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February 2016

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

Gordon & Rees San Francisco partner Michael A. Laurenson’s and associate Christin Lawler’s unanimous defense verdict in Hopkins v. Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory was selected as one of the 10 Top Defense Results in California in 2015 as reported in the Daily Journal’s Feb. 17 Top Verdicts of 2015 Special Report. This is the second year in a row that Laurenson – who took four jury trials to verdict in 2015 – has been selected for this honor.

In Hopkins, Laurenson received a unanimous defense verdict after just over an hour of jury deliberations in Alameda County Superior Court. Plaintiff Deborah Hopkins was a female scientist at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and one of few females in a supervisory role. She was chair of the diversity committee and had complained about the treatment of women at the Lab and of harassment of herself and the group she led. When she was laid off, she claimed it was retaliatory for her whistleblowing and discriminatory based on her gender.

The Lab argued that the layoff was due to lack of adequate funding for her work. The plaintiff cast herself as a crusader and argued that she was taking the case to trial in order to ensure women at the Lab were treated fairly. Feeling certain of her convictions as a self-professed advocate of women’s rights, the plaintiff rejected the Lab’s reasonable pretrial settlement offer and refused to make a counteroffer, instead seeking $2.4 million in damages in addition to an unstated amount for emotional distress. Laurenson was able to persuade the jury that the Lab’s decision to lay off the plaintiff was due solely to a lack of adequate funding by arguing that, even if the plaintiff’s superiors were frustrated with her complaining, they had passed up earlier opportunities to retaliate against her, and in fact had continued to make inquiries on her behalf once her funding had ended, an action that was inconsistent with a retaliatory motive.

One of the fastest-growing law firms in the country, Gordon & Rees is a national litigation and business transactions firm with more than 650 lawyers and 37 offices in 24 states. In 2015, The National Law Journal ranked the firm 83rd on its list of the largest U.S. firms and The American Lawyer ranked the firm at No. 126 on the Am Law 200 and at No. 21 on its Diversity Scorecard. Founded in 1974, Gordon & Rees has been recognized on the “BTI Client Service A-Team” survey for the past four years and has been honored as a "Go-To Law Firm" for Fortune 500 companies.

Michael A. Laurenson