Hon. Robert L. Dondero (Ret.) joins JAMS after nearly 10 years of service on the California Court of Appeal, First Appellate District, Division One. Before being appointed to the appellate court, Justice Dondero was a Superior Court judge in San Francisco for 17 years, where he served on the criminal bench at the Hall of Justice, the Juvenile Court and the civil trial departments. From 1998 to 2000, Justice Dondero was the supervising judge of the San Francisco Criminal Court. He was elected by his colleagues as assistant presiding judge of the San Francisco Superior Court from January 2003 to December 2004, and then as presiding judge from January 2005 to December 2006. Throughout his tenure on the Superior Court, Justice Dondero participated in numerous mediation and settlement conferences resulting in the resolution of cases on the trial calendar.
Prior to becoming a judge, Justice Dondero was a deputy district attorney in San Francisco. He handled a variety of trials involving homicide and sexual assault, including the prosecution of a series of homicides called the “Zebra murders,” the trial for which lasted more than one year. In 1978, he became an Assistant United States Attorney for the Northern District of California, handling numerous federal prosecutions, with an emphasis on white-collar litigation and racketeering cases, including RICO trials. He served with the Department of Justice for 14 years until he was appointed to the bench.
Those who have appeared in front of Justice Dondero describe him as engaged and note that he asks probing questions of both sides. He is lauded for being able to remain calm and composed in any situation and for using his intelligence and possessing great judgment, which will enable him to be an effective neutral.
BUSINESS AND COMMERCIAL
- Mediation involving a dispute between a subcontractor and the general contractor and his insurer over payments and the alleged breach of contract by the subcontractor
- Eden Township Healthcare District v. Sutter Health (2011) 202 Cal.App.4th 208: The district sought declaratory and injunctive relief against a nonprofit health system based on the alleged conflict of interest of the CEO of the district also receiving a salary as CEO of nonprofit health system.
- J.P. Morgan Chase v. City & County of San Francisco:This is a case Judge Dondero handled in the trial court as a bench trial. The trustee of a pension plan sought the refund of property taxes and penalties paid on behalf of the plan. The issue concerned whether various acts by the trustee delayed the filing requirement obligation of the trustee for a refund from the city. The decision was affirmed.
- Tribeca Companies v. First American Title Insurance Co. (2015) 239 Cal.App.4th 1088: An investment firm that previously created an escrow account at the title company for a joint venture for two other entities sued the title company after the latter refunded escrow funds to a third-party investor.
- Julius Castle Restaurant v. Payne (2013) 216 Cal.App.4th 1423: Tenants sued landlords for breach of contract and warranty, as well as negligent misrepresentation and fraud. The landlords cross-complained.
- Bay Guardian Co. v. New Times Media LLC (2010) 187 Cal.App.4th 438: A newspaper sued another newspaper alleging unfair competition under the UCL in advertising rates.
- Judicial Council of California v. Jacobs Facilities Inc. (2015) 239 Cal.App.4th 882: Disgorgement proceeding by a state agency after a corporation’s contractor license had expired. The agency appealed the ruling in favor of the corporation.
- Bezirdjian v. O’Reilly (2010) 183 Cal.App.4th 316: A shareholder filed a derivative action against the corporate board for breach of fiduciary duties and mismanagement.
- CADC/RAD Venture 2011-1 LLC v. Bradley (2015) 235 Cal.App.4th 775: A lender brought a post-foreclosure action against the loan guarantors for breach of guarantees, and the guarantors alleged UCL violations based on sham guaranties.
- Wong v. Stoler (2015) 237 Cal.App.4th 1375: This was a rescission action by purchasers against a vendor after they discovered that homes they purchased were connected to a private sewer system as opposed to a city system.
- Evariste Group v. Security National 2017 WL 4856857: This case focused on the scope of a memorandum of understanding and its application to a preliminary injunction.
- Lyman v. Rockcliff Inc. 12 Cal.App.5th 812: The issue concerned the review of the scope of an arbitration clause in a suit involving a seller of real property and the obligation of the broker.
- Arbitrated dispute between a managing partner of a law firm and the partnership regarding his retirement package, including benefits and terms of departure.
- Arbitrated wage and hour claims relating to the failure to pay appropriate wages, overtime, meal and rest break requirements, as well as accurate wage statements and the maintaining of payroll records for the employee.
- Nelsen v. Legacy Partners Residential Inc. (2012) 207 Cal.App.4th 1115: A former employee filed a class action suit against former employer, alleging violations of the California Labor Code.
- Lewis v. City of Benicia (2014) 224 Cal.App.4th 1519: A former city employee sued the city and his supervisors for sexual harassment and retaliation under FEHA. The decision reversed summary judgment in favor of the city.
- Jenks v. DLA Piper Rudnick Gray US LLP (2015) 243 Cal.App.4th 1: An attorney sued a merged law firm claiming it had violated the terms of his termination agreement by preventing him from receiving benefits. The agreement was enforced.
- Koehl v. Verio Inc.:In a bench trial before Judge Dondero, former sales representatives sued their employer for wage claims arising from written commission plans they alleged the employer was violating. The employer sought reimbursement for overpayment of wages. The decision was affirmed at 2006 WL 2615515.
- Linton v. DeSoto Cab (2017) 15 Cal.App.5th 1208: The issue was whether cab drivers are employees and not independent contractors. This case involved application of Borellofactors to the relationship.
CLASS ACTIONS/MASS TORTS
- Duran v. U.S. Bank National Association (2012) 203 Cal.App.4th 212: This was an appeal of a wage and hour class action decision against an employer. The damages award and class certification were reversed. Among the numerous issues were the determination that the trial court’s statistical sampling of the class violated due process. The decision was affirmed by the California Supreme Court (59 Cal. 4th 1 (2014)).
- Koval v. Pacific Bell Telephone (2014)232 Cal.App.4th 1050: Nonexempt employees filed a class action against their employer claiming it violated laws regarding meal and rest breaks.
- Mies v. Sephora USA (2015) 234 Cal.App.4th 967: An employee filed a class action on behalf of specialists working for the defendant, claiming it misclassified them as exempt from California labor regulations.
- Duran v. U.S. Bank (Duran II) (2018)19 Cal.App.5th 630:This was a review of the denial by the trial court of class certification after remand from the California Supreme Court. The class of workers claimed it was unlawfully exempted from overtime pay.
- Neutral analysis in severe personal injury matter involving the application of negligent tort theory and product liability contentions
- Taylor v. Elliott Turbomachinery Co. (2009) 171 Cal.App.4th 564: In a product liability case, a manufacturer was sued for failure to warn regarding risks inherent in the products supplied by other manufacturers. This case anticipated the California Supreme Court’s decision in O’Neil v. Crane Co. (2012) 53 C4th 335.
- People v. Tri-Union Seafoods Inc.:This was a bench trial before Judge Dondero where the parties litigated tuna labeling statements under Proposition 65. The proceeding lasted approximately one month, with numerous expert testimony on the effects of mercury in canned tuna. Judge Dondero issued a lengthy decision in the case, which is available at 2006 WL 1544384 (2006). The decision was affirmed in People v. Tri-Union Seafoods Inc. (2009) 171 Cal.App.4th 1549.
- Shields v. Hennessy Industries Inc. (2012) 205 Cal.App.4th 782: In an asbestos case, a worker sued the machine manufacturer. The trial court entered judgment on the pleadings in favor of manufacturer. The decision was reversed.
- Scott v. Ford Motor Company (2014) 224 Cal.App.4th 1492: A service station operator brought a claim for negligence and product liability against the manufacturer. A sophisticated user defense was analyzed.
- Douglas v. Fidelity National Insurance Co. (2014) 229 Cal.App.4th 392: Insureds sued insurer alleging bad faith and negligence. The decision was reversed after review of insurance law regarding broker/agent distinction.
- Krumme v. Mercury Insurance Company: This was a bench trial before Judge Dondero. The insured sued the insurer under UCL for using insurance brokers to sell auto insurance policies without complying with statutory requirements that the insurer file a notice of appointment of its agents with the Insurance Commissioner, and for allowing the brokers to charge consumers broker fees that were above the advertised price for insurance.
- Employers Insurance Company of Wasau v. Travelers Indemnity Co.: This was a bench trial before Judge Dondero. An insurer sought declaratory relief against other insurers to obligate them to contribute to the cost of the defendant’s environmental tort claims after comprehensive settlements with mutual insureds arising in prior suits. The decision was affirmed at 141 Cal.App.4th 398 (2006).
- Stephens & Stephens XII LLC. v. Fireman’s Fund Insurance Co. (2014) 231 Cal.App.4th 1131: An insured owner of a commercial property sued the insurer for breach of contract and for bad faith. The jury ruled in favor of the insured.
- Mediation involving a dispute between health insurance provider and its hospital care division seeking fees from former patient who received treatment services after being injured by a third party.
- Children’s Hospital & Medical Center v. Bonta (2002): In this bench trial, Judge Dondero reviewed claims by out-of-state hospitals against the California Department of Health Care Services challenging the constitutionality of differences in reimbursements for services to Medi-Cal patients in hospitals. The decision was affirmed at 97 Cal.App.4th 740 (2002).
- Parchester Village Neighborhood Council v. City of Richmond. (2010) 182 Cal.App.4th 305. Members of a community argued the city was obligated to conduct Environmental Impact Report (EIR) before entering into municipal services agreement with Indian tribes to develop casino
- Coastal Hills Rural Preservation v. County of Sonoma 2017 WL 2118370. Decision by the County to undertake mitigated negative declaration (MND) instead of EIR was, under the facts of the case, compliant with CEQA.
- Friends of College of San Mateo Gardens v. San Mateo County Community College District 11 Cal.App.5th 595. Environmental matter regarding the impact of a demolition of campus building and gardens.
GOVERNMENT AND PUBLIC POLICY
- Saenz v. Glesmann. In this bench trial, employees of licensed community care centers challenged life-time ban procedures of the Department of Social Services based on prior conduct of the employees. Affirmed at 140 Cal.App.4th 960.
- Environmental Law Foundation v. Beech-Nut Nutrition Corp. (2015). 235 Cal.App.4th 307. Environmental group sued manufacturer under Prop 65 for failure to warn about levels of lead in baby food.
- San Mateo Union High School District v. County of San Mateo (2013) 213 Cal.App.4th 418. School district brought action against the county and its officials for breach of contract, statutory violations of the prudent investor standards, and other theories regarding county investment policies.
- Anti-SLAPP Cases
- Clarendon America Insurance Co. v. Bishop, Barry, Howe, Haney & Ryder 2011 WL 3684824. Anti-SLAPP appeal by law firm accused of fraud and misrepresentation in a dispute between condo owners and the manager.
- Stewart v. Rolling Stone Inc. (2010) 181 Cal.App.4th 664. Musicians sued tobacco company and magazine for improper use of their name in advertisement.
- Cuevas v. Contra Costa County (2017) 11 Cal.App.5th 163. Guardian for minor filed malpractice action against county and medical professionals. Decision concludes MICRA applies to future as well as past collateral sources.
REAL PROPERTY AND LANDLORD/TENANT
- Kaufman v. Goldman (2011) 195 Cal.App.4th 734. Landlord brought action to enforce agreement with tenant.
- Salazar v. Matejcek (2016) 245 Cal.App.4th 634. Suit by one landowner against another based on encroachment, trespass, wrongful removal of trees and injunctive relief.
- Thorstrom v. Thorstrom (2011) 196 Cal.App.4th 1406. This case concerned the right of way between two parcels formerly connected and an implied easement to access water.