News for Law Offices Scott E. Schutzman

DAILY JOURNAL – Verdicts and Settlements

July 2008

Mary Jackson, Thomas Jackson v. Mah’s Handimarket Inc., Steven Almeida
L.A. Superior Court Case Case No. EC046084
Hon. Michele R. Rosenblatt

Personal Injury – Auto v. Auto Sideswipe Collision

Settlement: $2,150,000

Plaintiffs’ counsel: Scott E. Schutzman (Law Offices of Scott E. Schutzman, Santa Ana)

Defendants’ counsel: Scott M. Leavitt (Daniels, Fine, Israel, Schonbuch, & Lebovits, Los Angeles)

On September 25, 2007, at 7:30 a.m., plaintiff Mary Jackson, 57, an administrative assistant, was driving to work when defendant Steven Almeida sideswiped her. Almeida admitted to the responding police officer that he fell asleep at the wheel.

Jackson suffered a stroke and was in a coma for six weeks. She was also treated for a left leg fracture and underwent a knee operation. Plaintiff’s husband, Tom Jackson, brought a claim for loss of consortium.

The defendant had a $1 million liability policy with Mercury and $1 million excess policy with Fireman’s Fund.

The case settled after mediation with the Hon. Russell Bostrom of Judicate West.


Former Enrollees File Class Action Suit Against Newbridge College

by Marla Jo Fisher – Orange County Register – July 18, 2008

Students say college couldn’t deliver on job promises in medical field.

Click here for full article


Focus on a Solo Practitioner Who Dared to Go Where Others Fear to Venture

By Bonnie Saito* – NALP Bulletin, October 2002, Vol. 15, No.10
With a practice uncovering horrors, exposing fraud, and demanding redress, Scott Schutzman has dared to go where others fear to venture….cemeteries, mortuaries, and crematoriums as well as into the world of grief and outrage. He was one of the first attorneys in the United States to define a niche in mortuary abuse. His list of accomplishments includes class action victories, legislative changes, a lucrative practice, and immense career satisfaction— all as a solo practitioner in Santa Ana, California.

At a two-day crossroad of either a mortuary abuse multi-million dollar settlement or a four-month trial, an amazingly calm Schutzman made time for lunch and a discussion about his practice. In his current case, the mortuary promised the families a garden plot but instead buried the deceased under a roadway. Long before the 2002 Georgia crematorium scam received national press, Schutzman made California legal news headlines. “Attorney Builds Lucrative Practice Representing the Dead,” read a Daily Journal headline in 1996. The first California case, to the best of Schutzman’s recollection, was in the early 1990s, when a mortuary selling gold fillings was hit with $17 million in penalties. In 1992, his first shallow burial case resulted in a law which increased the required depth of interment in California to 16 inches. Today 30 to 40% of his practice is comprised of class action mortuary cases with the remaining 60 to 70% involving other consumer issues, civil rights, and environmental law. Work abounds, especially as the mortuary industry continues to be plagued by “poor education, poor standards, and poor laws.”

Schutzman can easily dispel the notion that small practice is a default career choice. Frequently turning down larger firm merger offers, he states unequivocally that he is happy exactly where he is and knows why. First and foremost, he can remain motivated by the best interests of his client and the needs of the underdog. Attorneys willing to accept contingency cases are often clients’ only hope to access justice. Schutzman can make decisions independently and can savor victories against much larger entities. Moreover, in his own practice, he does not have to compromise his “compulsive and persistent nature.” Following a 9 am to 9 pm schedule with virtually no vacations, he maintains quality control, which has resulted in a business based 90% on referrals.
After law school graduation in 1988, Schutzman benefitted from large firm practice experience. He admits to being “scared to death” upon going solo, but boredom forced him to release his employment security blanket. Why is he so successful today? First, he cites excellent assessment skills which have been honed over time. Perhaps his psychology undergraduate degree has contributed to his skill in evaluating cases and in picking a jury. “Anyone can question a witness,” he states. “Picking the jury is an art.”

Two additional keys to success are an entrepreneurial spirit and not being averse to gambling. Practitioners such as himself cannot shy from risk. In turning down multi-million dollar settlement offers, he must remain calm and confident in his ability to know “when to hold them and when to fold them.”

If this future sounds appealing to a student, how can he/she prepare? First, an applicant must understand that small practice success is based on results, not on the attorney’s law school or academic honors. Several years ago, after winning a major trial, Schutzman and his two colleagues, standing before an incredulous judge, heard opposing counsel’s futile argument for reduced attorney fees based on law school credentials. Secondly, trial advocacy classes may prove valuable because frequent court appearances with no handholding are the norm in most small practices. As an employer of law clerks, Schutzman comments that students typically know how to research but lack writing skills. Law clerks and attorneys must be concise in writing, questioning witnesses, and engaging in oral argument. Recently a judge complimented Schutzman’s trial exhibit presentation, which far exceeded expectations, accomplishing in one hour what was allotted four. Finally, in a practice like his, skillfully orchestrating all phases of multiple cases, as well as of an occasional very interesting lunch, is absolutely essential, a skill not acquired in law school or necessarily in large firm practice.

*Bonnie Saito is Director, Career Services, at Whittier Law School, Costa Mesa, California.


VERDICTS AND SETTLEMENTS June 14, 2002

WINNING BY DESIGN
Scott E. Schutzman of Santa Ana won a $162,200 verdict in a breach of contract case. Collins v. Dimensional Impressions Cad Cam Systems Inc., BC247538 (L.A. Superior Court, verdict March 5, 2002).
In a dispute over box designs created by the plaintiff, his attorney, Scott E. Schutzman, created an eye-catching, computer-generated presentation to help the jury follow.


VERDICTS AND SETTLEMENTS – Daily Journal Extra

September 23, 2002
TORTS – Negligent Burial – Emotional Distress
VERDICT: $5,092,000.00

CASE/NO: Terry Barnes et al. v. Angeles Abbey Memorial Park et al.
TC00819
COURT/DATE: Los Angeles Superior Court / August 2002
JUDGE: Hon. John R. Stanton
ATTORNEY FOR PLAINTIFFS: Scott E. Schutzman (Law Offices of Scott E. Schutzman, Santa Ana)
ATTORNEY FOR DEFENDANTS: Scott Cox (Friedenthal, Cox & Herskovitz, Pasadena)
Plaintiffs contended that the burials were in a roadway and that proper safeguards such as barricading and filing plot maps were not followed.


Attorney Builds Lucrative Practice Representing the Dead

Los Angeles Daily Journal, July 17, 1996
His friends call him “Dr. Death” but he doesn’t care. Somebody has to defend the dead and it might as well be Scott Schutzman. Schutzman says he enjoys practicing the kind of law that helps the people who are down and out, with nowhere else to turn.
But Schutzman thinks he’s found his niche in dealing with grieving families who feel they have been wronged by mortuaries and funeral parlors. This is a new kind of law, one that has been tested in only a few cases, such as Christensen in Superior Court, 54 Cal.3d 868 (1991), which held that extended family members can collect for emotional distress, and Saari v. Jongordon Corp., 5 Cal.App.4th 787 (1992), which allows a plaintiff to sue for emotional distress, breach of contract, fraud and negligence for wrongful cremation.


Court hears charge that sale of cross was rigged

San Francisco Examiner, June 2, 1999
After almost a decade of litigation, the fate of the 103-foot cross on top of Mount Davidson now rests in a federal courtroom where atheists have brought charges that The City rigged an auction to keep them from buying the symbol.
Scott Schutzman, an attorney for the atheists, said in his opening arguments, that the sale was an attempt to exclude buyers who opposed the cross and wanted to dismantle it. He said city officials had intentionally failed to provide information about auction deadlines to his clients and negotiated with only one lawyer.


Tales of the Dead: Suit Claims Mortuary Used Unlicensed Embalmers, False Death Certificates

Los Angeles Daily Journal, July 17, 1996

The Santa Ana attorney had filed a class action that he says will bring finality to the death of 54 people and bring comfort to their living relatives, who will probably never know whether the embalming process was done correctly at two Orange County mortuaries.


On the Insurance Front

Los Angeles Daily Journal, December 4, 1996

Two Vietnamese men have sued the Automobile Club of America, alleging that they were the victims of racial discrimination when their claims for medical expenses, pain and suffering were not paid. “We put an ad in the Vietnamese paper to see if any other attorneys had a similar experience with AAA,” said plaintiff’s attorney Scott Schutzman. “We got responses from 18 attorneys in Orange County who had claims for soft tissue damage, and they all had the same experience as us.”


Paraplegic Plaintiff Takes On Business Owners One by One

Los Angeles Daily Journal, July 13, 1998

The case Schutzman plans to get to the bottom of involves his client, Z Pizza, which claims Botoson went too far when he sued the Newport Beach restaurant after its owner spent $6,000 of his own money to install a handicapped ramp in the parking lot. Z Pizza, along with five other business owners in the same strip mall, was sued by Botoson in February, accused of violating his civil rights by denying full and equal access to persons with disabilities. Kornel Botoson v. Z Pizza et al, SACV98-130GLT.


Buy.com Sued For Contract Breach

Orange County Register, August 18, 1999

A Laguna Niguel computer dealer is suing Buy.com for breach of contract and fraud after the Internet retailer refused to deliver on orders made through its Web site. The case raises questions about electronic commerce and the enforcement of contracts made over the Internet. The Guras’ attorneys contend Buy.com changed the terms of its sales policy after the order was made. The Guras ordered hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of computer products, their attorney Scott Schutzman said, but after receiving the cashier’s checks for orders Buy.com canceled, telling the Guras it sold only to consumers. But Buy.com knew the Guras had signed up on the site as dealers, Schutzman said.