Recent Firm News

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.

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.

Efficient Success

An elderly plaintiff suffered memory loss and emotional injuries when he tripped on a raised sidewalk that our client repaired eight months before the incident.  Plaintiff filed an action against the property owner alleging that the poorly maintained sidewalk created a dangerous tripping hazard.  The property owner filed a cross-complaint alleging that our client failed to remove the hazard when they cut the concrete slab.  We filed a motion for summary judgment arguing that the client was protected by the accepted work doctrine.  Days before an opposition to the motion was due, the property owner dismissed the cross-complaint in return for a waiver of costs.

Supreme Diversity

Clapp|Moroney sponsored an event hosted by the San Mateo County Bar Association’s Diversity Committee honoring California Supreme Court Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye. Chief Justice Cantil-Sakauye is the first Asian-Filipina American and the second woman to serve as the state’s Chief Justice. Several attorneys from the firm attended the event, including partner Chris Scheley, and associates Pamela Bumatay, April Santos, Selena Galaviz, Catharine Christian, David Yoshida, and Daniel Lee. During the night, Chief Justice Cantil-Sakauye emphasized the importance of diversity in the practice of law, and applauded the efforts of firms like ours.


Partner Ted Scheley, and associates Daniel Lee and Catharine Christian represented a national wholesale distributor of construction products in a personal injury matter involving a plaintiff that partially severed three of his fingers while using a sliding miter saw. Utilizing key portions of plaintiff’s deposition testimony, they prepared a Motion for Summary Judgment on the grounds that a dual employment relationship existed between plaintiff and our client, limiting plaintiff’s recovery to worker’s compensation benefits. Without filing the motion, the Clapp Moroney lawyers convinced plaintiff to settle for a nominal amount, despite plaintiff’s significant injuries, our client’s potential exposure, and the minimal liability of the saw manufacturer.