Recent Firm News

Sticks and Stones May Break My Bones…

Chris Beeman and Ash Mohindru recently obtained a judgment in favor of the defense at the conclusion of a four week trial in Alameda County Superior Court. The case involved allegations of defamation and intentional interference with prospective economic advantage. Plaintiff was an HOA property management company and its owner, who alleged that statements made by the defendant damaged their reputations and caused the loss of a valuable contract. The statements were generally critiques of the property management company’s work performance, and our defense was that the communications were constitutionally privileged and substantially true. Plaintiff asked the Court to award $5,000,000 in damages.

At trial, the operative cross-complaint was ultimately depleted by way of several consecutive, successful dispositive motions. On the eve of trial, it was discovered that the Property Manager’s corporate status was suspended, and a motion to dismiss was granted as to that entity. The statute of limitations barred many of the alleged defamatory statements and a motion in limine on that issue was granted, which substantially narrowed the massive universe of potential, actionable statements.

Thereafter, trial commenced on the claims by the owner against the remaining defendant. At the close of the plaintiff’s case in chief, two motions for judgment were filed and, ultimately, granted in favor of our client. The Court found that the statements were constitutionally privileged because they were regarding a matter of public interest and made without malice.

International Win

Following a deadly bus crash in Mexico that left 3 dead and 1 severely injured, Plaintiffs filed a complaint against various defendants in San Francisco, including the bus company.  When all other potential deep pockets were tapped, Plaintiffs’ counsel sued our client, a grocery store in Napa, claiming that the passengers had purchased their bus tickets from the store.  The legal theory pursued was that our client’s market and the bus company were a joint venture.  Partner Chris Beeman and associate Christine ‘Missy’ Reinhardt immediately filed a motion for summary judgment on behalf of the grocery store, arguing that no agency or other relationship existed.  On the date their opposition was due, Plaintiffs counsel agreed to dismiss the matter for a waiver of costs.

An incredible run of summary judgment success

Against all odds, the firm has recently prevailed on six different motions for summary judgments:

In Alameda County, a worker mangled his arm on a rolling entry gate at a warehouse near Oracle Arena. The demand at mediation with Jack Williams was $7 million. On behalf of the property owner, Christine Reinhardt and Chris Beeman filed a Privette motion, which the court granted over opposition shortly before trial. We then recovered the attorney fees from the tenant to whom our defense had been tendered.

In Santa Clara County, a 15 year old boy sustained a catastrophic injury when he lost control of a “Jixxer” go-cart that he was driving and crashed head on into a fence. The vehicle was equipped with a motorcycle engine and was capable of traveling up to 160 MPH. He was life-flighted to a nearby hospital for emergency surgery and subsequently sued the property owner, claiming that the incident was caused by a speed bump in the parking lot. The settlement demand at mediation with Charlie Hawkins was $5 million. The successful motion for summary judgment on behalf of our client, which was prepared by Lincoln Tran and argued by Chris Beeman, was based on the Recreational Use Immunity provided by the Civil Code.

Partner Chris Scheley and Associate Teela Crosthwaite recently prevailed on a motion for summary judgment in a premises liability action filed against a client in Contra Costa County. The plaintiff, an elderly woman, sustained a hip fracture and knee injury when she tripped and fell outside the client’s restaurant. Plaintiff claimed that her injuries were caused by the restaurant’s failure to maintain the safety of the premises, but the court ruled that the restaurant could not be liable because it had no notice of the dangerous condition.

Summary judgment was obtained in favor of client club owner facing claims arising from a closing time assault on a patron by another patron. The plaintiff, an off duty employee of the client, claimed he was sitting at the bar when he was struck from behind with a glass as the club was closing. Injuries included cognitive difficulties, mood changes and inability to focus resulting from the blow to the head. Plaintiffs claimed that the club failed to provide adequate security and the security personnel were not trained or qualified. The Santa Clara County Superior Court granted summary judgment, finding that the assault was not foreseeable.

Paulo Kline Simon recently prevailed on a motion for summary judgment in a premises liability action filed against our client in Alameda County. The plaintiff was the former live-in girlfriend of our client who was assaulted during a home-invasion robbery by unknown third party assailants.  She suffered significant injuries during the confrontation.  The court granted our early motion for summary judgment, ruling that our client had no duty to protect the plaintiff from, nor prevent, the third party criminal conduct which caused her injuries.

Partner Paul Sheng and Associate John Thyken prevailed on a motion for summary judgment in a personal injury action against a rental car company filed in Alameda County. Plaintiff alleged that the rental car company was vicariously liable for the negligence of one of its rental customers. Despite the Court’s refusal to apply the federal rental car immunity statute, the judge was persuaded by defense counsel’s arguments that plaintiff failed to raise a triable issue of material fact and that plaintiff’s previous settlement with the negligent driver extinguished the rental car company’s liability. Accordingly, the suit was dismissed.

Partner Paul Sheng and Associate John Thyken prevailed on a motion for summary adjudication and knocked out a breach of contract claim from a defamation lawsuit in San Mateo County Superior Court. Plaintiff alleged that defendant violated a non-disparagement clause in a settlement agreement from a prior lawsuit, and sought attorneys’ fees under a fee clause in the agreement. While our client personally signed the agreement, we successfully proved that the he had not entered into the agreement in his personal capacity and therefore, the attorney fee clause did not apply to him. This pulled the rug out from under plaintiff’s six figure attorney fee claim.

Partner Paul Sheng and Associate John Thyken prevailed on another Motion for Summary Judgment, this one in a Santa Clara County Superior Court horse escape case. Our client property owners leased a fenced pasture to a tenant who kept horses on the property. The tenant’s horses escaped and ran onto the highway where they struck plaintiffs’ vehicle. The passenger sustained serious facial fractures, requiring major reconstruction surgery. Had our clients been found just 1% at fault, they would have been jointly and severally liable with the tenant horse owner for a six-figure damages award. We convinced the Court that our clients did not breach any duty of care, and/or that there was no causation between our clients’ conduct and the accident.

 

Super Lawyers and Rising Stars!

Named partners Chris Beeman, Jeff Vucinich, Ted Scheley and Chris Scheley have all been designated “Super Lawyers” by San Francisco Magazine, recognizing them as attorneys in the top 5% of their profession. Pleasanton Associates Paulo Kline Simon, Andrew Murphy and Asheesh Mohindru, along with San Bruno Associates Teela Crosthwaite and Catharine Tolson have been designated “Rising Stars”, acknowledging their bright futures as trial lawyers.

Trial Victory!

Partner Chris Scheley recently won a motion for nonsuit after trial of a products liability action in San Francisco Superior Court.  The plaintiff claimed that he developed priapism and permanent erectile dysfunction after riding on a motorcycle seat designed and manufactured by our client.  After presentation of all evidence at trial, the court entered judgment in favor of our client on the grounds that the plaintiff could not show that a defect in the motorcycle seat caused or contributed to his condition.

Great and Efficient Results!

Partner Stephen Harrington recently obtained a voluntary dismissal on behalf of a general contractor client in a wrongful death case filed in San Francisco County.  Decedent died from complications of metastatic mesothelioma and his widow and heirs filed suit against various defendants claiming that decedent contracted mesothelioma as a result of exposure to asbestos through his work as an electrician, including jobs on which our client was allegedly the general contractor between 1965 and 1985.  Within a month of our firm entering an appearance, and before protracted and costly discovery, Plaintiffs provided a dismissal for a waiver of costs.

Gunned down

Chris Beeman and Christine ‘Missy’ Reinhardt recently won a summary judgment motion in a wrongful death case filed in Contra Costa County. The decedent was shot and killed in the street outside our client’s home by guests of defendant’s teenage kids, who threw a Halloween party. The assailant was charged and convicted of murder, with an enhancement for gang affiliatin. Plaintiffs alleged that known gang members attended the party, making it foreseeable that violence would result. The Court granted our client’s motion for summary judgment on the basis that he had no duty to protect the decedent from the criminal conduct of the third party that caused his death because it did not occur on the premises.

ADC Leadership

Partner Jennifer Wilhelmi was elected to serve on the Board of Directors of the Association of Defense Counsel of Northern California and Nevada (ADC).  She is also serving as Co-Chair of the Construction Substantive Law Section, and is enjoying her new responsibilities with the industry organization that our firm has been heavily involved in for the last 30+ years!

Our partners speak…people listen

Kory Phillips spoke at MC Consultants annual West region construction defect and insurance coverage conference in San Diego. The panel addressed the builder’s right to repair legislation in the Western states, and specifically the pros and cons of such legislation.

Bob Bellagamba was a panelist at the first annual Axis Construction defect seminar, addressing alternative dispute resolution approaches in construction defect litigation.

Matt Constantino will be a panelist in the Claims & Litigation Management Alliance Construction/Environmental Mini-Conference in Anaheim on November 8, 2013. He will be speaking on the highlights of various states’ “Right to Repair” or “Notice and Opportunity to Repair” statutes, with a particular focus on SB 800 – California’s Right to Repair statute, as well as the advantages and disadvantages of such statutes

Master in Trial

Partner Chris Beeman participated as a panelist in The American Board of Trial Advocates (ABOTA) “Masters in Trial” program last fall in San Francisco. He is also a State Chair for Claims and Litigation Management (CLM) and  continues in his role as a chairperson for the ABOTA “Civility Matters” program.