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October 2014

Gordon & Rees Team Wins Complete Defense Verdict After Month-long Trial

A Gordon & Rees trial team of San Diego partner Richard Sybert and Orange County associate Nate Tarvin has won a complete defense judgment for the firm’s client in Orange County Superior Court following a month of pretrial evidentiary hearings and a month-long jury trial.

The plaintiff in the suit ran an independent Mercedes repair shop from premises in Lake Forest he leased from Gordon & Rees’s client.   In 2010, there was a flood when a plumbing valve failed, which the plaintiff alleged was the result of the landlord’s failure to maintain the building’s fire sprinkler system.  In addition to property damage and business interruption, the plaintiff claimed respiratory and allergic injuries to himself and to his young daughter resulting from mold, and claimed over $20 million in total damages. 

Discovery showed these claims to be suspect, and that the motivation for the lawsuit may have been the rejection of the plaintiff’s offer to buy the building when it was put up for sale and the plaintiff moved.  Sybert and Tarvin successfully attacked the plaintiff’s health claims in a pre-emptive strike, filing motions to exclude the plaintiff’s mold evidence and expert witness, which were granted after a monthlong evidentiary hearing.  The remaining contract, nuisance, and economic damages claims were tried to a jury over the next four weeks, following which Gordon & Rees nonsuited other claims brought by the wrong party – the plaintiff individually rather than his corporation.   

After three days of deliberations, the jury returned a complete defense verdict as to all remaining claims.  Post-trial motions will be filed to recover substantial expert costs and attorneys’ fees pursuant to the lease.  Sybert lauded Tarvin for handling the “heavy lifting” in the case.  “Gordon & Rees is fortunate to have a strong bench of talented lawyers contributing to the success of our nationwide commercial trial practice.”  

Richard P. Sybert