Our Practice

The Ehrlich Law Firm provides appellate support for the California plaintiffs’ trial bar. Trial lawyers hire us to defend favorable judgments on appeal and to obtain the reversal on appeal of unfavorable judgments and trial-court rulings. The vast majority of our practice is in the appellate courts in California, meaning the District Courts of Appeal, the California Supreme Court, and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Our clients include many of California’s premier trial lawyers.

In the California state court system, appellate review is ordinarily available only after a final judgment. But review by way of a writ of mandate or prohibition is available in the reviewing court’s discretion in cases presenting important and unsettled legal questions, where review after a final judgment would not be an adequate remedy. While federal law also authorizes the use of review by way of writs, the practice is far less common in the federal system. Learn more about the appellate process here.

On occasion, we also handle significant law-and-motion matters in the trial courts, such as preparing oppositions to summary-judgment motions, drafting and opposing motions in limine; and drafting and opposing post-trial motions, such as new-trial motions and JNOV motions.

Almost all of our cases are tort cases. The most common types of tort cases we handle involve claims for negligence, products liability, wrongful death, and insurance bad-faith. Within those general areas, we have handled appeals that presented issues concerning the statute of limitations, the enforceability of arbitration clauses, excessive or inadequate damages, causation, jury instructions, juror misconduct, claims of misconduct by counsel, the availability of punitive damages, the applicability of the MICRA damages cap, insurance-policy interpretation, sanctions, and a variety of procedural questions arising during the trial process.

Landmark Decisions

Some of our appellate cases have resulted in so-called “landmark” decisions—cases that provide adopt a new rule or approach that will provide substantial guidance to courts and litigants in future cases. Examples of our cases that are considered “landmarks” of California law include:

  • UNUM Life Ins. Co. of America v. Ward (1999) 526 U.S. 358, 119 S.Ct. 1380. The U.S. Supreme Court holds that ERISA does not preempt California’s common-law “notice-prejudice rule,” strengthening consumer protections for more than 80 million Americans with health coverage through ERISA plans.
  • Liberty Surplus Ins. Corp. v. Ledesma & Meyer Construction Co.(2018) 5 Cal.5th 216. The California Supreme Court holds that an employer’s acts of negligently hiring, retaining, and supervising an employee who commits an intentional tort against a third party can constitute an “accident” for the purposes of liability insurance, even though the insurer acted intentionally in hiring, retaining, and supervising the employee. The opinion also held that the term “accident” is broader than “negligence” and therefore includes negligence. These rulings call into doubt dozens of earlier state and federal cases that have held that there can be no “accident” whenever the policyholder acts intentionally and that the unforeseen, unexpected consequences of the policyholder’s conduct do not qualify as an “accident” for the purposes of liability coverage.
  • Pebley v. Santa Clara Organics, LLC (2018) 22 Cal.App.5th 1266. The first California opinion to adopt the rule that injured plaintiffs who have access to health insurance are free to obtain their medical treatment from out-of-plan medical providers and cannot be said to have failed to mitigate their damages from not treating “in plan.”
  • Augustus v. ABM Security Services, Inc. (2016) 2 Cal.5th 257. The California Supreme Court holds that California law forbids employees from being kept “on call” during rest breaks.
  • Cabral v. Ralphs Grocery Co. (2011) 51 Cal.4th 764. The California Supreme Court substantially narrows the ability of trial and appellate courts to dismiss negligence cases by finding that the defendant owed the plaintiff no duty of care. The Supreme Court made clear that the default rule is that a duty of reasonable care is universal, and that any deviation from that rule must be framed broadly, as a legal rule, as opposed to a case-specific finding.
  • Wilson v. 21st Century Ins. Co. (2007) 42 Cal.4th 713. The California Supreme Court narrows the scope of the so-called “genuine dispute doctrine” in insurance bad-faith cases, making it substantially more difficult for insurers to obtain summary judgment.
  • Smith v. PacifiCare Behavioral Health of California, Inc. (2001) 93 Cal.App.4th 139. This was the first case to hold that California statutes requiring health plans and insurers to make certain disclosures about their use of arbitration are not preempted by the Federal Arbitration Act, and that that failure to comply with these statutes precludes the enforcement of the arbitration agreement.
  • 20th Century Ins. Co. v. Sup.Ct. (Ahles) (2001) 90 Cal.App.4th 1247. Established the constitutionality of the California statute extending the statute of limitations for victims of the Northridge Earthquake to seek insurance benefits.
  • Mintz v. Blue Cross of California (2009) 172 Cal.App.4th 1594. Held that the third-party administrator of a health plan owes a duty of care to plan members concerning the manner of processing their benefit claims.
  • Kotler v. Pacificare of California (2005) 126 Cal.App.4th 950. The first appellate decision in California holding that HMOs could be sued for bad faith for not providing timely care to their members.
  • Purton v. Marriott International, Inc. (2013) 218 Cal.App.4th 499. Held that an employer who served alcohol at its annual holiday party could be held liable for injuries caused when an employee who became intoxicated at the party caused a fatal automobile accident, even though the employee first went home from party before leaving and then causing the accident.

We welcome you to learn more about other significant cases here.

For additional information about our practice, contact The Ehrlich Law Firm.