Donald R. Kunz, Attorney


Donald Kunz Lawyer

Donald R. Kunz update listing

Other, Litigation, Employment, Bad Faith Insurance, General Practice


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Mr. Kunz is in the 51st year of a vigorous and varied trial practice. Currently, Mr. Kunz devotes his extensive experience largely to matters involving insurance coverage (counseling and litigation) and issues of insurer bad faith (again, counseling and litigation). Additionally, at the request of casualty insurers Mr. Kunz is sometimes asked to assume the defense of a particularly difficult case, and, on occasion, to handle the appeal of an adverse result experienced by a lawyer other than himself or his firm. At the request of old friends at the Bar, Mr. Kunz also handles the defense of legal malpractice litigation for his friends or their law firms. Mr. Kunz is one of the few lawyers in the United States who has ever tried and/or appealed an "APEX" case (the kind of tangled litigation which arises under the mining laws of the Western United States). Beyond the foregoing, Mr. Kunz is looked upon by his peers as being a lawyer who is pre-eminent in the field of legal ethics; in that connection, Mr. Kunz was recently named by the State Bar of Arizona as a lawyer who "exemplifies professionalism."

Mr. Kunz is a Fellow in the International Academy of Trial Lawyers, a Founding Member of the Arizona Association of Defense Counsel, a Founding Fellow of the Arizona Bar Foundation, and he has recently completed two terms of office as a member of the Peer Review Committee of the State Bar of Arizona. On the judicial side, at the request of the Arizona Supreme Court he has on two occasions served as a Judge Pro Tempore in the Arizona Court of Appeals, Division I; see, for example, his opinion for the Court of Appeals in the case of State Farm Mutual Auto Ins. Co. v. Janssen, 154 Ariz. 386, 742 P.2d 1372 (1987).

Mr. Kunz is senior shareholder at Bess Kunz. He began his legal career in Phoenix as a "general practitioner" in 1955, and as such he initially was involved in "everything from abatement to zoning." Soon thereafter, however, Mr. Kunz began to devote his practice to civil litigation. As matters developed, much of that litigation involved the development, in Arizona, of first-party insurer bad faith. Thus, in 1978 Mr. Kunz began handling his first action brought against an insurer on a first-party basis, which was before Arizona law had even recognized the validity of such a claim. That case, and other subsequent cases, are still among those most-cited in Arizona respecting insurer bad faith. See the seminal cases of Borland v. Safeco Ins. Co. of America, 147 Ariz. 195, 709 P.2d 552 (1985); Trus-Joist Corp. v. Safeco Ins. Co. of America, 152 Ariz. 95, 735 P.2d 125 (1986); and Massachusetts Casualty Ins. Co. v. Nystrom, 148 Ariz. 208, 713 P.2d 1266 (1986). Mr. Kunz was also counsel for the prevailing party (his daughter) in Gatecliff v. Great Republic Life Ins. Co., 154 Ariz. 502, 744 P.2d 29 (App. 1987) and Gatecliff v. Great Republic Life Ins. Co., 170 Ariz. 34, 821 P.2d 725 (1991). In Borland, Mr. Kunz anticipated the rule, later declared by Arizona's Courts, that "something more" than bad faith was required to underlie an award of punitive damages. More recently, in deposition testimony given by him as an expert witness in a high-profile bad faith case against a major insurer, Mr. Kunz anticipated many of the rules recently laid down by the United States Supreme Court in Campbell v. State Farm Mutual Auto Ins. Co. Mr. Kunz has represented or counseled with numerous insurers with respect to the avoidance of claims of bad faith, including opinions of coverage or non-coverage and the related issue of "potential" for coverage (which in Arizona governs "duty to defend"), and the meeting and defeating, if necessary, of litigated claims for bad faith. Because Mr. Kunz has historically handled his own appeals, he has represented both appellants and appellees in bad faith litigation in all of the Appellate Courts of the State of Arizona and in the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

Mr. Kunz has been lead counsel in numerous trials of many other types, both bench and jury, in literally every county in the State of Arizona, in Arizona's Court of Appeals, Divisions 1 and 2, and in the Arizona Supreme Court. The same thing has been true in the Trial and Appellate Courts of the Arizona Federal Judiciary. He has been on appeal more than a hundred times, including appeals to the Supreme Court of the State of Arizona, the Supreme Court of the State of Idaho, and the Supreme Court of the State of Wyoming.

Mr. Kunz has been retained as an expert witness and he has been deposed in the areas of insurance coverage, bad faith, and damages. During his more than 50 years at the Bar, Mr. Kunz has trained many lawyers who were then "young lawyers" and who are now highly successful lawyers (or Judges) and who call Mr. Kunz their "mentor." Numerous lawyers seek the counsel of Mr. Kunz in connection with difficult matters, following their perception that Mr. Kunz is a "dean" among Arizona trial lawyers. Due to his combination of extensive experience in both matters of coverage and bad faith, Mr. Kunz has been called "pre-eminent" as an expert in those fields by a respected peer. Mr. Kunz has also been a testifying expert witness in litigation alleging legal malpractice and the violation of legal ethics.

Mr. Kunz is also a highly sought-after and much-publicized public speaker. His engagements have included well-attended lectures at the University of Arizona in Tucson, Arizona, and at Arizona State University in Tempe, Arizona. Following a practice adopted years ago, he does not speak on subjects involving the law practice but on those involving the liberal arts, particularly those involving history, philosophy, literature, and his long-term love of the English language.

Mr. Kunz and his wife of 38 years, Edith, maintain homes both in Phoenix and in Paris, France. From the latter location Mr. Kunz practices law electronically (as his secretary says "Mr. Kunz does not go on vacation; he simply changes his workplace"). Mr. Kunz has an unusual avocation, which is the archaeology of Ancient Egypt. Over the past 25 years he has been an active participant in organized digs on the Giza Plateau (Great Pyramids) under the auspices of Harvard University and the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago; Luxor, Egypt (Valley of the Kings), under the auspices of the University of California at Berkeley, American University in Cairo, and the University of Arizona Egyptian Expedition; and the site of Ancient Carthage in North Africa, under the auspices of the University of Georgia at Athens and the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor. He has recently completed his second stint as a member of the Board of Governors of the American Research Center in Egypt, with offices in Cairo and at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia.

Position Organization Location Duration
School Degree Major Graduation
James E. Rogers College of Law, University of ArizonaJ.D. Law SchoolN/A  
University of Iowa B.A.
State / Court Date
  • Trus-Joist Corp. v. Safeco Ins. Co. of America 1986

  • Massachusetts Casualty Ins. Co. v. Nystrom 1986

  • Gatecliff v. Great Republic Life Ins. Co. 1991

  • Gatecliff v. Great Republic Life Ins. Co. 1987

  • Campbell v. State Farm Mutual Auto Ins. Co

  • Borland v. Safeco Ins. Co. of America 1985

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Donald R. Kunz
Suite 1500, North Central Avenue
Phoenix, AZ 85020
33.571091,-112.051362

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Suite 1500, North Central Avenue
Phoenix, AZ 85020


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