practice areas practice areas

Practice Areas


Mark's litigation experience spans many areas. Examples from his cases include the following:

Insurance Cases
GEICO. For many years, Mark has defended GEICO in insurance bad faith, class action, and other types of lawsuits throughout California, winning numerous cases through motions before trial, including demurrers and summary judgments. In two separate class action lawsuits, his demurrers to the class allegations were sustained without leave to amend. Mark has prepared dozens of insurance coverage opinions and has prosecuted various declaratory relief and interpleader actions for GEICO.

He recently completed a two-week jury trial in which GEICO was awarded $970,000 against a large trucking company that had refused to be part of a $1.2 settlement of three underlying personal injury claims arising from a multi-vehicle freeway accident.

Roles v. State Farm. Mr. Roles, related by marriage to the late Beatles star George Harrison, sued State Farm for insurance bad faith. He alleged State Farm wrongfully refused to defend a lawsuit that Harrison's estate filed against him based on disputes over Harrison memorabilia that ended up in Mr. Roles' possession after Harrison's Beverly Hills mansion, where Roles was living, was destroyed by a landslide. Mark's summary judgment motion on behalf of State Farm was denied by the trial judge, who admitted the question of insurance coverage was very close. A few weeks before trial, working with his appellate partner, Mark's litigation team petitioned the Court of Appeal, which took the rare step of issuing a writ of mandate directing the trial judge to enter summary judgment for State Farm. This avoided an expensive trial where Mr. Roles would have been represented by one of California's preeminent plaintiff's lawyers.

Rigas v. Allstate. Rigas sued Allstate for insurance bad faith after the Northridge Earthquake. He alleged Allstate underpaid by hundreds of thousands of dollars his property damage claims on two residential rental properties. Mark removed the case to federal court, obtained partial summary judgment on the bad faith claim, and defended Allstate at trial on the remaining breach of contract claims. The case focused on conflicting opinions of geotechnical engineers and contractors. The trial ended in a judgment for Allstate based on findings that it had previously paid for all earthquake damage. The court found that the additional damage claimed by plaintiff was from long-term soils subsidence, a risk not covered by the policy.

San Diego County Schools Risk Management Joint Powers Authority ('JPA'). This public entity has hired Mark on numerous occasions to fight for insurance coverage after insurers had denied coverage for claims against many of the 56 school districts whose liability claims are managed by the JPA. Through exhaustive legal research and hard fought declaratory relief battles, Mark obtained a series of key court rulings establishing coverage for race discrimination, sex discrimination, sexual misconduct and other claims asserted against school districts and their employees.

Personal Injury Cases
Cherry v. State of California. A widowed woman's son was murdered by California Youth Authority parolees. She didn't realize that claims against state governmental entities are subject to a special filing deadline (at that time, 100 days), and she missed the deadline. Mark helped her successfully complete an application for leave to file a late claim, followed by a lawsuit against the State of California and the operator of a group home where the parolees lived, alleging negligent supervision. Before trial, the lawsuit was settled for a confidential amount.

Campbell v. Doe Apartments, Inc. A child was playing on some patio furniture in the common area of his apartment complex when a concrete table top came loose and fell, smashing two of his toes. Mark filed a lawsuit against the owners of the apartment complex and before trial negotiated a confidential settlement amount for the child and his parents.

Various GEICO cases. Mark has been lead defense counsel for numerous individuals insured by GEICO in high-stakes personal injury lawsuits involving claims for wrongful death or catastrophic injuries arising from auto accidents. For example, in Vendetti v. Stevens, Mark defended three consolidated lawsuits against GEICO's policyholder arising from a rollover that tragically rendered Mr. Vendetti a quadriplegic. In the end, all cases were settled within the modest policy limits.

Business Litigation Cases
Junior Seau v. John W. Gillette & Company. Dozens of professional athletes lost millions of dollars when they discovered their investment advisor was playing a 'shell game' with their money. The investment advisor entered a plea to criminal charges and served time in prison for his misdeeds. Mark was lead defense counsel for two innocent directors and officers of the company. Mark's clients were sued on the theory that they either knew or should have known of the investment advisor's fraud and should have taken steps to protect the plaintiff's investments. Faced with claims exceeding $12 million in several complex, consolidated lawsuits, Mark defended the suits with expertise and efficiency and ultimately negotiated releases of all claims against his clients through a settlement funded entirely by a self-exhausting $1 million D&O Insurance policy, protecting his clients' good names and substantial assets.

Smith v. Mulvaney. Helen Smith was found jointly liable with her husband, C.Arnholt Smith, for the failure of U.S. National Bank in a shareholder class action suit. She then sued several officers and directors of the Bank for contribution, alleging they should each share in her liability on a strict fractional pro rata basis. In a case of first impression following a summary judgment ruling by the U.S. District Court, Mark prepared the brief and argued the case before the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, where he advocated, and established, new law: the Court adopted a 'relative culpability' test for securities contribution claims instead of the strict pro rata standard previously existing under the common law.

Real Estate & Construction Cases
McCoy Construction Co. v. Cadillac Fairview. McCoy, the grading contractor for a massive business park in Poway, sued the developer for several million dollars for unforeseen cost overruns due to excessive rock and other unanticipated soils conditions. Mark defended the developer through all stages of the lawsuit, oversaw the preparation of and personally argued a summary judgment motion based on language in the grading contract. The motion was granted, saving his client millions in the costs and exposure of trial. Characteristic of Mark's approach of being civil and professional with his adversaries, opposing counsel in this case later referred clients to Mark.

Coordinated lawsuits against a (Confidential) Title Insurance Company. Mark spend a majority of 2007 defending a national title insurer in numerous coordinated suits filed by elderly victims of a real estate scam operated by their investment advisor, who pled guilty to a felony charge and is awaiting sentencing. The title insurer, which handled hundreds of escrows for the dubious investment advisor, was sued as the deep pocket on a variety of legal theories. A key part of the litigation team from three law firms that defended the title insurer, Mark was selected to take the depositions of the majority of the elderly victims and other plaintiffs in the suits. The cases settled for confidential amounts.


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