General Liability

Selman Breitman’s General Liability practice includes over 45 attorneys across the firm's seven offices who regularly represent defendants in all types of general liability litigation, involving bodily injury and wrongful death, property damage, and professional liability.  This group has the power of talented and experienced trial attorneys and teams, representing its clients in trial courts throughout the Western United States, and anywhere we are called in the nation.

Today’s reality includes jury awards that are ever-soaring, negative media portrayal of corporations and insurance carriers, millennial jurors with no trust in businesses, and diminishing court resources.  We regularly defend businesses of every size, from the largest manufacturers and retail businesses, car rental companies, trucking companies, hospitals, entertainment companies, construction material suppliers, and contractors, down to the smallest mom-and-pop shops and individuals.  The nature of the claim may be a slip or trip-and-fall accident, auto accident, product failure, an accident involving an escalator or elevator, or a claim relating to security issues like false imprisonment, false arrest, assault, and battery, or a claim involving exposure to a potentially hazardous product; we have handled them all, and more.  All such claims have one thing in common, the plaintiff alleges injuries or disease, and Selman has the expertise to understand the medicine and medical causation, specializing in the most complex of medical conditions.

With a network of trusted experts, and a 24-Hour Accident Investigation Emergency Response Team for trucking claims in California, Nevada, and Washington, Selman has the tools and the capabilities to quickly and thoroughly investigate an accident scene to preserve evidence.  This investigation and evaluation of the scene sets up the strongest possible defense.

For claims relating to property damage or economic loss, our team of attorneys is at the ready. We handle claims ranging from fire and water damage to construction defect allegations. As one of the top insurance coverage firms in the United States, we have the skills and the experience to help our clients navigate the insurance coverage side of such claims.

The firm has extensive experience in defending professional liability claims in many areas.  The professions include doctors, pharmacists, dentists, engineers, architects, and accountants.  On the insurance side, we represent agents.  In real estate, we represent brokers and agents, along with real estate appraisers.

Several of our lawyers have received specialized experience and training in engineering and medicine, which make all the difference when dealing with complex design, structural, scientific, and medical evidence that often comes into play in general liability cases.  This focused training, paired with our decades of experience in general liability matters equals greater protection for our clients’ interests and assets, in and out of the courtroom, and results in efficient and successful case outcomes, time after time.

 

Successfully defended client in contentious general liability case up to trial. High damages case where Plaintiff lost his right eye after being hit by a Roman candle firework and sought recovery against client. Filing of motion establishing total defense for client streamlined settlement.

Represented small business client at trial in premises liability case. Plaintiff sought significant damages against client stemming from workplace accident. Plaintiff relinquished all claims against client in exchange for waiver of costs after jury returned verdict below statutory 998 offer.

Obtained a defense jury verdict in favor of general contractor client in the Los Angeles Superior Court. Plaintiff claimed catastrophic damages due to severe injuries from a fall on newly constructed commercial premises. Injuries were complicated by a MRSA infection incurred during the course of treatment in the hospital. Defense verdict for client in the face of a $1M policy limits demand after co-defendants collectively settled out for $800,000.

Plaintiff was injured when a "shepherd's hook," a metal rod used to get clothes down from higher areas of client department store, fell and struck plaintiff on the head. She claimed a significant brain injury, along with soft tissue injuries, following the incident. During investigation of the matter, divorce documents were located that contradicted plaintiff's claimed lost earnings. After four days of trial, a favorable settlement was obtained on behalf of client department store at 2% of the demand.

Obtained defense verdict after 2-week trial in a negligent security matter. Plaintiff was injured when mugged in a small crafting materials shop owned by defendant. While plaintiff was injured on the premises, defendants showed that the level of security present was reasonable given the lack of prior similar incidents and the low cost of merchandise in the store.

Reached defense verdict in favor of personal trainer client in defense of an action for injuries resulting from alleged professional malpractice. Plaintiff alleged injuries during stretching exercises administered by personal trainer and claimed that the medical condition of gout resulted from the injury. Expert testimony established that the medical condition was caused by diet, not injury, and that the trainer conducted himself appropriately at all times.

Obtained defense verdict in premises liability action where plaintiff slipped on water in her bathroom at a hotel. Evidence that plaintiff intentionally left the water on the floor because she was dissatisfied with the level of maid service convinced the jury that the plaintiff was responsible for her own injuries.

A defense verdict was obtained in an auto vs. auto intersection collision case. In discovery, and even during cross-examination at trial, plaintiff consistently denied any prior injuries or accidents. However, when confronted with information plaintiff was unaware defense counsel had, plaintiff broke down and admitted to several prior accidents with identical injuries, thus destroying his credibility as to how the accident happened.

After a 16-day jury trial, a defense jury verdict was obtained in a wrongful death elder abuse case, in which plaintiffs asked the jury to award $5 million in damages and sought punitive damages and attorneys' fees. The case was tried following extensive discovery, including more than 25 depositions. A non-suit was obtained as to the personal liability of the Board members, and a dismissal of the Board members. It was successfully argued that plaintiffs' two treating physicians should be added to the special verdict form, and that the jury should be allowed to apportion liability to the two treating physicians. Following a one-day deliberation, the jury returned a defense verdict on both the negligence cause of action and the wrongful death cause of action, which negated any claim for punitive damages and attorneys' fees.

Represented a medical clinic against a medical malpractice claim brought by a patient of the clinic. The patient claimed that an intrauterine device (IUD) was negligently implanted in her uterus for birth control, and the IUD then perforated her uterus and had to be surgically removed. Refusing to accept the claim of negligence, the clinic aggressively defended the case and took it to trial, resulting in an involuntary dismissal of the case in favor of the clinic.

In a complex food poisoning/personal injury action involving over 100 plaintiffs, a motion for summary judgment was granted, extricating the client from a potential multi-million dollar exposure. Scientific evidence and chain-of-custody documents were used to establish that it was not client's green onions that caused multiple attendees served Chinese chicken salad at a catered event to contract Hepatitis A.

Successfully defended client in administrative trial pursuant to Nevada Medicaid laws regarding denial of certain medications.

Representation of health care administrator as Garnishee in State Court Judgment and as Interpleader in Bankruptcy Court to ensure that client was protected from liability due to multiple parties claiming rights to payments due to medical provider.

Successfully defended high-profile personal trainer and his gym against a plaintiff's negligence claims for injuries sustained in one of her training sessions. Filing of summary judgment papers based on plaintiff's primary assumption of risk and plaintiff's execution of a liability release led to a nominal settlement of case.

Represented client department store in a case involving a plaintiff who attempted to steal cologne from the store. Plaintiff was detained by retail store security personnel, and claimed injuries arising out of the detention. Motion for summary judgment was granted in favor of client, based on the merchant's privilege, which allows a retailer to detain a customer when there is probable cause to believe that the customer has stolen the merchant's goods.

In a wrongful death suit arising out of an automobile accident, motion for summary judgment was granted for two clients because there were no triable issues of material fact as to whether those clients owed a duty to plaintiffs. A third client was extricated from the case through a motion for terminating sanctions, based on plaintiffs' failure to comply with the court's discovery orders.

In a death case in the state of Washington, summary judgment was obtained in favor of the parent corporation of a rental car company by establishing separate corporate status to defeat agency, ostensible agency and alter ego theories of liability.

Tried a case for a homeowners association and one of its security guards against claims of assault, battery, false imprisonment and malicious prosecution brought by one of the homeowners, resulting from a July 4th celebration on the beach. The court granted nonsuit in favor of the association and the security guard.

Plaintiff obtained a default judgment against the defendant Estate in an action involving death of a minor and serious injury to another. Default judgment was void due to plaintiff's failure to comply with the Code of Civil Procedure and Probate Code. Ultimately secured a $10 million reduction in the amount of the default judgment.

Trial counsel for plaintiff subrogated insurance carrier in a matter involving alleged business losses in excess of $50 million and alleged personal injuries to hundreds of restaurant patrons arising out of the alleged distribution of contaminated foodstuffs to the subject restaurant. Following nearly two years of intensive litigation in federal and state courts in various states, and a lengthy private trial, a judgment in the tens of millions of dollars was entered in favor of client.

Defended a personal auto case involving claimed back and neck injuries to a retired Pro Bowl football player from the former Los Angeles Rams. The plaintiff had back surgery. The case resulted from a rear-end auto accident, in which liability was admitted. The defense was based on the lack of credibility of the plaintiff, who claimed that he had never had back or neck problems before. The jury awarded the plaintiff economic damages for his past medical expenses and lost earnings in the amount of $159,362, but because of the lack of credibility, the jury did not award any noneconomic damages for pain and suffering.

Represented a well-known actress in a premises liability case. Plaintiff tore the medial meniscus in his right knee, while working in our client's backyard. He claimed that the property was negligently maintained, and made a $1 million demand. At trial, argument was made that plaintiff was fully healed from his injury, following arthroscopic surgery and a few months of physical therapy. After the start of trial, plaintiff's demand was reduced to $475,000, which still far exceeded the value of the case. After six days of trial, a verdict was obtained that was less than half of plaintiff's bottom-line demand.

Successfully defended a cemetery in an alleged "multiple burial" case. Plaintiffs alleged that after their father died, they purchased "plot 1" at the defendant cemetery. However, the ceremony took place at "plot 2," and when the military gravestone arrived, it was placed at "plot 3," where the plaintiffs mistakenly visited their father and grandfather for many years. It was alleged that the cemetery re-sold plots and buried more than one person in a plot. We were able to successfully oppose a motion for class certification, which essentially eliminated the damage component of the case. The plaintiffs then settled for a small sum.

Obtained outright dismissal of prominent night club in wrongful death matter involving death of a would-be patron.

Summary judgment was obtained in a case defending property owners arising from plaintiffs' claim for physical injuries sustained in a fight that broke out at a rental home. It was established that client property owners had no notice nor reason to anticipate the wrongful acts, and that client did not have control over the subject property. The Court agreed, and the motion was granted in its entirety in favor of client.

A complaint filed against a municipality was voluntarily dismissed after plaintiffs received a demurrer to complaint, which had alleged that a jogging track located within the municipality was in a dangerous condition, causing plaintiff to fall and sustain injuries. The demurrer argued that the municipality was not liable because of the immunity afforded to the municipality under the California Government Code.

Dismissal was obtained in an action against a police department and two of its police officers stemming from an incident where the officers responded to a residence to perform a welfare check following a "911 hang-up." The officers located the young woman who called 911 after attempting to terminate her relationship with a male at the residence, and ensured she was safely retrieved from the residence by her parents. In the meantime, the male requested that the officers arrest him, and take him into custody because all of his friends were in jail and he had nowhere else to go. After confirming that the young man did not intend to hurt himself or others, the officers used discretion and elected to not arrest the male. Several hours after the officers left the residence, the male committed suicide. The family members of the decedent sued the police department and two of its police officers, alleging that the officers had a duty to take the necessary precautions that would have ensured that the decedent would not commit suicide. The Superior Court sustained the demurrer to the complaint in its entirety without leave to amend, finding that the police officers owed no duty to the decedent, no special relationship existed between the parties, and that the officers were immune from liability.

Summary judgment was granted, extricating a police department and its officers from an action involving the officers' response to a residence following plaintiff's prior threat to light himself on fire. Plaintiffs, a father and daughter, brought an action alleging their civil rights had been violated, and specifically that the officers had used excessive force in detaining plaintiffs, falsely arrested plaintiffs, and unlawfully entered the house where plaintiffs resided. The court granted summary judgment, finding that the officers' use of force to arrest the resisting plaintiffs was reasonable, plaintiffs' arrest was valid, and the officers entered the residence lawfully.

Summary judgment was obtained in favor of a public entity in a premises liability action, where the public entity had faced potential exposure in excess of $7,000,000 following a collision between plaintiff who had been riding a motorcycle, and the driver of a motor vehicle. The public entity had been sued on a theory of "dangerous condition of public property," due to an allegedly negligent and defective roadway design. The lawsuit also implicated the driver, two roadway design firms, two property developers and a construction company. The court granted summary judgment in favor of the public entity, finding that the public entity was immune from suit pursuant to California Government Code section 830.6.

Summary judgment was obtained on behalf of subcontractor client, which faced potential exposure of over one million dollars. The litigation arose from the plaintiff's claims for physical injuries sustained as a result of striking a median. Plaintiff argued that he struck the median as a result of the client's alleged negligence in improperly installing traffic signs, reflectors and reflective paint on the median. The court dismissed plaintiff's claim, reasoning that although the warranty the client provided for the products it used on the median was still in effect, the general contractor had already accepted maintenance of the intersection, and the client had no control over the subject median.

Voluntary dismissal was obtained in exchange for a waiver of costs in a multi-party litigation involving injury to a minor, age 4, after a newspaper rack fell, injuring her leg. Our client was alleged to have supplied newspapers to the racks and also to have a contractual maintenance obligation. The rack fell because an unknown party removed the anchoring bolts. Dismissals were obtained when it was shown through discovery that the landowner had a handyman remove the bolts in anticipation of relocating the racks.

Plaintiffs sued a City and its Police Officers for Civil Rights violations that allegedly occurred during a traffic stop. The Ninth Circuit held that no civil rights violations had occurred. Additionally, the court ruled that the plaintiffs' claims against the City and Police Chief for negligent hiring, retention and supervision failed and found that the City and its Chief of Police had no vicarious liability.

Represented City and its former Police Chief against claims of violation of civil rights, conspiracy, Monell liability, interference with contract, interference with economic advantage, intentional infliction of emotional distress and negligence arising out of plaintiff's failure to sell his bar. Plaintiff alleged that this failure was due to the recommendations made by the Police Chief to the ABC regarding transfer of the bar's liquor license. The Appellate Court ruled in defendants' favor, remanded the matter to the trial court with an instruction that the entire complaint be dismissed as against all defendants with prejudice, and instructed the plaintiff to pay the defense fees and costs at both the trial and appellate court levels.

Defendant was an operator of a network of career search facilities. Plaintiff was involved in two disputes at one of the facilities, which ultimately informed the plaintiff that he was no longer permitted to use any of the network's career centers. As a result, the plaintiff sued defendant and various police departments, including the police department for the City, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. section 1983, seeking damages for violating his federal civil rights. The plaintiff also sought injunctive relief in the form of an order permitting him to utilize the career search facilities in the future. A motion was brought on behalf of the City to dismiss the plaintiff's case as being not ripe, pursuant to F.R.C.P. 12(b)(1). Additionally, the motion sought to dismiss the plaintiff's complaint on the ground that the plaintiff had failed to state adequate facts to demonstrate that anyone affiliated with the City had engaged in any act or omission that proximately caused any violation of the plaintiff's federal civil rights, pursuant to F.R.C.P. 12(b)(6). The motion was granted on both grounds. The plaintiff appealed to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which issued an order affirming the orders of the District Court, without leave to amend. Additionally, the Court of Appeals affirmed the District Court's pre-filing review order, essentially deeming the plaintiff a vexatious litigant.

Class Action Litigation: Defended a Consumer Legal Remedies Act (CLRA) suit brought against automobile dealership client by consumer class plaintiffs. Prevailed on an Anti-SLAPP motion filed on behalf of an auditing firm client in a professional liability claim. Obtained a dismissal of the claim and an award of attorneys' fees and costs.

Obtained summary judgment in favor of an insurance agency client stemming from a multi-million dollar fire and business interruption loss claimed by the plaintiff, a commercial concern.

Client allegedly intentionally slammed the brakes while test driving a high-end Mercedes at Pebble Beach, when his friend (and later plaintiff) was in the backseat without a seat belt. The plaintiff claimed he suffered a serious back injury as result and sued for battery and negligence with a $1 million demand. We successfully moved for summary adjudication on the battery cause of action. Further, through investigating the plaintiff, we learned his back injury was not nearly as severe as claimed, and that he had two pending criminal actions against him. We used that information to obtain a very favorable settlement result.

Retained as trial counsel for defendant on the day prior to the beginning of trial in a case involving defamation claims. Within days of retention, counsel obtained a dismissal of client from the case. Counsel had previously obtained a dismissal of a wrongful death claim brought by plaintiff against client in a related case.

Summary judgment was obtained for a commercial landlord in an action for personal injuries by a tenant who claimed a portion of the ceiling at the premises fell on her head, causing her significant injury. In a twist no doubt unexpected by plaintiff, the court not only granted the summary judgment that the landlord did not owe her a duty but, pursuant to indemnity provisions of the contract, found that the plaintiff/tenant had to indemnify the landlord for the costs and fees arising out of the defense of this action.

In a personal injury case against a private swim club, in which plaintiff was alleging damages close to $1,000,000, settlement was reached for $15,000 when it was argued that plaintiff expressly waived any cause of action or claim against client when plaintiff signed a membership agreement that contained a release provision.

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