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February 2015

Daily Journal Features Gordon & Rees Defense Win in Top Verdicts Special Report

Gordon & Rees San Francisco partner Michael A. Laurenson’s and associate Hieu Tran’s defense verdict in Harnett v. Forensic Analytical Sciences, Inc., was selected as one of the 10 Top Defense Results in California in 2014 as reported in the Daily Journal’s Feb. 18 Top Verdicts of 2014 Special Report.

In Harnett, Laurenson and Tran received a unanimous defense verdict after a three-week trial in Alameda County Superior Court. The plaintiff Celia Hartnett was the former CEO of Forensic Analytical Sciences, Inc., a crime lab.  She claimed to have been terminated in retaliation for whistleblowing about threatened destruction of evidence.  She also alleged the company owner had promised her two years’ salary as severance if she was ever removed from her position for any reason. 

The company owner admitted that the plaintiff’s whistleblowing email was the “tipping point” in the termination decision.  But Laurenson and Tran persuaded the jury that it was the plaintiff’s poor attitude, not her whistleblowing, that caused her termination, and that there had been no severance agreement. The plaintiff’s final pretrial demand was $1 million and the plaintiff’s attorney asked the jury for an award of nearly $2 million, in addition to an unstated amount for punitive damages. The jury deliberated for only two hours before returning a 12-0 verdict in favor of the defense on all four causes of action.  

One of the fastest-growing law firms in the country, Gordon & Rees is a national litigation and business transactions firm with more than 600 lawyers and 33 offices in 21 states. In 2014, The National Law Journal ranked the firm 89th on its list of the largest U.S. firms and The American Lawyer ranked the firm at No. 131 on the Am Law 200 and at No. 26 on its Diversity Scorecard. Founded in 1974, Gordon & Rees has been recognized on the “BTI Client Service A-Team” survey for the past three years and has been honored as a 2014 "Go-To Law Firm" for Fortune 500 companies as well as selected for inclusion on Corporate Counsel magazine’s 2014 “Who Represents America’s Biggest Companies.”

Michael A. Laurenson