VERDICT: Defense Verdict

CASE/NUMBER: Robert Surber v. Burnet Sumner and Christine McGill / 954991

COURT/DATE: San Francisco Superior / February 27, 1995

JUDGE: Hon. Lee Baxter, Dept. 16.

ATTORNEYS: Plaintiff — Alan Berkowitz, Sharon Zezima (Schachter, Kristoff, et al., San Francisco); Defendant — Dan Siegel, Anne Weills (Siegel & Yee, et al., Oakland)

FACTS: This lawsuit arose from a prior lawsuit between Doctors Burnet Sumner and Christine McGill and The Regents of the University of California and Robert Surber. In the underlying verbal and physical sexual harassment. During the internal investigation of the underlying case, counsel for the Regents concluded that Surber’s conduct toward female staff members was inappropriate and unprofessional. The parties engaged in a mediation with Judicial Arbitration and Mediation Services on June 1 and 3 of 1993. The parties agreed to an outline of a proposed settlement; and, if the Regents approved, a written settlement would be negotiated and executed. Subsequently, the Defendants (Plaintiffs, in the underlying action) in this instant action disputed the existence of the settlement as binding. In September and October of 1993, Surber and The Regents brought separate lawsuits (later consolidated) against Sumner and McGill; upon motions for summary judgment and summary adjudication by The Regents and Surber, the Court ruled that the settlement agreement was a contract and dismissed the underlying lawsuit; Sumner and McGill appealed that decision. In December of 1994, The Regents dismissed their remaining claim and withdrew from the litigation; the remaining parties went to trail on the issue of contract damages; claims for breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing; and fraud.

CONTENTIONS: Plaintiff Surber contended that he incurred damages as a result of Sumner’s and McGill’s refusal to honor the terms of the settlement agreement. Plaintiff further contended that Defendants breached the covenant of good faith and fair dealing by denying in bad faith and without probable cause the existence of the agreement. Plaintiff also contended that Defendants engaged in fraud by promising that they would take certain actions required by the agreement without the intent of performing those terms. Defendants Drs. Sumner and McGill contended that there had been no settlement; that. Although they tentatively agreed to the broad outlines of a settlement, it was not binding because counsel for The Regents had not yet received authority from their client and because the parties agreed that they would continue to negotiate until they had concluded and executed a written agreement; no liability. Defendants further contended that Surber incurred no damages as a result of the breach and denied allegations of breach of covenant of good faith, fair dealing, and of fraud.

DAMAGES: Unspecified general and punitive damages.

TRIAL JURY: Length 8 days; Poll varied; Deliberation 1 day.

SETTLEMENT DISCUSSIONS: No offers or demands were exchanged prior to this result.