Victories

Victories and Significant Settlements Following Successful Trials, Appeals, and Motions Practice:

• In June 2015, obtained affirmance of $4,562,604 judgment via decision filed by Court of Appeal following 2013 bench trial in shareholder derivative action.
• In late 2014, successfully defended large employer in five-week jury trial in Orange County Superior Court. Obtained defense verdict on all of plaintiff's claims for sexual harassment, sex discrimination, and retaliation.
• During 2014, defended local freight warehousing company in case in San Diego Superior Court action in which client had suffered $800,000.00 default judgment in 2009 whilst unrepresented. Obtained order vacating the default judgment and dismissing the case with prejudice based on plaintiff's failure to bring case to trial within five years.
• In 2014, represented directors and officers of ecoATM, Inc., in action in which plaintiff (co-founder and minority shareholder) sought rescission of his prior assignment of intellectual property rights to company in San Diego Superior Court. After filing of defense motion for summary adjudication, plaintiff voluntarily dismissed eight (8) of his claims; court granted summary adjudication in clients' favor on a ninth claim. Shortly afterward, case settled following mediation on terms favorable to clients.
• In 2014, represented locally-headquartered large life sciences company in breach-of-contract dispute with provider of electronic discovery data hosting services. Binding arbitration resulted in award in client's favor on contract claim.
• In 2014, represented locally-headquartered large life sciences company in breach-of-contract dispute with provider of electronic discovery data hosting services. Binding arbitration resulted in award in client's favor on contract claim.
• In August 2013 in shareholder derivative case, represented minority shareholders who alleged conversion and breach of fiduciary duty against majority shareholders and co-directors. Following bench trial, San Diego Superior Court (Judge Lisa Schall) ruled in favor of client-minority shareholders, awarding over $4.1 million in compensatory damages and prejudgment interest. Court completely rejected testimony of defense damages expert and rejected unclean hands and setoff defenses.
• In 2012 and 2013, represented client, attorney in commercial dispute with bank in case involving UCC, conversion, and negligence issues. Client was both defendant and cross-complainant. After defeating bank's summary judgment motion and preparing case for trial, case settled on confidential terms at trial call in August 2013.
• In October 2012, obtained reversal and retrial on damages in the case of Dodds v. Meng, et al., in the California Court of Appeal. In a 56-page opinion, the court reversed the trial court's erroneous refusal to reject an advisory jury verdict on damages in a shareholder derivative case, holding that the jury properly could have awarded millions of dollars in damages to plaintiffs at trial. Remand and a retrial are pending at this writing.
• In October 2012, won writ of mandate in San Diego Superior Court, reversing orders of State Board of Pesticide Regulation which had revoked clients' licenses to operate pest control business. Before winning writ, obtained trial court stay of Board's orders, enabling the client to remain in business pending writ proceedings. These rulings saved the company from going out of business.
• In shareholder derivative action pending in San Diego Superior Court, represented two officers of privately held corporation. Case concerned self-dealing and oppression by majority shareholders. Within days of filing the case, obtained temporary restraining order (TRO) and order to show cause (OSC) why a preliminary injunction should not issue against the majority shareholder-defendants. The TRO/OSC resulted promptly afterward in a mediation before Justice Howard Wiener. Case settled on terms favorable to clients on terms effectively removing majority shareholders from control of corporation.
• In adversary action in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in 2011, creditor (a large bank) sought more than $350,000 in damages pursuant to claims which included alleged fraud on the U.S. Trustee. Obtained dismissal in debtor's favor following successful motions practice and award of $44,000 in sanctions against the bank.
• In adversary action in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in 2011, represented debtor in adversary action in which creditor alleged nine claims (including fraud) and sought more than $250,000 in damages. Successful motions practice resulted in voluntary dismissal of action by creditor.
• Represented debtor in adversary action in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in 2010, in which creditor sought more than $600,000 in damages for alleged fraud. Successfully moved to dismiss the case in debtor's favor.
• In legal malpractice action in 2010, Mr. Lawton served as an expert witness on the standard of care applicable to an appellate attorney in a civil action, and testified before the jury at trial in the San Diego Superior Court. Ensuing verdict was in plaintiff's favor and against the attorney-defendant and resulted in a large judgment for damages against the attorney-defendant for professional negligence. The jury adopted Mr. Lawton's opinions concerning the standard of care and rejected the defense expert- attorney's contrary opinions.
• In bench trial in 2010, successfully defended real estate brokerage firm and individual brokers against plaintiff-seller who alleged fraud, breach of fiduciary duty, and other torts arising from a series of real estate purchases and loans. Court entered judgment for clients on all causes of action. Under cross-examination, plaintiff twice invoked Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination.
• In patent infringement litigation spanning 3 ½ years, obtained confidential settlement with defendant, an alleged infringer of client’s imaging patents, in July 2010. Successfully resisted motions for summary judgment of invalidity of client’s patents.
• In nine-day jury trial in August and September 2010, obtained plaintiff’s verdict on liability on behalf of minority shareholders of student loan consolidation company whose assets were converted by majority shareholders.
• In trademark infringement action against rival sneaker manufacturing company in local U.S. District Court, obtained settlement in January 2010 requiring defendant to pay to client-plaintiff 87% of revenues on sales of infringing sneakers and to stop selling infringing sneakers (enforceable via stipulated injunction).
• In Markman hearing for plaintiff, a local biotechnology company, in patent infringement case in local U.S. District Court, obtained favorable rulings on 13 out of 15 disputed patent claim terms in January 2010.
• Over course of three-year, multi-party securities litigation, obtained summary adjudication and (on the eve of trial) nonsuit in favor of defendant-client (alleged promoter of sale of securities). Obtained judgment in client’s favor on all claims in May 2009.
• In May 2009, obtained summary judgment in local U.S. District Court on all claims (for fraud, deceit, unjust enrichment, money had and received, and conspiracy) in favor of defendant corporation who operates chain of tire and automotive service stores in southern California. Plaintiff (superintendent of insurance of the State of New York) had sued on behalf of insurance carrier (Frontier Insurance Company) to recover compensatory and punitive damages for supposed fraud and other torts arising out of reinsurance agreement with third party who failed to reinsure plaintiff for workers’ compensation insurance proceeds paid on client’s claims. Following removal of case from local Superior Court to U.S. District Court, court granted across-the-board summary judgment based on statutes of limitations, terminating case in its entirety.
• In 2008, in local U.S. District Court, successfully defended life sciences company–client’s imaging patents against counterclaimant’s motion for summary judgment of invalidity of those patents based on supposed anticipation.
• In bench trial tried during June 2008, obtained judgment on all counts for client-defendants in dispute between landowners who own several parcels of commercial land used in the operation of a chain of Valvoline “quick lube” stations in southern California. Plaintiff had sought partition of land and specific performance of agreement supposedly obliging client-defendants to submit to appraisal and sale procedures. Court’s decision included specific finding that plaintiff was an untrustworthy and unreliable witness whose testimony was to be disregarded to the degree it varied from client-defendant’s testimony. Result enabled clients to continue to operate their business without the destructive result of partition, which would have resulted in loss of real estate on which the “quick lube” stations sit.
• In August 2008, obtained summary adjudication of multiple causes of action in favor of client-defendant and against plaintiff-investors in securities fraud case involving sale of membership interests in an LLC (owner of patents to “expirationless options,” a new form of derivative security traded on electronic trading platforms). Court ordered summary adjudication in client’s favor on all counts of plaintiffs’ complaint except one count (which involves only $12,000.00 in alleged damages).
• In representing plaintiff in patent infringement case against multibillion dollar molecular imaging company, successfully resisted defendant’s summary judgment of non-infringement. Settlement of case on terms including payment of $775,000.00 to client followed.
• In patent infringement action against competitor of client (life sciences company), obtained settlement on terms including defendants’ stipulation enjoining further patent infringement and payment of attorney’s fees and costs by defendants to client. Settlement came on eve of Markman hearing and following successful resistance of defense motions to dismiss and for summary judgment.
• Obtained an arbitral award in favor of client, Fortune 500 company, in dispute involving alleged breach of written agreement for development and leasing of 466,000 square foot commercial buildings in Orlando, Florida. Three-arbitrator panel found client to have justifiably terminated agreement and awarded nothing to claimant, sparing client what was alleged to be over $1,800,000.00 in damages.
• Obtained summary judgment and attorneys’ fees in favor of same client in San Diego Superior Court action on promissory note and personal guaranty, resulting in judgments for client exceeding $325,000.00.
• Before the California Court of Appeal, obtained affirmance of trial court defense judgment in favor of employer-client in action involving alleged failure to pay thousands of hours of overtime.
• In civil rights action against municipality, defeated city’s motion for summary judgment seeking determination that qualified immunity immunized officers from liability.
• Represented plaintiff and appellant, a hospital management company, in an action against officials of the State of California for wrongful acts in shutting down a hospital in a border community. On appeal after dismissal of the case at the pleading stage, obtained a reversal of trial court’s dismissal. Later won a $12 million judgment for client after nine-week jury trial and prevailed against defense motions for judgment n.o.v. and for new trial. Judgment is believed to be the largest-ever against California Department of Health Services or officials of that agency, and third-largest in history of Imperial County. Later, obtained $2.28 million attorneys’ fees and costs award against defendants, with court awarding a 2.5 multiplier in arriving at attorneys’ fees award.
• In State court trade libel action, obtained $1 million settlement for client (small, privately-held local company) against large publicly-traded competitor, after having prevailed against multiple defense motions and unsuccessful defense appeal of trial court’s denial of defense’s anti-SLAPP motion. In federal court patent infringement action, prevailed on all disputed claim terms in Markman hearing, vindicating client’s claims to means for doing in vivo imaging of tumor cells in laboratory animals using fluorescent proteins.
• Represented plaintiff in sex discrimination action against country club which operated a male-only restaurant and bar. Persuaded San Diego City Mayor and Council (who voted unanimously, 8-0) to order club to open the restaurant and lounge to women or else forfeit its lease. Club thereafter opened the restaurant and lounge to women. Settled lawsuit on terms including payment of large sum of money to client.
• Represented corporate employer in appeal from adverse decision of California Labor Commissioner awarding damages and penalties for over 6,000 hours of allegedly unpaid overtime. Trial de novo resulted in complete reversal of Labor Commissioner’s ruling and judgment in client’s favor.
• In action for alleged securities fraud, obtained order setting aside default of, and quashing service of process on, nonresident former director of out-of-State company.
• Obtained $200,000.00 writ of attachment for client in action for breach of contract against hospital, prompting near- immediate settlement of case on terms favorable to client.
• Acted as appellate counsel on appeal of trial court ruling in case involving an aborted merger and ensuing litigation. Trial court ruled that client, although obtaining substantial award of compensatory damages following three-week jury trial, was not “prevailing party” for purpose of entitlement to attorney’s fees under California Civil Code Section 1717. Obtained reversal of trial court’s ruling and subsequent award of over $400,000.00 in attorney’s fees to client.
• Represented defendant limited partnership in action by limited partner on alleged oral contract to pay her proceeds of sale of apartment projects. Court trial culminated in judgment for defendant on all causes of action. 
• In action for damages for breach of written license agreement pertaining to manufacture of soft sculptures and figurines resembling the “Taco Bell Chihuahua,” represented plaintiff, a designer and manufacturer of dolls. After prevailing against defense’s summary judgment motion on all causes of action and before trial in Orange County Superior Court, case was settled for payment of a substantial confidential sum by large corporate defendant (Taco Bell Corp.) to client.
• Represented defendant and cross- complainant, a South Korean manufacturing company, in action for breach of written output contract for delivery of plastic sleeving material used in preservation of exposed and developed negatives. Obtained grant of summary judgment and writ of attachment on client’s cross-complaint in the amount of $1.82 million. Case settled shortly after issuance of writ of attachment.
• Represented one of two individual plaintiffs in action for dissolution, breach of oral contract, and other theories against shareholders of closely held manufacturing corporation. Case settled following mediation, resulting in payment of $1.5 million to client in exchange for stock and release.
• Represented defendant Intermark, Inc., a locally- headquartered holding company, in shareholder class action litigation challenging merger initiated by law firm then known as Milberg Weiss. Obtained order staying all California proceedings (effectively terminating litigation) based on doctrine of comity given pendency of Delaware proceedings brought by other plaintiff’s firm. Case settled for nominal sum following court’s entry of order staying all proceedings.
• Represented defendant, a private security and event staffing company, in action for damages, disgorgement, and injunctive relief brought by competitor. Five-week court trial in San Diego Superior Court culminated in judgment for client pursuant to motion for judgment and voluntary dismissal of all other causes of action.
• Represented defendant, a Wisconsin-based check-processing company, in action brought by former member of management who sued for fraud and breach of oral contract to convey stock options worth $1.5 million. Obtained judgment after order sustaining demurrer without leave to amend in San Diego Superior Court.
• Represented defendants (officers and directors of defendant corporation) at bench trial for alleged civil contempt of discovery orders in shareholder lawsuit. Trial resulted in judgment of acquittal for all defendants, and included finding by the trial judge that his own discovery orders were too vague to be enforced.
• Represented plaintiff, financial services company, in arbitration for breach of contract against defendant in case involving sale of commercial paper. AAA arbitration resulted in judgment for client.
• Represented plaintiff, owner of commercial high-rise building in downtown San Diego, in action for negligence and breach of contract involving damage to mirrored “curtain wall” (the principal architectural feature of the building) caused by defendant. Jury trial resulted in judgment for plaintiff on all counts and large damages award in San Diego Superior Court.
• Handled nearly two dozen civil litigation cases for music technology company in San Diego, resulting in recovery of cash and entry of stipulated judgments of $2,033,598.00 during period between 2000 and 2004.
• Represented Canadian manufacturing company in action for breach of contract and disgorgement against San Diego-based manufacturer of plastic bottles and holder of design patents. In litigation spanning several years and four fora (San Diego Superior Court, Fourth District Court of Appeal, U.S. Bankruptcy court, and American Arbitration Association), obtained judgments (enforced following three dismissed bankruptcies filed by defendant) and attachment of patents. Successfully negotiated workout of judgment with judgment debtor and third party with whom judgment debtor had entered into lucrative contract.
• Represented plaintiff, minority shareholder in an accounting firm, in action for dissolution, damages, and other relief arising from dispute over buyout obligation. On eve of trial, obtained large confidential settlement for client following 18 months of litigation which included successful resistance of motions for summary judgment and summary adjudication.
• Represented defendant Lottery Enterprises, Inc., a manufacturer of casino gambling equipment, in action for alleged violations of federal and state antifraud and racketeering laws and other torts in U.S. District Court for the District of Nevada. Court granted motion to dismiss based on Fed. R. Civ. Proc. 12(b)(6) and dismissed all counts with prejudice.
• After successful demurrer and motion for summary adjudication in action for malicious prosecution and other torts brought by plaintiff against client, obtained affirmance via published Court of Appeal decision, which overruled prior authority (Fenelon v. Superior Court (1990) 223 Cal.App.3d 1471) to make new law in Fourth District concerning absolute nature of California litigation privilege in context of citizen reports to police. (Navarette v. Holland (2003) 109 Cal.App.4th 13.) The California Supreme Court granted, and later dismissed, review in this case. Following remand to Superior Court, obtained judgment of dismissal of entire case before trial.
• Represented plaintiffs (husband and wife), former owners of automobile dealership, in action for breach of fiduciary duty and legal malpractice against their former lawyer (who swindled them out of the dealership and the land on which it sat). Settlement on the eve of trial resulted in payment of large confidential sum to clients. Defendant–former lawyer later went to federal prison.
• Represented defendant automotive dealership in action for fraud and breach of contract in court trial, culminating in judgment for defendant on all causes of action in San Diego Superior Court.
• Represented plaintiff in action for breach of settlement agreement in U.S. District Court. Following preliminary motions practice, case settled for amount prayed for in complaint ($450,000.00). Defendant later hired Mr. Lawton as its counsel in other (unrelated) litigation.
• In action for slander, acted as co-counsel (along with San Diego City Attorney) for defendant, a then-sitting San Diego City Council Member. Jury trial resulted in judgment for client on all causes of action.
• In action for slander and other torts brought by ambulance company denied contract by the City of San Diego, represented sitting San Diego City Council Member. After transmitting draft anti-SLAPP motion to plaintiff’s counsel, plaintiff filed a request for dismissal with prejudice.
• In action for slander, battery, and other torts, represented plaintiff, a failed mayoral candidate, against defendant, a radio talk show host and former mayor of the City of San Diego. After obtaining pretrial orders establishing client’s prima facie entitlement to exemplary damages and requiring defendant to produce his personal financial records, case settled for payment of a substantial confidential sum to client and a donation by all parties and counsel to St. Vincent De Paul Village.
• In breach of contract action, represented plaintiff, an individual who was denied his written right of first refusal to purchase a downtown San Diego health club he had managed for 9 years. Arbitration resulted in an award of damages to client.
• Co-counsel to Irish refugee facing extradition and deportation to Great Britain. Over the course of nine and one-half years, represented client pro bono on immigration matters and prepared and filed asylum application (still not ruled upon by INS several years after filing of application). Assisted extradition counsel in obtaining client’s release from custody on bond while awaiting trial on extradition charge. Client remains at liberty and not in deportation proceedings at this writing. Earned three (3) Distinguished Service Awards from San Diego County Bar in connection with this representation.
• Represented certified financial planner on appeal in proceedings before the Board of Certified Financial Planners (which had permanently terminated client’s status as certified financial planner and forbidden him from using CFP marks). Appeal resulted in reversal of discipline and order permitting client to apply for reinstatement.
• Represented defendant in “palimony” case filed by plaintiff after nearly two decades’ cohabitation and accumulation of millions of dollars in assets by defendant. Obtained judgment on all counts for client after successfully moving for summary judgment.
• Represented major league baseball player agent in action for breach of contract for unpaid commission against major league baseball player (agent’s former client) Scott Karl. Case settled on eve of arbitration for full amount of commission ($300,000.00) owed.
• Represented widow in federal court bad faith action against life insurance carrier who had denied coverage on life insurance claim following apparent suicide of insured (client’s late husband). Life insurance policy contained standard suicide exclusion. Case settled for payment of substantial lump sum at Early Neutral Evaluation Conference, enabling client to avoid personal bankruptcy.
• Represented defendant (criminal defense lawyer and former head of local Office of the Public Defender) in Superior Court action brought against him by former client for alleged legal malpractice in underlying criminal case. Obtained judgment in client’s favor on all counts following motion for judgment on the pleadings.
• Represented lawyer in Superior Court action involving partnership dispute between client and her law partner. Case settled following successful motion for TRO, preliminary injunction, and appointment of receiver and successful recovery of over $1 million in settlement proceeds and attorney’s fees misappropriated by law partner.