Employment History with Sample Litigation
Smaha Law Group, APC, San Diego, CA | 2004 to 2022
Litigator and Business Adviser in boutique, referral-based litigation and transactions firm with significant practice representing U.S.-side disputes and deals for cross-border clients. Counsel diverse mid-size and small businesses—including Mexican businesses entering the U.S. market—high net worth families, and investors.
Major Litigation Matters at Smaha
- $30 Million Cross-Border Dispute: Defended U.S. interests of patriarch of a Tijuana founding family in dispute—settled on the eve of trial—with five adult children enforcing claims against family business.
- Defense Verdict in $350,000 Contract Dispute: Defended borrower in three-day bench trial against lender attempts to enforce personal guarantee on the basis of alleged oral modification to a loan contract.
- Defense Verdict in $100,000 Contract Dispute: Defended small business owner in two-day bench trial against international vendor attempting to recover funds paid to vendor’s agent despite implied authority.
- Bankruptcy Adversarial Matter: Defended semi-private golf club, purchased for $10 million by national club operator while in reorganization, in dispute with adjacent HOA over non-residents as club members.
Key Contributions at Smaha
- First or second-chair caseload of three to six commercial litigation matters typically valued between $250,000 to $4 million, including conflicts among owners / partners, contract and warranty disputes, business torts, misrepresentation, fraud, employee complaints and malfeasance, commercial landlord / tenant disputes, trademark infringement, and subcontractor disputes.
- Counsel on business formation and dissolution, outlining risks and benefits of business forms. Set up 30+ partnerships, nonprofits, and LLCs, including single-purpose entities for real estate development. Draft bylaws, operating agreements, stock purchase agreements, buy-backs, and other supporting agreements.
- Advise on day-to-day business operations, including commercial leases, residential master leases, contracts for goods and services, long-term equipment leases, employment contracts, executive compensation packages, sponsorship agreements, SBA loans, and loan refinancing agreements.
- Handle up to ten Chapter 11 corporate bankruptcies and reorganizations per year, including seven successful reorganizations. Meet and negotiate with trustees, secured lenders, secured landlords, and other creditors.
- Run up to 20 complex Chapter 11 personal bankruptcies per year for individuals with high value assets, including retirement accounts valued at $500,000 or more.
Gates, O’Doherty, Gonter & Guy, San Diego, CA | 2001 to 2004
Commercial litigator in 25-lawyer, three-office litigation defense firm known for depth of courtroom and dispute resolution experience on behalf of Fortune 100 manufacturers like Toyota, General Motors, Nissan, and Ford, as well as major retailers like Costco. Reduced corporate exposure by limiting plaintiffs’ claims and discovery to specific, individual products at issue rather than implicating entire models and product lines.
Major Matters at Gates O’Doherty
- $25 Million Negligence Claim: Served on defense team for Costco against consolidated negligence claims brought by 10 plaintiffs for injuries stemming from mid-day, parking lot shoot-out in Los Angeles between Costco security guard and robbers armed with assault rifles during attempted robbery of armored truck.
- $15 Million Wrongful Death Claim: Served on defense team for Costco in wrongful death claim with co-defendant Ford Motor Company related to car accident following installment of replacement tires. Supported pre-trial, week-long jury trial, and confidential settlement negotiations.
Key Contributions at Gates O’Doherty
- Took on active caseload of ~60 product liability and “lemon law” matters—valued up to $150,000 each—from Day One in trial-by-fire environment. Partnered with insurance carriers and design defect co-counsel.
Defended ~150 matters, defended 100+ depositions of manufacturers’ mechanics and dealership representatives, negotiated 75+ settlements, and served as lead counsel at ~30 mediations, as well as supported four jury trials—all in just three years. In court weekly for case management conferences and twice monthly for hearings.
University of San Diego School of Law | JD, 2001
- Honored with Dean’s Outstanding Scholar Award, offering full three-year academic scholarship and stipend.
- Translated portions of Mexican version of Uniform Commercial Code (UCC) as Research Assistant for Prof. Jorge Vargas. Also worked on legal implications of historical 1850s flood shifting U.S. / Mexico border markers, leading to inadvertent establishment of San Diego within Mexican territory.
- Author, From Paris Convention to TRIPs: A Brief History, 12 J. Contemp. Legal Issues 445, 448 (2001).
University of San Diego | BS in Accountancy with Minor in English, 1998
- Earned degree while working in family business—assisting U.S. companies’ use of NAFTA to minimize taxes by opening factories in Mexico and transporting improved and finished products back into the U.S.
- Interned two summers in a dream job—San Diego Padres’ Stadium Operations team, helping to turnover branding and shared field with San Diego Chargers and interacting with fans at special events and activities.