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Civil defense litigator

John Cowden

Senior Counsel in Kansas City

John Cowden is a locally and nationally recognized litigator and trial lawyer who has obtained successful results in hundreds of cases for his clients. Having defended claims in numerous major jury trials in various states, he has been selected as a “Dean of the Trial Bar” in the Kansas City area. John served on the firm’s Executive Committee from 1990-2013 and was its co-chair from 2014-2020.

John is ranked in Chambers USA for General Commercial Litigation and has been selected by his peers for inclusion in The Best Lawyers in America®, Kansas City Metropolitan Area, for his work in Aviation Law, Bet-the-Company Litigation, Commercial Litigation, Mass Tort Litigation / Class Actions - Defendants, and Product Liability Litigation – Defendants. Best Lawyers named John the 2022 Kansas City Lawyer of the Year for Aviation Law.

Although he relishes the challenge and drama of the courtroom, his greatest satisfaction comes from achieving a good outcome for the client at an early stage for a reasonable cost.

Examples of cases handled within the last several years include:

  • Jointly defended hospital supply manufacturer in federal court antitrust case resulting in summary judgment in favor of client—affirmed on appeal.
  • Obtained appellate reversal of a jury verdict against an automobile manufacturer in a class action involving alleged product defects.
  • Obtained dismissal of an aircraft parts supplier with no payment in a product liability wrongful death case in Missouri.
  • Obtained dismissal of aircraft engine manufacturer with no payment in a product liability wrongful death case in Missouri.
  • Defense of aerospace industry manufacturer in wrongful death action in New Jersey.
  • Defense of claims against major commercial airlines in federal and state court.
  • Defense of aircraft engine manufacturer in series of wrongful death cases arising from crash in central Kansas.
  • Representation of international automobile manufacturer and seller in series of consumer fraud actions in Missouri and Kansas.


  • Missouri
  • U.S. Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit
  • U.S. Court of Appeals, Tenth Circuit
  • USDC, Western District of Missouri
  • USDC, District of Kansas
  • USDC, Eastern District of Missouri
  • Supreme Court of the United States


  • University of Missouri-Columbia School of Law, J.D.
  • Missouri State University, B.A.

Memberships & Activities

  • American Board of Trial Advocates
    • Past President, Chapter of Western Missouri/Eastern Kansas
  • American College of Trial Lawyers, Fellow
  • Defense Counsel Trial Academy, Faculty Member
  • Former Assistant Attorney General of State of Missouri
  • Kansas City Metropolitan Bar Association
    • Former Chair of Federal Courts Committee
  • Missouri Bar
    • Former Vice Chair, Federal Courts Committee and Vice Chair, Torts Committee
  • Missouri Organization of Defense Lawyers
    • Former Chair of Product Liability Committee
  • Ross T. Roberts Inn of Court, Master
  • Trial Attorneys of America

Awards & Recognition

  • Martindale-Hubbell AV® Preeminent Peer Review Rated
  • International Who's Who of Product Liability Defence Lawyers
  • Chambers USA (General Commercial Litigation - Kansas City & Surrounds), 2008-present
  • Missouri & Kansas Super Lawyers®, 2005-present
    • Top 50 Kansas City Attorney (2005-2009, 2011-2012, 2014)
    • Top 100 Kansas City Attorney (2005-2016)
  • The Best Lawyers in America® , Kansas City Metropolitan Area, 2012-present
    • Bet-the-Company Litigation "Lawyer of the Year" (2022)
    • Mass Tort Litigation / Class Actions – Defendants "Lawyer of the Year" (2022)
    • Product Liability Litigation – Defendants “Lawyer of the Year” (2017)
    • Commercial Litigation (2012-present)
    • Product Liability Litigation – Defendants (2013-present)
    • Aviation Law (2014-present)
    • Bet-the-Company Litigation (2017-present)
    • Mass Tort Litigation/Class Actions – Defendants (2018-present)
  • Missouri Lawyers Media Inaugural ICON Award, 2018
  • Kansas City Business Journal Best of the Bar Award, 2006 and 2017
  • Kansas City Metropolitan Bar Association Dean of the Trial Bar Award, 2010
  • Kansas City Missouri Bar Congenial Counselor Award, 2008
  • University of Missouri at Columbia School of Law Order of Barristers Honorary Initiate, 2006


  • Approved outside mediator for the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri MAP program.


  • Contributing author: Consumer Fraud 50 State Survey (Missouri Law), Product Liability Advisory Council
  • Contributing author: Compendium of Product Liability Law Issues (Missouri Law), ALFA International Product Liability Practice Group
  • Why General Jurisdiction Requires a More Specific Standard, International Association of Defense Counsel, Aviation & Space Law Committee Newsletter
  • The Air Carrier Access Act: A Case Study, International Association of Defense Counsel, Aviation & Space Law Committee Newsletter
  • Protective Orders: Ten Commandments for the Defense, International Association of Defense Counsel, Aviation Newsletter


  • IADC Trial Academy, Colorado Springs, Colorado
  • Ten Commandments on the Use of Protective Orders, West Palm Beach, Florida
  • Ethical Considerations in Class Action Settlements, Product Liability Advisory Council, Orlando, Florida
  • Alternative Dispute Resolution, Defense Perspective, Kiawah Island, South Carolina
  • Federal Preemption, International Association of Defense Counsel, Greenbrier, West Virginia
  • Affirmative Defenses in Sports Related Cases, International Association of Defense Council, LaQuinta, California
  • Affirmative Use of NTSB Reports, International Association of Defense Counsel, Aviation Committee, Monterey, California
  • Use of Suicide Defense, Defense Research Institute, San Diego, California
  • Panel Discussion on the Role of Insurer, Insured and Outside Counsel, Defense Research Institute, New Orleans, Louisiana
  • E-Discovery, National Electrical Manufacturers Association Conference, Chicago, Illinois
  • Trial Counsel Duties in E-Discovery, Palm Desert Springs, California
  • Lessons Learned in the Courtroom, ALFA International Product Liability Seminar, Nashville, Tennessee
  • Master's In Trial Demonstration, American Board of Trial Advocates, Kansas City, Missouri
  • The Trial of a Products Liability Lawsuit, Kansas City, Missouri
  • The Trial of a Products Liability Lawsuit, St. Louis, Missouri
  • How to Try a Civil Lawsuit, Kansas City, Missouri
  • Proper Use of Jury Instructions, Federal Court Seminar, Kansas City, Missouri
  • Utilization of Local Rules, Federal Court Seminar, Kansas City, Missouri
  • Jury Innovations, District Court en banc, Kansas City, Missouri
  • Jury Innovations, District Court en banc, St. Louis, Missouri
  • The New "But For" Causation Rule in Missouri, Kansas City, Missouri
  • The New Comparative Fault Rule in Missouri, Missouri Bar, Springfield, Missouri
  • Missouri Evidence Restated (Relevancy - 401, 402), Kansas City, Missouri
  • Missouri Evidence Restated (Relevancy - 401, 402), Columbia, Missouri
  • The New Federal Local Rules, UMC Law School, Columbia, Missouri
  • The Economic Impact of Civil Litigation, UMKC School of Law, Kansas City, Missouri

News & Events


Baker Sterchi Obtains No-Payment Dismissal in Wrongful Death Plane Crash for Aircraft Component Part Manufacturer

In this Lawrence County, Missouri wrongful death airplane crash action, plaintiff's allegations of failure to warn, breach of express warranty and breach of implied warranty against our aircraft component part manufacturing client were rejected by the court in favor of BSCR's argument that the statute of limitations had expired and plaintiff had failed to state a claim, resulting in a no-payment dismissal of the action.

Missouri Court of Appeals reverses trial court, ruling in favor of Baker Sterchi's automotive client, and ordering judgment notwithstanding verdict

In a class action brought by plaintiffs in Missouri state court, alleging certain vehicles had defective dashboards, and that our automotive client misrepresented the vehicles to consumers, the Circuit Court of Jackson County originally certified a Missouri class, for claims under the Missouri Merchandising Practices Act and breach of express warranty and implied warranty.

Dismissal Obtained for Component Part Manufacturer in Commercial Airline Crash Case

In this action, survivors of a commercial airline crash in Chile filed numerous claims in the United States District Court for the District of Kansas for physical and emotional damages alleging the crash was caused by a defective deicing system. BSCR obtained a dismissal of all claims against our client, a deicing component part manufacturer, following minimal discovery and mediation with no payment by our client.

Summary Judgment Entered In Favor of Baker Sterchi Insurance Client

BSCR obtained summary judgment in the Circuit Court of Jackson County, Missouri in a $1 million declaratory judgment and equitable contribution action brought against an insurance client (the professional liability E&O insurer for an elevator inspector whose negligent inspection of a grain mill manlift resulted in the death of a firefighter) by another insurer (the CGL insurer for the elevator inspector). The summary judgment in favor of our client was affirmed on appeal.

Dismissal Obtained for Component Part Manufacturer in Airplane Crash Case

In this Baltimore County, Maryland action plaintiffs alleged an avionics product caused the crash of a single engine aircraft resulting in multiple deaths. BSCR obtained a no payment dismissal of all claims against our client, an aircraft component part manufacturer, before the close of discovery.

Favorable Settlement Negotiated for Engine Manufacturing Client in Wrongful Death Plane Crash Case

A favorable settlement was obtained in a Franklin County, Missouri case involving wrongful deaths due to an airplane crash alleged to have been caused by engine failure on takeoff. Although a multi-million dollar jury verdict was entered, the claims against our aircraft engine manufacturing client were dismissed before trial due to the successful negotiation of a settlement for a nominal payment by our client.

No-Payment Dismissal of Claims Secured for Product Supplier in Wrongful Death Jet Crash

BSCR secured dismissal of our client, a hydraulics system product supplier, in a case in which plaintiffs sued multiple parties alleging mechanical defects in the hydraulic system of a jet airliner causing the crash and death of all passengers and crewmembers. The case, filed in Cook County, Illinois, included mechanical, electrical and hydraulic engineering issues. . .

Favorable Settlement Obtained on Behalf of Component Part Manufacturer in Helicopter Crash Case

BSCR obtained a favorable settlement on behalf of a helicopter part manufacturer in a case filed in the United States District Court for the Western District of Missouri in which plaintiff alleged a defectively designed helicopter component part resulted in the crash of a medical emergency helicopter. BSCR's defense of the case was based on pilot error due to flying in foggy conditions.

Summary Judgment Obtained on Behalf of Life Flight Medical Service Provider in Helicopter Crash Case

BSCR's defense of a life flight medical service provider in a Jackson County, Missouri action resulted in summary judgment for our client. In this action, plaintiff alleged a defective turbine engine in a helicopter caused the helicopter to crash during a medical emergency evacuation. After extensive discovery, including document production in France, summary judgment was entered on behalf of our client. . .