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Hon. Stephen J. Sundvold

Hon. Stephen J. Sundvold (Ret.)

Latest Insights
Upcoming Events
General Biography
Practice Areas
Business Commercial
Civil Rights
Construction Defect
Employment Law
Health Care
Personal Injury
Professional Liability
Real Property
Honors, Memberships, and Professional Activities
Background and Education

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Hon. Stephen J. Sundvold (Ret.) has enjoyed a robust practice as a mediator and arbitrator at JAMS since 2010. Prior to joining JAMS, Judge Sundvold served on a wide variety of case assignments during his distinguished 20-year tenure on the Orange County Superior Court, including on the Court’s High Impact Trial (HIT) team and over eight years on the Court’s Complex Civil Panel where he handled hundreds of complex matters involving construction defect, class action, eminent domain, and complex business litigation matters.

While on the Superior Court, Judge Sundvold served as a mediator or participated in settlement conferences almost every day. Numerous trial days have been saved and trips to the appellate courts have been avoided as a result of these efforts. He has earned a reputation for being a fair, hard working, tireless judge, skilled at managing a heavy caseload of complex matters and settling the difficult claims.

In his current practice, Judge Sundvold is known for his dedicated and creative approach to every matter. He is skilled in managing difficult personalities, and transforms highly emotional and complex disputes into opportunities for settlement. He frequently thinks outside of the box, and is recognized for his inquisitive demeanor. Understanding the risk of trial, Judge Sundvold is dedicated to settlement and conducts extensive follow-up to ensure the equitable resolution of every matter. 

ADR Experience and Qualifications

  • Nearly ten years as a full-time mediator and arbitrator
  • Successfully co-mediated cases, while on the bench, with neutrals from every resolution provider
  • Has been appointed as Mandatory Settlement Judge by other Judges from Los Angeles, San Diego, Riverside, San Bernardino, Imperial County and Kern Counties
  • Was the “go to judge” for resolution of difficult cases from Orange County, and also courts throughout Southern California, in addition to handling his own case calendars
  • Rendered significant opinions on insurance issues that are the subject of several Court of Appeal published opinions, while serving on the judiciary
  • Managed the legal department of a major insurance company prior to appointment to the bench and is intimately familiar with complex coverage issues

Representative Matters

  • Business Commercial
      • Multi-million dollar case involving a dispute between a major health insurance provider and state hospital for emergency trauma care in which a forward agreement to deal with future cost increases was reached 
      • Case involving a foreign import bank alleging improper bills of lading and accounting fraud
      • Case involving breach of contract for sale of restaurant claiming excessive damages
      • Multi-million dollar case involving a global dissolution of a professional partnership
      • Case involving the theft of corporate assets by senior employees
      • Dispute between four church organizations over ownership and control of church owned property after changes to the church's affiliation
      • Several Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) cases involving wheelchair access to commercial property
      • Cases involving commercial promissory notes for construction by operator of restaurant against competing owner
      • Commercial disputes over loans for construction and development of large international automobile import and transshipping facility
      • Breach of contract matter involving an internationally renowned motorsports professional 
      • Commercial lease dispute concerning long term rent resets on ground leases
      • Breach of contract dispute involving alleged scheme to siphon business investors' money for personal use 
      • Dispute involving a dental practice and claims of breach of contract, torts, unauthorized use of party's name, image and other information as well as misappropriation of trade secrets
      • Served as a discovery referee for deposition monitoring on a breach of contract matter
  • Cannabis
      • Landlord tenant dispute regarding eviction of tenant operating a cannabis retail store
      • Partnership dissolution dispute concerning a cannabis retail business over who will retain rights to the license with the city
      • Owernship dispute involving national vaping manufacturer, supplier and early investor in the business  
      • Unlawful detainer action involving a medical marijuana dispensary operating without permits
      • Cannabis shareholders dispute involving a large dispensary operating out of multiple locations
  • Construction Defect
      • Multi-million dollar 414-home construction defect case with three prior mediators and numerous conferences
      • Multi-million dollar construction defect claim of 30+ story two tower luxury condo project with numerous prior mediators
      • Multi-million dollar construction defect case involving 10 miles of public street improvements with cross claims for delay and unpaid work
      • $2.9 million construction defect case involving a single-family home with structural damage and construction defects
      • $1.5 million construction defect case involving a single-family home with failure of retaining wall systems
      • $2.5 million construction defect case involving four homes with soil slope failure and repairs
      • Dozens of multi-home (10-500) plaintiffs vs. developer and subcontractor generic construction defect, soils, water intrusion, and structural cases
      • Several multi-million dollar claims involving environmental upgrades of HVAC, mechanical, and lighting in several school districts offices and classrooms
      • Served as a discovery referee in a construction defect case involving 30 homes
      • Served as both mediator and discovery referee in a construction defect case involving a real estate investment firm
  • Employment Law
      • Multi-million dollar wrongful termination case involving breach of employment contract of a private school principal
      • Wrongful termination case involving 60-year-old sales manager with twenty years of service at the company
      • Numerous wage-and-hour class cases for major restaurant chains involving exempt, non-exempt managers, hourly employees, overtime, and meal and rest breaks
      • Class action wage and hour concerning classification of employee or independent contractor
      • Sexual harassment case involving a 32-year-old female with claims of harassment via emails and misconduct at company functions
      • Claims after an appeal from state labor board for wage-and-hour dispute
      • Case involving breach of contract, failure to pay wages, and wrongful termination issues by manufacturing plant foreman who moved cross country and accepted a job offer from defendant 
      • Wrongful termination/defamation case involving an executive officer of chamber of commerce after allegations of mismanagement and failure to perform terms of employment contract
      • Sexual harassment employment matter involving a leading automotive lender 
      • Disability discrimination employment case involving a large hospitality company
      • Wage and hour dispute involving a medical center and employee claiming she was not given her required meal and rest breaks with a failure to compensate her for overtime
      • PAGA class action alleging a dental services provider's wage statements are in violation of California Labor Code Section 226(a)
  • Fee Disputes
      • Handled several disputes involving attorney's fees, costs and interest
      • Arbitrated a wage and hour dispute involving a prevalent food franchise in which the claimant brought issues of unpaid wages, liquidated damages, interest, and attorneys' fees and costs
      • Handled numerous matters involving broker fees 
      • Mediated a real estate transactional fee dispute involving an action to recscind a sale as well as disclosure issues
  • Health Care
      • Several cases concerning out of network service for emergency care including reasonable and customary issues as well as alleged denial and underpaying claims
      • Dispute between a major healthcare provider that was contracted with a city hospital at a guaranteed rate and volume involving service agreement issues and guaranteed minimum payment claims 
      • Contractual dispute concerning the establishment of an independent physicians group and issues surrounding the formation and ownership of the group
      • Business dissolution disputes involving physician groups
  • Insurance
      • Subrogation dispute arising from failed construction of a pedestrian bridge
      • Subrogation matter following first-party claim arising from water leak and property damage in a dental office
      • Insurance coverage dispute involving negligence, private nuisance and trespass claims 
      • First party insurance water loss claim
  • Personal Injury
      • Bus-versus-bicycle death of 50-year-old male alleged to be out of marked crosswalk at time of accident
      • Case involving brain injury from alleged excessive force by police officer resulting in dispute over nature and extent of residual impairment
      • Dispute involving car-versus-train where design of railroad crossing was allegedly cause of accident resulting in severe facial injuries to 25-year-old female
      • Dispute involving minor plaintiff who lost leg after public transportation agency bus struck plaintiff
      • Dispute involving personal injuries allegedly caused by exposure to toxic materials
      • Matter between individual and city following university bus-versus-bicycle collision that led to plaintiff's brain damage
      • Case involving assault and battery claims between two neighbors with serious injuries
      • Medical malpractice dispute involving minor's burns allegedly caused by acid spilled during procedure - matter included Dillon v. Legg claim from mother, who witness the procedure
      • Multi-million-dollar claims against bicycle manufacturer for defects resulting in quadriplegic injury to 30-year-old
      • Multi-million-dollar bicycle accident claims alleging road design complications that resulted in 63-year-old man being rendered quadriplegic
      • Personal injury and premises liability case involving several elderly plaintiffs in retirement apartments alleging exposure to mold 
      • Personal injury death case involving crane rollover on construction site
      • Premises liabililty matter involving individual's trip-and-fall claims against city
      • Multiple disputes arising out of major train crash in Southern California
      • Uninsured motorist arbitration involving three-vehicle hit-and-run collision
      • Premises liability dispute involving trip-and-fall claim on Indian casino grounds
  • Professional Liability
      • Claims of conflict of interest and alleged legal malpractice arising out of joint representation of plaintiff and ex-wife 
      • Legal malpractice matter related to plaintiff's underlying representation in a construction-defect matter
  • Real Property
      • Real property and eminent domain case involving the taking of a gas station for street widening and public improvements
      • Real proeprty and eminent domain case involving the taking of a strip mall by Cal Trans for highway improvements
      • Real property and inverse condemnation case involving the effect of alterations of adjoining state highway on adjacent businesses
      • Lot line dispute involving home improvements made more than twenty years prior 
      • Case alleging improper notice of foreclosure
      • Negotiated resolution of 50-year ground lease for mobile home park
      • Fraud and misappropriation claim of joint ventures for purchase of land adjacent to Indian casino
      • Dispute between family members over ownership and control of large beach front mobile home park
      • Dispute over leasehold interest in land adjacent to flood control channel with repeating flooding of property
      • Breach of lease dispute involving a large office complex in which the landlord allegedly misrepresented the size of the building resulting in the tenant being over-charged millions of dollars
      • Breach of lease case involving tenant improvement issues and alleged failure to notify landlord

Honors, Memberships, and Professional Activities

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

  • Recipient, Legend of an Era Award, West Coast Casualty Conference on Construction Defects, 2010
  • Member, California Judges Association, 1990-2010 (Executive Board, 2000-2003; Vice President, 2003)
  • Member, American Bar Association, 1973-1990
  • Member, Orange County Bar Association, 1985-2014
  • Member, American Board of Trial Advocates (ABOTA), 2005-current
  • Faculty, (Civil Procedure, Prop. 51), California Judicial College (CJER), Berkeley, 1992-1997
  • Speaker, conferences on complex legal and insurance coverage matters throughout the United States
ADR Profiles

Background and Education

  • Judge, Superior Court, Orange County, 1998-2010
  • Judge, North Orange County Municipal Court, 1990-1998
  • Chief Attorney, Safeco Insurance Company, managing legal department, 1975-1990
  • Private law practice, Southern California, 1973-1975
  • Trial Attorney, U.S. Department of Justice, Washington, D.C., 1971-1973
  • J.D., magna cum laude, University of San Diego School of Law, 1971
  • B.A., Fullerton State College (now California State University), 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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