Marta A. Alcumbrac
Marta Alcumbrac brings the same creativity and determination to the practice of law that she used as a principal founder of the Los Feliz Charter School for the Arts, a public school started when Marta realized that parents in her community wanted another educational option for their children. Among her skills is her persistence in quickly obtaining and accurately analyzing the relevant facts, allowing the firm and the client to establish a litigation plan for bringing the case to conclusion. If there is a potential that the case will need to be tried, Marta's experience as a second chair in several trials enables her to know what will be needed for an effective trial presentation. Because of her previous experience at Bonne Bridges, Muller, O'Keefe & Nichols, where her practice focused on the defense of medical malpractice cases, the firm often calls on Marta's expertise in medical issues when the causation of a medical problem is a central issue in the case. She has regularly handled toxic exposure cases, bad faith cases, and legal malpractice actions arising from medical malpractice cases.
Marta's work led to the successful resolution of a legal malpractice action arising out of an unusual medical malpractice case. Two doctors had been sued in the underlying action. In the first trial, the jury entered a verdict against one of the doctors who was represented by Robie & Matthai's client. There was a hung jury as to the second doctor. In an odd twist, the jury awarded over $3 Million in economic losses but awarded no non-economic losses; the plaintiff was given nothing for his pain and suffering. Before the retrial of the case against the second doctor, the plaintiff's lawyer had judgment entered against the first doctor, asserting that since all the damages awarded were joint and several, entry of judgment was proper. Because the judgment was entered, the opportunity to periodicize the judgment under MICRA was arguably lost. After the second trial in which a verdict was entered against the second doctor, the underlying case settled for an amount greater than the present cash value that would have resulted had the judgment been periodicized. The insurance carrier for the first doctor then brought a malpractice claim against its counsel. Marta's work enabled a favorable settlement by showing that it was the carrier's intransigence in settlement negotiations that led to the result. Marta's persistence in seeking the carrier's failure to produce all of its claim files and records which would have reflected the levels of settlement authority at various critical points during the underlying litigation, helped achieve the successful settlement.
Marta's pretrial work in another matter laid the foundation for the trial result in a legal malpractice action brought after a recruiter was dissatisfied with the result in underlying litigation. A former employee of the recruiter had allegedly stolen computer data to use in his new, competing business. The underlying federal action alleged multiple causes of action, including theft of trade secrets, RICO, breach of the employment agreement, and violation of various statutes applicable to the theft of electronic data. The former employee cross-complained for libel and interference with his business relationships. When the underlying action was settled, the recruiting firm received no funds and paid the employee $200,000 on the cross-complaint. The fees in the underlying action were approximately $850,000, of which approximately $500,000 remained unpaid.
The law firm sued for the outstanding fees; the recruiter cross-complained, alleging multiple claims for malpractice, including the failure to do discovery, the failure to properly designate experts, the failure to obtain the employee's computer equipment and the failure to take any depositions, including that of the former employee. The client asserted that it should have recovered over $2 Million and should never have had to pay the employee on its cross-complaint. The client also claimed it had been defrauded and overbilled by the firm.
After Edith's 11-week trial, based on Marta's pretrial work, the jury rendered a defense verdict on all claims against the firm and awarded the firm $200,000 of its outstanding fees. The jury concluded that although the firm was negligent, had breached its fiduciary duties and had committed fraud, no damages were caused by the conduct. One can only presume that the jury did not like the recruiter.
In another matter, a faded starlet placed her personal property into a storage facility. Her property was later sold at public auction as a result of her failure to pay the storage fees. Thereafter, the faded star alleged the property had extraordinary value and that Robie & Matthai's client, the attorney for the storage company and the auctioneer, had erroneously advised her bankruptcy attorney that the sale would not go forward as scheduled. She asserted that, had she known the sale would proceed, she would have been able to repurchase the valuable property at auction. The starlet sued both the auction house and the storage company; the storage company sought indemnity from the attorney. The attorney denied that she had told anyone that the sale would not proceed and denied that there was a conflict of interest in representing the storage company and the auction house. Marta defeated the claims by summary judgment.
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