Lafayette & Kumagai handles complex cases for public entities. The firm argued and won an appeal in the United States Supreme Court on behalf of the Oakland Housing Authority in an action challenging the constitutionality of the agency’s “one strike” rule, which enables the agency to evict a tenant for use of illegal drugs on the premises by the tenant, its family members or guests. HUD v. Rucker, 535 U.S. 125 (2002). It has represented other entities in commercial disputes and Qui Tam proceedings, including providing a defense involving California Governor Jerry Brown, then mayor of the City of Oakland.
Public Entity Representation – Representative Cases
Rucker v. Davis, Oakland Housing Authority – The firm argued and won an appeal in the United States Supreme Court on behalf of the Oakland Housing Authority in an action challenging the constitutionality of the agency’s “one strike” rule, which enables the agency to evict a tenant for use of illegal drugs on the premises by the tenant, its family members or guests. HUD v. Rucker, 535 U.S. 125 (2002); Rucker v. Davis, 304 F.3d 904 (9th Cir. 2002); Rucker v. Davis, 237 F.3d 1113 (9th Cir. 2001); Rucker v. Davis, 203 F.3d 627 (9th Cir. 2000)
Brown v. City of Oakland – Gary Lafayette and Africa Davidson of Lafayette & Kumagai successfully represented the high profile former Oakland City Manager in a two-and-a-half week whistleblower trial. Plaintiff, formerly the City’s Controller, claimed she was fired in retaliation for complaining about alleged illegal financial activities involving high government officials. Plaintiff, represented by John Burris, filed suit in U.S. District Court, Northern District of California, for Deprivation of Civil Rights Under Color of Law pursuant to the First Amendment pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The jury deliberated for about six hours before returning a defense verdict, concluding: 1) Plaintiff was not acting as a private citizen when she complained; and 2) Plaintiff was not the victim of retaliation. At trial, defense counsel argued she was instead terminated because of her abusive behavior with subordinates and coworkers. In filing the lawsuit, Plaintiff demanded punitive damages, attorney’s fees and $1.5 million in general damages. Defense verdict – jury trial. 2012.
Jones v. Regents of the University of California – An employee sued Defendant alleging race discrimination and retaliation, after learning from a co-worker that the co-worker had been instructed by more senior managers not to hire Plaintiff because she had previously sued Defendant for race discrimination and had settled for a substantial sum. Plaintiff claimed she became so upset upon learning of the alleged retaliation that she was committed to a psychiatric hold by her treating therapist. During the trial, Plaintiff called an employee who admitted to the retaliation. Defense verdict – jury trial.
Oliver v. Oakland Housing Authority – This two-month trial involved the complaints of 56 residents for alleged unlawful evictions, retaliation and habitability violations including violence and crime. The jury returned defense verdicts on all claims after five hours of deliberation. Defense verdict – jury trial.
Miller v. City of Oakland – After a landslide in the Oakland Hills, thirteen Plaintiffs claimed their houses were damaged by a faulty city road. Lafayette & Kumagai, counsel for the City of Oakland, was designated as lead defense counsel by the Court. As lead defense counsel, the firm successfully obtained a defense verdict for the City of Oakland and for the co-defendant, East Bay Municipal Utility District.
Meskunas v. San Francisco Housing Authority – Lafayette & Kumagai successfully represented the San Francisco Housing Authority in an action by residents who sought to prevent the construction of new low income housing in the Western Addition. The residents claimed that the City violated the California Environmental Quality Act by improperly issuing construction, demolition and conditional-use permits to the Housing Authority. Lafayette & Kumagai prevailed at trial and successfully opposed emergency writs to the Court of Appeal and California Supreme Court. The firm then successfully argued the matter on appeal.
Chan v. Regents of the University of California – Plaintiff claimed retaliation based on gender and national origin under FEHA in this tenure case. Defense verdict – jury trial.
Schmucker v. Port of Oakland – Plaintiff, an amputee, claimed he was harassed and that his employer failed to accommodate his disability. After a four-week trial, the jury deliberated for four hours. Defense verdict – jury trial.
King-Scott v. Regents of the University of California – Plaintiff alleged race discrimination. Defense verdict – jury trial.
Rosenthal v. Regents of the University of California – Lafayette & Kumagai assumed responsibility for the case from another firm twenty days prior to trial. Plaintiff alleged twenty-nine individual acts of retaliation against twenty-nine different decision makers. Settlement efforts had been unsuccessful. After a one-month jury trial, Plaintiff was awarded $45,000, which was approximately one-third of the amount Defendant offered as settlement prior to the commencement of trial.
FDIC v. Berr – United States District Court, Eastern District. Lafayette & Kumagai represented the FDIC in a bankruptcy adversary proceeding seeking to avoid the borrower’s discharge of debt to the FDIC. This action involved a “straw borrower” who was alleged to have conspired with insiders in a scheme to defraud the Indian Springs State Bank in Kansas. The debtor sought to discharge his debt in bankruptcy and offered as his defense the fact that the bank vice president knew he was acting as a “straw borrower.” Lafayette & Kumagai relied upon D’Oench Duhme & Company v. FDIC, 315 U.S. 447 (1942) in a successful defense at trial. In re Berr (Berr v. FDIC), 172 BR 299 (9th Cir. BAP 1994)
Honeywell v. San Francisco Housing Authority – Plaintiff first filed suit for $10.5 million, claiming that its contract to make energy-saving improvements to 13 senior housing complexes with the San Francisco Housing Authority was valid. The Housing Authority, represented by Lafayette & Kumagai, contended that Plaintiff invalidated the contract by failing to secure the necessary financing as required by a prior agreement and that work completed certificates had been obtained during a round of office layoffs amid the HUD takeover of the agency. When the Housing Authority denied the existence of a contract, Plaintiff filed a qui tam action against the Housing Authority under the federal False Claims Act, contending that the Housing Authority had applied for and received federal funding by representing that it did have a contract with Plaintiff. The breach of contract action was tried to a jury; after two hours of deliberation, the jury returned a defense verdict. Following the trial, Defendant moved to dismiss the qui tam action, in part on grounds that damages under the False Claims Act are essentially punitive in nature, and there is a presumption against imposing punitive damages against governmental entities based on a recent U. S. Supreme Court decision. The District Court agreed and dismissed the qui tam action. U.S. ex rel. Honeywell, Inc. v. San Francisco Housing Authority, 83 Fed.Appx. 181 (9th Cir. 2003); Honeywell v. San Francisco Housing Authority, 164 F.Supp.2d 1130 (2001)
Carter v. Regents of the University of California – Personal injury case, brain damage. Plaintiff was a 31 year-old environmental engineer with multiple degrees from the University of California. He claimed that as a result of his injury he could no longer speak without stuttering and stammering, walk without assistance or, among other things, hold thoughts in his memory. The jury awarded plaintiff $24,000, which was substantially less than a 998 offer of $100,000 and a defense offer to settle for $1 million during trial.
Donohue v. San Francisco Housing Authority – The firm used an application of the “Fireman’s Rule” to bring this case to a successful resolution for the San Francisco Housing Authority. Donohue v. San Francisco Housing Authority, 16 Cal.App.4th 658 (1993); Donohue v. San Francisco Housing Authority, 281 Cal.Rptr. 446 (1991)
Bowden v. City of Oakland – The firm successfully represented the City of Oakland in a claim brought by an employee who was allegedly sexually harassed by a senior official in the City of Oakland Mayor’s Office. This highly publicized matter was resolved for a small fraction of the complainant’s initial demand prior to commencement of litigation.
ANG Newspapers, Inc. v. City of Oakland – The firm successfully represented the City of Oakland in opposing a petition for access to public records and a subsequent writ of mandate filed by ANG Newspapers, Inc. in an attempt by The Oakland Tribune (a subsidiary of ANG Newspapers) to obtain records regarding the investigation of highly publicized allegations of sexual harassment made against a senior official in the Mayor’s office. The case was initially filed in Alameda County Superior Court and was ultimately decided on appeal by the California Supreme Court with a positive result for the firm’s client.
Williams v. San Francisco Housing Authority – In a class action brought by Sidney Wolinsky of Disability Rights Advocates and Laurence Paradis of Miller, Starr & Regalia, handicapped individuals sued for discrimination and violation of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. Lafayette & Kumagai was instrumental in resolving this matter without proceeding to costly litigation and without the San Francisco Housing Authority having to pay damages to each class member.
Nguyen v. San Francisco Housing Authority – Plaintiffs were comprised of Southeast Asian refugees who claimed that as a result of the San Francisco Housing Authority’s desegregation plan, they were denied equal access to housing and were placed in housing projects because of their race which resulted in their being victimized by random acts of violence. Plaintiffs contended that the violence against them constituted hate crimes inflicted upon them by African-American tenants. The settlement provided for continuation of the desegregation plan and included certain rights for transfer by individuals who became the victims of hate crimes.
City and County of San Francisco v. Chen & Hensold – The firm joint-ventured with Thelen, Marrin, Johnson & Bridges in representing the City of San Francisco. The City sued its design team, Chen & Hensold, for negligence relating to the rehabilitation of the City’s cable car system.
Homeowners Association of Seaview Community v. City of Vallejo – Lafayette & Kumagai defended the City of Vallejo in an action brought by 60 homeowners who claimed the City of Vallejo was responsible for landslides that severely damaged not only their homes, but the values of their properties.
Hoffman v. East Bay Municipal Utility District – Plaintiff claimed a leaking water main caused over $400,000.00 in damages to his home. The case was successfully resolved when the Court granted East Bay Municipal Utility District’s Motion for Summary Judgment.
The City of Oakland v. Woods Gordon – Lafayette & Kumagai represented the City of Oakland in an action against Ernst & Ernst for breach of contract in connection with the sale of its management information software system. The City successfully recovered a significant sum of money on the theory that Ernst & Ernst failed to provide its software in a timely manner and, thereafter, failed to supply software consistent with its representations.
San Francisco Housing Authority v. ARS – Lafayette & Kumagai represented the San Francisco Housing Authority in an action against ARS for failure to provide a management information system in a timely manner and, thereafter, failing to deliver a system that met the requirements specified by the San Francisco Housing Authority.
Cerna v. Oakland Unified School District – The firm argued and won an appeal in the California Court of Appeal on behalf of the Oakland Unified School District in an action where the Court held that a city intersection did not create a dangerous condition for students and the school district was not responsible for the safety of students off school premises. Cerna v. City of Oakland, 161 Cal.App.4th 1340 (2008)
Drummer, et al. v. San Francisco Housing Authority – In three highly publicized and vigorously contested matters, the firm assisted the San Francisco Housing Authority in resolving disputes concerning the agency’s inability to pay over $19 million in judgments. The firm delayed and ultimately resolved the dispute by raising constitutional and statutory arguments regarding the state court’s ability to enforce monetary judgments against public entities primarily funded by the federal government.