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Hon. W. Scott Snowden

Hon. W. Scott Snowden (Ret.)

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Upcoming Events
General Biography
Practice Areas
Agribusiness & Food Law
Business Commercial
Employment Law
Personal Injury
Product Liability
Professional Liability
Real Property
Honors, Memberships, and Professional Activities
Background and Education

Hon. W. Scott Snowden (Ret.) has been a trailblazing leader for over 25 years in case management, modern court administration, and early resolution. Under his guidance for over 15 years, the Napa Superior Court has resolved the majority of civil actions within 12 months of filing. A pioneer of court-based mediation, he brings decades of skills as an extraordinarily effective settlement specialist.

ADR Experience and Qualifications

  • Exceptionally creative, sensitive, and skilled at resolving complex litigation involving subject matters ranging from professional negligence and tort cases to commercial, insurance, and real estate matters
  • Initiated and managed the immensely popular and effective Napa Superior Court Mediation program
  • Settled and tried hundreds of widely varied civil cases as a judge and Presiding Judge of the Napa Superior Court
  • Unparalleled professional and personal experience in the grape and wine industry

Representative Matters

  • Business Commercial
      • Mediated dispute between managing member and high-tech venture capital firm over terms and conditions of disengagement
      • Mediated case regarding payment to withdrawing shareholder of health insurance brokerage; accounting issues relating to the legality of distributions for purchase/redemption of share in corporation
      • Multimillion-dollar settlement of case between resort owner and management company after breakdown of operating relationship; parties were in arbitration and had received interim award; conducted multi-session mediation to attempt resolution of all remaining issues and satisfaction of award
      • Mediation of dispute between seller of winery and buyer; issues related to duty to pay for post-sale custom crush services provided by buyer to seller; further issues related to alleged failure of wastewater disposal system and compliance with covenants in buy-sell agreement
      • Mediation of dispute between County and waste management franchisee over monies allegedly due following conclusion of 15-year solid waste collection contract; complex accounting issues relating to allocation of expenses by garbage collection contractor among multiple jurisdictions
      • Mediation of lawsuit alleging violation of Federal Court injunction against trademark infringement by one winery/grapegrower upon the registered trademark of an ultra-premium winery
  • Catastrophic Personal Injury
      • As judge, presided over wrongful death jury trial involving family killed by runaway tractor trailer; settlement reached after finding of liability in bifurcated trial
  • Construction
      • Mediation of lawsuit against insurance company for alleged bad faith in declining coverage to contactor and college district under builder's risk policy after storm damage to partially constructed science complex; complicated issues relating to construction as well as insurance coverage; mediated to mid-trial $5.4 million settlement
  • Employment Law
      • Successfully mediated to settlement lawsuit alleging wrongful termination, discrimination for disability, and failure to accommodate; successfully settled in early stages of litigation action for sexual harassment against owner/operator of assisted living/skilled care facility -- legal issues included whether the owner was strictly liable for actions of plaintiff’s co-worker or who allegedly had de facto supervisory status
  • Insurance
      • As judge, presided over jury trial in which insurance companies sought $30 million in subrogation for losses in winery warehouse fire; presided over related coverage disputes and settlements
  • Mass Torts
      • As judge, presided over the coordination of multiple actions from multiple counties alleging molestation of children by church officials
  • Medical Malpractice
      • As judge, conducted mediations resulting in multimillion-dollar settlement of claims of stroke victims followed by jury trial of claims against non-settling defendant
  • Product Liability
      • As judge, presided over jury trial alleging wrongful death by heart attack caused by an acid reflux disease medication
      • As judge, presided over jury trial of claim of defective design of a jet ski resulting in multimillion-dollar verdict for orifice injuries
  • Professional Liability
      • As judge, presided over nationally publicized jury trial of a claim of malpractice by implantation of false memories of childhood sexual abuse
  • Real Property
      • Multi-million dollar settlement of dispute between municipality and owner of five-story office building condemned for urban renewal project involving complex issues of property valuation, inverse condemnation, project enhancement damages and allegations of trespass following Court's invalidation of the resolution of necessity
      • Mediation of lawsuit for fraudulent misrepresentation in sale of multi-unit apartment house; issues of broker responsibility for agent's acts, fraudulent misstatements in obtaining of financing and damages for inaccurate rental information; successfully settled
      • Eminent domain lawsuit to acquire property for freeway relocation; issues of recoverability of severance damages and possible offsetting benefit to retained lands; mediated to settlement involving payment of compensation and exchange of various additional parcels of land
      • Early-litigation court ordered mediation of case involving condemnation by county of fee interest, permanent slope easement, and temporary construction easement for construction of bridge; issues related to recoverability of temporary severance damages; successfully mediated to settlement
      • Mediation of condemnation action regarding a city's acquisition of a portion of a mobile home park to construct a flood control project; issues relating to valuation of mobile home parks, recoverability of severance damages, and offsetting benefits of the project to the park; the case was complicated by significant local publicity and scrutiny by park residents; successfully mediated to multimillion-dollar settlement
  • Wildland Fire
      • Successfully mediated dispute brought by 125 +/- victims, fire insurers seeking subrogation, and public agencies against a public utility, contract vegetation management inspectors, and a tree trimming service for a fire allegedly caused by a tree falling on a power line. This case settled for approximately $20 million and involved complex causation issues and numerous insurance coverage complications
      • Arbitrated case involving 125 +/- victims of wildland fire and the distribution of a multimillion-dollar settlement of claims brought by uninsured and under-insured homeowners and businesses. The case had numerous complicated issues of land-diminution appraisal, valuation of destroyed personalty, valuation of emotional distress claims, as well as business costs from timber loss

Honors, Memberships, and Professional Activities

Completed Virtual ADR training conducted by the JAMS Institute, the training arm of JAMS.

  • Recognized as "Top Neutral," Daily Journal Top California Neutrals List, 2013
  • California Center for Judicial Education and Research, teacher at numerous programs and presentations, including many years as a presenter and team leader for the Continuing Judicial Studies Program for Presiding Judges and Court Administrators
  • California Administrative Office of the Courts, frequent presenter at programs for administrators; twice member of Presiding Judges’ Standing Advisory Committee; member, Criminal Law Standing Advisory Committee
  • National Judicial College, faculty member teaching Effective Caseflow Management, and Complex Litigation
  • Teacher/Lecturer, various subjects relating to case management and court administration in California, Nevada, Missouri, Maryland, South Carolina, Florida, and Toronto, Canada
  • California Judges Association, 1980-present
ADR Profiles

Background and Education

  • Judge (often Presiding Judge), Napa Superior Court, 1985-2005
  • Judge (often Presiding Judge), Napa Municipal Court, 1980-1985
  • Partner, Coombs, Dunlap, Dunlap & Champlin (now Coombs & Dunlap), Napa, CA, 1972-1980
  • City Attorney, Yountville, CA, 1977-1980
  • Deputy City Attorney, Napa, 1972-1980
  • Commissioner and Chairman, Napa County Planning Commission, 1976-1980
  • Commissioner and Chairman, St. Helena City Planning Commission, 1973-1975
  • United States Army, Captain, Signal Corps, 1968-1976
  • J.D., University of California, Berkeley School of Law (formerly Boalt Hall School of Law), 1971
  • B.A., Washington & Lee University, Lexington, VA, 1968


This page is for general information purposes.  JAMS makes no representations or warranties regarding its accuracy or completeness.  Interested persons should conduct their own research regarding information on this website before deciding to use JAMS, including investigation and research of JAMS neutrals. See More

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