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June 2023

Los Angeles Employment Law Team Secures Defense Verdict in Orange County Superior Court for University Client

A Gordon & Rees Los Angeles Employment Team, led by Partners Stephen Ronk and Erika Shao, with Senior Counsel Tiffany Lee and Nicole Lomibao, secured a defense verdict following a seven-week trial in Orange County Superior Court for a long-time firm university client.

The plaintiff, an M.D., Ph.D., was hired as a part-time authorized user at a state university brain imaging center for a four-month term. During his short tenure, there was little dispute that the plaintiff lodged extensive complaints, ultimately filing a whistleblower retaliation complaint. The university, however, had contemplated non-renewal of his part-time appointment one month into the plaintiff’s employment due to interpersonal conflicts and his inability and refusal to perform certain job duties. Additionally, the plaintiff was placed on leave pending an investigation after entering a laboratory unannounced, despite being advised against investigating his own whistleblower retaliation complaint. His part-time employment was ultimately not renewed.

Originally filed in 2013, the case had been heavily litigated by prior counsel, resulting in a summary judgment grant that was later reversed on appeal. In 2018, the matter was remanded back to the trial court, and the Gordon & Rees team substituted in as counsel of record to bring the case to trial. Although the team was initially prepared for trial in September 2021 and remained on call for three weeks, the trial did not commence until 2023.

The Los Angeles team faced various challenges throughout the trial, including the plaintiff's extensive emails and frequent complaints. The timeframe from the plaintiff's hire to his non-renewal was relatively short, encompassing his alleged complaints and the decision not to renew his employment. Nonetheless, after a seven-week jury trial, the jury deliberated for less than two hours before returning a complete defense verdict.

The trial team would like to extend their gratitude to paralegal Marita Navarro, legal assistant Diane Gonzales, and project analyst Jesse Orosz, who worked tirelessly to support the team throughout this trial.

Tiffany Lee
Nicole T. Lomibao
Stephen E. Ronk
Erika L. Shao