Disciplined in Sophisticated Defense and Insurance Litigation

Ryan K. Hilton is a Partner who joined Butler in 2002. He is the co-chair of the Firm’s Aviation practice group, and focuses his practice on Third-Party Liability Coverage disputes. Ryan has extensive experience with coverage issues, particularly in auto, aviation, construction and trucking cases. He also has experience with choice-of-law issues that impact insurance coverage considerations. Ryan frequently provides guidance to insurance companies in handling pre-suit time-limit demands. He has also litigated coverage extensively in the federal courts and is an AV peer-rated attorney by Martindale-Hubbell.

A seasoned author, Ryan is published in numerous industry articles. He was awarded JD Supra's 2019 Readers' Choice Top Author Award for his writing and thought leadership on drones and aviation law and is a co-author of Butler on Drones Editions 1 and 2. Ryan is also an FAA- licensed pilot with an instrument rating which gives him first-hand insight into the world of aviation.

Ryan received his Bachelor of Science degree, magna cum laude, from Ball State University in 1996, graduating from the Honors College. He received his Juris Doctor degree, cum laude, from Stetson University College of Law. While at Stetson, Ryan served as a law clerk for the Honorable Paul Levine in the Sixth Judicial Circuit of Florida. Upon graduation, Ryan received the William F. Blews Pro Bono Service Award. After graduating from law school, Ryan worked as a staff attorney in the Thirteenth Judicial Circuit of Florida before joining our Tampa office.

Ryan is admitted to practice in all of the state and federal courts of Florida as well as the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals.


  • Florida


  • Ball State University
    Bachelor of Science
  • Stetson University
    Doctor of Jurisprudence


  • American Bar Association (ABA)
  • Drones: Regulations, Operations and Litigation Committee of the American Bar Association's Forum on Air and Space Law
  • Hillsborough County Bar Association (HCBA)
  • The Florida Bar


  • Florida Federal Courts (Middle District)
  • Florida Federal Courts (Northern District)
  • Florida Federal Courts (Southern District)
  • United States Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals


National Specialty Ins. Co. v. ABS Freight Transportation, Inc., et al., 91 F.Supp.3d 1258 (S.D. Fla. 2014) aff’d, 644 Fed. Appx. 900 (11th Cir. 2016)

St. Paul Fire & Marine Ins. Co. v. Cypress Fairway Condominium Assoc., Inc., et al., 114 F.Supp.3d 1231 (M.D. Fla. 2015)

Peak Property and Cas. Co. Ins. Corp. v. Ensslin, et al., Slip Copy, 2014 WL 2124270 (M.D. Fla. May 21, 2014)

Chartis Property & Cas. Co. v. Jassy, et al., Slip Copy, 2013 WL 5921541 (M.D. Fla. Nov. 4, 2013)

General Fidelity Ins. Co. v. Foster, et al., 808 F.Supp.2d 1315 (S.D. Fla. March 24, 2011)

Direct General Ins. Co. v. Vreeman, 943 So. 2d 914 (Fla. 1st DCA 2006)



March 12, 2020 PUBLICATIONNew Appleman Florida Insurance Law (2020 Edition)

The New Appleman Florida Insurance Law details a beginner's guide to insurance law all the way to rehabilitation and liquidation of funds...

Read More »
December 04, 2019 PUBLICATIONDrones: Just When You Thought It Was Safe to Cancel Your Pirate Insurance

So, what are the sorts of trouble that we should expect to see when bad actors get their hands on drones? Because bad actors are less likely to seek proper licensure before using their drones, the FAA’s gradualism in integrating drones into the national airspace has not slowed them down. 

Read More »
May 14, 2019 PUBLICATIONButler on Drones (Third Edition): A Practical Guide for Insurers

Drones – also known as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) or unmanned aircraft systems ( UAS ) – have left no industry unaffected, and the insurance industry is perhaps affected most of all. Unlike manned aircraft, whose risks are largely confined to the industry’s aviation sector...

Read More »

Drones – also known as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) or unmanned aircraft systems ( UAS ) – have left no industry unaffected, and the insurance industry is perhaps affected most of all. Unlike manned aircraft, whose risks are largely confined to the industry’s aviation sector, the affordability, versatility, and ubiquity of drones are bringing exposures to sectors of the insurance industry that were previously insulated from aviation risks. For these carriers especially, it is vitally important to acquaint themselves with this technology and the complex web of federal, state, and local laws that governs them. 

Request a copy of the EBook here.

Read More »
September 20, 2017 PUBLICATIONFlorida Insurance Litigation (2017 Edition)

LexisNexis Practice Guide: Florida Insurance Litigation provides the practitioner with immediate access to knowledge and strategy on every aspect of insurance practice in Florida. The publication concisely presents the terms, conditions and exclusions that govern coverage offered against the risks under each line of insurance. This approach provides a comprehensive exploration of key concepts, policy language and insight for litigation of common and esoteric disputes under those policies. Each chapter also provides task-oriented checklists, examples, strategic points, and cross-references to governing statutory and case law.

Read More »
January 03, 2017 PUBLICATIONIf you invade someone's privacy with a drone, your insurance might not cover it

Drones, also known as unmanned aerial vehicles or unmanned aerial systems, can be equipped with cameras, thermal scanners, license plate readers and facial-recognition software.

Read More »
November 28, 2016 PUBLICATIONThe Pitfalls Affecting Admission of Expert Bad Faith Testimony Under Daubert

Two recent federal cases highlight the challenges practitioners face in presenting expert claims handling testimony in bad faith litigation under the Daubert standard.  In the first case, a court excluded such expert testimony on behalf of the insurer. In the second, the same court excluded and restricted such testimony on behalf of the insured.

Read More »

As one of the nation’s most preeminent jurists put it, domestication of horses did not give rise to a “law of the horse,” and the rise of the Internet era did not give rise to a “law of cyberspace.”1 Likewise, the proliferation of drones will not give rise to a new area of law called “drone law.” What will happen instead is much more complex.

Read More »
February 22, 2016 PUBLICATIONFlying Witnesses: Admissibility of Drone-Gathered Evidence in Florida

If reported surveys are accurate, Americans are ambivalent about the potential consequences of operating drones in both the public and private sectors; however, mixed feelings do not seem to be slowing the growth in their ownership and use. It seems inevitable that trial courts will be called on to exclude or admit evidence that was gathered remotely. The following article explains the legal framework the Florida courts will use when ruling on drone-gathered evidence.

Read More »
September 22, 2014 PUBLICATIONCourts' Different Views On Additional Insureds' Duties Under Liability Policy Notice Provisions

Liability policies typically require the insured to provide prompt notice of a claim or suit. Notice is regarded as a condition precedent to the insurer's duty to defend or indemnify. The notice provisions in a typical liability policy seem straightforward. However, issues surrounding notice become complicated when an additional insured, who is typically not a party to the insurance contract and sometimes unnamed in a policy, is involved. Under those situations, courts have had to address, among other issues, the sophistication and resources of the additional insured, whether the additional insured is aware that coverage potentially exists or even that policies potentially exist, whether the jurisdiction requires the additional insured to actually tender the claim or suit or whether another insured's tender of the claim or suit is sufficient and whether there was late notice or no notice at all by the additional insured. Different jurisdictions have reached different results. 

Read More »
April 25, 2014 PUBLICATIONAn Insurance Carrier's Good Faith Obligations Toward Its Insureds In Liability Settlements Where Not All Of the Insureds Are Released

Generally, liability insurers must secure a release of all of their insureds when settling claims against their insureds. However, some courts have recognized circumstances where an insurer may settle for an insured at the exclusion of another while still maintaining its good faith duties toward all of its insureds. Other courts have seemingly rejected the notion that an insurer can ever settle for one of its insureds at the exclusion of others. These release issues occur most prevalently in automobile accidents involving insured owners and additional insured drivers.  

Read More »
September 26, 2013 PUBLICATIONSome Considerations In Addressing Time-Limit Demands

Liability insurance carriers should be prompt and proactive when they receive a time-limit demand from a claimant. Time is usually not on the carrier's side when it comes to these settlement communications.

Read More »
July 25, 2013 PUBLICATIONAn Insurer's Liability For A Hospital Lien After Settlement Of A Claim That Impairs The Lien

Over forty states have hospital lien laws. Those laws typically allow hospitals to recover against parties, including insurers, who impair their liens. In many states, the hospital lien laws do not clearly identify the type and extent of damages a hospital can recover against a party who impairs a hospital lien. The damages a hospital can recover from a party who impairs a lien depends upon the language of the applicable hospital lien law and the courts' interpretations of that law. Results vary from state to state. 

Read More »
March 22, 2012 PUBLICATIONA Liability Insurer's (Almost Absolute) Right To Settle Claims Without The Insured's Consent

Many cases hold that a liability insurer can settle a claim against its insured without the insured’s consent because the policy language gives an insurer the right to settle even when an insured may not want to settle.1 For the most part, courts in California, Florida, and Louisiana allow insurers to settle claims without the insured’s consent where the policy gives the insurer the right to settle as it deems expedient. However, courts may nonetheless consider whether a settlement may have adversely impacted the insured to determine whether an insurer acted in good faith.

Read More »
January 30, 2012 PUBLICATIONBest Laid Plans: How the Definition of "Occurrence" in CGL Cases Continues To Change

Some courts have held that faulty workmanship or improper construction is not an "occurrence" because it is not an "accident." Other courts have held that defective construction may constitute an "occurrence" when "property damage" results from the "unexpected, unforeseen, or undesigned happening or consequence" of the insured's negligent behavior. Yet other courts have held that defective construction itself is not an "occurrence," but any damage resulting from defective construction may be an "occurrence" even if it is damage to the insured's project.

Read More »
June 23, 2011 PUBLICATIONChoice-Of-Law Principles Affecting Insurance Bad-Faith Claims

[R. Steven Rawls is a partner and Ryan K. Hilton is a senior associate with the law firm of Butler Weihmuller Katz Craig LLP, which has offices in Tampa, Chicago, Charlotte, Mobile, Tallahassee, and Miami. This commentary expresses the author's opinions–not the opinions of Butler or Mealey's. Copyright © 2011 by R. Steven Rawls and Ryan K. Hilton. Responses are welcome.] 

Read More »
August 26, 2010 PUBLICATIONChinese-Drywall Cases And Their Impact On Liability-Insurance Carriers In Settling Multiple Claims In Good Faith Against Their Insureds In Certain State Courts

This is one of a series of articles originally published in Mealey's Litigation Report: Insurance Bad Faith, Vol. 24, #8 (August 26, 2010). © 2010  

[Editor's Note: Steve Rawls is a partner and Ryan K. Hilton is a senior associate with the law firm of Butler Weihmuller Katz Craig LLP in Tampa, Florida. Any commentary or opinions do not reflect the opinions of Butler or Mealey's Publications. Copyright © 2010 by R. Steve Rawls and Ryan K. Hilton. Responses are welcome.]

Read More »
October 22, 2009 PUBLICATIONDoes An Insured Owe A Duty Of Good Faith To Its Insurer When The Insured Is Responsible For Defense Costs In A Self-Insured Retention?

Many businesses are increasingly utilizing insurance policies with large self-insured retention endorsements in order to exercise better control over the defense of claims. In these circumstances, an issue may arise regarding whether an insured who is responsible for defense costs under a self-insured retention ("SIR") owes a duty of good faith to its insurer.

Read More »
November 16, 2004 PUBLICATIONHospital Lien Laws and Personal Injury Settlements

Many jurisdictions have hospital lien laws. These laws ensure payment to hospitals for the beneficial services they provide. Some jurisdictions liberally interpret these laws so that technical deficiencies in establishing or seeking enforcement do not defeat payment to the hospitals. Other jurisdictions are less likely to ignore such deficiencies.

Read More »
January 21, 2004 PUBLICATIONDo Liability Insurers Have A Duty To Make An Offer Where There Is No Claim Against The Insured?

A liability insurer has a duty to handle and settle claims made against its insured in good faith. Courts have grappled with whether this duty requires an insurer to make a settlement offer when there is no claim against the insured.

Read More »

Blog Posts

July 28, 2020 BLOG POST"Common Sense" Conquers "Creative Pleading," as the Eleventh Circuit Applies Narrow Exception to Florida's "Four-Corners" Rule to Prevent Plaintiff from "Pleading into Coverage"

On July 23, 2020, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals, applying Florida law, looked beyond an operative complaint to relieve an insurer of its duty to defend in BBG Design Build, LLC v. Southern Owners Insurance Company...

Read More »
January 15, 2019 BLOG POSTThe Federal Aviation Authority Reauthorization Act of 2018 and Its Effect on Drones

The Federal Aviation Authority (“FAA”) Reauthorization Act of 2018 (the “Act”) was signed into law on October 5, 2018, by President Donald Trump. The Act was the first five-year FAA reauthorization since 1982.  Such reauthorizations provide the FAA with guaranteed funding for the next five years. The Act contains a plethora of supplementary provisions in addition to the provisions regarding the authorized funding of the FAA.  The Act can be broken down into five areas: (1) funding authorizations; (2) airline customer service; (3) aviation safety; (4) airports; and (5) unmanned aviation systems (“UAS”), also known as drones.

Read More »
December 14, 2018 BLOG POSTDrone Accident Excluded Under CGL Policy's Aircraft Exclusion

In the most recent edition of our book, Butler on Drones, we reported that ISO has issued specific exclusions for unmanned aircraft for inclusion into CGL policies, but it was an open question whether a CGL policy’s standard aircraft exclusion already excluded coverage for liability arising from the use of a drone. A California federal district court has now weighed in on the question – the first to do so, as far as we are aware. And we like the answer.

Read More »
January 05, 2018 BLOG POSTFAA Releases Drone Identification and Tracking Report that the FAA Will Consider in Drafting its Final Rule on In-Flight Drone Accountability

Law enforcement agencies want accountability when it comes to drone flights, especially when those flights are over people. Enabling a drone and its owner/operator to be quickly identified by law enforcement is necessary toward the expansion of the authorized use of drones to include flights over people and beyond the line of sight as well as the safe integration of drones in the national Airspace System. The Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Identification and Tracking Aviation Rulemaking Committee (ARC) chartered by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) submitted its report and recommendations to the FAA on technologies available to identify and track drones in flight and other associated issues.

Read More »
January 05, 2018 BLOG POSTRecreational Drone Registration Requirement Has Returned

Back on December 21, 2015, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) required drone owners to register their drones if their drones weighed more than 0.55 pounds and less than 55 pounds (small drones). The registration was valid for three years.  Basically, anyone who possessed a drone for recreational use had to pay $5.00 to register their drone online with the FAA.  Following that requirement, over 820,000 drone owners had registered their drones. However, in May 2017, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals struck down that requirement, finding that the FAA violated its own rule found in the 2012 FAA Modernization and Reform Act that prohibits the FAA from promulgating any rules or regulations regarding model aircraft in Taylor v. Huerta, 856 F.2d 1089, 1090 (D.C. Cir. 2017). After the Taylor decision, the FAA created a form through which registrants could remove themselves from the registry list and request a refund of their $5.00 registration fee they had paid.

Read More »

The Federal Aviation Administration’s (“FAA’s”) authority to institute airspace restrictions derives from 14 CFR § 99.7, “Special Security Instructions,” which is intended to address national security concerns from the Department of Defense and U.S. Federal security and intelligence agencies. 

Read More »


October 25, 2010 EVENTChinese Drywall Litigation and Coverage Conference

Chinese Drywall Litigation and Coverage Conference

Read More »


March 27, 2019 NEWSRyan Hilton for JD Supra's 2019 Readers' Choice Awards

Congratulations to Ryan Hilton for being recognized as a Top Author in JD Supra's Readers' Choice Awards!

Read More »
February 17, 2017 NEWSDrone Insurance: Because You Will Crash Your Drone

Ryan Hilton and James Shaw, Jr., Partners at Butler Weihmuller Katz Craig, were featured in NerdWallet.com’s latest article written by Barbara Marquand, “Drone Insurance: Because You Will Crash Your Drone.” Be sure to read the article as Hilton and Shaw explain why it is important to check with your insurer about coverage for your drone, and why renters or home insurance doesn’t cover drones in certain instances.

Read More »