Eldon Edson serves on the firm’s Executive Committee and is Co-Author and Co-Editor of the 2016 and 2017 LexisNexis Matthew Bender Practice Guide: California Insurance Coverage and Litigation.
Eldon’s practice focuses on the handling of complex litigation matters, including the litigation of insurance coverage and related extracontractual claims, construction claims, commercial/business claims, professional liability claims, food liability claims and environmental claims, and in providing opinions regarding insurance related matters. Eldon has extensive experience in both state and federal trial courts, as well as appellate courts, having acted as lead counsel in major litigation throughout California and in other states. His litigation experience also includes handling bench and jury trials, binding arbitrations, and all aspects of the appellate process, including oral argument before the Courts of Appeal.
A frequent speaker at seminars and conferences regarding various legal topics, Eldon’s speaking engagements have included presentations given in connection with Perrin Conferences, Lorman Educational Services, the American Bar Association, West Coast Casualty, MC2 Consultants, the Combined Claims Conference, the Association of Defense Counsel of Northern California and Nevada, and the Association of Southern California Defense Counsel. He also has spoken extensively to businesses, trade groups, and various industry groups throughout California and other states.
As lead appellate counsel, Eldon has been involved with numerous appeals, resulting in published legal decisions in the following cases: Amerisure Insurance Company v. National Surety Corporation, 695 F. 3d 632 (7thCir. 2012); North American Capacity Insurance Co. v. Claremont Liability Insurance Co. (2009) 177 Cal. App. 4th 272, 99 Cal. Rptr. 3d 225; Rojas v. Superior Court (Coffin) (2004) 33 Cal. 4th 407; Baroco West, Inc. v. Scottsdale Insurance Company (2003) 110 Cal. App. 4th 96, 1 Cal. Rptr. 3d 464, rehearing and review denied; and Morris v. Blank (2001) 94 Cal. App. 4th 823, 114 Cal. Rptr. 2d 672.
Additionally, Eldon has acted as a mediator for the Los Angeles Superior Court Mandatory Settlement Conference Pilot Project, and has been named a Top 100 Southern California Lawyer by Super Lawyers Magazine in 2015 and 2017-2018.
- 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.
- Trial counsel in connection with a bench trial in an action for equitable contribution between insurance companies as to indemnity. The case focused on the interpretation and application of a Contractors Warranty Endorsement and a Known Injury and Damage Endorsement, and involved the trigger of completed operations coverage, among many other issues. On appeal of the judgment in favor of client, the firm prevailed, resulting in a published decision. Notably, the Mealey's Litigation Report: Insurance includes this case in its "Top Ten Most Important Insurance Coverage Decisions of 2009."
- Acted as lead counsel for an insurance carrier client in an action for declaratory relief wherein a restaurant chain sought a determination that the client's policy afforded coverage for in excess of $100 million in lost revenue and profits due to an outbreak of illness which was claimed to be linked to contaminated food stuffs. The court granted client's summary judgment motion, agreeing that the subject policy does not afford coverage for claims for lost revenue and profits.
- Plaintiff obtained a default judgment against the defendant Estate in an action involving death of a minor and serious injury to another. On behalf of the firm's client, Mr. Edson challenged the default judgment. Mr. Edson argued that the default judgment was void due to plaintiff's failure to comply with the Code of Civil Procedure and Probate Code. Ultimately, Mr. Edson was successful in securing a $10 million reduction in the amount of the default judgment.
- Acted as lead counsel for an insurer which defended and indemnified its insured in underlying copyright infringement actions. Although certain media entities had agreed to hold harmless and indemnify the insured, the media entities failed to do so with respect to the underlying copyright infringement actions. Thereafter, Mr. Edson on behalf of his client, filed suit against the media entities and their insurer. Mr. Edson ultimately obtained summary judgment against the insurer for the media entities, thereby securing a multi-million dollar payment from the media entities' insurer to his client.
- In defense of client insurer, rescission and/or reimbursement was pursued for insurer's $2 million indemnity payment against defendant, and contribution/subrogation against other additional insured carriers for $875,000 paid in defense fees and costs. Judgment was obtained on client insurer's behalf, and over $1.5 million (of the $2 million) was collected as to the claims against the insured. In addition, approximately $950,000 was collected, including pre-judgment interest, in defense fees and costs from the additional insured carriers.
- Retained as trial counsel for homeowners association. Following a bench trial, judgment entered in favor of client. Disputes involved interpretation of CC&Rs, alleged breach of fiduciary obligations by Board of Directors and architectural issues.
- Defended insurance company in an insurer-versus-insurer action for violation of Business and Professions Code sections 17200, et seq. ("the UCL"), equitable subrogation and equitable contribution involving $6 million in claims under multiple policies issued to each of seven insureds, arising out of more than 350 underlying construction defect actions. After extensive litigation in federal and state court, counsel secured a dismissal of the action against his client in exchange for a waiver of costs.
- Trial counsel in a jury trial involving claims for breach of contract and bad-faith refusal to pay a judgment arising out of the death of a minor. At the conclusion of plaintiff's case in chief, the court granted client's motion for directed verdict. Legal issues involved the interpretation and application of an "Assault and Battery Exclusion" in the subject policy, viability of judgment creditors' claim for bad-faith refusal to pay judgment and defenses available to defendant insurer against assignee of insured's rights under policy.
- Obtained summary judgment in federal court case involving split jurisdictional legal authority regarding priority of coverage pursuant to underlying construction indemnification agreement and language of insurance policies in issue, resulting in multimillion dollar determination in favor of client.
- Involvement in proactive oversight of multiple, complex and novel "ad injury" coverage issues arising from trademark infringement suit involving judgment in the tens of millions of dollars.
- Successful negotiation as coverage counsel regarding $20 million default judgment against insured. Matter involved interpretation of manuscript endorsements and insured warranty endorsement resulting in settlement of $1 million.
- Coverage counsel active in resolving multi-party matter arising from large fire, with significant claims against insured companies by various entities.
- In federal court diversity action for declaratory relief regarding allocation between three insurance carriers of $2.9 million underlying settlement, summary judgment was obtained for insurer client, ordering no coverage, which resulted in a reimbursement of over $1 million.
- Counsel in a one-week bench trial in an action for equitable contribution, at the conclusion of which judgment was entered by the court in favor of client insurer, adopting, without modification, our 50-page proposed statement of decision regarding the interpretation of exclusionary endorsement and priority of coverage issues.
- Counsel for plaintiffs subrogated insurance carriers in a matter involving alleged business losses in excess of $70 million and alleged personal injuries to hundreds of restaurant patrons, arising out of the distribution of contaminated foodstuffs by one or more of six defendant distributors to a single restaurant.
- Supervisory trial counsel in two-phase bench trial in an action for breach of contract and insurance bad faith involving the interpretation of the proper scope of coverage of policy issued to insured general contractor and whether such policy afforded coverage for claims arising out of insured's status as a landlord. After the conclusion of the first phase of trial, the matter was resolved.
- Following a binding arbitration of toxic tort claim before California Supreme Court Justice Arman Arabian, Ret., obtained a favorable result consistent with low predicted value in high/low arbitration. Defense of case emphasized expert witness attack on medical science underlying plaintiff's claims.
- $2 million settlement was obtained for insurance carrier client following a $20 million default judgment against insured, without need for direct action lawsuit or alternative dispute resolution.
- Approximately two weeks before the commencement of trial in an action against client for insurance bad faith, worked with defense counsel and a jury consultant firm regarding a mock trial before a three-panel mock jury. Following presentation to the mock jury, counsel was asked to work with defense counsel at trial, including the presentation of client's defense, and to advise client regarding trial and settlement of the matter. Before the court's issuance of a decision, the matter was resolved by a confidential settlement negotiated with counsel's involvement.
- 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.
- Obtained summary judgment in favor of client insurance company as to five policies, in an action for declaratory relief involving coverage for claims against a media entity for environmental contamination at multiple California sites and one overseas site. The issues primarily involved which state's law governed the dispute and the interpretation of the various versions of the pollution exclusion contained in each of policies.
- Very favorable settlement of personal injury claim against a popular racetrack was obtained after the jury submitted questions during deliberations suggesting that a defense verdict was likely.
- Baroco West, Inc. v. Scottsdale Insurance Company
Defended insurance company against its insured general contractor's claims that the insurer failed to defend the general contractor in a homeowners' action for negligent construction. After securing a favorable ruling on the carrier's motion for summary judgment and following oral argument before the court of appeal, Mr. Edson prevailed on Baroco's appeal of the trial court's ruling. The published decision primarily addresses an insurer's duty to defend in light of the interpretation and application of the products-completed operations hazard definition.
- Morris v. Blank
Successfully appealed the judgment against client, convincing the Court of Appeal that the trial court erred as a matter of law. The appellate court's published decision discusses the doctrines of res judicata, collateral estoppel and retraxit.
- National Fire Ins. Co. of Pittsburgh, PA v. Ready Pac Foods, Inc.
Motion for partial summary judgment granted on the issue of whether a claim for a restaurant's damages arising from an alleged decline in patronage after a food-borne illness outbreak was covered under commercial general liability and excess liability policies. The insurers claimed that the claimed damages were economic loss, and not because of covered bodily injury or property damage. The District Court agreed, and ruled that the lost patronage claim was not covered under the insurers' policies.
- North American Capacity Insurance Co. v. Claremont Liability Insurance Co.
Acted as lead counsel and presented oral argument in a matter which focused on the interpretation and application of a Contractors Warranty Endorsement and a Known Injury and Damage Endorsement, and which involved the trigger of completed operation coverage, among many other issues. The court's published decision was included in Mealey's Litigation Report: Insurance in an article entitled, "Top Ten Most Important Insurance Coverage Decisions of 2009."
- Amerisure Ins. Co. v. Scottsdale Ins. Co.
Three insurers litigated coverage for an underlying lawsuit regarding bodily injury claims of a subcontractor's employee when he fell from a roof while employed on a construction project. The subcontractor had contracted to perform work and indemnify the general contractor with primary insurance against claims connected with subcontractor's work. The employee filed suit against the general contractor and the subcontractor's primary insurer defended, eventually exhausting its limits in settlement. Then, the general contractor's primary insurer demanded the excess insurer for the subcontractor drop down to provide primary insurance, arguing that the subcontract governed over excess policy language. All three insurers reserved rights, agreed to fund a settlement and litigate the recovery case. At issue were two questions: 1) did client's excess policy's cross-liability exclusion bar all coverage where one insured, an employee, sued another insured, the additional insured general contractor; or, 2) did the subcontract govern priority of the policies requiring the subcontractor's excess policy to drop down for settlement before the general contractor's primary insurance. On motions for cross-summary judgment, the Southern District of Indiana ruled in favor of our client's cross-liability exclusion, finding no coverage under the excess policy. The District Court's decision was affirmed in a published decision by the United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit.
- Rojas v. Superior Court
Lead/coordinating counsel for subcontractor defendants in a large toxic exposure action involving a $200 million claim by plaintiffs. The trial court denied plaintiffs' motions to compel production of material produced by defendants in connection with mediation held prior to litigation. Plaintiffs filed petition for writ of mandate challenging the trial court's rulings, which petition the Court of Appeal granted. After the firm filed briefs supporting defendants' position that the materials were privileged, we successfully negotiated a dismissal of our client prior to oral argument before the State's appellate courts. The Court found in favor of position expressed on behalf of Selman Breitman's client.
- Big 5 Sporting Goods v. Zurich American Insurance Company
Insured sporting goods company was sued in a putative class action for statutory violations of California's Song-Beverly Act which bars retailers from requesting personal identification information, including ZIP Codes, during credit card transactions at their stores. After tendering this matter to two insurers and receiving a defense under reservation of rights, the insured filed a declaratory judgment action; the insurers counterclaimed. Adjudicating cross-motions for summary judgment, the California Central District Court concluded that no coverage obligations were owed for the statutory violation claims or the tag-along common law invasion of privacy claims. The Court enforced the carriers' policy exclusions for claims, including privacy violations, arising from violation of statutes prohibiting distribution, transmission, or sending of certain information. Additionally, the Court refused to find coverage for alleged common law privacy violations due to collection of ZIP codes. It ruled this conduct did not rise to the level of a privacy violation and merely labeling it as one could not create a defense duty. The Court also held that, in seeking civil penalties, plaintiffs were not seeking "damages" as required for coverage by the insuring language. The plain and ordinary meaning of "damages" does not include civil penalties, attorney fees, disgorgement or restitution. Accordingly, the insurers received a declaratory order for full reimbursement of all defense expenses and indemnity sums previously expended on behalf of the insured.
Professional Associations and Memberships
- Claims Litigation Management (CLM), Member
- Defense Research Institute (DRI), Member
- Association of Southern California Defense Counsel, Coverage/Bad Faith Substantive Law Committee, Chair
- American Bar Association (ABA), Litigation Section
- Super Lawyers: 2006-2018
- Top 100 Southern California Lawyers, 2015, 2017-2018