San Diego Business Journal

John Stephens has joined Mulvaney, Kahan & Barry LLP after 17 years with Robbins & Keehn and the last six with Sullivan, Wertz, McDade & Wallace, now Wertz, McDade & Wallace. Stephens, who has done complex jury and bench trials in federal and state court, also practiced in Los Angeles and New York. also named its fifth partner last week: Natalie Wilhelm. Wilhelm’s practice is focused on representation of financial institutions and general commercial litigation.

Fisher & Phillips LLP’s partner Spencer Skeen recently prevailed at the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals defending a client against an Americans With Disabilities (“ADA”) claim. This was an important decision for business. Before Skeen’s work, a plaintiff could make general allegations and not specify where exactly the ADA was violated. “Previously, individuals and businesses were being sued for alleged ADA violations without ever getting a comprehensive” list of claimed violations, Skeen said. “I expect this ruling will help property owners and businesses defend or resolve ADA lawsuits.” And it will lead to faster repair of real ADA access issues, which is more important than anything else.

Frederick Schenk, a partner at Casey, Gerry, Schenk, Francavilla, Blatt & Penfield LLP, was recently reappointed to the San Diego County Fair Board, formally known as the board of directors of the 22nd District Agricultural Association. Schenk, an attorney with the San Diego-based firm since 1983, practices in products liability, personal injury, asbestos law and drug litigation.

A San Diego woman was injured when a Hamilton Meats truck made an illegal U-turn and hit her car in Encinitas. She unfortunately had to endure numerous surgeries and accrued $190,000 in medical bills. Her health insurance company settled with the hospital for $59,691, which was a fairly standard settlement in such cases. She sued Hamilton, seeking payment of the billed $190,000. An appeals court found that the woman was entitled to the full $190,000 bill under the collateral source rule, despite only having paid $59,691. The rule essentially doesn’t allow a defendant to limit recovery on an injury because of the victim’s prudence (think life insurance limiting a wrongful death recovery). The rule had never been used this way before, and could have been a real bonanza for the plaintiff’s bar. Robert Tyson of Tyson & Mendes LLP defended Hamilton and earned a reversal from the California Supreme Court. If the appeals court had been affirmed, it could have cost insurers and businesses — so then consumers — billions of dollars each year. Bully for Tyson and for business.

Cooley LLP had a couple of major life sciences deals last month. It advised Amira Pharmaceuticals, a San Diego firm that sold itself to Bristol-Myers Squibb for $325 million upfront and a potential additional $150 million in milestone payments. The members of the team from San Diego included: Tom Coll, business partner; Barbara Borden, mergers and acquisitions partner, who is also head of the firmwide M&A practice; Rama Padmanabhan, mergers and acquisitions special counsel; and business associate, Sean Clayton. Cooley also advised AMAG Pharmaceuticals Inc. in its $686 million merger with Allos Therapeutics Inc. Borden was the only San Diego partner who worked on this deal.

Edward C. Walton has joined Procopio, Cory, Hargreaves & Savitch LLP. Walton has experience in business and commercial litigation. Walton also has special expertise in admiralty and maritime law, and was formerly with Kaye, Rose & Partners LLP.

Alison V. Grant was named a new member of Photocharity’s board of directors. Grant, who is an executive assistant to attorney Nancy Scull, has been an employee of Luce, Forward, Hamilton & Scripps LLP for 13 years. “When I learned of the number of homeless children living on the streets of San Diego my reaction was, ‘this is unacceptable,’ ” Grant said. “I know I can’t save the world, but if I can save just one or two kids in my lifetime I will feel fulfilled.” Spoken like a true legal mind. If we can just see the system do the right thing more times than not, that is fulfilling.

Randy C. Frisch is the president and publisher of the San Diego Business Journal. He is licensed to practice law in California, Nevada and Idaho. He can be reached at