Hall Griffin Wins Binding Arbitration for General Contractor Seeking Payment Under Contract

Hall Griffin and attorney Sam Danskin secured a binding arbitration award in favor of its general contractor client on breach of contract and mechanics lien claims. The GC completed the renovation of a shell building in a high-end commercial retail center in Newport Beach. When small imperfections in the newly-installed roof were found, the GC immediately offered to make repairs to those imperfections. The owner refused the offer, demanding that the GC replace the entire roof, and withheld a portion of the retention estimated to be the cost of a complete re-roof. Despite the GC’s repeated offers to make repairs, the owner continued to insist on a complete re-roof and refused to pay.

Hall Griffin pursued binding arbitration of the dispute, seeking payment of the retention and statutory penalties for the owner’s wrongful withholding of the retention. The owner cross-claimed, seeking damages in excess of $300,000 for the cost of replacing the roof and claimed lost rents. At the conclusion of the arbitration, the arbitrator found for the GC, awarding it the bulk of the retention owed (minus the estimated cost of the repair repeatedly offered by the GC), as well as penalties for wrongful withholding of the retention. The GC also completely defensed the owner’s claims for damages.

Hall Griffin Achieves Judgment Resolving Nationwide Title-Hijacking Scheme

February 11, 2021 – Hall Griffin LLP obtained a $931,908 monetary judgment and permanent injunction on behalf of its mortgage servicer client in a civil RICO action filed in the Central District of California against a group of 10 entities perpetrating a nationwide mortgage fraud and title-hijacking scheme. The scheme targeted distressed residential borrowers by recording fraudulent title documents purporting to assign the secured interest in the properties from the borrowers' legitimate lender to the defendants. Prior to judgment, Hall Griffin obtained a preliminary injunction against the defendants and successfully petitioned for the appointment of an equity receiver to seize control of the entity defendants. Through their efforts, Hall Griffin was able to effectively halt the defendants' fraud operation and spawn a criminal prosecution by the U.S. Attorney's Office.

On February 11, 2021, the ringleader of the title hijacking scheme pleaded guilty to wire fraud charges and now faces a recommended sentence of between 11 and 13 years in federal prison.

To learn more about Hall Griffin's financial services practice, please contact Howard Hall, Valerie Schratz or Timothy Burnett.

Stephanie M. Stringer Promoted To Partner Of The Firm

Hall Griffin is pleased to announce that Stephanie M. Stringer has been promoted to partner. Ms. Stringer’s practice focuses on personal injury, insurance defense and employment law matters, including an emphasis on catastrophic injury, wrongful death claims and defense and counseling of employers. Ms. Stringer has experience litigating in both state and federal courts and is admitted to practice law in California, Colorado and Idaho. She takes cases from inception to trial and has achieved many successful outcomes for clients through settlement negotiation, alternative dispute resolution, and dispositive motions.

Ms. Stringer received her bachelor’s degree from the University of California, San Diego in 2006. In 2008, she received her law degree from the University of Denver Sturm College of Law, where she received the Scholastic Excellency Scholarship. Ms. Stringer is a dog lover and regularly volunteers for local and international charities, including Mary’s Kitchen in Orange, CA.

“Stephanie has contributed to the expansion of our client base with nothing but successful results. Her addition to the partnership is a completely natural fit for us. Her expertise in employment defense and wise counsel to employers will benefit our clients for years to come. We’re so excited to have Stephanie as part of our team!“ – Managing Partner Howard Hall

Hall Griffin Obtains Complete Victory, Winning $3.8M Trial Judgment

Jered T. Ede (Partner) and Jane Kutepova (Associate) of Hall Griffin’s Financial Services group secured a $3.8M trial judgment in favor of a mortgage servicing client who had been sued for six figures by a borrower who had stymied attempts at foreclosure for seven years. The borrower, who was defaulted in 2012, alleged his mortgage servicer violated California law by recording a foreclosure notice while the borrower’s loan modification application denial appeal was still pending. The borrower’s foreclosure was initially prevented by a prior lawsuit which was dismissed, prompting the borrower to re-file. Following attempts to stop the foreclosure by the submission of a fraudulent loan modification agreement which the borrower claimed was valid, and a fraudulent transfer to a non-existent third party who filed for bankruptcy, the servicer pursued judicial foreclosure. Hall Griffin successfully bifurcated the borrower’s claims from the judicial foreclosure action. At a week-long bench trial of the foreclosure action, in which the borrower contested foreclosure by challenging the securitization of the underlying loan, Hall Griffin proved the securitization was proper, completely defeating the borrower’s defense and obtaining foreclosure. Following trial, the borrower challenged the trial results and attempted to argue that his claims should still proceed. Hall Griffin secured a complete victory for the mortgage servicer by defeating those challenges, obtaining a complete judgement in favor of the servicer on the borrower’s claims, and obtaining a judgment of foreclosure entitling the servicer to a deficiency judgment. Through settlement negotiations, Hall Griffin further obtained the foreclosure judgment securing a first lien position priority without any adverse litigation against any junior lien holder. Topping off the victory, Hall Griffin was awarded a greater than 99% recovery of its attorneys’ fees in both defending the borrower’s claims and pursuing the judicial foreclosure.

Hall Griffin’s Financial Services group is led by litigation experts who are leaders in the financial services industry. Our team prides itself on crafting unique solutions to complex problems, delivering efficient and effective results.

Partner Jered T. Ede Gives Presentation on Mortgage Fraud

Partner Jered T. Ede, former chair of the California MBA Legal Issues Committee, spoke at the California MBA Legal Issues & Regulatory Compliance Conference in Costa Mesa, California on December 2, 2019. His presentation covered a review of fraud in 2019, an overview of trends in fraud, and a preview of where fraud is going in 2020. He also detailed Hall Griffin LLP’s ongoing partnerships with District Attorneys, the CFPB, and the FBI in preventing, identifying, and stopping all scales of fraudulent schemes, including educational outreach to those in charge of making prosecutorial decisions for the financial services industry.

Hall Griffin Welcomes Partner George Hampton

Hall Griffin is pleased to announce that George Hampton, an AV-rated trial attorney, has joined the firm as a partner in Hall Griffin's Orange County and Dallas offices. With the addition of Mr. Hampton, the firm further bolsters its proven litigation and trial practice. Mr. Hampton’s practice focuses on the trial of complex commercial and real estate matters including unfair competition, trade secret and intellectual property disputes. Mr. Hampton has extensive experience litigating in both state and federal courts and has successfully recovered millions of dollars on behalf of victims of fraud and fiduciary abuse from trustees, banks, law firms and unscrupulous partners and family members. Known for his no nonsense approach to resolving his clients' problems, Mr. Hampton represents a number of businesses and high net worth individuals who rely on his decades of experience litigating and trying their complex disputes. With Hall Griffin’s larger litigation team, Mr. Hampton’s clients will now receive even more effective and efficient service.

Mr. Hampton received his bachelor’s degree, cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa, from Rice University in 1986. In 1989, he received his law degree from the University of Texas School of Law, where he was a member of the Board of Advocates and the Legal Research Board. In 1991, Mr. Hampton was selected by the American Inns of Court to study trial advocacy at the Inner Temple, London, England.

Mr. Hampton is admitted to the state bars of California and Texas, as well as several federal district courts and courts of appeal.

Hall Griffin Achieves Victory Before Ninth Circuit On Appeal From Order Enjoining Perpetrators of Nationwide Title-Hijacking Ring and Appointing Equity Receiver

February 15, 2019 - Hall Griffin LLP achieved victory before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals on behalf of its mortgage servicer client on appeal from an order preliminarily enjoining, and appointing an equity receivership over, defendants who operated a nationwide mortgage fraud and title-hijacking scheme. The defendants' scheme targeted distressed residential borrowers by recording fraudulent title documents purporting to assign the secured interest in the properties from the borrowers' legitimate lender to the defendants. The Ninth Circuit adopted Hall Griffin's arguments and reasoning in affirming the district court's order, thus ensuring that the defendants' fraudulent scheme is enjoined pending final judgment.

To learn more about Hall Griffin's financial services practice, please contact Howard Hall, Valerie Schratz or Timothy Burnett.

Hall Griffin Secures $1.2 Million Arbitration Award

Hall Griffin chalked up a significant victory for its client in a recent binding arbitration, securing an award of over $1.2 million, and beating its own CCP 998 offer by a wide margin. The firm represented the owner of a San Jose apartment project in a construction defect claim against a general contractor arising out of substandard renovation work at the project. After the contractor refused the owner’s 998 offer of $700,000, attorney Sam Danskin took the matter to binding arbitration with JAMS. At the conclusion of the hearing, the arbitrator issued an award of more than $1,079,000 in damages, plus an additional $127,000 representing 100% of the client’s attorneys’ fees and costs.

Hall Griffin Prevails on Motion for Nonsuit in Jury Trial

Partner John Griffin and associate Stephanie Stringer won a motion for nonsuit on behalf of a transportation company following the presentation of plaintiff's evidence in a jury trial in Orange County. The lawsuit arose from a motor vehicle collision in Huntington Beach, California, in which the plaintiff rear-ended the client's vehicle. Plaintiff alleged the driver of the client's vehicle abruptly slowed the vehicle in an effort to make an illegal turn. As a result of the collision, Plaintiff alleged she sustained injuries to her neck, back, and wrist, which have affected her quality of life. After Plaintiff rested her case, the firm brought a motion for nonsuit, arguing that Plaintiff failed to establish causation as to her alleged injuries through competent medical testimony. The court agreed and granted the motion.

The Firm Wins Unanimous Defense Verdict in Orange County

The Firm and Partner John Griffin won a unanimous defense verdict on behalf of a security guard after a week-long jury trial in Orange County. The lawsuit arose from an altercation that occurred outside of Muldoon's Irish Pub in Newport Beach, California. Plaintiff became intoxicated while attending an after-party at the pub, following the screening of a surf movie at the nearby Big Newport theater. After being escorted out of Muldoon's due to his disorderly conduct, plaintiff was punched by the security guard. As a result, plaintiff alleged he suffered a traumatic brain injury, causing a permanent loss of his sense of smell and sense of taste. At trial, plaintiff presented expert testimony from a security consultant who testified that the guard's conduct fell below the standard of care. Plaintiff also presented expert testimony from a neurologist who testified to the permanent nature of plaintiff's injuries. The defense followed, presenting expert testimony that the guard's use of force was justified under the circumstances. After deliberating for only a few minutes, the jury handed down a defense verdict, voting 12-0 in favor of the guard.

John Cone Joins the Firm as Of Counsel

The Firm is pleased to announce that John A. Cone, Jr. has joined the Firm as Of Counsel in the Santa Ana, California office. Mr. Cone brings 35 years of labor and employment experience to the Firm, including litigation, trial work and counseling. Mr. Cone will be a lead for the Labor & Employment Practice Group, and his expertise in this area will provide the Firm a strong and stable platform to effectively serve employers facing litigation challenges. More information on Mr. Cone can be found here.

Partner Valerie J. Schratz Presentation on Mortgage Litigation and Fraud

Partner Valerie J. Schratz will be speaking at the California MBA Legal Issues & Regulatory Compliance Conference on December 4, 2017, in Costa Mesa, California. Her presentation will focus on litigation updates and new frauds being committed in real estate mortgages, including a multi-state fraud currently causing losses estimated to exceed $50,000 per month. Ms. Schratz will discuss Hall Griffin LLP’s efforts working with the FBI and in the courts to try to stop and remedy the already devastating effects of this new large-scale fraud. Ms. Schratz will also identify tactics to identify and avoid fraud in mortgage servicing.

The Firm Names Two New Partners

The Firm is pleased to announce that Jered T. Ede and Valerie J. Schratz have been named as partners of the firm. Mr. Ede and Ms. Schratz are based in the Santa Ana office.

"Builders for Babies" 2016 Diaper Drive - Another Great Success

Diaper Drive 2016
Lennar and six other residential home builders ("Builders for Babies") hosted the 2016 Diaper Drive at the Big "A" this year, with the goal of collecting one million disposable diapers for use by non-profits in the OC and Inland Empire, coordinated by HomeAid. The Firm was honored and pleased to sponsor of the event. The event again exceeded the one million mark, with our firm and its employees contributing over 40,000 of those diapers.

For more information, see the Builders for Babies website or read the OC Register article.

California Mortgage Bankers Association Magazine Features Article by Jered T. Ede

Jered T. Ede’s article on compliance with California’s Single Points of Contact rules was featured in California Mortgage Bankers Association’s Finance News Magazine. Mr. Ede's article explains the complex rules for being a Single Point of Contact under California’s Homeowner Bill of Rights.

Mr. Ede is a member of the firm’s Mortgage Banking & Finance litigation group headed by Howard D. Hall and is based in Hall Griffin’s Santa Ana office.

The Firm Wins Complete Defense Verdict

The Firm won a complete defense verdict after a five-day bench trial against a plaintiff who sought to enforce an alleged loan modification agreement. In the lawsuit, the plaintiff claimed to have entered into an agreement with a homeowner that would have given him 50% equity in the home if he helped the homeowner negotiate a loan modification. Under this purported deal, the plaintiff would use his financial information on the HAMP application to help the homeowner qualify for the modification. The defendant allegedly assured the plaintiff that if he submitted his information as a co-borrower on the HAMP application, he would be added as a co-borrower on the underlying note. The trial court ruled that the alleged agreement was unenforceable, finding that the defendant did not make any such representations. The court also ruled that even had the defendant made such representations, the plaintiff could not have justifiably relied on them, at least in part because of his experience as a former attorney.

The Firm Disposes of Lending Fraud Case Through Summary Judgment

In a coordinated action encompassing more than a dozen cases from counties across California, the Firm succeeded on a motion for summary judgment in favor of its mortgage lender client, confirming the client’s superior loan position on a multimillion-dollar residential property located in Northern California. The property had been the subject of numerous conspirators’ fraudulent scheme to obtain loan proceeds by securing multiple first position loans by falsifying records. The property’s record title was complicated by dozens of both fraudulent and legitimate transactions. By examining the local county recorder’s actual grantor-grantee indices, and securing critical admissions of the other lenders, Hall Griffin was able to show that its mortgage lender client was in true first position. The Court agreed, and granted the motion for summary judgment in full, including an award of costs. The Court's judgment paved the way for the client to subsequently recover the outstanding balance of its loan—more than one million dollars.

The Firm Wins Unanimous Defense Verdict

The Firm and attorney Jonathan Slipp overwhelmingly defeated a negligent supervision lawsuit against a pre-school and its director after a two-week jury trial. In the lawsuit, plaintiff alleged that her three-year-old daughter had been repeatedly physically and sexually molested by other students while at the school. The child was diagnosed as having suffered post traumatic stress disorder and received extensive psychological therapy for nearly four years. At trial plaintiff presented the expert testimony of a school supervision expert that the school staff were negligent for failing to observe and protect the child from violent attacks by the other students. Plaintiff also presented the testimony of the treating psychologist and an expert witness psychologist to detail the continuing emotional and mental damages arising from the child’s post traumatic stress disorder. The jury handed down a defense verdict, voting 12-0 in favor of the school and director.

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