Friday, November 9, 2012

Surprise! In order to compel arbitration, the other party must have signed the arbitration agreement

California's Second District Court of Appeal affirmed a trial court's denial of an employer's petition to compel arbitration of a sexual harassment claim, based on....the fact that the employee never signed the new employee handbook which contained a mandatory arbitration clause for all employment matters.  The employer argued that the employee knew the clause existed, and she was in charge of getting all employees (including herself) to sign the employee handbook.  The appellate court again denied the employer's petition to compel arbitration, stating "the trial court properly inferred from [employee's] election not to sign the arbitration agreement that she did not intend to be bound by it."  Further evidence of the old adage, "GET IT IN WRITING"

Monday, November 5, 2012

Wrongful Death Claims Settled...

My clients were the wife and three adult daughters of husband "Joe".  Joe died in the hospital from injuries he sustained two weeks prior  in a two-vehicle car accident on the interstate.  Joe was a passenger in his drunk friend's car when his friend rear-ended a legally stopped vehicle.  The driver's insurance company (another large national company) was quick to settle, but on its terms.  It quickly tendered its policy limit to my clients but it wanted my clients to prove a negative, namely that Medi-Care did NOT have a right to reimbursement from the settlement.  Medi-Care had already confirmed, in writing, that it did not pay any bills for Joe and therefore was not seeking reimbursement.  This was not good enough for the insurance company, because it knew Joe was a Medi-Care member and it wanted to know why Medi-Care did not pay.  After months of convincing and stating the same facts over and over, the insurance company saw the light and paid its policy limits to my four well-deserving clients.  I was happy to bring closure to this family and help them move on.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Insurance carrier denies any other policies apply...WRONG

My client, a passenger in a vehicle driven by her cousin, was ejected when the vehicle hydroplanes on a wet highway.  She was taken by ambulance to the ER with severe injuries including a traumatic brain injury.  The cousin was driving her uncle's vehicle.  The uncle only has $50,000 in coverage, which is quickly tendered to my client.  The driver did not have her own auto coverage, or so we are told.  My client's medical bills exceed $1,500,000.00.  Luckily a government program gets involved and pays them all.  Nonetheless, client is still severely injured and the large national insurance company is pushing the $50,000 policy limit.  After months of questions, letters, filing suit and subpoenaing people for depositions I confirm that there is an additional auto policy for $25,000, which was the driver's mother's policy.  It extended to the daughter via a standard "resident relative" clause in every auto policy.  Although small consolation or compensation for her injuries the additional $25,000.00 was important to my client.  It was also something additional that the large national insurance company had claimed did not exist.  It was ready to lie and pressure my client into signing away everything for only $50,000, for what the insurance company was positive was the only available coverage.  Lesson learned here: DO NOT TRUST AN INSURANCE COMPANY, EVEN YOUR OWN, TO TELL YOU THE TRUTH.

Friday, July 6, 2012

James R. Lewis Honored by SUPER LAWYERS

James R. Lewis was named as a Northern California Rising Star by Super Lawyers.  Mr. Lewis joins an exclusive list of the top up-and-coming attorneys in Northern California for 2012.  Attorneys selected for inclusion in the list of Super Lawyers and Rising Stars are nominated by their peers before undergoing "rigorous" evaluations in a number of areas of "peer recognition and professional achievement," according to Super Lawyers selection process. The objective, the magazine says, is to "create a credible, comprehensive and diverse listing of outstanding attorneys." Recognition is based on surveys of approximately 52,000 active lawyers in Northern California, independent research by Super Lawyers magazine, and review and recommendation by practice-area panels of top lawyers.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Judge Pro Tem Experience

I volunteered four hours this morning at the Placer County Superior Court as an appointed Judge Pro Tem.  Handed two cases to try and help resolve.  One was a smaller case, with an in pro per plaintiff and a large national insurance carrier on the defense.  Both parties were reasonable, put their confidence in me, and we negotiated a respectable resolution that removed risk for all involved, save thousands in litigation expenses and preserved court resources.  My experience and reputation with the defense attorney and claims representative from the carrier were important in efficiently resolving the case.  Other case involved an injury causation dispute from a major motor vehicle accident.  This was the type of case on which reasonable minds could differ, which they did and continue to do.  Neither party was mean or disrespectful about their positions, but were firm in their principles.  And both were prepared for trial in two weeks.  Despite spending two hours with the parties, could not come to any common ground.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Get Inside Your Opponent's Head!

Author and Forbes magazine columnist Victoria Pynchon writes, "In short, negotiation requires hard heads rather than soft hearts".  Despite what you might think about the other side and their motivations, the parties have to work collaboratively to resolve the dispute.  While it might not be overt collaboration, the process of recognizing the other party's perspective, accounting for it and responding to it with respectful disagreement or alternatives is collaboration.