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Karen Waters Shields


An experienced and skilled advocate in and out of state and federal court, Karen Waters Shields brings a deep bench of honed skills to litigating, arbitrating, defending, and prosecuting a wide variety of admiralty and oil and gas casualty, personal injury, and property damage claims, as well as contract and breach of contract claims. Admitted to practice before the U.S. Supreme Court, Karen has a proven history of successful outcomes in resolving high-stakes personal claims and disputes.

Karen advises on Jones Act claims, General Maritime Law claims, and claims involving onshore and offshore Gulf of Mexico oil and gas exploration. She has handled and resolved lawsuits involving crane accidents, diving incidents, drilling rigs, vessels, platform explosions, well blowouts, oil and gas reservoir damage, vessel collisions and allisions, pipeline damage, vessel damage, platform damage, and barge damage.

In addition to her extensive and formidable litigation and dispute resolution practice, Karen drafts, reviews, and – if necessary – litigates various maritime and oil and gas commercial contracts. She has successfully negotiated, documented, and litigated a wide array of contracts and breach of contract claims, including charter agreements, master service agreements, contracts of affreightment, demurrage claims, and royalty and operating agreements. Moreover, Karen advises on and brings considerable skill to handling matters involving construction law, including construction defects, as well as matters involving product liability, consumer credit reporting, gaming industry claims, and general workplace personal injury.

The ultimate collaborator, Karen thrives on helping clients and colleagues find novel solutions to serious problems. On attack or defense, in and out of court, in tactical negotiation, at trial, or on appeal, Karen is all about devising the right strategy so that her clients realize the most favorable outcomes imaginable. Her authenticity is often a major component in establishing trust with everyone around her. And authenticity is one of her superpowers. Karen connects with clients on a personal level to understand what they are looking for and their tolerance for risk. She delivers straightforward advice, and her authenticity and straight-talk nature result in the highest levels of collaboration and effectiveness.

A smart and practical advocate who believes every client and matter is unique, Karen delivers customized legal solutions and strategies that address and overcome even the grayest area legal problems and complex disputes. She thrives in making novel arguments grounded in sound legal theory, which has resulted in a plethora of important, reported cases during her decades of practice. Karen proves, repeatedly, her natural ability to engage with people – whether the court, opposing counsel, witnesses, deponents, or others. She is particularly effective when de-escalating acrimony because that is often essential to realizing her client’s best outcome. 

Representative Experience
  • Representation of the second largest natural gas producer in the United States in cases arising from a blowout of one of its land wells in Louisiana, including reservoir and well damage claims and the successful prosecution of breach of contract and gross negligence claims against the wellhead contractor; after a two-week trial, the court awarded nearly $10 million in damages to her client
  • Representation of Louisiana-based towboat operators and barge owners in the defense of property damage claims and personal injury claims under the Jones Act and the General Maritime Law
  • Representation of offshore oil and gas platforms, drilling rigs, land-based well owners, drillers, and operators in the defense of personal injury claims and in the defense and prosecution of property damage and other claims associated with well blowouts, explosions, platform damage, royalty claims, operating disputes, reservoir damage, vessel allisions, diving incidents, personnel basket transfers, and other issues, such as the analysis of defense and indemnity and other issues under relevant contracts
  • Representation of marine and energy companies, including docking and operating facilities on the Mississippi River and other waterways involving significant catastrophes resulting from pipeline ruptures, barge breakaways, vessel collisions, and vessel allisions
  • Representation of industrial companies reliant upon the international shipping of products and materials for their business regarding hurricane-related delays and damages, including force majeure analyses under charter and affreightment contracts and maritime arbitrations related to the same 
  • Representation of a national commercial charterer in disputes arising out of contracts of affreightment, including demurrage disputes and force majeure defenses, as well as the negotiation, mediation, and arbitration of contractual disputes
  • Representation of sub-contractors in both residential and large commercial construction defect litigation and contractual disputes, including the successful arbitration of the same
  • Representation of clients in matters involving alleged damages to oyster beds and leases
  • Representation of entertainment and gaming industry clients in the defense of negligence, premises liability, and vicarious liability claims
  • Representation of an entertainment and gaming industry client in the defense of an alleged sexual assault claim in a parking garage
  • Representation of a Consumer Credit Reporting Agency in the defense of Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) litigation by consumers

  • Tulane University Law School, J.D., cum laude, 1998
    • Certificate of Specialization in Admiralty Law
  • Emory University, B.A., 1993

  • Louisiana
  • New York
  • New Jersey
  • United States District Courts for the Eastern, Middle and Western Districts of Louisiana
  • United States Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit
  • United States Supreme Court
  • Certificate of Specialization in Admiralty Law, Tulane University Law School
  • Member, American Bar Association
  • Member, Federal Bar Association—National and New Orleans Chapter
  • Member, Board of Directors, Federal Bar Association New Orleans Chapter
  • Member, Louisiana State Bar Association
  • Member, New Jersey State Bar Association
  • Member, New York State Bar Association
  • Member, Women’s Energy Network, Southeast Louisiana Chapter
  • Member, Women’s International Shipping & Trading Association
  • Member, Maritime Law Association
Articles, Publications and Presentations
  • AV-rated, Martindale-Hubbell
  • "Port and Maritime Power 20," New Orleans CityBusiness, 2024
  • "Super Lawyer," Louisiana Super Lawyers, 2018, 2019, 2023, 2024
  • "Bar Register of Preeminent Women Lawyers," Martindale Hubbell, 2013
  • "Women of the Year," New Orleans CityBusiness, 2012
  • "Leadership in Law," New Orleans CityBusiness, 2011
Community Service
  • Pro Bono Counsel, Homeless Help Program, Federal Court (Judge Zainey)
  • Board of Directors, Lighthouse for the Blind of New Orleans, 2007-2010
  • Board of Directors, New Orleans Chapter of the Federal Bar Association, 2022 to present
Reported Cases
  • Certain Underwriters at Lloyds, London v. Cox Operating, 83 F.4th 998 (5th Cir. 2023)
  • Broussard v. Gulf Offshore Logistics, LLC, No. CV 22-890, 2023 WL 2994777, (E.D. La. Apr. 18, 2023)
  • Champion v. Cox Operating, L.L.C., No. CV 19-12056, 2021 WL 823066, (E.D. La. Mar.4, 2021)
  • Clovelly Oil Co., LLC v. BTB Ref., LLC, 420 F. Supp. 3d.498 (E.D. La. 2019)
  • Alexander v. Kevin Gros Consulting & Marine Servs., Inc., No. CV 14-1273, 2016 WL 430413, (E.D. La. Feb. 4, 2016)
  • Clovelly Oil Co., LLC v. BTB Ref., LLC, No. CV 17-14435, 2019 WL 4777484 (E.D. La. Sept. 16, 2019) 
  • King v. RC Offshore, L.L.C., No. CV 14-2404, 2016 WL 558369, (E.D. La. Feb. 12, 2016)
  • Perise v. Eni Petroleum, U.S., L.L.C., No. 14–99, 2014 WL 4929239, (M.D. La. 10/1/14)
  • Riley v. Llog Exploration Co. LLC, No. 14-437, 2014 WL 4345002, (E.D. La. 8/ 28/14)
  • Baloney v. Ensco Offshore Co., 570 Fed. Appx. 423 (5th Cir. 2014)
  • Hardy v. Wood Grp. PSN, Inc., No. 6:13-CV-00775, 2014 WL 1664236, at *1 (W.D. La. Apr. 25, 2014)
  • Carrigan v. M/V AMC Ambassador, No. 13-03208, 2014 WL 358353 (S.D.Tex. 1/31/14)
  • Howell v. Avante Servs., LLC, No. 12-293, 2013 WL 1907474 (E.D. La. 5/8/13)
  • Punch v. Chevron USA, Inc., No. 12–388, 2012 WL 5289379 (E.D. La. 10/24/12)
  • Sherman v. Mantle Oil & Gas, LLC, 2011 WL 130240, (E.D. La., 01/14/11) (NO. CIV. A. 10-2774)
  • Allemand v. Appache Corp., 2011 WL 93747, (E.D. La., 01/05/11) (NO. CIV. A. 09-7502)
  • Nase v. TECO Energy, Inc., 2010 WL 924290, (E.D.La., 03/09/10) (NO. CIV. A. 09-7659)
  • Cardinal Towing, Inc. v. Cooper/T. Smith Corp., 2007 WL 3172123, (E.D.La., 10/29/07) (NO. CIV. A. 06-10829)
  • In re Omega Protein, Inc., 2007 WL 404695, (W.D.La., 2/2/07)(NO. 2:04-CV-2071)
  • In re Omega Protein, Inc., 2007 WL 165494, (W.D.La., 1/17/07)(NO. 2:04-CV-2071)
  • Sekco Operating Co. v. Aspect Energy, L.L.C., 2006 WL 1328824, (E.D. La., 5/9/06) (NO. CIV. A. 04-3149)
  • El Paso Production GOM, Inc. v. Smith, 406 F. Supp.2d 671, 2005 A.M.C. 2932, (E.D.La., 10/14/05) (NO.CIV. A. 05-1303)
  • Simmons Marine, LLC v. Enervest Operating, LLC, 2005 WL 2050283, (E.D. La., 08/03/05) (NO.CIV.A. 05-1303)
  • Quality Marine Services, Inc., Limitation Proceedings, M/V Mr. Jason, 2005 AMC 1438 (2005)
  • Kennedy v. Chase Manhattan Bank USA, NA, 369 F.3d 833 (5th Cir.), cert. denied, 543 U.S. 995 (2004)
Martindale Hubbell Peer Review Rated
CityBusiness Leadership in Law
CityBusiness - Leadership in Law
Super Lawyers
Karen Waters Shipman
Rated by Super Lawyers

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