S O C A L   D R C   D I S P U T E   M E D I A T I O N   N E W S                                                                                                                        

June 2011
Prominent nationwide bank selects Reed Hamzeh to mediate numerous disputes pertaining to real estate litigation, including mortgage default litigation, title disputes, bankruptcy and foreclosure actions with SoCal DRC already settling the first two matters provided to them. SoCal DRC settles first two mediations brought to them and looks forward to settling more.

June 2011
Facts: SoCal DRC settles a four vehicle chain reaction rear-end traffic collision involving subrogation claims by two of the largest insurance companies against the at fault driver who's insurance policy limits exceeded the damages. The case had already been through an unsuccessfully mediation.

Approach: Liability was not at issue. The parties had disputes as to the amount of damages at issue. As to the amount in excess of the at fault driver's policy limits, the parties analyzed the financial situation of the driver and came up with a fair settlement as to the amounts owed.

May 2011
Facts: SoCal Dispute Resolution Center settles two separate actions between a bank and borrower pertaining to defaults on refinanced mortgage loans that had a second liens on homes that had already been foreclosed upon and sold. The bank alleged that the loan applications in both cases contained false information, were fraudulent and entitled them to collect the entire amount from defendants personally. The bank had purchased the loans in bundle purchases of loans and did not discover the fraud until years since the loan was made. These cases involved numerous complexities and legal issues that are still grey areas in California state court.

Approach, Case 1: In one case, the Defendant alleged that the seller had approached him and asked him to obtain two loans to buy a home in the defendant's name and subsequently refinanced the second loan which defendant did out of kindness to seller. Defendant later learned that (1) many of the loan documents were forged by the original seller and it was the seller that committed fraud and (2) that the statute of limitations had lapsed for a fraud claim because the original lender had a duty to discover the fraud at the time of making the loan.

We discussed with the lender the case weaknesses that (1) there was a possibility that the original lender from whom they acquired the loan could be found to have failed to discover the fraud in the loan (the listed employer in the loan application had the same last name as the seller) meaning that the subject action is untimely and (2) even if the claim is found timely, that the original lender may be found to be liable for not discovering the fraud. We also discussed the weaknesses in defendant's case in that he agreed to purchase a home in his name that he did not intend to buy using false information to obtain the loan which could easily result in the inference that he was a co-conspirator in fraudulently and be found to be partly or fully liable to personally re-pay the loan. The parties agreed to a settlement involving an upfront payment to be paid within 30 days and a five year payment plan for a remaining amount agreed to by the parties.

Approach, Case 2: In the second case, the Defendant (borrower) alleged that it had financial proof of providing accurate information in obtaining the loan and that California law is unclear on whether the bank even had standing to bring such an action. The bank alleged that that the borrower was unable to prove her income provided on the loan application and that borrower never used the residence as her primary residence.

We discussed the various strengths to settling this matter: the ambiguities in the case law pertaining to the matter, necessary discovery required and that the need to bring in additional parties would result in litigation costs that could easily exceed the amount in dispute which could still result in an uncertain outcome for both parties. The parties worked in good faith to come up with a mutually agreed upon settlement involving a single lump sum payment involving a reduction in the amount in dispute.

May 2011
Facts: SoCal DRC settles an action brought by a buyer against prominent worldwide bank to quiet title and seeking declaratory relief that a home she purchased at a trustee sale (foreclosure sale) was owned free and clear. The previous owner of a home refinanced two loans on a home, the second loan was a line of credit ("LOC") which requires written confirmation to be closed. The new bank providing the refinancing paid the bank issuing the LOC but the borrower did not officially close the LOC and continued to use it. When the borrower defaulted on both the new loan and the LOC, the new bank foreclosed and sold the home. The bank that had the LOC brought action against the new owner claiming it still had a first lien against the home because it moved into first place when the original loan was paid off and that the new bank moved into second place. The owner alleged that the new bank intended to pay off the LOC bank in full and move into first place.

Approach: Significant litigation was still required to depose the original parties involved and bring in additional parties that were potentially liable as well. After much good faith work, the mediator made a mediator's proposal, which the parties accepted.

May 2011
Facts: SoCal Dispute Resolution Center settles an action brought by a plaintiff against the City of Los Angeles when plaintiff moved to avoid a falling tree branch which resulted in him hitting a light pole and suffering injuries to left lateral chest area and a rib fracture. The City denied having notice of a dangerous condition and the amount of the special and general damages.

Approach: We started by analyzed the facts regarding prior notice pertaining to this tree and other trees in the area. It was discovered that the City had timely attended to a complaint regarding a tree branch on the same area and had no record of any complaints pertaining to this tree. The plaintiff alleged that the manager of the apartment building in which plaintiff lived, and other tenants, had made several calls to complain about the subject tree located in front of this apartment building. We discussed the significant uncertainty as to how a jury may decide this issue. We also discussed the issues pertaining to the medical history and charges pertaining thereto. The parties were ultimately able to settle the matter in good faith.

APRIL 2011
Reed Hamzeh recognized by the Riverside Superior Court for his "excellent" services as a mediator on the Alternative Dispute Resolution panel.

APRIL 2011
Facts: SoCal DRC settles a suit brought by a homeowner against his neighbor and the pool company that drained a pool that allegedly caused significant damage to his property, including landscaping consisting of valuable trees and a lawn. The plaintiff alleged having a sample of the water and estimates for repair and defendants alleged following city procedures, including checking that the water was safe to drain. The parties were thousands of dollars apart in settling the dispute.
Approach: We worked with the parties to understand the strengths and weaknesses of each case, including that a jury could easily find for either side in this action because the facts were subject to such a wide interpretation. We discussed the strengths of settling the matter now since the amount in dispute was relatively small in comparison to the mounting legal bills that could far outweigh such amount. The parties settled the dispute in an amicable manner and were pleased with the outcome.

MARCH 2011
Facts: SoCal DRC settles a dispute between an insurance company and an insured wherein the insurance company alleged that the insured breached a former settlement agreement requiring insured to make minimal monthly payments for an car accident for which she agreed she was responsible. The insured was a young women that was in college and also assisting her mother that had been recently laid off and could not afford the payments.
Approach: We worked with the parties to understand the concerns and positions raised by both sides. After establishing trust with the parties in the mediation process, we were able to settle the dispute resulting in a new settlement acceptable to both parties.

Facts: SoCal DRC settles a dispute involving allegations that defendant fraudulently represented that he developed route tracking software inducing plaintiff to form a limited liability company, hire employees and incur costs in furtherance of the company. Plaintiff alleged that, through the course of over two years, the software was faulty and was finally discovered not to be developed by defendant. Defendant alleged that plaintiff failed to perform the marketing and sales roles he alleged he would undertake, that the software functioned properly and only required some licensing for certain algorithms of the code which could be done if the company had any sales. He alleged that he himself had lost tens of thousands of dollars in damages in the company as well.
Approach: We worked with both sides to go over the strengths and weaknesses of both parties' cases pertaining to liability and damages as well as the practical implications of settling the case. Mr. Hamzeh and the parties were able to develop trust in the mediation process which enabled the parties to work in good faith and arrive at a fair settlement.

Facts: SoCal DRC settles an action involving a dispute between over 70 investors and an attorney regarding forming a company for the purpose of establishing a Native American Casino. The plaintiffs' action brought seven claims seeking a million dollars in damages for: (1) fraudulent inducement and negligent representation for (a) representing the project would succeed and that he would not accept payment until it realized significant profits while concealing the tremendous complexity and uncertainty of the project and (b) fraudulent inducement to give defendant authority as Manager to access funds which he paid to himself as dual role of general counsel and manager of the LLC; (2) breach of fiduciary duties and negligence as an attorney for failing to disclose the conflicts of interest for serving as general counsel and manager of LLC; (3) conversion and misappropriation of LLC assets. Defendant's insurance policy was for $100,000 and most of that amount had already been consumed in legal fees. The parties were over $500,000 apart in settlement discussions.
Approach: We worked with the parties to understand the case complexities, discuss the strengths and weaknesses for each party regarding the legal and practical aspects of their case. After establishing trust with both parties regarding the methodology being implemented, both parties worked together to devise a strategy to settle the case.

Facts: SoCal DRC settles a dog bite case involving neighbors wherein plaintiff and her husband gave some food to the next door neighbor's dog and in which the dog caused injuries, including chipped tooth, to the face of plaintiff. The dog was a special needs dog for the defendant's son and was alleged to be a good dog. Defendants contested liability claiming the dog never bit the plaintiff, that plaintiff was negligent for offering the dog food and that the plaintiff only suffered minor injuries. Plaintiff alleged the dog bit her in the face and sought over $75,000 in damages and defendants had yet to offer any money to settle the matter.
Approach: We established trust with the parties by discussing the case strengths and weaknesses for both sides and the practical realities of the case. The parties were able to work together in good faith to settle the matter and the neighbors agreed to set the dispute behind them and resume their healthy neighborly relationship once again.

Facts: SoCal Dispute Resolution Center settles a complex dog bite case where the parties were on the verge of trial and over $95,000 apart in settling the case. Plaintiff sought significant damages resulting from defendant's dog attacking her and causing her significant injuries to her legs and shoulder. Defendant's contended that Plaintiff's injuries were a result of pre-existing and long standing rheumatoid arthritis and a subsequent unrelated assault occurring less than a year later.
Approach: We worked with the parties to understand the strengths and weaknesses of each case, went over plaintiff's medical records and both parties' medical expert reports in detail. The mediator and parties were able to develop a core level of trust and began to work together to arrive at a fair settlement.

Facts: SoCal Dispute Resolution Center settles a three year old premises liability and negligence action involving a serious head injury to plaintiff while attending an award show at a world famous studio being broadcast by a top broadcasting network. An object hung by third party fell and struck plaintiff in the head causing serious injuries. Plaintiff sought a million dollars in damages from five named defendants. The parties were a half million dollars apart after three previously failed mediations and were on the verge of trial.
Approach: We worked with both sides to understand the case strengths and weaknesses of each party. Mr. Hamzeh earned the trust of the parties and enabled them to trust in the negotiation process resulting in a mutually agreed upon settlement.

JUNE 2010
Facts: The mediation involved two separate disputes between plaintiff and defendants involving (1) breach of construction contract claims pertaining to building of storage facility and (2) breach of third party fiduciary agreement and negligence claims regarding significant improvements to single family residence and a set aside of fraudulent conveyance of title to real property claim, among others.
Approach: The parties initially had little success in settlement discussions and were hundreds of thousands of dollars apart in monetary damages. We went through the factual and legal issues of the dispute and were able to better assist the parties in understanding their respective strengths and weaknesses of their cases. We also addressed key underlying misunderstandings between the parties which assisted the parties in thinking about creative solutions to resolve the dispute. The parties ultimately settled the dispute by agreeing to a creative set of solutions and were able to shake hands and amicably move on from a long and costly dispute.

MARCH 2010
Facts: Bitterly disputed and fought unlawful detainer action that arose in 2003 involving family members over a ownership interest rights in a piece of real estate property.
Approach: We went through the history of the facts with each party separately and determined that there were numerous misunderstandings regarding key issues. We also were able to determine numerous events that transpired throughout the history of the dispute that each party felt were hurtful which were based upon misunderstandings or failures by the other party to understand such frustrations. As the misunderstandings were cleared up, both parties began working together in a cooperative spirit allowing us to come up with numerous settlement terms that satisfied both parties' concerns. The family was able to experience genuine healing, exchanged words of apology and regret and embraced with heartfelt hugs and tears of joy.

Facts: Wrongful death action involving a tragic car accident wherein a teenager was killed and the passenger survived. Action was brought by mother and surviving passenger. The driver had no car insurance and very little assets.
Approach: This was a very emotional and difficult case for plaintiffs (mother and surviving friend of deceased). This mediation involved facilitation and counseling. Through some creative suggestions offered by the mediator, the case was settled.

JULY 2009
Facts: Personal injury action involving a severe accident injuring two passengers. Plaintiffs claimed tens of thousands in damages. Defendant denied the extent of the damages. The parties had failed to settle the matter in a previous mediation session before a retired judge and were on the eve of trial.
Approach: We went through the case facts and documents supporting damages. After extensive review of case strengths and weaknesses with both sides, the parties were able to settle the matter. The case started with more facilitative approach and ended with an evaluative approach with the mediator giving a final mediator's settlement figure. Both sides agreed to it.

MARCH 2009
Facts: A breach of contract and fraud action involving a long term commercial lease involving medical facilities involving hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages. Tenant alleged fraud in the inducement of the contract because the facilities were not as represented. Landlord alleged breach of contract and tens of thousands of dollars for unpaid rent and resulting contractual penalties.
Approach: Worked with the parties to understand the underlying facts and contractual terms. Discussed strengths and weaknesses of case with both parties. In addition, determined that the parties' animosity towards each other was roadblock in settling the matter. Upon working through different settlement options and the risks of proceeding with litigation, we were able to come up with a creative settlement acceptable to both parties.

Facts: A wrongful death action involving the death of a construction worker that was hit by a large construction vehicle while working on site. There were no witnesses to the death and defendants claimed comparative negligence. The deceased had a wife and three young children. Numerous parties were a part of the action. Ten expert depositions had been taken and several more were scheduled to be taken. After spending lots of money mediating the matter with a retired judge, the parties still had a $4 million dollar gap to settle the case.
Approach: Learned and discussed the strengths and weaknesses of each case with each party. Determined what each party was privately willing to accept for a realistic and actual settlement that day. Upon discussing a variety of settlement solutions, the matter settled leaving both sides feeling satisfied.

Facts: The action involved a breach of contract claim by an attorney that had provided representation to a client for unpaid fees. In addition, the client brought an action for malpractice against the attorney. The action was bitterly disputed and was on the verge of trial. Previous settlement attempts had failed.
Approach Upon discussing the case with the parties, we discovered that the dispute arose out of a miscommunication that occurred between the parties which had never been sufficiently examined and cleared up. The animosity between the parties disappeared after clearing up the misunderstanding between the parties. This not only led to a settlement between the parties but also a reconciliation ending with an exchange of apologies and a handshake.
SoCal DRC  ¤  515 South Flower Street  ¤  36th Floor  ¤  Los Angeles, CA 90071  ¤  TEL: 310.860.6080  ¤  FAX: 310.860.6084

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