Joel Varnell is Senior Counsel in Tyson & Mendes’ Denver office. His practice focuses on the defense of insurers in first party litigation arising out of claims for uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage benefits and bad faith claims handling.
Mr. Varnell has tried cases in the areas of premises liability, auto accident cases, first party insurance claims, professional liability cases, and others. During Mr. Varnell’s 20 years as the manager of the Farmers Insurance Branch Legal Office in Colorado, he supervised attorneys in approximately 400 jury trials. Mr. Varnell has represented parties and argued before the Colorado Supreme Court, Colorado Court of Appeals, and in federal courts. He has also submitted amicus curiae briefs to appellate courts for the Colorado Defense Lawyers Association on three occasions. He has served as an expert witness for seven different insurance companies in this area and has lectured on Colorado insurance bad faith law for the National Business Institute. Mr. Varnell also has extensive experience handling the defense of various types of personal injury cases, with first or second chair representation of defendants in approximately 50 jury trials and numerous trials to the court in state and federal courts and arbitrations. Mr. Varnell served as successful defense counsel in Boyle v. Bristol West Insurance Company, 2020 COA 102 (July 2, 2020), a matter arising out of a claim for underinsured motorist coverage benefits and alleged bad faith claims handling. He was co-counsel for Farmers Insurance in obtaining a defense verdict in a jury trial in Jefferson County District Court, State of Colorado, which defense verdict was subsequently upheld on appeal in Willis v. Farmers Insurance Exchange, 20 COA 667 (March 17, 2022, not selected for official publication). The Willis case also arose out of a claim for underinsured motorist coverage benefits and alleged bad faith claims handling. He has also served as counsel or co-counsel for Farmers Insurance and other insurers in resolving over 100 lawsuits with allegations of bad faith claims handling.
Mr. Varnell obtained his J.D. from the University of Denver in 1981. He has a B.S. in Business/Finance from Colorado State University, where he was honored with the Dave Gormely Award as the outstanding scholar-athlete in track and field in 1977-78. He attended Rice University on a track scholarship in 1974-75. He participated in the International Association of Insurance Counsel trial academy in 1986 and the Farmers Insurance Presidential Leadership Program in 2011. Mr. Varnell was awarded a lifetime achievement award from the Colorado Defense Lawyers Association in 2008, after serving on its board of directors for nine years.
In his free time, Mr. Varnell can be found on his mountain bike or his snowboard in the Colorado mountains. He is a persistent but frustrated golfer. He has recently begun writing children’s books featuring his grandchildren.