CAOC 2011
Award Recipients
 
CAOC 50th Annual Convention
Installation and Awards Dinner
November 12, 2011
 
Awards Press Release (PDF)

W. Timothy Needham, Michael J. Crowley, Amelia F. Burroughs,  Patrik Griego, Michael D. Thamer, and Christopher J. Healey
 CONSUMER ATTORNEYS OF THE YEAR
  
 
Vinnie Lavender, et al., v. Skilled Healthcare Group, Inc., et al.
FORCING NURSING HOMES TO PROVIDE REQUIRED MINIMUM STAFFING
 
This suit was filed on behalf of 32,000 residents, former residents and family members of residents of 22 California nursing facilities owned by Skilled Healthcare Group, the nation’s fifth-largest nursing home chain. The suit came after a number of wrongful death claims in which attorneys learned the underlying cause for many of the deaths was inadequate staffing. The attorneys presented evidence that Skilled regularly failed to meet minimum staffing requirements under the California Health and Safety Code and sought damages up to the maximum allowed under the California Consumer Legal Remedies Act. The trial lasted seven months, during which 150 witnesses were called and more than 5,000 exhibits were introduced. This was the first class action on nursing home understaffing to be tried to a verdict, which was the largest ever in a case against a nursing home chain. Before punitive damages could be decided, the case was resolved with the inclusion of an injunction under which Skilled Healthcare is paying for a court-appointed monitor to ensure it meets minimum staffing requirements. The verdict has caused nursing homes throughout California to re-evaluate their staffing levels.

Shawn A. McMillan
STREET FIGHER OF THE YEAR
 
 
Deanna Fogarty-Hardwick v. County of Orange, et al.
REUNITING A MOTHER AND DAUGHTERS AFTER SOCIAL SERVICES ABUSES
 
Deanna Fogarty was awarded custody of her two daughters after her divorce. Child Protective Services investigated the children’s claims of abuse by their father and allowed him only monitored visitation. After a personality clash with Ms. Fogarty, social workers falsely claimed she skipped a mandatory visit and told the girls their father was trying to take them away from her. The court then ordered the children removed from Fogarty’s home. Social workers coerced Fogarty into giving her ex-husband full custody of the children. In 2001 Fogarty sued for violation of her constitutional right to familial association, alleging social workers fabricated evidence and withheld evidence from the juvenile court to obtain orders allowing the removal of her daughters. Fogarty also sued Orange County, claiming its customs, policies, and practices were unconstitutional. In 2007 an Orange County jury found the the defendants liable and handed down one of the largest parental rights judgments against a child protective services agency in the U.S. It took Fogarty more than six years to regain custody of her children. Attorney Shawn McMillan was lead counsel at trial and on appeal. The judgment became final in April 2011, when the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear it.

Senator Mark Leno
LEGISLATOR OF THE YEAR
 
Senator Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) added to his long and impressive record of consumer advocacy this year to earn Consumer Attorneys of California’s Legislator of the Year honor. Sen. Leno authored SB 850, sponsored by CAOC, a piece of legislation signed by Gov. Brown that was the first of its kind anywhere in the nation. It enhances patient safety by protecting the integrity of electronic medical records, making it impossible to eliminate important medical information, either inadvertently or intentionally. As chair of the Senate Budget and Fiscal Review Committee, Sen. Leno also played a crucial leadership role on state courts budget issues during this year of budget cuts and debate. His fight for a strong judiciary demonstrated he understands the necessity of adequately funding a third branch of government that is the equal of the executive and legislative branches, and his involvement in encouraging emergency funding for the San Francisco Superior Court helped stave off an imminent crisis there. In addition to his seat on the Budget Committee, Sen. Leno has played a vital and progressive role as a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee since he was elected to the upper chamber in 2008.
 
A native of Wisconsin, Sen. Leno is a graduate of the American College of Jerusalem and had two years of rabbinical studies in New York before settling in San Francisco, where he founded a small business (Budget Signs) in 1978. He began his service as an elected official in 1998, when he was elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, then was elected to the California State Assembly in 2002. He served the maximum three terms in that chamber before his election to the state Senate. Sen. Leno represents the 3rd Senate District, which includes a portion of San Francisco, all of Marin County and part of Sonoma County.

Ibiere Seck
COMMUNITY SERVICE AWARD
 
Ibiere Seck, an associate attorney in The Cochran Firm’s Los Angeles office, is honored with the Consumer Attorneys of California Community Service Award for using her legal skills on a volunteer basis outside her practice. She has donated her services to members of low-income communities, primarily African-Americans and Latinos, at the Mesereau Free Legal Clinic in South Central Los Angeles, where questions can range from probate to criminal law to civil matters. Seck and other attorney volunteers don’t represent the individuals who consult with them, but they help them understand the legal issues and the legal system and direct them to other organizations that can help. Her service at the clinic began when she was a student at Loyola Law School. She serves on the advisory boards of both the clinic and the Western Center on Law and Poverty, and she works with middle and high school students through a number of trial advocacy and debate programs. Prior to joining The Cochran Firm she was a civil rights intern with the nonprofit Inner City Law Center, where she advocated for the homeless and the working poor.

Amy Fisch Solomon
ROBERT E. CARTWRIGHT, SR. AWARD
 
Amy Fisch Solomon is the recipient of the Robert E. Cartwright, Sr., Award, given “in recognition of excellence in trial advocacy and dedication to teaching trial advocacy to fellow lawyers and to the public.” Solomon is a partner at Girardi | Keese in Los Angeles, where she has nearly 20 years litigation experience in the areas of products liability, insurance bad faith and toxic torts. She also serves as a mediator, arbitrator and early neutral evaluator for the Los Angeles Superior Court’s Alternative Dispute Resolution Panel. She has been active in leadership in the plaintiff’s bar, including her service as a past president of the Consumer Attorneys Association of Los Angeles, and has served an important role helping CAOC and CAALA work together. Solomon has demonstrated a commitment to legal education and a dedication to improving the quality of advocacy on behalf of California consumers. She has been honored as a distinguished alumna of Loyola Law School.

Mark P. Robinson, Jr.
MARVIN E. LEWIS AWARD
  
Mark Robinson has been selected for the Marvin E. Lewis Award, given “in recognition of continued guidance, loyalty and dedication, all of which have been an inspiration to fellow attorneys.” The senior partner with Robinson Calcagnie Robinson Shapiro Davis in Newport Beach, Robinson has been acknowledged as one of the nation’s premier trial lawyers since winning a verdict in the Ford Pinto gas tank fire case in 1978, one of the most significant civil cases of our lifetime. That alone would be enough to establish Robinson as a legend, but he has won many other high-profile product safety cases, including suits involving the tobacco industry, pharmaceutical companies and automakers. Robinson is now one of the lead plaintiffs’ attorneys in litigation stemming from cases of sudden unintended acceleration in Toyotas. A past president of Consumer Attorneys of California (1999), Robinson was appointed earlier this year to a seat on the Judicial Council and is playing a key role in resolving California’s trial courts funding crisis.
 

David A. Rosen
EDWARD I. POLLOCK AWARD
  
David Rosen is honored with the Edward I. Pollock Award, given “in recognition of many years of dedication, outstanding efforts and effectiveness on behalf of the causes and ideals” of CAOC. Rosen is managing partner at Rose, Klein & Marias in Los Angeles, where he specializes in toxic torts, product liability and class actions. He is also a frequent lecturer for many groups, including Pepperdine and Whittier law schools and Rio Hondo College. He has demonstrated his commitment to CAOC, not only through his service on both the Board of Governors and the Executive Committee, but as a valued source of sound judgment and guidance to a series of officers as well as the executive staff. He has been involved with all aspects of the organization over a long period of time and has played an important role in overseeing the association’s finances. In addition to his service to CAOC, Rosen is a member of the board of governors of both the Consumer Attorneys Association of Los Angeles and the American Association for Justice.

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