The following summarizes some significant representative matters in which Mr. Larson played a material role. These are representative only and cannot be relied upon to predict future success in any other litigation or matter. However, in most, you’ll see how meticulous case preparation and research led to a successful outcome. None of the outcomes were easily achieved, as is usually the case in resolving material disputes.
The Clergy Litigation: Mr. Larson helped oversee and assisted with the representation of hundreds of victims in the hundreds of coordinated actions alleging sexual abuse—mostly of minors—by Catholic clergy in southern California. Mr. Larson’s firm also served as the court-appointed plaintiffs’ liaison counsel. The volume of work required the firm to operate almost continuously (i.e., almost 24 hours per day over three shifts), including weekends, for an approximate 6-year period. Mr. Larson oversaw the restructuring of firm operations to accommodate the mountain of mail arriving daily related to the Clergy Litigation. Mr. Larson developed the multi-layered file, database, and digitizing systems that provided the organization necessary for the firm to perform its liaison-counsel duties. Mr. Larson also developed the damages model for the firm’s cases, which was used to great effect in maximizing case values. Mr. Larson oversaw and largely drafted the successful opposition to the Archdiocese’s massive motion for summary judgment. Mr. Larson also largely performed the structuring and drafting of the highly complex and lengthy settlement documents that resulted in approximately $1 billion in recoveries for plaintiffs across the case groupings.
Tractor-Trailer vs. SUV; Wrongful Death; Establishing Millions in Additional Coverage: The tragic incident occurred in Orange County, late at night, in a blacked-out intersection due to an area-wide power outage. A tractor-trailer heavily impacted a small SUV, catastrophically injuring the SUV’s driver, moderately injuring the front-seat passenger, and instantly killing the rear-seat passenger. Mr. Larson represented the rear-seat passenger’s parents in a wrongful death action. The only apparent liability insurance coverage was the owner-operator truck driver’s $750,000, a grossly insufficient amount. Through thorough discovery and research, Mr. Larson established a legal joint venture between the truck driver and the owner of the trailers being pulled, thereby implicating several million dollars in additional liability insurance coverage, which allowed a significant, multi-million dollar settlement.
Industrial Forklift Incident; Lower-Leg Amputation and Crush Injuries: A forklift struck a bundle of long, heavy steel pipes during offloading causing it to topple onto the truck driver who had just delivered the load. The driver’s lower legs were crushed, causing a below-the-knee amputation of his right leg and catastrophic crush injuries to the left leg rendering it largely useless. The multi-week jury trial was complex, involving allegations of perjury by the plaintiff, an employment claim seeking to invoke the exclusive-remedy doctrine, and vigorous disagreement regarding liability and the nature, breadth, and amount of special damages. Despite the myriad issues, the pre-trial offer of $400,000 was topped by a jury verdict in excess of $5 million. Mr. Larson handled the trial of all issues other than the negligence of the forklift operator and the alleged perjury issues. Mr. Larson also assisted with and oversaw the subsequent law-and-motion and appellate work.
Galvanized Steel Pipe Litigation: The $41 million resolution of this massive construction-defect litigation was extensively reported in the Los Angeles Times. The cases concerned the use of galvanized iron piping in the potable water systems of hundreds of homes in the Santa Clarita area. After just a few years, residents experienced brown, dirty water when they opened their taps. The numerous cases were coordinated and placed in mediation for over one year. Mr. Larson’s firm served as co-lead counsel in the coordinated proceedings. Mediation sessions often involved more than 100 counsel, adjusters, and other related principals. Mr. Larson’s role was to develop the damages/repair model and create the complex agreements and documents necessary to resolve matters. Mr. Larson created the lengthy settlement documents early in the process, which created a point of focus and developed strong momentum for settlement. Settlement occurred with the 28th substantive draft of the settlement documents over the course of the one-year mediation.
Fatal Explosion in MC-406 Petroleum Tanker; Death of Husband and Father; Subsequent Criminal Prosecution Based on Mr. Larson’s Discovery: A leak developed at the base of one of the four internal compartments of an MC-406 petroleum tanker owned by a fuel transporter. There is a dead space between each internal compartment, with each dead space having vent holes at its top and bottom. Construction, maintenance and operation of MC-406 tankers are heavily regulated by federal law. It is illegal to transport fuel with the vent holes closed, but the transporter closed a bottom vent hole while transporting causing the dead space to fill with gasoline. Mr. Larson represented the family of the specialty welder who was hired by the transporter to fix the leak. The transporter failed to inform the welder that the dead space had been plugged and filled with gasoline, thereby depriving the welder of necessary information to properly clear the dead space of trapped gasoline vapor. When the welder struck his arc at the leak site, the fuel vapor in the adjacent dead space exploded, killing the welder. Mr. Larson involved the U.S. Department of Transportation in the case. The case resulted in a multi-million dollar settlement for the family. Shortly after settlement, the FBI seized Mr. Larson’s discovery files and the U.S. Department of Justice used the information obtained in discovery to criminally prosecute and convict the transporter’s principals for felonious violations of federal law leading to death.
Mid-Year Contract Modifications by a Major Health Insurer: After lengthy arbitration proceedings before a highly regarded retired appellate jurist and a favorable decision, this class action resolved for close to $23 million. The Superior Court judge overseeing the action called it the best class action settlement he had ever seen. After payment of attorneys’ fees, costs and expenses, the class received 100-percent recovery of its damages, which were measured as class members’ incurred out-of-pocket expenses related to the health insurer’s complained-of behavior. The action challenged the insurer’s mid-year modifications to its annual health-care service plan contracts in the form of increased deductibles, co-payments, and co-insurance percentages. The contracts provided the insurer could change the contracts upon 30-days’ notice. The contract was not illusory because the insurer’s power to modify was constrained, as a matter of law, by the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing. The issue: how to determine and measure whether, in fact, the insurer’s mid-year modifications breached the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, thereby breaching the health care contracts and entitling the class to damages. Successful resolution of this issue centered on Mr. Larson’s extensive legal research into the emerging jurisprudence built around a theory promulgated and developed by an Iowa law professor within three highly influential law review articles, two in the Harvard Law Review. That emerging jurisprudence provided the analytical underpinnings as to when and how a party to a contract breaches the implied covenant. Mr. Larson retained the law professor as his expert. The emerging case law embracing the professor’s formulation carried the day. Other proceedings involved the ascertainment and measurement of qualifying class claims, class damages, and the payment process, which Mr. Larson also developed and oversaw.
Thermo-Galvanic Corrosion at Sun City Summerlin, Nevada: Located in the Las Vegas area, Sun City Summerlin is a large senior housing community of over 7,000 homes. Of those homes, approximately half were plumbed with buried, below-slab copper piping for their potable water systems, and their owners constituted the class in this massive construction-defect litigation. Mr. Larson was co-lead counsel for the plaintiff class. Within a few years following construction, the copper hot-water pipes began to fail because the soil resistivity in the area caused the hot-water pipe to deteriorate as a sacrificial anode for the adjacent cold-water pipe; this corrosion process is thermo-galvanic corrosion. The two predominant issues driving the litigation were the best remedy to stop the corrosion (thereby dictating the cost of repair) and the anticipated future rate of failures. The case required Mr. Larson’s deep dive into corrosion science and double-weibull statistical analysis. The case was very expert heavy. The case settled for over $22 million on the eve of trial. The settlement judge locked counsel in the courthouse, and a settlement was hammered out at 12:30 a.m. on the day of trial. All class members received 100 percent of the cost of repair, which involved re-routing above ground the hot water piping in each home not yet repaired. At the time, it was the largest construction defect litigation result in Nevada history.
Clear Liability; Large Policy; Difficult-to-Diagnose Injury: Mr. Larson’s client, a lieutenant in London’s Metropolitan Police Service, one of the most prestigious law enforcement agencies in the world, was in California on a skiing and golf holiday. On the way to LAX, while sitting in a rented minivan’s third-row seating, he was badly injured in a high-speed, bumper-override, rear-end accident that shoved luggage into the back of the third-row seat, severely hyperextending his back. There was a $1 million liability policy. The client experienced unusual symptoms: crippling mid-thoracic pain that proved totally debilitating. By the time Mr. Larson received the case, the client had been involuntarily medically discharged from the Metropolitan Police Service. The records from the UK’s National Health Service provided neither a differential diagnosis nor an effective treatment plan. So, the conundrum was that we had a clear-liability incident with substantial coverage, but an undefined injury. The defendant’s insurance carrier asserted “soft-tissue” injury and offered $35,000. Mr. Larson brought the client to Los Angeles and retained several top physicians at the UCLA Medical Center to solve the mystery. At first the physicians were stumped, but then a hunch by one opened the door. The ultimate diagnosis was severe thoracic outlet syndrome. The client underwent surgery at UCLA, which involved removal of the number one rib and the bottom one-third of the anterior scalene muscle, thereby decompressing the thoracic outlet. The surgery resulted in near-total cessation of the client’s debilitating pain and disability. A jury trial resulted in a verdict near the $1 million policy limit, and recoverable costs and 998 fees pushed the total beyond the $1 million policy limit.
Business Litigation; Breach of Contract; Bogus Claim of Failure of Condition: After months of painstaking negotiation, a dental practice management company entered into a definitive agreement to acquire one of the largest single-site, multidisciplinary dental practices in California. Shortly before the acquisition date, the company claimed it could not proceed with the acquisition due to a failure of a financing condition precedent in the definitive agreement. Careful study of the company’s SEC filings revealed the truth: the company was pursuing two acquisitions—one of which was Mr. Larson’s client—but lacked the funding from its syndicated credit facility to do both. It was secretly relying on an increase in its syndicated credit facility, and when that failed to materialize, it chose the other deal. The company, however, failed to account for California’s jurisprudence providing that a failure of a condition precedent cannot excuse a party’s contractual non-performance if the failure was caused by that party’s own voluntary conduct. The company was found liable for substantial damages after a multi-week arbitration.
An Unlikely Story; Multiple Wrongful Deaths & Catastrophic Injuries: A small sedan carrying its driver, a front-seat passenger, and the passenger’s three young children was side-swiped by an Oldsmobile sedan near the top of the Grapevine and sent careening into a tractor-trailer rig parked on the shoulder of the Interstate 5 freeway. The driver and two of the three children were killed, and the surviving mother and child were badly injured. Mr. Larson represented the mother, surviving child, and their husband/father. Early in the litigation, we settled with the Oldsmobile’s driver. But the liability of the tractor-trailer driver and owner proved much more difficult. There is a Vehicle Code provision prohibiting parking on a freeway’s shoulder unless necessitated by an emergency. The tractor-trailer driver told the CHP his rig had overheated coming up the Grapevine necessitating his pulling the rig to the shoulder. The CHP found no fault with this. Mr. Larson doubted the story because the driver had pulled over immediately before the exit at the top of the Grapevine. Wouldn’t the driver continue the short distance to the exit and get the rig off the freeway? Mr. Larson suspected the rig had run out of gas. Deep in discovery, Mr. Larson deposed a mechanic who established the rig had, in fact, run out of gas. Mr. Larson’s deep knowledge of vehicle mechanics allowed him to create an airtight liability case, which then resulted in a very large settlement amount for his clients.
An Explosion Causing Horrible Burns; Broker Malpractice; Waiver of Over $2 Million Medical Lien: A worker was cleaning the floor in a commercial warehouse using a highly flammable solvent and a machine buffer with inadequate ventilation. A large explosion ensued, catastrophically burning the worker over most of his body. His medical bills at the UCI Medical Center Burn Unit exceeded $2 million. The worker’s employer didn’t have workers’ compensation insurance due to a broker’s failure to properly place the policy with the State Compensation Insurance Fund (SCIF). Extensive legal research and in-depth discovery revealed plausible theories against the employer, broker, and SCIF. Mr. Larson successfully negotiated a complete waiver of the $2 million medical lien, a lifetime annuity with a 30-year guarantee providing a reasonable standard of living for the worker, his wife, and their children, and a funded life-care plan for future medical care.
Faulty Highway Design; Catastrophic Injuries;Loss of Career: A U.S. Marine, who was the most highly decorated non-commissioned officer in the Corp at the time, was driving his pickup truck northbound on the 101 freeway in the San Fernando Valley. In the southbound lanes, two cars collided, with one launching in the air across the median between the northbound and southbound lanes and landing on top of the pickup’s cab. The Marine suffered catastrophic injuries, including traumatic brain injuries. The Corp medically discharged him. There was minimal insurance, and eight previous lawyers rejected the road design case. Mr. Larson immediately requested the pertinent SWITRS records, which pointed to a history of cross-median accidents that necessitated installation of a center median. This incident occurred just before a permanent center median was to be installed, but there was no temporary median to prevent this incident. Discovery revealed that some Cal-Trans workers referred to the area as the “launch pad.” To maximize case value, over a period of several months, Mr. Larson created a detailed, multi-faceted life care plan and damages model. The multi-million-dollar settlement included a substantial structured settlement providing tax-free income for the rest of his life, and funds for future medical care per the life-care plan.
Transient Occupancy Tax Litigation: In a co-lead counsel capacity, Mr. Larson worked closely, for many years, with a group of lawyers representing California municipalities in litigation against the online travel companies for their failure to pay transient occupancy taxes on their “slice” of hotel-room rental revenue. The actions were coordinated in a Judicial Council Coordination Proceeding (JCCP) with an assigned trial judge and appellate panel. After multiple, lengthy administrative trials, favorable administrative decisions for the cities of Anaheim, San Diego and Los Angeles were obtained, with total awards in excess of $80 million. In each case, however, the JCCP-assigned trial court and appellate panel disagreed with the administrative hearing officer’s (and Mr. Larson’s client’s) interpretation of the applicable TOT ordinance and granted the online travel companies’ writs of mandate. San Diego’s action was heard by the California Supreme Court, which issued a mixed decision in In re Transient Occupancy Tax Cases (2016) 2 Cal.5th 131.
High-Asset Divorce; Comprehensive Analysis Leading to “Case Bible” and Settlement: Mr. Larson assisted as co-counsel with a complex, high-asset divorce matter involving significant property, spousal and child support, and fees issues. Very early in the litigation, Mr. Larson meticulously acquired all of the underlying information and then prepared a 38-page comprehensive analysis of all issues, including related tax issues. Thereafter, throughout the action’s pendency, all counsel referred to the document as the “bible,” and it served to focus discussions, which led to a global settlement that saved significant sums compared to a lengthy trial.
Dangerous Loading Dock; Severe Injuries to Long-Distance Trucker: A cross-country, husband-wife, big-rig driving team hauled a load of retail furniture from Virginia to Thousand Oaks, California. The drivers were forced to unload the cargo at the furniture store on to a peninsula-type loading dock that was open on three sides with no barrier fall protection on the sides not then being used for loading or unloading. As the husband was unloading the large, heavy objects, he lost awareness of the opposite, unprotected dock edge and tumbled to the ground below. He suffered fractures and traumatic brain injuries. The dock was undoubtedly dangerous in design due to no barrier protection on the sides that were not then being used for loading or unloading. The trucker’s traumatic brain injuries caused severe cognitive and emotional deficits that rendered him permanently and totally disabled. Maximizing damages required traveling to Arkansas (the driving team’s state of residence) to take detailed video depositions of the trucker’s numerous treating physicians, which served to rule out any other causes of the cognitive and emotional deficits and permanent disability than the traumatic brain injuries suffered in the incident. The matter resolved in a substantial settlement shortly after those Arkansas depositions.
Dangerous Loading Dock; Severe Injuries to Delivery Driver: A delivery driver for a snack-food company slipped and fell heavily while offloading boxed products at the loading dock at the rear of a grocery store that was part of a large regional grocery-store chain. The driver slipped on water in the back corner of the dock that had pooled due to recent rains. Mr. Larson’s careful discovery revealed that the supermarket had modified and expanded the dock several times and failed to provide adequate drainage to the changed dock. The driver’s injuries were severe, requiring several surgeries. Mr. Larson achieved a substantial settlement after establishing the supermarket’s role in creating the danger that caused the driver to slip and fall.
Factory Explosion; Severe Burn Injuries; Product Liability: An explosion occurred at a Gardena, California factory that badly burned a maintenance mechanic. The factory manufactured plastic parts by a process known as compression molding, which involves plastic compression molding compound being injected into large, heated presses to create the parts. The process produced residual compound dust that was cleaned from the mold by puffs of compressed air. The blown dust settled on the top of the presses and overhead light fixtures. The maintenance mechanic was repairing a press using an oxy-acetylene blow-torch when accumulated dust was dislodged from the tops of the press and overhead lighting fixtures. The cascading dust exploded in a ball of fire when it hit the torch’s flame. The molding compound’s manufacturer issued federally-mandated material safety data sheets (MSDS) pertaining to the attributes and dangers of the molding compound, which stated that the molding compound was not flammable. Mr. Larson took numerous depositions in New Jersey and North Carolina that demonstrated the compound was, in fact, quite flammable in its pre-molded, native state, and the factory owner would have carefully cleaned the molding room if it had known of the flammability risk. Mr. Larson established the factory owner relied on the MSDS to inform its cleaning protocol. The manufacturer was thus strictly liable for product liability under a failure-to-warn theory that was proven via meticulous factual discovery. Mr. Larson achieved a very large settlement for the injured mechanic.
Homeowner Association Refuses to Sign-Off on Whole-House Renovation: A highly intrusive homeowner association for a seaside luxury-home neighborhood in southern California refused to provide final sign-off at the conclusion of a whole-house renovation despite the association expensively charging to review the construction plans before the start of construction and it admitting the renovation occurred consistent with those plans. Instead of providing approval, the association added a series of construction demands that would have cost the developer approximately $50,000 to implement. In addition to challenging the association’s legal right to make the demands, Mr. Larson carefully analyzed and demonstrated the fallaciousness of the factual underpinnings the association relied upon for its demands. In two detailed submissions, Mr. Larson caused the association to back down on the most intrusive of its demands, resolving the matter by defeating all demands except one, which was implemented for about $3,000, a most satisfactory and cost-effective outcome.
Uninsured Motorist Case; Severe Injuries; Large Policy; Excess Result: An auto executive’s car was stopped at a traffic light when an intoxicated, uninsured driver’s vehicle struck her car at a very high rate of speed, causing severe crush injuries to her legs. She had a $1 million uninsured motorist policy. Her auto insurance company would not pay her the $1 million policy limit without fully litigating the matter in a policy-mandated arbitration. Mr. Larson successfully challenged in arbitration the numerous experts hired by the insurance company and achieved an arbitration award well above the $1 million policy limit.
Dental Practice Acquisition; Making It Simple: Mr. Larson represented a young dentist looking to purchase an established practice. The dentist had been to several lawyers over a near two-year period, all of whom needlessly complicated the paperwork and definitive agreement necessary to effectuate the deal. Mr. Larson drafted a straightforward, easy-to-understand definitive agreement. The selling dentist and Mr. Larson’s client, the purchasing dentist, found they both could easily understand the agreement, it effectuated each side’s wishes in the deal, and the future executory provisions were clear with each side knowing what needed to be done. Mr. Larson closed the deal two weeks after his retention. Over the years, the parties carried out all of the terms and provisions in this successfully concluded transaction.
Painful Divorce Proceedings; “I Can Draft Anything; Let’s Settle”: Mr. Larson assisted in the representation of the husband in a high-asset divorce case involving valuation and division of a closely held business, numerous pieces of real property and other property; spousal and child support issues; child custody issues; and professional fees issues. The divorcing parties shared a fundamental caring and respect for one another, which was being severely tested by the never-ending court proceedings. At about 1:00 p.m., Mr. Larson appeared for the husband’s deposition and said to all: “Rather than proceeding with this deposition, we all know the issues, let’s try to settle. I can draft anything.” All counsel and the parties worked tirelessly over the next 14 hours and reached a settlement just before daybreak. Mr. Larson then set forth the settlement’s terms in a long, complex settlement agreement, which fully settled the divorce action. Achieving justice often requires going beyond the call of duty.
Violations of Federal Trucking Law; Wrongful Death of Mother: A big-rig truck with a heavy load left Fort Worth, Texas early in the day being driven by a single driver. Its destination was Buena Park, California, approximately 1,400 miles away. In violation of federal laws mandating rest periods, the driver drove straight through without taking the mandatory rest breaks. Late at night near Buena Park, while executing a right turn, the big rig ran over a mother of five children in a crosswalk, instantly killing her. The driver was so fatigued she didn’t see the mother in the crosswalk despite that the mother had crossed five lanes of traffic in the crosswalk before she was run over. Mr. Larson represented the five children. All five of the children were estranged from their mother, but Mr. Larson focused them on how their mother had positively contributed to their lives and Mr. Larson pursued an early settlement strategy before the negative information came out. A multi-million-dollar settlement resulted.