Superior Results Overview
The following cases span over 35 years and show the breadth, tone and skillset needed to achieve a successful result for our clients. We believe that we provide a representation experience very few firms can offer: a small firm with elite litigation experience on both sides of the aisle.
Mohan v. Dell $289 Million Class Action Victory
A major win for California consumers with a $289 million verdict made Mohan v. Dell case one of the biggest consumer protection law cases in many years. Our clients were a class of individuals who had purchased service contracts from Defendants Dell Inc. et al. The suit alleged unfair and deceptive business practices based on defendants improperly charging California sales tax on the optional service contracts that were sold with computers. After a bench trial, the court concluded that the service contracts were not subject to California sales tax. The defendants filed a writ of mandate challenging this ruling. This writ of mandate was eventually dismissed by the Court of Appeals, which agreed with the Superior Court’s finding that the service contracts were not taxable.
Buster v. Mechanics Bank
November 08, 2017 11:47 ET | Source: The Louderback Law Group
SAN FRANCISCO, Calif., Nov. 08, 2017 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- The Louderback Law Group led by founder Charles M. Louderback recently secured a major trial victory on behalf of plaintiff Steven Buster in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. Mr. Buster the former CEO/President of Mechanics Bank, filed various causes of action under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (“ERISA”) against his former employer following the denial of his supplemental executive retirement plan (“SERP”) benefits by the Compensation Committee of the Board of Directors of the Bank. The case raised important issues regarding the limits on an employer in presenting a release to a departing employee which purports to release a fully earned retirement benefit despite the contrary understanding of the parties. The win has implications for executives in the banking industry and beyond when it comes time for preparing for retirement. (Read full article here.)
Hopkins v. Dow Corning Corp
(Jury trial; United States District Court, Northern District of California)
Our firm obtained a record setting $7.3 million dollar record setting verdict in a fraud/products liability case wherein our client was badly injured as a result of a defective medical device. This dramatic victory generated widespread national publicity and attention. At the time, the $7.3 million dollar verdict that we successfully obtained on behalf of our client was the largest award for a case of this kind in U.S. history.
The Importance of Trial Experience
Superior Results And Victories Continued
Erikson v. Los Altos Golf & Country Club (Jury trial; Santa Clara County Superior Court)
We obtained a defense verdict after a two-week jury trial in Santa Clara County wherein the Plaintiff alleged gender discrimination against the Los Altos Golf and Country Club (“LAGCC”). This case generated a great deal of publicity and attention with media in Silicon Valley and throughout the Bay Area as it involved First Amendment rights of private clubs versus the rights of individuals to be free from discrimination. The plaintiff alleged that she was unlawfully discriminated against by being excluded from the Men’s Grill at the LAGCC in violation of the Unruh Act. We defended the LAGCC by presenting extensive evidence and witness testimony regarding club practices to establish that the LAGCC was a private entity, not a business establishment. We also presented evidence that there were areas of the LAGCC expressly reserved for women and that the LAGCC, as a private club, had a right to exercise its First Amendment rights of freedom of association. In addition, an effective cross-examination of the plaintiff revealed multiple inconsistencies in her testimony. The jury’s verdict was 10 to 2 in favor of the LAGCC with 9 out of the 10 female jurors voting for our client.
Trade Secret/ Unfair Competition
Trade Secret #1: Confidential Settlement; San Francisco County Superior Court
The plaintiffs alleged violations of the California Uniform Trade Secrets Act (“CUTSA”) and claimed damages of $6 million dollars plus exemplary damages. Plaintiffs also sought injunctive relief to halt the operation of defendants’ business which would have effectively destroyed their ability to compete in the marketplace. Our clients were employees who had departed from their employer to start a competing entity in the greatly expanding field of marketing research. We were brought into the case ten days before the original trial date as trial counsel. After the court continued the case for approximately one month, our litigation team developed a robust defense strategy which centered on challenging the protectability of the purported trade secrets as well as the validity of the trade secret designations within the plaintiff’s non-disclosure agreement. On the eve of trial, we obtained an outstanding settlement on behalf of our clients. The modest settlement amount was considerably below our clients’ potential exposure and would not impede them financially from continuing to expand their fledgling business.
Trade Secret # 2: Confidential Settlement; San Mateo County Superior Court
Our clients were entrepreneurs who departed their employer and formed a competing technology consulting company. The employer sued for misappropriation of trade secrets under the California Uniform Trade Secrets Act (“CUTSA”) alleging that the departing employees had left with protected customer list information. Plaintiff moved for a TRO that would have put our client’s new company out of business if it had been granted. By demonstrating to the court the plaintiff had offered insufficient evidence, we successfully defeated the TRO which allowed the defendants to continue with the undisturbed operation of their new enterprise. We also successfully challenged the sufficiency of plaintiff’s designation of trade secrets which pursuant to CCP § 2019.210 precluded the plaintiff from commencing discovery. With this momentum, we were able to leverage a highly favorable settlement at mediation which allowed our clients complete freely in the market without any restrictions.
Trade Secret # 3: Confidential Settlement; United States District Court, Northern District of California
Our client was a former partner of an insurance brokerage firm who left to join a competing company. Our client’s employment contract, drafted by a firm in New York, specified that he could not compete in a 100-mile radius for twelve months after departing his employer. After aggressively pursuing discovery of Plaintiff’s allegations through multiple depositions, we were able to defeat plaintiff’s application for a TRO. During the course of the litigation, we contacted customers of our client who unequivocally stated that they took their business away from plaintiff and gave it to our client based upon our client’s skill, experience and service. Engaging customers to testify on behalf of our clients is a litigation strategy that we have utilized repeatedly to defeat trade secret theft allegations. In this case, the plaintiffs dismissed our client just prior to trial for lack of evidence. This dismissal was negotiated for a waiver of costs and our client paid nothing.
Trade Secret #4: Confidential Settlement; Sacramento County Superior Court
Our clients were a staffing company and two former employees who were being sued for trade secret theft violations under the California Uniform Trade Secrets Act (“CUTSA”). The individual clients were long-term employees who were accused of stealing customer and price lists before forming a competing company. We were defending the staffing agency and the individual defendants in two simultaneously filed lawsuits in Sacramento Superior Court. In the one case were defending the staffing corporation and one employee. In the second case, both the employee and her husband were sued because the husband allegedly assisted the wife in misappropriating trade secrets. In both cases, we attacked that the non-compete language in their employment contract as a violation of Business and Professions Code Section 16600 because it prevented our clients from competing and soliciting new business. In the first case we defeated the plaintiff’s application for TRO by convincing the court that an essential element of a TRO, the probability of prevailing at trial, was absent from the evidence. After establishing the weakness of plaintiff’s case in the first action through aggressive depositions and written discovery, we forced plaintiff to dismiss the case without a waiver of costs shortly before trial. We then used our right to recover costs on behalf of our client to leverage a minimal a settlement on the second action for the benefit for our corporate and individual clients.
Trade Secret #5: Confidential Settlement; Alameda County Superior Court
Our clients were both a corporation in the sales and marketing industry and an employee who worked at the plaintiff’s Oakland headquarters. The defense of the case was made significantly more difficult because our client suffered extreme emotional distress after being sued by her former employer for violations of the California Uniform Trade Secrets Act (“CUTSA”). Plaintiff attempted to block our client from working at her new employment by applying for a TRO. We defeated the TRO by convincing the court of the following: (1) the plaintiff would not suffer irreparable harm even if the court were to assume all the allegations were true; (2) plaintiff’s injunction would prevent our client from engaging in her right to compete against her former employer; and (3) the injunction would violate Business and Professions Code Section 16600. After we defeated the TRO, we were able to convince the plaintiff to dismiss the action.
Alcala v. Courtesy Chevrolet (Jury trial; Santa Clara County Superior Court)
We obtained a defense verdict from the jury after a two-week trial on plaintiff’s claims of fraudulent representation, breach of contract and wrongful termination. Plaintiff alleged that he was wrongfully terminated from his position as general sales manager after many years of superior performance. Plaintiff claimed that Courtesy Chevrolet’s management made false promises regarding his tenure at the automobile dealership and blackballed him in the industry. We argued that plaintiff’s poor performance was the reason for his termination and repeatedly impeached him on his claimed damages of emotional distress and future wage loss by using verified complaints that he had filed in other counties. After a successful motion for non-suit on punitive damages, we received a unanimous verdict from the jury in favor of our client.
Greenstein v. Peregrine Systems, Inc. (Jury trial; San Diego County Superior Court)
We obtained a defense verdict after an eight-day jury trial wherein the plaintiff alleged that he was subjected to religious discrimination by Peregrine’s CEO. The plaintiff sought compensatory and punitive damages. The plaintiff presented the testimony of multiple witnesses who had heard discriminatory comments. We defended the case by denying the comments. We also argued in the alternative that even if the comments were made, the jury should distinguish between words and actions because these words alone did not amount to an adverse employment action. We argued that all actions directed towards the plaintiff by management were nondiscriminatory and even-handed. In particular, we established through the plaintiff’s own testimony that he could not cite to one instance where he was discriminated against in his job duties, compensation, or performance reviews. We further emphasized the plaintiff’s inability to meet his sales goals despite having numerous opportunities to do so. The jury ultimately found for the defendant and concluded that there was no workplace discrimination.
Ernst v. Sonnen Motors (Jury trial; Marin County Superior Court)
We obtained a defense verdict on a claim of age discrimination. The plaintiff was 59-years-old at the time of his termination from Sonnen Motors. He maintained that he was subjected to discriminatory actions and comments because of his age. We vigorously defended the case by bringing in customers who had complained about plaintiff’s surly disposition. Further, we elicited testimony regarding complaints by co-employees regarding difficulties they have encountered working with plaintiff. The jury returned a defense verdict on the age discrimination claim. The jury found for the Plaintiff on the wrongful termination cause of action in the amount of $17,000. However, this amount was below our CCP § 998 statutory offer to compromise which allowed the defendant to recover its costs and effectively nullified the wrongful termination award.
Johnson v. Employee Benefits Ins. (Jury trial; Sacramento County Superior Court)
In Sacramento County, we received a defense verdict for our client wherein the plaintiffs were alleging age discrimination and harassment. The plaintiffs’ request for over one million dollars in compensatory damages together with punitive damages would have resulted in financial ruin for our client. Instead, the jury awarded nothing in this defense verdict.
Employment Litigation #1: Confidential Settlement; San Francisco Superior Court
We defended a major San Francisco university in an action filed by the California Attorney General. Both parties conducted extensive discovery on the issues of the alleged discrimination. A male individual claimed that he was not hired because of his gender after the university hired a female for the job position. We filed a motion for summary judgment. After the court took the motion under submission, we were able to settle the case for nuisance value.
Employment Litigation #2: Confidential Settlement, United States District Court, Northern District of California
The plaintiff, a male employee, alleged that he was constructively discharged and sexually harassed by a female, who was the head of Human Resources for our client. We prepared a motion for summary judgment which set forth a substantial amount of evidence regarding plaintiff’s poor work performance to establish a lack of pretext for terminating plaintiff. The court granted our motion for summary judgment in its entirety except as to the sexual harassment claim. With this leverage, we were able to achieve a highly favorable settlement that was a fraction of plaintiff’s original demand.
Employment Litigation #3: (Confidential Settlement; Alameda County Superior Court)
We represented the defendant employer in a wrongful termination action. The plaintiff had alleged that his termination was retaliatory in response to his complaints of environmental violations. In the face of a $1.5 million dollar settlement demand, we made a motion for summary judgment. In the motion, we argued that the termination was based on the employee’s insubordination and that there was no nexus between the environmental violations and the termination. The trial court granted our motion for summary judgment. Although, the Court of Appeals reversed the trial court’s finding, we were able to use the summary judgment leverage to negotiate a favorable settlement for our client.
Bush v. Trendwest (Jury trial; Los Angeles County Superior Court)
We represented the defendant employer and supervisor in an action filed in a venue that is called “the Bank” by members of the local legal community because it has been historically plaintiff friendly. The plaintiff gave graphic testimony that he was physically assaulted by his supervisor in a sexual fashion. Approximately sixty days after this sexual harassment complaint, the employer terminated plaintiff’s employment for performance reasons. The plaintiff had made a seven-figure settlement demand that was described as non-negotiable. After extensive discovery, we filed a motion for summary judgment on behalf of the employer and the supervisor. The court granted the motion in its entirety as to the employer and left only the causes of action for sexual assault against the supervisor. During the pendency, we also made a motion for attorneys’ fees for the action against the employer. The court granted our motion and awarded $90,000.00 in attorneys’ fees. We then used this leverage to negotiate a minimal settlement amount to extricate the individual defendant from the case. The plaintiff appealed the granting of attorneys’ fees and the Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment in our client’s favor for recovery of attorneys’ fees.
Boswell v. WDS (Jury Trial; Sacramento County Superior Court)
Our client was a high-level manager for a company that supplies vending services for a national merchandise company. Plaintiff sued our client and his employer for age discrimination and harassment. Plaintiff claimed that our client threatened to fire her because she was not terminating employees who were over the age of 50 based upon their age. The jury trial lasted approximately one month. Our client was the first witness called by plaintiff in her case in chief. He was on the witness stand for three days. We defended the case by demonstrating to the jury that: (1) our client treated all employees equally; (2) promoted a number of employees over the age of 50 into key positions; and (3) some employees in their 70s felt that our client was an excellent supervisor and did not discriminate against them in any fashion. We also cross-examined plaintiff in detail illustrating to the jury that her allegations of discrimination, harassment and alleged damages lacked merit. The plaintiff offered $400,000 under CCP § 998 to settle the case. We refused the settlement offer and obtained a defense verdict on behalf of our client with an award of litigation costs.
Spaulding v. Commercial Industrial Insurance (Jury trial; Santa Clara County Superior Court)
In this case, two employees sued our client employer alleging that their positions as medical claims examiners were not exempt positions and they should have been paid overtime wages over a three-year period. This trial involved the presentation of voluminous documentation and multiple witnesses for both plaintiffs and our client. We presented evidence regarding the great deal of discretion and latitude afforded the plaintiffs in rendering decisions essential to their positions as medical claims examiners. We also used deposition testimony elicited from the plaintiffs to demonstrate that their overtime claims lacked merit and were greatly inflated. The jury rendered a verdict that was significantly less than our offer to compromise prior to trial.
KS&A v. Xebec (Jury Trial; Santa Clara County Superior Court)
In this month long trial, we demonstrated that our clients, KS&A, a Silicon Valley marketing firm and its two individual owners, Jack Koch and Shely Saidman, were put out of business by the Defendant’s failure to pay on an oral contract. Our clients were independent contractors who had worked for defendant for over a year and were not paid on the $135,000 contract. We argued at trial that the fraudulent conduct of the defendant was established since the corporate representatives never intended to pay the full amount at the time the oral agreement was initially negotiated. Plaintiffs offered testimony of Xebec’s Vice President that Xebec would never have entered into an oral contract for $135,000 without some memorialization in writing. We successfully impeached Xebec’s Vice President and other witnesses offered by defendant. We utilized an expert witness to establish the cause of plaintiff’s economic damages. The jury’s verdict was 10-2 in favor of our clients. The massive $2.64 million combined verdict included an award of punitive damages. The $135,000 compensatory award in relation to the punitive damages award of $2.5 million was the highest ratio of compensatory to punitive damages ever recorded in California at the time.
Elie v. Smith (Jury trial; San Mateo County Superior Court)
In this case, we were retained to defend a client who was being sued for $25 million dollars. This was a partnership dispute between the plaintiff and our client. Plaintiff alleged that he and our client had entered into an oral agreement where plaintiff advanced $25 million dollars to save a mortgage banking company named Allied Banking. Our client denied entering into an oral agreement and contended that the plaintiff stole $10 million dollars from her. During the course of this month long trial, there were numerous lay witnesses and expert witnesses in the areas of accounting, mortgage banking and economic analysis. Plaintiff introduced evidence that our client had signed a subordinated demand note after the alleged oral agreement which supported plaintiff’s claim that our client had agreed to be responsible on a 50-50 basis for the $25 million dollar advance. The jury awarded plaintiff our clients’ portion of the loan but also awarded our client $9.4 million dollars on her cross-complaint.
Campbell v. Farmers Insurance Exchange (Jury Trial; Santa Clara County Superior Court)
We obtained a defense verdict on behalf of our client after a seven-day jury trial. Plaintiff, an African-American woman, claimed that she was the victim of race discrimination and was wrongfully denied insurance benefits. Plaintiff sought substantial damages in the form of emotional distress, lost insurance benefits, and punitive damages for the denial of benefits and racial discrimination. We defended our client by asserting that there was no evidence of racial discrimination and the plaintiff had fabricated evidence with regard to her insurance claim. We also produced evidence at trial, through phone records, that the discussions she allegedly had with Farmers’ agents could not have occurred as she had claimed. The jury returned a unanimous verdict in favor of our client.
Commercial Litigation #1: Confidential Settlement; Alameda County Superior Court
Our client was a partner in a prestigious architectural firm whose business primarily focused on high-rise buildings in the San Francisco Bay Area and throughout the state of California. Our client entered into a high-risk joint venture agreement with his employer for the design of specialized cladding for high-rise buildings. A dispute arose regarding the terms of the written contract establishing the joint venture with regards to our client’s compensation and the financial support that the firm had agreed to provide in support of the project. Our firm filed an action for breach of contract and fraud in the Alameda Superior Court. On the day set for trial, defendants agreed to pay our client a $1.1 million settlement. This amount was over ten times the amount offered by the defendants before trial.
Commercial Litigation #2: Obtained dismissal; Santa Clara County Superior Court
Our firm was hired to defend a national art gallery based in Boston, Massachusetts. The plaintiff had purchased an original 1903 painting by Pablo Picasso during his “Blue Period”. The plaintiff alleged that our client had committed fraud insofar as the frame was damaged, which compromised the quality of the original painting. Further, it was alleged that the sale price was excessive based upon alleged misrepresentations by our client as to the value of the painting. We were retained by our client just months prior to trial because of our client’s dissatisfaction with the representation of our predecessor counsel. We aggressively defended against the allegations by taking the plaintiff’s deposition and establishing the value of the Picasso painting. Specifically, our deposition questioning elicited testimony that the plaintiff: (1) bought the painting at the price that he paid because of the notoriety of owning an original Picasso; (2) regularly had parties where he proudly displayed the painting to family and friends; (3) was attracted to the color, size, and subject matter of the painting in deciding to make the purchase; and (4) his claim that the sale price was excessive heavily relied upon sources that were questionable in the art industry. Weeks before trial, plaintiff attempted to settle the case for a nominal sum. We refused to settle. Rather than going to trial, plaintiff dismissed the case. We refused to waive costs and plaintiff eventually paid litigation costs to our client
Employee Mobility #1: Confidential Settlement; San Francisco County Superior Court
Our client was Chief Merchandising Officer for a retail apparel corporation in New York who was recruited through an executive recruitment firm for a high-level position at a nationally recognized women’s apparel company in California. Shortly after our client left his New York employer to pursue his dream job in California, he was fired by the new employer because of a non-competition agreement he had previously signed. The executive recruitment firm had failed to inform the California apparel company that our client had signed a non-compete provision with his former employer. We argued that the non-compete was not enforceable in California and alternatively that it was not applicable because the companies were not competing in the same sector. Further, we sued the executive recruitment firm for negligence in failing to disclose the non-compete provision during the recruitment process. After deposing the CEO of the California employer and multiple depositions of the representatives of the executive recruitment firm, we had gathered the information necessary to present a compelling case. During mediation, we were able to reach a $2.3 million settlement on behalf of our client.
Employee Mobility #2: Confidential Settlement; United States District Court, Northern District of California
Our client was a former partner of an insurance brokerage business who left to join a competing company. Our client’s employment contract, drafted by a firm in New York, specified that he could not compete in a 100-mile radius for twelve months after departing his employer. After aggressively pursuing discovery of Plaintiff’s allegations through multiple depositions, we were able to defeat plaintiff’s application for a TRO. During the course of the litigation, we contacted customers of our client who unequivocally stated that they took their business away from plaintiff and gave it to our client based upon our client’s skill, experience and service. Engaging customers to testify on behalf of our clients is a litigation strategy that we have utilized repeatedly to defeat trade secret theft allegations. In this case, the plaintiffs dismissed our client just prior to trial for lack of evidence. This dismissal was negotiated for a waiver of costs and our client paid nothing.