Phone: (310) 394-1420

Fax: (310) 394-1430

2049 Century Park East, Suite 3850

Los Angeles, California 90067

The Cowan Law Firm

Employment & Civil Rights Law,

Business Litigation & Class Actions


Phone: (310) 394-1420

Fax: (310) 394-1430

Email: info@cowan-law.com



Two Locations


LOS ANGELES

2049 Century Park East, Suite 3850

Los Angeles, CA 90067

SANTA MONICA

2425 Olympic Blvd, Suite 4000 W

Santa Monica, CA 90404

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Employment Law Victories

$2.4 Million Class Action Settlement re Unpaid Overtime, Mis-classification and Other Wage and Hour Violations

A company operating in San Bernardino hired thousands of workers to provide services to the U.S. military. Initially, it mis-classified its non-managerial employees by paying them as independent contractors. Then, the company started paying the workers as employees but failed to give overtime wages despite the fact that the employees routinely worked more than 8 or 12 hours in a day. The employer also failed to allow the rest and meal breaks that California law requires for non-exempt employees.

Los Angeles employment lawyer Jeffrey Cowan filed a class action lawsuit against the employer. The defendant removed the case to federal court, asserted a variety of constitutional defenses and then moved for summary judgment. Jeffrey Cowan deposed key witnesses all over the United States (including Alaska, Washington, DC; and Quantico, Virginia) and opposed the summary judgment motion. At a court-ordered settlement conference, the lawsuit settled for $2.4 million.

To learn more about the facts and issues in this lawsuit, read our opposition to the employer defendant’s motion for summary judgment here.

$475,000 Class-Action Settlement Against Trump National Golf Club for Denying Meal and Rest Breaks

In December 2008, Los Angeles employment lawyer Jeffrey Cowan filed a class action lawsuit against the Trump National Golf Club in Racho Palos Verdes.  Eventually (after four mediations and the full briefing of a motion for class certification with declarations from dozens of employees about how they were denied 30 minute meal breaks and 10 minute rest breaks by managers who did not know or were indifferent to the law), the lawsuit settled in 2013 for $475,000. 

$468,000 For Victim of Retaliation

A Los Angeles company hired our client to work as an in-house recruiter. After one week of employment, he received an email stating that the company was rejecting a female job candidate he had submitted because the vice president wanted to hire a man. Our client sent an email objecting to the instruction, citing the federal law that prohibits gender discrimination in the workplace and asking what the job's requirements were. He also confronted the vice president in person. The company fired our client a week later. Although the company told our client he was being laid off for “economic reasons" and was eligible for re-hire, the company told others that he had been fired for performance reasons. Our client was unable to find comparable work and also suffered depression (a condition that runs in his family).

Los Angeles employment lawyer Jeffrey Cowan sued the company for unlawful retaliation under California's employment civil rights statute, the Fair Employment and Housing Act ("FEHA"). During discovery, the company could not get its story straight about why it fired our client or who made the decision to do so. It also was caught (a) trying to hide a key witness and (b) trying to tamper with her testimony before she could be subpoenaed for a deposition. Jeffrey Cowan filed a special motion for discovery sanctions and an instruction to the jury about the company's misconduct and the inferences that could be drawn from it. The judge, Hon. Robert Hess, hinted that he was going to grant the motion and then deferred ruling on it. The lawsuit then settled just two weeks before trial for $468,000.

National Chain Pays $435,000 to Sexual Harassment Victim

A Fortune 100 corporation doing business in Southern California had a policy prohibiting sexual harassment that existed only on paper. As a result, for years our client was subjected to crude sexual comments by not only her fellow employees (male and female) but also her managers. When our client reported this conduct - which she found highly offensive - to her supervisors and the company’s anonymous hotline, nothing happened. Once, our client was told by a manager whose fiance also was being sexually harassed that store politics kept him from doing anything. Our client also watched a colleague who complained about sexual harassment receive ridicule, scorn and retaliation from the manager in charge of her store.

When our client finally reported her sexual harassment to managers willing to act, the company not only failed to follow its own procedures but also failed to take the kind of remedial action that either California or federal law requires. Shockingly, the company’s district manager supervising the investigation knew little about how to investigate sexual harassment. This supervisor also rebuffed our client’s efforts to report all of the harassment that had been occurring because this manager assumed (incorrectly) that she had been told about all incidents of sexual harassment.

All of these actions caused our client to become depressed - to the point where she could not work or always care for her three children. Our client also started suffering panic attacks and became suicidal despite being on prescribed anti-depressants and seeing a psychologist. A forensic psychologist we hired confirmed after extensive testing that our client was “legitimately” depressed and not exaggerating or faking her symptoms.

We sued the company for sexual harassment (California Government Code § 12940(j)) and for failing to prevent sexual harassment (California Government Code § 12940(k)) after it rejected our offer to talk settlement without a lawsuit. After the company got the lawsuit transferred from court to an arbitrator (our client had signed an arbitration agreement), we started deposing key witnesses. Not surprisingly, the managers who had either turned a blind eye or perpetrated sexual harassment lied at their depositions about their actions. As a result, Jeffrey Cowan canvassed Southern California to find witnesses whom we believed would impeach the lying managers. Sure enough, both former and current disinterested employees gave testimony that contradicted the managers (and corroborated our client’s story).

Two months before trial, the company asked to mediate the lawsuit. After a mediation in San Francisco, the lawsuit settled in June 2009 for $435,000 and a promise from the corporation that its non-managerial employees in the store where our client had worked would be educated about sexual harassment at least once a week for a year.

$280,000 Settlement for Restaurant Employee Victim of Sexual Harassment and Retaliation

A female Los Angeles employee in a fast food restaurant was sexually harassed with repeated requests for dates and sexual faces/gestures by a female co-worker. The restaurant’s general manager not only ignored the victim’s complaints but also denied her requests to be transferred to another restaurant. The manager also let co-workers bring sexually shaped food to work, showed naked photos on his cell phone to his subordinates, and openly discussed customers whom he found sexually attractive. After a confrontation between the victim and the harassing lesbian in the bathroom one day, the restaurant manager called the police and told the sexual harassment victim that she was be arrested if she stayed. Afraid, the victim left, was not later allowed to talk to the owner, and had her final paycheck stolen by the rogue manager.

The victim hired Los Angeles employment lawyer Jeffrey Cowan to prosecute her sexual harassment claims. Mr. Cowan obtained all of the client’s employment records (which required filing an enforcement proceeding with the Department of Labor Standards and Enforcement), filed a complaint with the DFEH, and then sued the restaurant and the manager under California’s Fair Employment Housing Act for sexual harassment, retaliation and failing to prevent sexual harassment (plus other claims). Two months before trial, and after Mr. Cowan at deposition (I) got two third party witnesses during cross-examination to corroborate key parts of the victims testimony, and (II) impeached the defendants, the case settled for $280,000.

$150,000 Settlement for Victim of Housing Discrimination and Sexual Battery

A woman renting a rural house near Santa Clarita in Los Angeles County found herself with a landlord who harassed her with unwanted romantic and sexual comments and overtures.  The advances continued even after the tenant made clear that they were unwelcome.  The landlord then began stalking the woman – first showing up unannounced at her home and then at her workplace, where he ended up grabbing the woman’s buttock (sexual battery) and also squeezing her arm so forcefully that he bruised it.


Making a police report and having the cops warn the landlord to stay away did not resolve the problem, so the woman first got a restraining order and then retained Los Angeles housing discrimination and civil rights lawyer Jeffrey Cowan. After Jeffrey sent a demand letter, the landlord retaliated by raising the tenant’s rent.  Eventually, Jeffrey persuaded the landlord to participate in a pre-litigation mediation – which resulted in a $150,000 pre-litigation settlement in February 2015. As a result, the client can now afford psychotherapy and work towards healing and moving on with her life.

$120,000 Pre-litigation Settlement for Sexual Harassment and Retaliation Victim in Bakersfield, California

Between 2012 and 2014, Los Angeles employment attorney Jeffrey Cowan of The Cowan Law Firm in Santa Monica represented a woman making slightly more than minimum wage who was sexually harassed by first a co-worker and then her supervisor shortly after being hired for a job in Bakersfield, California. The co-worker and supervisor pestered the woman for dates (“hostile environment sexual harassment”), and threatened her with consequences if she did not go out with him (“quid pro quo sexual harassment”). When the employee complained to the company’s HR department for the 2nd time about being sexually harassed, she was fired.

The woman retained Los Angeles employment attorney Jeffrey Cowan. While investigating the retaliatory decision to fire the woman, Mr. Cowan tracked down in South America the former employee who had witnessed the decision to fire Mr. Cowan’s client and who confirmed that the woman had been fired for complaining about sexual harassment. After Mr. Cowan filed a DFEH discrimination charge on his client’s behalf, the company reconsidered its position and asked to mediate. The dispute then settled at mediation for $120,000.

$100,000 Settlement for Employee Victim of Disability Discrimination and Retaliation for Opposing Unsafe, Violent Conditions in the Workplace

A local restaurant employed a hostess whose duties included standing outside to attract and talk to potential customers. The area has many mentally ill homeless people. One day, a mentally ill homeless woman attacked our client and some customers while she was working. The police were called. The restaurant then refused the hostess’s requests for permission to come inside if she saw homeless people who appeared potentially violent. The employer restaurant knew that because she had been a victim of violence in the workplace, the hostess was suffering post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which is a kind of disability. See Jenson v. Wells Fargo Bank, 85 Cal. App. 4th 245, 258 (2000)). Nevertheless, the restaurant failed to give the employee an option to file a workers compensation claim. It also refused to find its hostess a replacement to cover her shifts while she sought psychotherapy given the restaurant’s refusal to let her come inside if she saw homeless people who appeared violent. When the employee’s manager threatened to fire her, the employee asked the restaurant’s owner for help. The restaurant fired her.

The fired hostess then hired Los Angeles employment trial lawyer Jeffrey Cowan. Mr. Cowan determined that our client had claims for disability discrimination under the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) and wrongful termination in violation of public policy and in violation of Labor Code Section 6310(b). Mr. Cowan then worked to find police records evidencing that the similar prior incidents had occurred. He also “bird-dogged” current employees who had witnessed the incident and got a sworn statement from one of them. Mr. Cowan then offered to share his evidence at a pre-litigation mediation with the employer and also threatened to sue the employer for violations of California Labor Code § 6310(b) and for disability discrimination as codified in California Government Code § 12940. The employer accepted the offer to do a pre-litigation mediation — which resulted in a $100,000 settlement for our client.

$60,000 Sexual Harassment Judgment and $235,972 in Attorney Fees Awarded Against Community Activist Tony Wafford

On November 1, 2010, a jury returned a verdict in favor of Los Angeles employment lawyer Jeffrey W. Cowan’s client Sharon Song Byrd and against African American community activist Tony Wafford (aka Anthony Wafford). Defendant Tony Wafford had been Ms. Byrd’s supervisor at the Palms Residential Care Facility in Los Angeles. After a two week trial, the jury found Defendant Tony Wafford liable for (1) sexually harassing Ms. Byrd and (2) the tort of battery (from hitting her and causing permanent nerve damage to her hand). The jury awarded Ms. Byrd compensatory damages and $20,000 in punitive damages against Defendant Tony Wafford.

Because of a legal mistake in the jury’s award, a 2nd trial (with a judge; no jury) was conducted on July 18, 2011. Thereafter, the court issued a $60,000 judgment against Tony Wafford, which consisted of $40,000 in general damages (i.e., emotional distress) regarding the sexual harassment and $20,000 in punitive damages.

Thereafter, the court granted Ms. Byrd’s motion for attorney's fees (pursuant to Government Code § 12965(b) of the Fair Employment and Housing Act) and awarded $235,972 in legal fees (which included a modest multiplier).

To see the judgment, click here.

To see the order granting the motion for attorney's fees and costs, click here.

To learn more about the facts at issue in this sexual harassment and battery lawsuit (LASC Case No. BC 403677), read the briefs that Los Angeles employment lawyer Jeffrey Cowan filed in support of his motion to conduct discovery about Defendant Wafford's finances by clicking here, here and here.

News stories about the trial include the following:

Zimbio.com Article

Los Angeles Wave Article

Accounting Employee Vindicated of Embezzlement Before Trial

A mid-level accounting manager was sued in the Los Angeles Superior Court for helping a convicted felon embezzle millions of dollars. To make matters worse, this single mother was added to the lawsuit only a few months before trial. All this happened after the woman had voluntarily cooperated with prosecutors in criminal proceedings against the real thief without “lawyering up” -- and without ever being charged criminally.

The manager hired Los Angeles / Santa Monica business trial lawyer Jeffrey Cowan and The Cowan Law Firm to defend her. After being convinced of our client's innocence, we immediately offered to let the plaintiff's lawyer interview our client so that he might be persuaded that she had done nothing wrong. When that offer was declined, we served comprehensive discovery, filed a motion (a demurrer) challenging the legal sufficiency of the claims alleged against our client, and moved to have the trial continued. The judge, Hon. Ron Sohigion, granted both of our motions in full.

Shortly thereafter, the plaintiff agreed to settle with our client for four-figure nuisance money. After we filed a motion asking the judge to approve the settlement as being in good faith (a finding necessary to protect our client’s rights), the plaintiff voluntarily dismissed our client and said that he would not require her to pay a penny of the agreed upon settlement.

Six Figure Settlement For Sexual Harassment and Wrongful Termination Victim in San Bernadino

A woman working as a medical assistant for a San Bernardino company was sexually harassed by her supervisor (a doctor). The supervising doctor repeatedly talked about the woman’s buttocks and breasts, offered her money to expose herself, intimated that he would like to receive oral sex from her, masturbated in her presence and walked around in his underwear in front of her. When the woman reported the conduct to management, she was fired.

Before Before retaining Los Angeles / Santa Monica employment and civil rights lawyer Jeffrey Cowan and The Cowan Law Firm, the woman filed a sexual harassment and retaliation complaint with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (which is a requirement for being able to sue in court). An EEOC mediation in which the woman did not have a lawyer failed when the company rejected the woman’s six figure demand while refusing to pay more than $10,000. The woman then retained Los Angeles employment lawyer Jeffrey W. Cowan of The Cowan Law Firm. We spent several months hunting down and interviewing witnesses. Ultimately we obtained signed statements corroborating our client’s story. After being advised of these developments, the company agreed to mediate the dispute in December 2007 with a retired judge before the woman’s deadline to file a lawsuit compelled litigation. This time the company paid not only six figures to settle the dispute but also a sum that was 50% more than the offer it rejected at the EEOC mediation.

Six Figure Settlement for Employee Discriminated Against Because of His Kids' Disabilities

A male employee for a publicly traded corporation had three children who suffer from “boy in the bubble” disease and regularly need medical treatment at UCLA. The company transferred him from Los Angeles to Las Vegas after promising to accommodate our client's need to return home every few weeks to visit his family and help take the children to the hospital for medical treatments. Then the company learned how the medical needs of our client's kids were increasing its insurance premiums. Suddenly, our client's supervisor started harassing him and denying him time off to see his children - to the point that he suffered a nervous breakdown. After Los Angeles and Santa Monica employment trial lawyer Jeffrey Cowan was retained, a six figure settlement was negotiated within a few weeks.

Former employees vindicated on embezzlement claim

Two former employees of a Southern California company were sued for embezzlement. Los Angeles employment trial lawyer Jeffrey Cowan defended the employees - who hotly disputed the allegations - while counter-suing for wage claim violations. Comprehensive discovery yielded no evidence to support the employer's allegations. After we won (1) a motion for financial sanctions against the company and its lawyer for failing to produce documents and computer files, and (2) a motion to have some of the company's claims dismissed, the employer paid our clients to settle the lawsuit.

Business Law Victories

$588,000 Judgment for Breach of Contract

A New York finance company lent almost $475,000 to a family business in the Inland Empire region of California. The debtor corporation defaulted on its loans and filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. Fortunately, the lender had required all of the family members who owned the business to personally guarantee the debts.

The finance company hired Los Angeles business trial lawyer Jeffrey Cowan of the Cowan Law Firm in Santa Monica, California to try to recover its money. Working with fellow trial lawyer and friend Mark Kassabian (of Buehler & Kassabian, LLP in Pasadena), Jeffrey Cowan sued the debtor family members in January 2009 in the Riverside County Superior Court for breach of contract.

Promptly thereafter, Jeffrey Cowan sought and obtained (1) a temporary restraining order freezing the defendants’ assets and thereafter (2) a pre-judgment writ of attachment. Jeffrey also propounded substantial discovery. Shortly thereafter, the defendants fired their lawyer and agreed to stipulate to having judgment entered against them for the full amount owed plus all pre-judgment interest and attorneys fees - for a total of about $588,000.

Of course, a judgment has value only if it can be enforced. After Jeffrey Cowan noticed a judgment debtor exam of the principal operative’s mother-in-law, the judgment debtors began making payments on the judgment.

$476,500 Recovery for Local Company Cheated Out of Sales Commissions

An East Coast company hired our client, a local corporation, to act as its sales force and target Fortune 500 companies. The contract entitled our client to receive commissions on all deals in which it had any involvement. (This favorable term was negotiated after the East Company refused to give any equity in it.) After our client started generating leads, the East Coast company began repudiating agreements about which target accounts could be pursued. It also cancelled the contract, interfered with our client’s ability to close deals, and concealed the closing of several deals our client had worked on.

Our client tried to resolve these issues informally. It failed. It then retained Jeffrey Cowan and The Cowan Law Firm.

We invoked the arbitration clause in the parties’ contract. The East Coast company responded by proposing that the companies mediate in the interests of minimizing legal fees. We were amenable – until the East Coast company refused to provide any information about what deals had closed and the revenues they had generated (a requirement to avoid negotiating “in the dark”).

We renewed our demand to arbitrate. The East Coast company ignored us. Because the contract specified that the winning party in any lawsuit could not recover its legal fees if it violated its contractual duty to arbitrate, we filed a “petition to arbitrate” lawsuit in the Los Angeles Superior Court. The East Coast company opposed the lawsuit. A judge rejected its arguments and ordered arbitration. The East Coast company then voluntarily paid our client’s legal fees incurred to that point without the need for more motion practice.

The East Coast company then again proposed mediation. This time, however, it agreed to provide financial information. We mediated twice with retired Superior Court Judge Eric Younger over an 8 month period – with the second session involving hundreds of pages of documents and independent witnesses. As a result, the East Coast company agreed to pay $476,500 to settle our client’s claims.

$175,000 Settlement with Los Angeles Department of Water & Power for Frying Factory Machinery

In April 2014, Los Angeles business trial lawyer Jeffrey Cowan obtained a $175,000 settlement against the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (“DWP” or “LADWP”) based on the DWP having repeatedly damaged a Los Angeles manufacturer’s machinery by sending excessive electricity to the premises for years.

Guardian Pool Fence Systems, Inc. makes, distributes and sells its own proprietary fences designed to keep young children from drowning in swimming pools. Between 2010 and the spring of 2012, the factory’s CNC machines in its Van Nuys factory repeatedly malfunctioned – even after being serviced, replaced and serviced again by the nation’s top expert. Eventually, the company thought to test how much electricity it was receiving. Doing so revealed that the LADWP had been sending electricity beyond its own acceptable ranges to Guardian Pool Fence System’s premises. The DWP admitted this in a written report.

Guardian Pool Fence Systems then had Los Angeles business trial lawyer Jeffrey Cowan of The Cowan Law Firm in Santa Monica submit an administrative claim for damages pursuant to the California Government Tort Claims Act (Government Code § 815 et seq). The LADWP denied the claim almost immediately.

Jeffrey Cowan and Ilana Makovoz of The Cowan Law Firm then sued the DWP in Los Angeles Superior Court. The DWP again tried to avoid liability for its actions by filing a demurrer arguing that it could not be held responsible for its wrongful actions based on rules that the DWP itself had promulgated. Guardian Pool Fence Systems opposed the DWP’s motion (with lengthy briefing on the applicable constitutional and statutory legal issues), and the Superior Court eventually over-ruled the motion and ordered that Guardian Pool Fence System’s lawsuit should proceed. After minimal discovery and a mediation with retired Superior Court judge Robert W. Thomas, the lawsuit settled for $175,000.

Victory Over Famed Los Angeles “Pit Bull” Law Firm

A disbarred Midwestern lawyer turned Hollywood “producer” lied about his credentials and successes to trick a wealthy Northern California investor and a young Los Angeles actress into doing business with him. The lawyer/con artist (who had been disbarred in two other states for stealing client money) was a smooth talker with a professional web site that he used to help sell his deceits. Because the investor and actress initially believed the disbarred lawyer's tall tales (e.g., he had produced Arnold Schwarzenegger movies and regularly dined with the “head” of Paramount Studios), they gave him an interest in a film they had produced while also investing hundreds of thousands of dollars in new projects. The disbarred lawyer then embezzled much of the money.

Eventually of course, the investor and actress discovered they were being cheated. When they told others in the entertainment community, the disbarred lawyer hired a Los Angeles entertainment law firm famous for its aggressive tactics. The “pit bull” law firm sued the defrauded investor and actress for defamation. They then hired The Cowan Law Firm - which promptly counter-sued for fraud and conversion (i.e., theft). Jeffrey Cowan and Ilana Makovoz rolled up their sleeves by interviewing witnesses and getting signed sworn statements and key documents - as well as a video of the disbarred lawyer's web site depicting some of his lies. At a court-ordered mediation in the summer of 2007, the lawsuit settled with the disbarred lawyer paying six figures to our clients.

Victory Over Collection Company That Engages in the Unauthorized Practice of Law

A Century City company buys credit card debt and then sues to enforce it. While defending a lawsuit against one debtor, Jeffrey Cowan discovered that the company was "renting" the name of a lawyer (who was never there and whose State Bar record showed his office was at another location) and directing its non-lawyers employees to write legal papers on their own and then forge the lawyer's name on those papers before filing them with the court. Plus, the owner of the company - also not a lawyer -would hold himself out on the telephone as a lawyer. To make matters worse, the company had a history of (1) cheating its employees on their wages, and (2) filing bogus lawsuits against employees who asserted their rights or objected to its unlawful actions. The company also had a history of flouting the law - as evidenced by a federal judge's order in 2006 imposing more than $40,000 in sanctions against the company for intentionally violating a court order.

A former employee of the company gave two sworn statements exposing how the company and its owner carried out the unlicensed practice of law. The former employee also talked to a local newspaper reporter and reported the company to the State Bar of California. A few months after the declarations were given, the "collection company" sued not only the former employee but also his father. The dad had no involvement with the company but unlike his son had assets (a home). The lawsuit contained few allegations about the father and the few that were there were a sham.

The father hired The Cowan Law Firm to defend him. We filed an anti-SLAPP motion to strike seeking to have the lawsuit dismissed because it had been filed solely to retaliate against the former employee for exercising his free speech rights. The Superior Court granted the motion in part, dismissed part of the lawsuit, and ordered that the company pay the father $17,000 for his legal fees. We then propounded discovery regarding the remaining bogus claims against the father. In the fall of 2007, a few days before the deadline for the plaintiff to "show its cards" and answer the discovery, the plaintiff voluntarily dismissed the father - with no warning and no conditions. The father now is looking to sue the company and its lawyer for malicious prosecution.

Other Litigation Victories

$150,000 Settlement for Victim of Housing Discrimination and Sexual Battery

A woman renting a rural house near Santa Clarita in Los Angeles County found herself with a landlord who harassed her with unwanted romantic and sexual comments and overtures.  The advances continued even after the tenant made clear that they were unwelcome.  The landlord then began stalking the woman – first showing up unannounced at her home and then at her workplace, where he ended up grabbing the woman’s buttock (sexual battery) and also squeezing her arm so forcefully that he bruised it.

Making a police report and having the cops warn the landlord to stay away did not resolve the problem, so the woman first got a restraining order and then retained Los Angeles housing discrimination and civil rights lawyer Jeffrey Cowan.  After Jeffrey sent a demand letter, the landlord retaliated by raising the tenant’s rent.  Eventually, Jeffrey persuaded the landlord to participate in a pre-litigation mediation – which resulted in a $150,000 pre-litigation settlement in February 2015.  As a result, the client can now afford psychotherapy and work towards healing and moving on with her life.

Caretaker Daughter Wins Trial on Siblings’ Claim of Undue Influence Over Mother.

Our client spent over ten years caring for her elderly father and later (after her dad died) her mother. Her grown siblings did little to help. The parents promised to reward our client.

At one point, the mother deeded two pieces of land in East Los Angeles to our client after two siblings (who never helped care for their parents) filed a conservatorship lawsuit to wrest control of the mother’s money. One property was a house that the mother already had bequeathed to our client. The second property was a commercial building that the mother deeded after a TRO had been issued “freezing” the mother’s assets. The siblings later abandoned the lawsuit, and nothing happened until after the mother died. Then, near the peak of the real estate bubble (when the two properties were worth over $1 million), the mother’s estate sued to recover title to the properties on theories that included lack of competence by the mother and undue influence by our client. There also was a claim for elder abuse.

The client hired Los Angeles trial lawyer Jeffrey Cowan. Because our client had limited money for fighting the lawsuit, we litigated very strategically. We took the minimum depositions necessary (which included having Jeffrey Cowan depose a psychologist in Seattle who years ago lived in Los Angeles and had examined our client’s mother during the conservatorship lawsuit).

To further complicate matters, we learned during the lawsuit that our client had been induced to transfer some of her interests in the two properties to a Las Vegas resident who had attended a few years of law school without graduating but had told her that he was “just as good as a lawyer.” This person was added to the lawsuit, and we sued him for fraud and to rescind the subject transactions. When Jeffrey Cowan deposed him, there were two “Perry Mason” moment. First, the non-lawyer admitted to doing things that constituted the unlicensed practice of law – and eventually invoked his 5th Amendment rights. Second, Jeffrey Cowan impeached the non-lawyer with court documents from other jurisdictions that showed similar fraudulent conduct. Eventually, the “non-lawyer” agreed to settle on highly favorable terms.

But settlement efforts with our client’s siblings failed (likely because of family dynamics/animosity). As a result, Jeffrey Cowan tried the case in 2007. The trial lasted over a week and involved testimony from not only many family members but also a neurologist and two psychologists. In the end, the judge found (among other things) that the siblings had not carried their burden of showing that the mother lacked competence when she made the subject transfers or that our client had exerted undue influence over the mother. As a result, our client retained the home that had been bequeathed to her in the first place.

To read our client’s trial brief, please click here.




Santa Monica & Los Angeles Employment Attorney & Business Trial Lawyer