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Barrera and Associates: keeping the hoopla out of the Kombucha

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attorney Pat Berrera

Pat Berrera, Berrera and Associates. Photo by Brad Jacobson

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by Robb Fulcher

Pat Barrera, an award-winning employment and business attorney has secured clients tens of millions of dollars. Barrera knew he wanted to be a litigator since he saw “And Justice for All.” He was probably too young to be watching Pacino as a courtroom warrior in the film, but his parents had forced his older sisters to take him along as a pint-sized chaperone for their double date.

“It has one of the best ending scenes ever made,” Barrera said.

Pacino’s on-screen struggle to free an imprisoned a client and fight corruption awakened in Barrera a desire to right wrongs, propelling him to a career protecting the “little guy.”

Barrera success as a criminal defense attorney earned him a profile in Forbes magazine, and he has been named a “Southern California Super Lawyer” by Los Angeles Magazine and Law & Politics for eight years running.

The principal of the boutique firm Barrera and Associates in Manhattan Beach counts among his victories a $5 million settlement for rental car company employees, an $825,000 class action settlement for overtime wages, missed meals and rest breaks for television production workers, a $420,000 settlement for misclassified theme-park restaurant employees, and a $750,000 settlement for an executive of a financial institution who claimed wrongful termination.

Berrera’s long list of wins also includes a $350,000 settlement for a female account executive who was fired in retaliation for reporting sexual harassment, and a $313,000 settlement for women who claimed they were subjected to sexual harassment by their supervisors at a television station.

Barrera also won $5.5 million in refunds for consumers in a class-action settlement with two credit card companies accused of using the phrase “same as cash” deceptively.

He argued that the “same as cash” financing plans misled consumers into believing that they would not have to make minimum monthly payments during the promotional period, and therefore they were improperly assessed late fees.

Two years ago Berrera invoked the Proposition 65 Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act when some kombucha, a tea sold in health food stores, appeared to contain more alcohol than the trace amount listed on the labels of bottles.

“That was brought to my attention by a colleague who drank kombucha, and said he was concerned because he got a buzz when he drank it. He was concerned that kids would drink it,” Barrera said.

The attorney sent the product for laboratory analysis. His pursuit of the matter prompted the maker to change the labels. Barrerra said the maker now puts out two, separate kombucha products, one with a tiny amount of trace alcohol, and another that is sold in the same store sections as beer and wine.

“I have three young kids, and I think the proper labeling is important,” he said.

It was family life that prompted Barrera to move his practice from Century City to Manhattan Beach, where he lives.

Now Barrera, a parishioner at American Martyrs Church, can make it to his kids’ sporting events at American Martyrs School, instead of getting stuck on the 405.

“That was five years ago, and I feel like the best thing I ever did was hang my shingle on Rosecrans Avenue,” he said.

Looking ahead, Barrera believes that the explosion of online social media will bring with it more litigation, and new legislation, concerning the privacy of everyday people who can be attacked across the internet with their own photos or personal revelations.

“I think there will be a balance struck between ‘I can say or post anything I want on the internet,’ on the one hand and ‘what is public and what is private on the other,’” he said.

Some privacy issues are covered by existing libel and slander laws, but “the law has not caught up with social media, yet,” Berrera said.

1500 Rosecrans Avenue, Suite 500, Manhattan Beach. |(310) 802.1500. BaAttorneys.com/law.