Kurt Schmalz, a litigator and trial attorney with over 30 years of experience in federal and state courts and arbitrations, resolves complicated business disputes for corporations, shareholders, professionals and individuals.  Clients appreciate his steady guidance through the often chaotic and challenging maze of litigation, from the onset of a dispute through trial and appeal, as necessary.   Mr. Schmalz takes a thoughtful approach to planning and implementing a case strategy.  His experience has demonstrated to him that, with an appropriate strategy effectively executed, many difficult cases can be managed, tried and successfully resolved without plunging the client into an expensive and sometimes wasteful litigation “war.”

In recent cases, Mr. Schmalz won a jury verdict and judgment exceeding $4.1 million in a breach of contract dispute on behalf of an attorney client; won a $2.4 million arbitration award for a member of a real estate development joint venture in a dispute with his partner; and, obtained a permanent injunction, following trial, preventing an Orange County city from tearing down a resident’s retaining wall and stopping his construction project.

Mr. Schmalz has a successful appellate practice.  He has argued cases to the California and Utah Supreme Courts and is a member of the U.S. Supreme Court Bar.  Mr. Schmalz has served as lead counsel in both trial court and appellate court in three published decisions:  El-Attar v. Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center, 56 Cal.4th 976 (California Supreme Court 2013); American Airlines, Inc. v. Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton, et al., 96 Cal. App. 4th 1017 (2002); and, Cathco. Inc. v. Valentiner. etc., 944 P2d 365 (Utah Supreme Court 1997).

In addition to his successful law practice, Mr. Schmalz is committed to community service.  He served as an elected member of the Redondo Beach City Council and has earned awards for his volunteer work for the Redondo Beach Chamber of Commerce, Constitutional Rights Foundation and the Redondo Beach Unified School District.  Mr. Schmalz believes his experience as an elected public official and community volunteer benefits his law practice by providing him with a unique perspective on how to solve difficult problems and reach a consensus in hotly contested matters.

Education

  • Vanderbilt University School of Law, J.D., 1983
    • Senior Articles Editor, Vanderbilt Law Review, 1982-1983
    • P. Laughlin Award for outstanding article in Vanderbilt Law Review, 1983-1984
    • Jur. Award:  Torts 1
    • Outstanding Oralist: Appellate Advocacy 1
  •  Vanderbilt University, B.A., cum laude, English with Philosophy minor, 1978

Bar & Court Admissions

  • California
  • U.S. Supreme Court
  • U.S. District Court (Central, Northern, Eastern and Southern Districts, CA)
  • U.S. Court of Appeals (9th Cir.)

Honors & Awards 

Fellow of the Litigation Counsel of America

Martindale AV Rating

  •  Southern California Super Lawyers – 2004, 2006, 2008-2015
  • “Lawyer of the Year,” Constitutional Rights Foundation, 2010  

constitutional-rights-foundation-logo

Professional Associations/Memberships

  • ProVisors
  • Los Angeles County Bar Association
  • Beverly Hills Bar Association

Kurt Schmalz's Representative Matters by Practice Area

Appeals

  • As lead plaintiff attorney, favorably settled multi-million-dollar legal malpractice/architect’s liability/breach of fiduciary duty case involving the sale and development of an historic town square in Provo, Utah.  Successfully briefed and argued the case to the Utah Supreme Court in Cathco, Inc. v. Valentiner, etc., 944 P.2d 365 (Utah 1997).  

  • Lead trial attorney for major airline in its breach of fiduciary duty and legal malpractice lawsuit against a prominent Los Angeles law firm. Won plaintiff’s verdict on breach of fiduciary duty and malpractice causes of action against defendants following three-week jury trial in Los Angeles Superior Court. Lead appellate attorney on the case which was affirmed on appeal and which resulted in an important legal ethics opinion from the Court of Appeal in American Airlines, Inc. v. Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton, et al., 96 Cal. App. 4th 1017 (2002).

  • Lead attorney in California Supreme Court arguing for physician in a case involving fair hearing issues in hospital peer review hearings. Also represented the physician at the superior court mandamus proceeding and on appeal in the Court of Appeal in El-Attar v. Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center, 56 Cal.4th 976 (2013). 

  • Successfully obtained reversal of trial court’s judgment on issue of clients’ implied easement rights with respect to a parking lot adjoining clients’ apartment complex.   

  • Won jury verdict of $3 million, increased to $4.2 million with interest, in breach of contract action for attorney-client for over 20 years’ legal fees due from his former client.  Jury ruled in  attorney-client’s favor for both breach of contract and professional malpractice. Affirmed on appeal in full in Rufus Von Thulen Rhoades v. William M. Lansdale et al.

Business Litigation

  • Successfully defended one of the nation’s largest airlines in antitrust litigation brought by other airlines in connection with the client’s development and operation of a highly successful computer reservation system.  Participated in virtually every aspect of the case, including the trial in Federal Court.

  • Defended French pharmaceutical company in litigation wherein plaintiffs sought damages for serious personal injuries allegedly cause by the defendant’s diet drugs.  Case dismissed for lack of personal jurisdiction

  • Successfully developed and implemented a creative and complex settlement of bankruptcy litigation brought by creditor client, a large commercial airline.  Our client received a judgment against the debtors and valuable rights to insurance proceeds.

  • Represented shareholder of a health care provider that had been placed into conservatorship by the State of California, and then into Chapter 11 bankruptcy.  Debtor sued the shareholder for, among other things, fraudulent transfers and aiding and abetting breach of fiduciary duties.  Case settled without out-of-pocket payments by shareholder client and with the right to recover an uncontested and unsecured claim exceeding $282,100 from the bankruptcy estate.     

  • Successfully obtained a preliminary and permanent injunction to specifically perform the sale of an ABC liquor license for client, a restaurant/bar owner.  Client’s continued financial viability was dependent on the license.

  • Obtained judgment exceeding $1.0 million in Federal Court for major airline client in dispute with foreign air carrier over equipment leases.  Implemented creative collection strategy that resulted in the client collecting a significant portion of the judgment without extensive or expensive litigation outside the United States.  

  • Lead attorney in California Supreme Court arguing for physician in a case involving fair hearing issues in hospital peer review hearings. Also represented the physician at the superior court mandamus proceeding and on appeal in the Court of Appeal in El-Attar v. Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center, 56 Cal.4th 976 (2013). 

  • Successfully defended his client from over $2.1 million in claims brought by the opposing side following a Los Angeles Superior Court bench trial in early 2014.  In addition, the court ordered the losing side to pay $392,000 in attorney’s fees and costs arising from the litigation to our client.

  • Prosecuted breach of contract claim for payment for business services rendered, and defended against cross-claims for breach of contract for services.  Created and implemented a successful negotiation strategy in private mediation, resulting in a favorable settlement for client.  

  • Won jury verdict of $3 million, increased to $4.2 million with interest, in breach of contract action for attorney-client for over 20 years’ legal fees due from his former client.  Jury ruled in  attorney-client’s favor for both breach of contract and professional malpractice. Affirmed on appeal in full in Rufus Von Thulen Rhoades v. William M. Lansdale et al.

  • Successfully pursued an anti-SLAPP motion for clients in response to a malicious prosecution action brought by a former defendant in a securities fraud action.  The trial court granted the anti-SLAPP motion, denied opposing side’s motion for discovery, dismissed its malicious prosecution action and awarded attorney’s fees to our clients.  Prevailed on appeal, obtaining dismissal in favor of clients.

Corporate & Partnership Disputes

  • Settled a rare California Corporations Code § 709 expedited trial involving a dispute among shareholders of a biopharmaceutical corporation over the election of directors.

  • Several years after a law partnership effectively had dissolved, successfully defended a former partner in a dispute related to the dissolution.  Effectively used the plaintiff’s impending deposition and an upcoming hearing date on our motion for summary judgment as leverage to reach a settlement in client’s favor.

  • In a corporate dissolution action that arose when our client was effectively frozen out of the business, successfully negotiated the sale of client’s shares of stock in connection with the sale of corporate-owned property.  The corporation owned several valuable pieces of property and operated a grocery business.  

Employment Litigation

  • Co-defense counsel with a national law firm (AM Law 100) representing the owner/operator of national senior housing facilities.  Since 2006, have efficiently and effectively resolved a variety of employment litigation matters in California state and federal courts

Insurance Litigation

  • In federal court, obtained a summary judgment resulting in payment of $775,000 in damages to a small business investment corporation in an insurance bad faith/breach of contract action against a major national insurance company.  

  • While trial judge in a personal injury action kept jury’s verdict under seal, successfully engineered a three-way, multi-million dollar settlement between an insurer, driver (defendant) and injured passenger (plaintiff) for the insurer to pay for damages caused by defendant.  Insurer had filed a federal court declaratory relief action seeking to withdraw coverage during the personal injury trial.  On behalf of defendant, vigorously opposed the insurer’s declaratory relief action while concurrently monitoring insurance defense counsel in the on-going personal injury trial to ensure proper representation.  

Professional & Fiduciary Liability

  • As lead plaintiff attorney, favorably settled multi-million-dollar legal malpractice/architect’s liability/breach of fiduciary duty case involving the sale and development of an historic town square in Provo, Utah.  Successfully briefed and argued the case to the Utah Supreme Court in Cathco, Inc. v. Valentiner, etc., 944 P.2d 365 (Utah 1997).  

  • Prior to complaint being filed, achieved a multi-million dollar settlement for a global health care corporation in a legal malpractice action against its trial counsel.  The trial counsel had represented client in a major product liability case.  

  • Lead trial attorney for major airline in its breach of fiduciary duty and legal malpractice lawsuit against a prominent Los Angeles law firm. Won plaintiff’s verdict on breach of fiduciary duty and malpractice causes of action against defendants following three-week jury trial in Los Angeles Superior Court. Lead appellate attorney on the case which was affirmed on appeal and which resulted in an important legal ethics opinion from the Court of Appeal in American Airlines, Inc. v. Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton, et al., 96 Cal. App. 4th 1017 (2002).

  • Won jury verdict of $3 million, increased to $4.2 million with interest, in breach of contract action for attorney-client for over 20 years’ legal fees due from his former client.  Jury ruled in  attorney-client’s favor for both breach of contract and professional malpractice. Affirmed on appeal in full in Rufus Von Thulen Rhoades v. William M. Lansdale et al.

Real Estate Litigation

  • Won permanent injunction against a city to stop it from tearing down client’s retaining wall.  Obtained writ of mandate to direct the city to approve the wall following a bench trial in Orange County Superior Court.

  • Successfully won a summary judgment in favor of client in a breach of contract claim against sellers of residential property, receiving a prevailing party attorney’s fee award exceeding $270,000.

  • Spearheaded the defense of a multi-million dollar fraud/breach of contract case arising from the sale of a well-known Westside office/entertainment complex.   Used summary adjudication motions to eliminate fraud causes of action, prompting a favorable settlement shortly before trial.

  • Won $2.4 million arbitration award for plaintiff in real estate joint venture dispute with developer.  Developer deprived client of profits in the venture by refusing to sell joint venture properties to ready, willing and able buyers.  

  • Won $400,000 arbitration award, confirmed as court judgment, for clients against a San Diego-based investment company in a dispute arising from the investment company’s acquisition of a residential care facility in a bankruptcy settlement.

  • Successfully obtained reversal of trial court’s judgment on issue of clients’ implied easement rights with respect to a parking lot adjoining clients’ apartment complex.   

  • Successfully settled a lease dispute regarding a winery on behalf of lessee.  Client had leased a winery for five years, without the advice of legal counsel.  After the lease was terminated, the landlord contended that the former tenant had not replenished the wine inventory and had not left the wineries in their original condition.  Our client cross-complained, alleging the landlord had failed to return property and compensate them for the value of tenant improvements.