Evan Koch, Brad N. Baker, Albro Lundy, Kent Burton and Kirk Retz. Photo by Brad Jacobson
From its modest Hermosa Beach storefront, Baker, Burton & Lundy plays David to rival Goliaths, counting among its victories a complex anti-trust settlement worth $2 billion to California energy consumers.
The 38-year-old firm, which moved down the coast from Venice in 1980, is seeking to break new ground, once again, with a case before the California Supreme Court that might help untangle the process of settling future lawsuits.
The Baker of BB&L is Brad N. Baker, an estate planner, who focuses on probate and trust litigation, and has twice argued before the United States Supreme Court.
Burton is Kent Burton, a leading specialist in real estate and business law, who counts Fortune 500 companies among his clients.
Lundy is Albro L. Lundy III, the 2009 Consumers Attorneys of California Trial Lawyer of the Year. Lundy testified before the U.S. House and Senate for the cause of the American POW/MIA, and went to Vietnam to help negotiate the release of prisoners.
Baker, Burton and Lundy have used their dogged work ethic, zest for courtroom combat and deep distaste for injustice to win more than $4 billion in verdicts and settlements for clients and classes, including consumers.
The case awaiting a hearing before the Supreme Court involves a $3.16 million award that BB&L secured for an electrician who was burned over three quarters of his body in a workplace accident in Commerce.
Rival attorneys contested the award, using what Lundy describes as a “loophole” in a state law.
The rival lawyers argued that the electrician should not get the large award from years past because he had recently offered to settle the lawsuit for less than he had demanded earlier.
In similar cases, courts had upheld the settlement-offer “loophole.”
But in the electrician’s case, a state appeals court agreed with BB&L that the law has been misinterpreted by other courts, landing the question in the lap of the top justices.
Lundy noted that every other appeals court ruling has upheld the settlement-offer “loophole,” and the ruling in the electrician’s case is the only one that interprets the law the way Lundy sees it.
“We would be making new law,” he said, if the Supreme Court settles the question in BB&L’s favor. He said oral arguments before the high court could come in the spring.
In another case, BB&L posted a $2 billion win for the state’s energy users by leading a high-powered legal assault on two energy companies.
In a written ruling approving a settlement in the case, Superior Court Judge Ronald S. Prager called the Hermosa attorneys and their legal teammates “exceedingly capable, educated, experienced and driven.”
“The efforts of counsel were tremendous and cannot be over-stated,” the judge wrote, adding that the attorneys “traveled a legal odyssey that has crossed jurisdictional boundaries and state lines” while they “withstood blistering attacks on their legal claims.”
Their efforts resulted in two separate settlements on behalf of consumers – one with El Paso Natural Gas and another with Sempra Energy of San Diego, neither of which admitted any wrongdoing.
The attorneys had accused El Paso Gas and two companies that later merged into Sempra of illegally killing pipeline projects, artificially raising the price of natural gas coming into California, causing electricity prices to soar, and contributing to California’s infamous 2000 and 2001 energy crisis.
Baker served as “head coach” of a team of lawyers from five firms, coordinating massive amounts of court filings and dozens of depositions in the U.S. and Canada, and helping to fight off five separate motions for dismissal and more than 30 motions challenging evidence in the complicated class-action case.
Lundy worked on strategic issues and prepared other attorneys for their courtroom arguments, and prepared himself to question witnesses on the stand had the settlements not been reached. Burton served as a consultant to the team.
In another case, the Hermosa team shifted around, with Lundy in the lead role, to win $11.6 million for a man who was left a paraplegic from an auto accident – a man who also had been a surrogate father for Lundy when he was a child. That case prompted road-safety changes in California, as well as Lundy’s Consumer Attorney Of the Year award.