Learn about the fallout from the California Supreme Court decision in Howell v. Hamilton Meats

August 20th, 2011

The Bar Association of San Francisco is sponsoring a seminar Sept. 28, 2011, on the effects of the recent California Supreme Court decision in Howell v. Hamilton Meats on personal injury litigation.

• The implications of the California Supreme Court decision in Howell v. Hamilton Meats for valuing medical damages in personal injury cases;
• How the Howell decision affects the selection and use of medical damages experts and changes settlement and trial strategies for plaintiffs and defendants;
• Substantive and procedural questions left unanswered by Howell;
• Analysis of Howell within the broader context of “negotiated rate differentials,” the collateral source rule and differential billing for the insured, uninsured and recipients of Medicare/Medicaid.

    Matthew Davis
    Walkup, Melodia, Kelly & Schoenberger
    Kelly Dermody
    Lieff, Cabraser, Heimann & Bernstein, LLP
    David Ettinger
    Horvitz & Levy LLP
    Philip Leider
    Chapman, Popik & White, LLP
    David Newdorf
    Newdorf Legal

For more information, follow the link to the BASF seminar flier and sign-up form.

San Francisco business attorney David Newdorf helps obtain ruling from California Supreme Court that will save business and governments billions annually.

August 18th, 2011

SAN FRANCISCO (August 18, 2011 ) – The California Supreme Court ruled this week that court awards to accident victims for past medical expenses must be limited to the amounts actually paid and accepted as payment in full by medical care providers. The case pitted personal injury lawyers against doctors, hospitals, local government and insurers who urged the Court to adopt limits on court damage awards. The case is Howell v. Hamilton Meats & Provisions, Inc., S179115, decided on Aug. 18, 2011.

San Francisco business litigator David Newdorf represented the League of California Cities as a friend of the court, or amicus curiae, in the case. The Supreme Court cited Mr. Newdorf’s brief in rendering its decision.

Lawyers for accident victims had asked the Court to allow juries to award the full amount stated on doctor and hospital bills, even if the care provider accepted a reduced payment from insurance and neither the patient nor the insurance company was liable for higher billed amount. The doctors and hospitals would not be able to share in the increased recovery for medical expenses. The amount would be paid to the plaintiff and, under typical contingency fee agreements, shared with the plaintiff’s lawyer.
The higher medical expense awards would have added several billion dollars to court judgments annually, according to insurance industry estimates. California cities, which are often viewed as “deep pockets” by personal injury lawyers, would have faced higher tort payouts at a time when vital services are already being cut.

“Cities and businesses are interested in a tort system that fairly compensates injured persons while protecting taxpayers and citizens from undue expense,” Mr. Newdorf said. “The issues raised by this case have a significant effect on the ability of state and local government to provide vital services to all Californians.”

Founded in 1898, the League of California Cities is an association of 474 California cities dedicated to protecting and restoring local control to provide for the public health, safety, and welfare of their residents, and to enhance the quality of life for all Californians.

To read the Supreme Court decision or Mr. Newdorf’s amicus brief., visit newdorflegal.com.

Mr. Newdorf has been litigating this issue on behalf of clients since 2001, when he was appellate counsel in one of the seminal cases on medical damages, Nishihama v. City and County of San Francisco (2001) 93 Cal. App. 4th 298. The California Supreme Court decision in Howell affirmed the earlier decision in Nishihama.

Mr. Newdorf is managing attorney of San Francisco-based Newdorf Legal, which represents individuals, businesses and public entities in trials and appeals. The firm’s practice areas include business disputes, business torts/interference with contract, breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty, fraud, investment disputes, real estate, commercial landlord-tenant cases, and municipal law. Mr. Newdorf worked previously as a trial lawyer and team leader in the San Francisco City Attorney’s Office and was a litigation associate at a major international law firm. Mr. Newdorf was recently listed in the 2011 Northern California Super Lawyers magazine, an honor reserved for 5 percent of the State’s lawyers based on nomination by fellow lawyers and evaluation of professional reputation and achievement.

Newdorf Legal Assists San Francisco In Court Victory That Makes Jails Safer

September 24th, 2010

A federal appellate court has ruled that San Francisco’s policy of conducting a visual strip search for weapons and drugs before placing new arrestees in the general jail population did not violate the prisoners’ rights.

The 6-5 ruling by a panel of judges of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit came in the case of Bull v. City and County of San Francisco (Case No. 05-17080), a class action lawsuit brought on behalf of arrestees who were strip searched at the San Francisco County Jail from 2002 to 2004.

San Francisco attorney David Newdorf, who represented the City along with attorneys from the San Francisco City Attorney’s Office, said the ruling was a victory for common sense and safety. The County Jail’s policy was to release arrestees without a strip search whenever possible through issuance of a citation or posting of a bail bond, Newdorf said. For safety and security, deputies only strip searched those who were not eligible for immediate release and were going to be housed with other detainees in the general jail population, he said.

“The evidence before the court showed that more than one thousand of items of drugs, weapons and dangerous contraband were smuggled into the County Jail from 2000 to 2003,” Newdorf said. “This decision is a common-sense ruling. Prisons are already dangerous places. Those who are arrested, or whose loved ones are arrested, will be able to rest easier knowing that measures have been taken to prevent inmates from smuggling needles, knives and other dangerous items into the confined jail environment.”

Newdorf, the managing attorney of Newdorf Legal in San Francisco, was a deputy city attorney from 2001 to 2008. He briefed and argued the Bull case in the U.S. District Court and before a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit. He assisted the City Attorney’s Office in the March 26, 2009 argument before the en banc 11-judge panel.

Judge Sandra Ikuta, who wrote the majority opinion in Bull, stated:
“The record reveals a pervasive and serious problem with contraband inside San Francisco’s jails, as well as numerous instances in which contraband was found during a search, indicating that arrestees’ use of body cavities as a method of smuggling durgs, weapons, and items used to escape custody is an immediate and troubling problem for San Francisco jail administrators.”

Judge Ikuta concluded that despite the “invasive and embarrassing” nature of a strip search, “San Francisco’s strip search policy was reasonable and therefore did not violate the class members’ Fourth Amendment rights.”

San Francisco-based Newdorf Legal is a firm of trial lawyers that represents companies, executives, investors, government and public officials in litigation. The firm handles disputes related to contract, interference with contract, trade secrets, fraud, unfair business practices, real estate and public entity litigation. For more information, contact David Newdorf at 415-357-1234.

Newdorf Legal Is Growing With The Addition of A Senior Litigation Associate and Paralegal

July 15th, 2010

San Francisco, CA (July 15, 2010) – Newdorf Legal, one of the San Francisco Bay Area’s leading litigation boutique firms, announced that it is growing to better serve its clients.  The firm has added a senior litigation attorney and senior paralegal.

Vicki Van Fleet has joined the firm as a Senior Associate.  Previously, Van Fleet worked as Vice President and Senior Corporate Counsel in the Office of Corporate Counsel at Charles Schwab & Co., Inc. and as a litigation associate at firms in New York and Boston.

Business Litigation Lawyer

Senior Associate Vicki Van Fleet









Van Fleet is an accomplished attorney with more than two decades of experience.   Her broad range of client work has included advising financial institutions, representing clients in court hearings and proceedings, and drafting and negotiating contracts.  She has handled cases in diverse legal areas including corporate law, entertainment law, employment law, product liability, lender liability, and general civil litigation.

Van Fleet graduated from McGill University in Montreal and received her J.D. from the New York University School of Law in 1984.

“We are fortunate to have added these accomplished and talented professionals to our litigation team.  Vicki is a seasoned attorney with confidence and skill at handling complex legal issues at all stages, from pre-trial through appeal.  Her substantial experience with corporate clients is an asset to our firm and our broad client base.”

Newdorf Legal provides business and public-entity clients a small-firm approach to tackle big problems.  When business executives and public officials face complex legal challenges, they turn to Newdorf Legal for advice and representation.

Newdorf Legal handles business and public entity litigation throughout California.  The firm practices at the trial and appellate levels in State and Federal courts, and also handles arbitrations and mediations.  Newdorf Legal represents businesses, executives, financial institutions, investors, and public entities in contract disputes, business torts/interference with contract, joint venture/partnership claims, real property transactions, development rights, fraud, RICO and other commercial litigation.

Newdorf Legal represents clients in all phases of class actions, the State and Federal False Claims Act/Qui Tam cases, Unfair Practices/Unfair Competition Law (Business and Professions Code section 17200), False Advertising, and Consumer Legal Remedies Act cases.

Mr. Newdorf also has extensive experience in government entity representation in California. He represents local government in a variety of litigation matters, from commercial disputes to challenges to local ordinances, policies and practices.  Newdorf Legal represents public entities, public officials and law enforcement officers in state and federal civil rights lawsuits, including suits under 42 U.S.C. section 1983 alleging unconstitutional statutes and policies, false arrest, excessive force and unlawful search and seizure.

For more information, please visit the firm’s website, http://www.newdorflegal.com, or call Mr. Newdorf directly at 415-357-1234.

Newdorf Legal and City Attorney Win 12-0 Jury Verdict That Clears Two San Francisco Police Officers Of Alleged Excessive Force And Civil Rights Violations In Arrest of 76-Year-Old Man.

December 21st, 2008

SAN FRANCISCO  ( December 21, 2008) –Following a one-week civil rights trial,

a San Francisco jury took only ten  minutes Friday to vote 12-0 to clear two San Francisco police officers of wrongdoing in a lawsuit brought by a 76-year-old man who had been arrested for threatening his wife and resisting arrest. 


The San Francisco Superior Court jury of nine women and three men in Miller v. City and County of San Francisco, No. 459169, deliberated for only 10 minutes before finding in favor of the officers

in the unusual case filed by Raymond J. Miller, a retired City electrician, who accused officers of barging into his house and breaking his arm while he was peacefully watching pornography. Mr. Miller’s estranged wife, who still shared their home, called 911 after Mr. Miller allegedly became enraged when his wife refused to watch the movie “Asian Co-ed Butt Babes” with him.  Mr. Miller at the time was 5’ 9” tall and weighed 275 pounds and had been drinking.  His wife was 4’11” tall and weighed 100 pounds.

San Francisco Trial Attorney David Newdorf of Newdorf Legal, who defended the officers along with the San Francisco City Attorney’s Office, said:  “The police officers that night did their job and followed their training in arresting Mr. Miller to protect a potential domestic violence victim.  Although Mr. Miller’s claims of excessive force lacked any merit, San Francisco takes these claims seriously.  When the evidence shows no wrongdoing by police, it is gratifying to be able to present the facts to a jury of citizens so that officers’ reputations will not be stained by baseless accusations.”


The jury heard evidence at trial that the officers involved immediately called paramedics, who treated and released Mr. Miller for minor wrist lacerations due to handcuffing.  The officers notified their supervisor about the arrest and documented a “bar-arm takedown” that the officers used when Mr. Miller refused to put his hands behind his back and advanced angrily at the officers.  The officers took photographs of Mr. Miller’s injuries.  X-rays taken later that evening at San Francisco General Hospital showed a possible hairline fracture of the radial head, one of the bones of the elbow joint.  

The jury also heard testimony from Don Cameron, an expert in police training and use of force, who demonstrated the bar-arm take down and hand-cuffing on Mr. Newdorf for the jury.  “Jurors said the demonstration of the actual technique used to guide Mr. Miller to the ground and the handcuffing corroborated the officer’s testimony and dispelled the plaintiff’s claims that the force was unreasonable,” Mr. Newdorf said.

Mr. Miller claimed officers used excessive force the night of Jan. 7, 2006, after his wife called 911 from their Potrero Hill home. He claimed he was sitting in an easy chair in the living room of his home on Texas Street, drinking vodka and watching the movie when the officers burst in, pushed him to the ground and handcuffed him. He was asking for $50,000 in damages because, he said, the officers broke his arm and cut his wrists.

Miller testified during the trial that he had simply invited his wife of 35 years, Jean Miller, to watch a “sexually explicit” movie, but that she decided she didn’t like it and instead called 911 for “no reason.”
Mrs. Miller testified that she and her husband had long been separated and that she had refused his request to sit on his lap and have sex while he watched pornography.  He became angry, she said, and pushed furniture at her and threatened to kill her. When she called 911, she said, her husband wrestled the telephone away and hung up, which he denied. Police emergency dispatch records showed a 911 call was made and it was disconnected, which automatically prompted a police response to their home.
When officers arrived, Mr. Miller, who appeared to have been drinking, was wearing only swim trunks and watching pornography, according to court testimony. He told the officers “Get the f— out of my house!” and did not comply with a verbal command to place his hands behind his back.  He then advanced toward the officers and attempted to pull away from their grasp, prompting the takedown.

“We’re gratified that a San Francisco jury needed only 10 minutes to clear the officers from Mr. Miller’s outrageous allegations,” said Deputy City Attorney Daniel Zaheer, who represented the officers along with Newdorf Legal. “We felt that Mr. Miller’s allegations had no foundation at all and we’re thankful that good cops can protect the safety of domestic abuse victims like Mrs. Miller without having to fear frivolous lawsuits.”


Newdorf Legal represents businesses and public entities in trials and appeals.  David Newdorf has been a trial lawyer focused on business litigation and representing public entities for 14 years.  He recently obtained a $3.4 million judgment for attorney’s fees and cost for his client, San Francisco International Airport, in a dispute with a Houston developer.  He was a litigator at the San Francisco office of O’Melveny & Myers LLP and a trial attorney and supervisor at the San Francisco City Attorney’s Office.  He has been lead counsel in hundreds of lawsuits, including class actions and high-stakes commercial disputes.  He founded Newdorf Legal to provide business and public entities large-firm results combined with small-firm service and attention.  For more information, visit the firm’s website, http://www.newdorflegal.com


How Newdorf Legal Uses Technology To Reduce Client Costs And Improve Service In Business Litigation

December 13th, 2008

It’s nice — especially for the lawyer — when the client has a six-figure litigation budget for a case.  But not every client can afford that, and even if you can, not every dispute is worth it.  Fortunately, advances in technology have leveled the playing field so that small firms with low overhead can provide many of the same services that were once the exclusive domain of the large law firms. 

Newdorf Legal uses the latest legal software and technology to provide cutting-edge service together with excellent value for the client.  Here’s an example of what’s available to our clients.

Document Databases.  When I started as a lawyer at a large national law firm in 1994, I was led to a document room (bigger than my current office) with file boxes full of hundreds of thousands of documents for an environmental insurance coverage case.  I spent months trying to master the contents of those boxes, but couldn’t make a dent.  Today, document storage and review  has been simplified by electronic imaging and Optical Character Recognition (OCR).  In a case with 1,000 documents or 100,000 documents, you can sort and review e-mails or memos by date, author, subject or keyword.  The cost of scanning large numbers of documents with OCR included can be as low as 15 cents a page, depending on the complexity of the database required.  The documents can be accessible anywhere via the internet.  Though some cases still require a platoon of young associates and paralegals to comb through documents in a warehouse, there are economic alternatives that allow small firms to compete in document-intensive business litigation.

Trial Presentation.  For large trials, big law firms these days always use trial presentation software that allows documents and videos to be displayed on TV monitors or projected on large screens in the courtroom.  The software allows the user to highlight and enlarge portions of documents on the fly.  More and more courtrooms are being rewired and remodeled to accommodate electronic display of evidence.  The software also saves the time and expense of poster-sized blow-ups.  In the internet age, jurors are pre-conditioned to learn from screens.  And judges appreciate it, too.  The cost of the software and LCD projectors is falling.  In my opinion, even a small trial these days requires at least a PowerPoint presentation for closing argument.

Mediation Presentation.  As fewer and fewer cases go to trial, the emphasis is increasingly on mediation and arbitration.  The same graphic display techniques used at trial should be used at mediation.  A persuasive PowerPoint that incorporates blow-ups of key documents almost always benefits the client.

Deposition Software.  Most court reporters can provide “real time” transcription, so the lawyer’s notebook computer is hooked up to the court reporter’s computer.  With “real time,” you see the rough draft transcript of the testimony almost simultaneous with the witness’s words.  No more waiting for rough drafts.  Back at the office, the electronic transcripts can be loaded into a database that permits easy word searches.

E-filing.  Federal trial and appellate courts and a growing number of state courts use e-filing for court documents.  No more sending a messenger to the courthouse with stacks of paper documents.  E-filing has numerous benefits, including saving on the cost of photocopying, delivery and postage.  With a push of the button, the lawyer can submit documents to the court and all other parties in a case via the internet.  Elecontric document assembly is efficient and eliminates hours of work formerly done by paralegals and secretaries.

On-line legal research.  In a junior high school science class, I learned how to use a slide rule.  It was my father’s vintage 1940s slipstick.  Within a few years, slide rules went the way of the abacus and rotary dial phone.  Much later, in law school, I learned how to “Shepardize” a case — the process of using hardcover books and softcover update pamphlets to determine whether a case had been overruled.  By the time I graduated, that skill was as useful as the ability to calculate with a slide rule.  On-line legal research — Westlaw and LexisNexis are the main services — is the standard today.  

Specialized legal technology, together with ubiquitous applications such as Mircosoft Office and Adobe Acrobat, has narrowed the achievement gap between large and small firms.  

But I do confess to sneaking down to the law library about once a week.  I enjoy the peace and solitude (no one goes there anymore) as I flip yellowed pages amid the rows of dusty tomes.  You just might catch me, Dad’s slide rule in hand, as I double-check the bookkeeper’s ledgers.

Newdorf Legal Lends Expertise To Bar Publication

August 27th, 2008

David Newdorf served as an attorney consultant for the latest edition of California Civil Writ Practice (4th Edition), published in the summer of 2008 by Continuing Education of the Bar. As a consultant, Mr. Newdorf lent his experience as a government litigator in commenting on the manuscript before publication. Writ proceedings are specialized procedures for challenging government administrative and quasi-judicial decisions or interim orders issued in the trial courts.

The expanded, two-volume new edition covers civil writ proceedings in the superior court and includes completely reorganized and rewritten coverage of civil writ practice in the appellate courts, including the California Supreme Court. It includes two chapters of exemplar forms drafted by expert practicing attorneys and a chart of the appropriate method of appellate review for common court orders. The treatise is organized and written to provide practical information, advice and tips to assist lawyers in deciding whether to file a writ petition, to know how to prepare one correctly, and advice on opposing a writ petition.

David Newdorf Appointed To California State Bar Litigation Committee

August 27th, 2008

The Board of Governors of the California State Bar appointed San Francisco attorney David Newdorf to the Executive Committee of the Litigation Section.  The three-year appointment begins September 28, 2008.  A former San Francisco Deputy City Attorney and a lawyer at a major international law firm, Mr. Newdorf has been lead counsel in more than 100 lawsuits, trials and appeals in the state and federal courts.  His law firm, Newdorf Legal serves the litigation needs of business and public entities.

Established in 1983, the Litigation Section is a voluntary membership association for attorneys who share an interest in litigation. The section is led by a fifteen-member Executive Committee comprised of attorneys from across the state and by a  ten-member panel of advisors who are prominent attorneys and state and federal judges.

The Litigation Section, with 11,000 members, is the largest section of the State Bar.  According to its mission statement, the Section aims “to promote excellence in all areas affecting dispute resolution, including the protection of the rights of all litigants, pre-trial discovery, the expeditious trial of lawsuits, alternative dispute resolution, effective judicial administration, uniform rules of court, and the protection and preservation of the independence of a judiciary of high quality.”