, Coast Guard, Immigration, Federal Maritime Commission, National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, Environmental Protection Agency, and other international and domestic regulatory schemes.

Chip has represented and represents a variety of foreign entities and clients in international business transactions and litigation including clients in Japan, New Zealand, Australia, Mexico, Dominican Republic, Colombia, Panama, the Marshall Islands, England, Norway, Venezuela, Ireland, Korea, Costa Rica, Brazil, Honduras, the Philippines, most every island nation in the Caribbean, and Canada.


  • Florida, 1991
  • Virginia, 2001
  • U.S. District Court for the Southern, Middle, and Northern Districts of Florida
  • U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia
  • U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit and the Armed Forces
  • U.S. Court of International Trade
  • U.S. Supreme Court

Recognition & Memberships

Recognition & Published Opinions

  • AV Preeminent™ by Martindale-Hubbell®, the highest peer review rating possible
  • The Best Lawyers in America, Admiralty and Maritime Law, 2018
  • Florida Super Lawyer by Law & Politics, 2006 – 2009, 2013 – 2017
  • City of Riviera Beach v. That Certain Unnamed Gray, Two Story Vessel Approximately Fifty-Seven Feet In Length, 649 F.3d 1259 (11th Cir. 2011)
  • Lozman v. City of Riviera Beach, Fla., 133 S. Ct. 725 (2013)
  • Dann Marine Towing, L.C. v. McLean Contracting Co., 2010 WL 1486008 (E.D. Va. 2010)
  • Axis Reinsurance Co. v. Henley, 2009 WL 3416248 (N.D. Fla. 2009)
  • Axis Reinsurance Co. v. Resmondo, 2009 WL 1537903 (M.D. Fla. 2009)
  • Lewis v. JPI Corp., 2009 WL 3761984 (S.D. Fla. 2009)
  • Stromquist v. Ace American Ins. Co., 2011 WL 294421 (Fla. 2d DCA 2011)


  • Maritime Law Association, Proctor Member
  • Propeller Club of the United States
  • The Southeastern Admiralty Law Institute
  • Claims and Litigation Management Alliance (CLM)
  • American Institute of Marine Underwriters
  • Tampa Bay Mariners Club
  • Fort Lauderdale Mariners Club
  • Southeastern Admiralty Law Institute
  • Hillsborough County Bar Association


J.D., Cum Laude, University of Miami School of Law

M.S., The Johns Hopkins University

B.A., University of San Francisco


  • May 22, 2013, Speaker Tampa Bay Mariners Club Marine Industry Seminar “Recent Developments in Maritime Law”
  • May 14, 2013, Speaker International Underwriting Association of London Market Briefing “A Practical Primer for U.S. Federal and State Litigation”
  • April 30, 2013, Speaker Crawford & Co. Catastrophic Claims Conference “Avoiding and Defending Bad Faith Claims”
  • January 31, 2013, Speaker International Underwriting Association of London Market Briefing “Medicare – The Practical Impact of MSAs on General Liability Litigation
  • October 23, 2012, Speaker Fort Lauderdale Mariners Club Marine Seminar “Large Losses, a lot to think about”