Meyers Nave’s Crisis Management team helps clients assess legal and reputational crises anticipate and plan for potential risks, control crises by prioritizing what should be done, and develop effective response strategies and action plans, including internal and external communications programs. We have specialty expertise with high-profile issues that attract intense media attention and public scrutiny.
Our team handles crisis situations that begin as litigation as well as those that become litigious as the crisis unfolds or after it concludes. Our crisis litigation experience includes multi-party and multi-district cases, civil litigations that are intertwined with pending criminal actions, and landmark cases dealing with matters of first impression. Our team has a successful track record of trial and appellate work in state and federal courts, as well as administrative hearings and other proceedings before regulatory and investigatory agencies.
Meyers Nave provides clients with a strategic combination of substantive legal skills, attention to reputational concerns, and urgent advice on liability management and litigation implications of many types of crises, including public health and safety emergencies, government enforcement actions, workplace and other internal investigations, class actions, environmental catastrophes, and controversies that arise at the intersection of law and highly charged issues for society.
When a crisis arises from within a client’s organization and impacts the public’s trust in a client, its products or its services, our mission is to help clients preserve or regain that public trust, protect the client’s reputation, address accountability concerns, and avoid lasting damage by: (1) promptly and strategically responding to the immediate situation underlying the crisis, (2) improving internal ethics and compliance programs and (3) enhancing personnel policies, practices and training. We help efficiently and effectively resolve the exigent crisis and put in place a foundation to deter repeat future crises.
Natural and Man-made Disasters
- County of Santa Barbara: Thomas Fire and Montecito Debris Flow Litigation
Represent the County of Santa Barbara in a dispute with Southern California Edison (SCE) regarding potential liability for the 2017 Thomas Fire and subsequent Montecito debris flow. In a Master Cross Complaint, SCE sued various public entities, including the County of Santa Barbara, alleging that “negligent acts and omissions of the public entities” contributed to or exacerbated the injuries, deaths and multi-million dollar losses incurred by plaintiffs that are suing SCE for causing the fire. The matter includes 200 lawsuits, 3000 plaintiffs, and 70 plaintiff law firms asserting billions of dollars of liability against the County.
- Celebron v. City of Palmdale, et al., Simmons v. Palmdale, and Faulk v. Palmdale
Successfully defended the City of Palmdale in actions brought by more than 30 plaintiffs involving inverse condemnation, nuisance, negligence, and trespass claims as a result of a massive 2015 rain storm that caused substantial flash flooding and debris flow. The storm was rated to have a “return frequency” of 1000 years and overwhelmed the City’s public improvements. Victories include negotiating a dismissal from one action soon after the filing of the action, winning a dispositive motion for summary judgment in another case for judgment and obtaining a legal ruling on a summary judgment motion that facilitated the settlement of remaining cases.
- City of San Bruno
Served as Special Counsel for the City of San Bruno, handling legal, regulatory and crisis management issues relating to the tragic natural gas pipeline explosion that killed eight people and destroyed 38 homes on September 9, 2010. On April 9, 2015, the California Public Utilities Commission fined PG&E, the owner and operator of the pipeline, $1.6 billion, the largest penalty ever assessed against a California utility. PG&E was also found guilty by a federal grand jury for criminal violations of the Natural Gas Pipeline Safety Act and for obstruction of justice.
Public Health & Safety Emergencies
- COVID-19 Shelter In Place Orders and Reopening Plans
Defend counties, cities and public officials throughout California in federal litigation challenging Shelter In Place Orders and Reopening Plans related to the coronavirus pandemic. Plaintiffs are providers of religious services and private businesses challenging restrictions that are placed on the operation of their organizations. Obtained victories at the district and appellate court levels which deny plaintiffs’ requests for TROs to block enforcement of such Orders and Plans.
- County of Los Angeles v. Southern California Edison (Porter Ranch)
Assisted the County of Los Angeles regarding the largest methane gas release in U.S. history. Parachuted in, consulted with the public health department, assessed the legal landscape, and successfully obtained a temporary restraining order and permanent injunction allowing the 3,000 relocated families to remain in safe alternative housing.
Government Enforcement Actions
- Securities Fraud Investigations and Trial
Obtained full acquittal after a six-week trial for a former CFO of a medical distribution company in connection with criminal securities fraud charges by the DOJ, arising out of $9 billion stock market capitalization loss following an earnings restatement. Also represented a former President of Countrywide Financial Corporation in connection with investigations by and litigation with the California Attorney General and the SEC, and related class actions.
- County of Los Angeles and People of the State of California v. Fishback and ABC Waste Management
Achieved a closely watched victory for the County of Los Angeles in a final ruling that awarded $6.6 million in attorneys’ fees, sanctions and civil penalties plus permanent injunctive relief in a case that involved the illegal transport and dumping of concrete and other construction debris in an ecologically sensitive region in the Santa Susana Mountains. The case was featured on the front page of the Los Angeles Times and Fifth District Supervisor Kathryn Barger described it as “an important victory for communities and the environment.”
Intersection of Law and Highly Charged Issues for Society
- Straight Pride Event in City of Modesto
The National Straight Pride Coalition applied for a permit to hold a rally in the City of Modesto, creating a crisis that caused local controversy, national debate and international news coverage. Meyers Nave provided the City with First Amendment legal, regulatory, litigation, public relations, and risk and crisis management advice on an ongoing urgent basis. Created a daily playbook for how other cities could handle similar situations.
- Moreno Valley Corruption Investigation
Meyers Nave assisted the City of Moreno Valley in this major government corruption investigation of the Mayor and every member of the City Council. The investigation was conducted by a joint federal and state task force involving the FBI, the IRS criminal investigative division, and the District Attorney. This matter involved use of e-discovery to cull through 500,000+ pages of documents from City departments, councilmembers’ email accounts, and various City defendants.
- City of Bell Corruption Investigation
The City of Bell, facing a national news scandal that earned the Los Angeles Times a Pulitzer Prize, hired Meyers Nave to conduct investigations regarding election misconduct by police officers. Seven city officials were convicted on graft and corruption charges and given sentences ranging from probation to 12 years in prison. Meyers Nave also advised on new policies and procedures to ensure accountability and transparency among public officials going forward.
Internal and Workplace Investigations
- Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART)
The transportation agency retained Meyers Nave to conduct an internal affairs investigation of the BART police officer-involved shooting death of passenger Oscar Grant. The internal affairs investigation reviewed the actions of the BART police officers who were present during the events leading up to the shooting. The internal affairs investigation primarily focused on the time officers were on the platform as well as looking into the events on the train that preceded the officers’ arrival. The internal affairs investigation also reviewed the tactics and actions of the command staff who directed the officers. The internal affairs investigation was separate and different from the criminal investigation which was handled by the BART Police Department and focused on examining use of force by the officers.
- San Jose/Evergreen Community College District
Meyers Nave was retained by the San Jose/Evergreen Community College District to conduct a confidential investigation into alleged financial and administrative improprieties by the Chancellor. At the request of the client District, Meyers Nave issued a comprehensive public report of findings and recommendations that the District adopted.
Class Action Litigation
- Mobility Device Litigation
Represented the City of Walnut Creek and the City of Riverside in federal ADA litigation regarding shared mobility devices (electric scooters and electric bicycles) on public rights of way. Plaintiffs alleged that users ride too fast and improperly park or ride the devices in the public pedestrian rights of way, and that shared mobility devices obstruct access on sidewalks, crosswalks and curb ramps. Successfully obtained dismissals of both public entities at the early stage of these federal proceedings through motions to dismiss in both the Northern and Central Districts.
- Willits, et al. v. City of Los Angeles
Represented the City of Los Angeles in one of the largest federal class action disability lawsuits in the state. Plaintiffs filed several lawsuits seeking to compel the City to install curb cuts and undertake sidewalk repairs throughout the City. The case also involved substantial motion practice, two dozen depositions and two appeals before the Ninth Circuit. The matter resolved on favorable settlement terms.
Employee Health Plan Bankruptcy
- City of Modesto Health Insurance Crisis
The U.S. Department of Labor concluded that the health insurance company that covered City employees had been operating as a Ponzi scheme. The DOL seized control of the insurance company and placed it into receivership, leaving more than $40 million in unpaid medical claims for 118 employers. More than 800 City employees and their families were stranded without medical insurance coverage and the City faced more than $8 million in unpaid health claims. Meyers Nave helped the City navigate the insurance liquidation proceedings, pursue recovery from wrongdoers, and shift its workforce to new insurance.