Blog : Personal Injury

Minami Tamaki Attorneys Named to 2019 Super Lawyers

Minami Tamaki Attorneys Named to 2019 Super Lawyers

PHOTO BACK ROW (L-R): Kaa Bao Yang; Julia Macri; Donald K. Tamaki*; La Verne A. Ramsay; Dale Minami* Top 100; Lisa P. Mak**; Seema Bhatt**; Angela C. Mapa; Dian Sohn. FRONT ROW: Sean Tamura-Sato**; Olivia Serene Lee**; B. Mark Fong*; Minette A. Kwok*; Suhi Koizumi* (*2019 Super Lawyers) (**2019 Rising Stars)

We’re proud to announce that nine of Minami Tamaki LLP’s attorneys were selected as Northern California Super Lawyers and Rising Stars for 2019. Two of our Partners and our Senior Counsel have been named Northern California Super Lawyers for the last 16 consecutive years.

PERSONAL INJURY
Partner B. Mark Fong (Super Lawyers, 10 years)
Senior Counsel Dale Minami (Top 10 (2013-2018), Top 100 (2007-2019), Super Lawyers, 16 years)
Associate Seema Bhatt (Rising Stars)

IMMIGRATION AND NATIONALITY LAW
Partner Minette A. Kwok (Top 50 Women (2007-2008, 2014-2016), Super Lawyers, 16 years)
Partner Olivia Serene Lee (Rising Stars)
Senior Associate Suhi Koizumi (Super Lawyers)

CONSUMER AND EMPLOYEE RIGHTS
Partner Sean Tamura-Sato (Rising Stars)
Associate Lisa P. Mak (Rising Stars)

CORPORATE/NONPROFIT
Partner Donald K. Tamaki (Super Lawyers, 16 years)

Super Lawyers is a rating service of outstanding lawyers who have attained a high-degree of peer recognition and professional achievement. The selection process is independent, and attorneys cannot purchase placements on the list.

Dale Minami to Receive the 2019 ABA Medal, the Association’s Highest Honor

Dale Minami to Receive the 2019 ABA Medal, the Association’s Highest Honor

The American Bar Association announced this week that it will honor Minami Tamaki LLP Senior Counsel Dale Minami, a lifelong champion of the civil rights of Asian Pacific Americans and other people of color, with the ABA Medal — the association’s highest honor — during the ABA Annual Meeting in August in San Francisco.

Minami is best known for leading the legal team that overturned the conviction of Fred Korematsu, an American of Japanese descent who was arrested for refusing to enter an incarceration center in 1942. Korematsu’s case led to the historic challenge of the incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II in the case Korematsu v. United States.

The ABA Medal recognizes exceptionally distinguished service by a lawyer or lawyers to the cause of American jurisprudence. Previous recipients of the ABA Medal include: Bryan A. Stevenson (2018), Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg (2010), and Justice Thurgood Marshall (1992).

Minami is the first Asian American to receive the award in its 90-year history.

“Dale Minami has devoted a lifetime to breaking down stereotypes and advocating for Asian Pacific Americans,” ABA President Bob Carlson said. “His work in overturning Korematsu is legal legend, but it is just one of many instances in his career where he has fought for the protection of the rights of people who have been discriminated against. His determination and commitment to the rule of law has resulted in countless people receiving justice.”

Minami was key to obtaining judicial recognition that the evacuation and incarceration of more than 100,000 Japanese Americans during World War II was unjust and illegal. Although the Supreme Court in 1944 upheld the constitutionality of the incarceration in Korematsu v. United States, Minami and his team successfully challenged that ruling 40 years later.

With documents discovered in 1981 from the National Archives that demonstrated that government officials knowingly used false evidence to justify its exclusion order, Minami assembled the legal team that petitioned the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California to vacate the conviction of Korematsu and was the Coordinating Attorney initially for two other challenges to the military orders filed by Minoru Yasui in Portland and Gordon Hirabayashi in Seattle.  Serving as lead counsel for Korematsu in 1983, Minami and his team prevailed in voiding the conviction while the legal teams for Hirabayashi and Yasui overturned their convictions in separate cases.

In 2017, Minami and other attorneys from the Korematsu, Hirabayashi, and Yasui legal teams joined the legal team led by the Fred T. Korematsu Center for Law and Equality and Akin Gump LLP, representing the adult children of Korematsu, Hirabayashi, and Yasui in filing an amicus brief in the U.S. Supreme Court review of the government’s travel ban, which resulted in the Supreme Court’s explicit repudiation of the 1944 Korematsu decision via its review of Trump v. Hawaii.

“As an attorney in a small minority-owned law firm, I was a bit surprised when Bob Carlson, the president of the ABA, even called me, then astonished when he informed me that I was chosen as the ABA Medal recipient,” Minami said.  “Given the list of illustrious past awardees, I now just think it is surreal, yet still a testament to the ABA’s recognition of Asian Pacific American attorneys as integral members of the ABA and legal profession. I am grateful.”

Family of Tesla Car Crash Victim Walter Huang Files Lawsuit

Family of Tesla Car Crash Victim Walter Huang Files Lawsuit

Errors by Tesla’s Autopilot navigation system caused the crash that killed Walter Huang of Foster City, Calif., last year, claims a wrongful death lawsuit filed by Huang’s widow and family on April 26. The family is represented by B. Mark Fong of Minami Tamaki LLP, and Doris Cheng and Michael Kelly of Walkup, Melodia, Kelly & Schoenberger.

Huang, 38, died on March 23, 2018, from injuries he suffered when the Autopilot system of his 2017 Tesla Model X drove his car into the unprotected edge of a concrete highway median.

The lawsuit alleges Tesla’s Autopilot feature was defective and caused Huang’s death. The navigation system of Huang’s Tesla misread the lane lines on the roadway, failed to detect the concrete median, and failed to brake the car, but instead accelerated the car into the median.

Huang is survived by his wife of ten years, Sevonne, their son and daughter, ages 4 and 7, and two elderly parents who depended on Huang for financial support.

“Mrs. Huang lost her husband, and two children lost their father because Tesla is beta testing its Autopilot software on live drivers,” said Fong, a partner at Minami Tamaki LLP. “The Huang family wants to help prevent this tragedy from happening to other drivers using Tesla vehicles or any semi-autonomous vehicles.”

“We want to ensure the technology behind semi-autonomous cars is safe before it is released on the roads, and its risks are not withheld or misrepresented to the public,” said Cheng, a partner at Walkup, Melodia, Kelly & Schoenberger.

The allegations against Tesla include product liability, defective product design, failure to warn, breach of warranty, intentional and negligent misrepresentation, and false advertising.

The lawsuit also names the State of California Department of Transportation as a defendant. Huang’s vehicle impacted a concrete highway median that was missing its crash attenuator guard, as Caltrans failed to replace the guard after an earlier crash there.

The case is Sz Hua Huang et al v. Tesla Inc., The State of California, no. 19CV346663, filed in California Superior Court, County of Santa Clara. Download the complaint here.

Mark Fong Honored as ‘Trial Lawyer of the Year’ Finalist

Mark Fong Honored as ‘Trial Lawyer of the Year’ Finalist

Minami Tamaki LLP Partner Mark Fong (right in top photo) and former firm Partner Seth I. Rosenberg (left in top photo) were honored on April 4 in San Francisco as one of four finalists for the 2019 Trial Lawyer of the Year award, presented by the San Francisco Trial Lawyers Association.

Mark and Seth were recognized as Trial Lawyer of the Year finalists for their representation of Jennifer Fraissl, who was awarded $4.5 million in damages in November 2018 in a lawsuit against DJ and producer Skrillex and other parties. Associate Seema Bhatt was also part of the trial team.

Jennifer’s attorneys believe this was the first successful jury award in a case involving injuries resulting from a performer’s crowd dive.

Photos by Lisa P. Mak.

 

Video: Dale Minami Impact Award, Presented by the Asian American Bar Association of the Greater Bay Area

Video: Dale Minami Impact Award, Presented by the Asian American Bar Association of the Greater Bay Area

The Asian American Bar Association of the Greater Bay Area presented the first ever Dale Minami Impact Award at its annual gala on March 6, 2019, in San Francisco.

AABA created this award in Dale’s name to honor his legacy by celebrating those who have made a positive impact on the Asian Pacific American community.

The inaugural recipient of the Dale Minami Impact Award was Stewart Kwoh, the founder of Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Los Angeles.

In this short video, Karen Korematsu, Don Tamaki, Michael GW Lee, and Minette Kwok discuss Dale Minami’s impact on the Asian-American community, civil rights, and the face of the legal profession.

Dale Minami Reflects on California’s 100-Plus API Judges Milestone

Dale Minami Reflects on California’s 100-Plus API Judges Milestone

By Dale Minami

The Asian American Bar Association of the Greater Bay Area (AABA) recently held a celebration of California’s 100 Asian Pacific Islander (API) judges, a significant milestone in our history.

In 1976, when we began a concerted campaign to appoint API and other minority judges to the California Bench, there were only 15 API sitting Judges. With the election then of a new, liberal Governor, Jerry Brown, we saw an opportunity to get appointments to diversify our Judiciary.

In Northern California at that time, there were no API judges in Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, or San Mateo counties, one in Santa Clara, one in Sacramento, and two in San Francisco. One of those two in San Francisco was Judge Harry Low who has continued to support AABA to this day!

But first we had to find qualified candidates, no easy task since there was not a large pool of API attorneys at that time. One, however, was Ken Kawaichi, who became the first API judge in Alameda County. Another was Lillian Sing who became the first API woman judge in Northern California. And as the pool of qualified candidates grew, we obtained many more appointments over the years leading to last month’s celebration. Today, we have approximately 130 API sitting judges in California, which is an incredible achievement for our community.

The impact of these diverse appointments cannot be overstated. When I first appeared in courts in 1972, I was met with hostility, implicit bias, and outright racism. One judge refused to appoint an interpreter for my Cantonese client, asking “Well, why don’t you interpret for him?” to which I explained that I was Japanese and that my client was Chinese, and the two ethnic groups came from different countries and had different languages.

Reluctantly, and with great sarcasm, he accepted the explanation and appointed an interpreter. On another occasion, I was about to enter a judge’s chambers for a pre-trial hearing in a criminal case when I heard him say “There sure are a lot of niggers out there” to the District Attorney who was already in chambers. And when I entered the room, he tried to defuse the racism of his comments by making an apparent joke of his slur – “And a lot of chinks too!” Subtle racism was also manifested in the supercilious dismissal of arguments, condescension towards minority attorneys, and outright favoritism to non-API attorneys and their clients.

But I’ve learned that having one person of color or one from a marginalized group on the bench can modify the behavior of the entire court. After Ken was appointed, the overt and subtle discrimination seemed to subside. And the appointment of Judge Marilyn Hall Patel, the first woman jurist on the United States District Court in Northern California, changed the culture of that bench.

But modifying the overt or covert behavior of judges toward attorneys of color and their clients is not the only reason to diversify the bench. We all benefit when the judiciary truly reflects the communities that it serves. The legal system engenders respect when justice is dispensed by qualified jurists who look like us and our clients.

Decisions are made with greater sensitivity by jurists who have empathy through their own experiences, an understanding of historical perspectives, and an appreciation of how their decisions affect different communities. It may be no coincidence that most of the decisions made against President’s Trump’s travel ban and separation of immigrants at the border were made by API judges in Hawai’i, Maryland, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and San Diego.

So why have the ranks of API jurists increased dramatically in the last 40 years? Obviously, our pool of candidates has increased as dramatically and those willing to take the risk to apply have increased. When we see API judges on the bench, it encourages others to believe they can also be appointed.

We were fortunate to have leaders such as Governors Jerry Brown and Pat Brown, and Judicial Appointments Secretaries such as now Justice Anthony Kline, Sharon Majors Lewis, and Joshua Groban, who are committed to diversity. We know that newly appointed Appointments Secretary, former state appellate court Justice Martin Jenkins, is also committed to diversity and will walk that same path.

And significantly, we have witnessed the growth and assertiveness of the API bar associations who are actively recruiting, lobbying and mentoring judicial candidates. In fact, one of the central reasons we started AABA was to gain representation in the courts, the bar, and in the legal community. AABA has made a powerful and successful effort to accomplish this goal.

But there is much to be done. We need to continue pushing for a diverse judiciary from all communities of color and increasing representation. Also, when judges are being challenged for reelection because of their appearance, or their “foreign” sounding names, or because of the political affiliation of the governor who appointed them, rather than for their competence and qualifications, we need to stand up and offer strong support. The diversification of the bench is too important and took too much effort to go backwards now.

Photo via Lisa P. Mak.

Minami Tamaki at NAPABA Convention 2018

Minami Tamaki at NAPABA Convention 2018

Minami Tamaki LLP attorneys Dale Minami, Don Tamaki, Sean Tamura-Sato, Lisa Mak, and Seema Bhatt recently attended the annual National Asian Pacific American Bar Association (NAPABA) National Convention in Chicago. The Convention had over 2,000 Asian Pacific American attorneys, judges, law students, and elected officials attending from around the country.

This year, Dale, Don, and Karen Korematsu (Founder & Executive Director of The Fred T. Korematsu Institute) were awarded the NAPABA President’s Award.  This award recognizes NAPABA members who demonstrate an exceptional commitment to NAPABA, the legal community, and the broader APA community.

Dale, Don, and Karen received this year’s award for their work on the “Stop Repeating History” campaign (StopRepeatingHistory.Org), which educates the public on the dangers of unchecked presidential power and the parallels between the incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II and the current administration’s policies targeting minority groups based on race or religion.  In his award acceptance remarks, Don urged APA attorneys to lead on this issue due to our communities’ experience with racist and xenophobic immigration policies.


Partners Donald K. Tamaki (left) and Dale Minami (right) meeting audience members after their panel on the Korematsu v. United States and Trump v. Hawaii cases.

Don and Karen also spoke on a panel with Hoyt Zia (an original founding member of NAPABA), and moderated by Dale, about the parallels between the Korematsu v. United States and Trump v. Hawaii cases.  Don and Dale were members of the legal team that overturned Fred Korematsu’s conviction for his defiance of Japanese American exclusion orders during World War II.  

The panel discussion was preceded by a screening of the powerful film, “And Then They Came For Us,” which compares the Japanese American incarceration with the Muslim travel ban.  The film, produced by Peabody award-winning director Abby Ginzberg, won the 2018 ABA Silver Gavel Award, and has been a cornerstone of the “Stop Repeating History” campaign.


Associate Lisa P. Mak (second from left and on screen) served as panelist for a plenary session on the #MeToo movement.

Lisa was a panelist for a convention plenary luncheon session entitled “Beyond #MeToo: How Asian Americans Can Challenge Sexual Harassment in the Workplace,” with about 1,000 attendees.  The all-women panel discussed the impact of the #MeToo movement in the workplace, strategies to improve equality for women in the legal industry, and the unique challenges of addressing sexual harassment in APA communities.  During her remarks, Lisa emphasized the importance of being upstanders and allies for harassment victims in order to create a cultural change for the fair treatment of women.

Our firm also helped to sponsor the NAPABA Solo & Small Firm Network (SSF) stipend program, which provides funds for SSF committee members to attend the conference and future NAPABA events.  “Minami Tamaki is a longtime proponent of SSF’s work, including the committee’s CLE Bootcamp that provides legal skills training and business advice to SSF attendees at the Convention. The firm is proud to contribute to SSF’s mission of building and supporting APA-owned law firms,” said Partner Sean Tamura-Sato.


Partner Sean Tamura-Sato (left), Associate Lisa P. Mak (right), with other attendees at one of the NAPABA convention lunches.

This year, the late San Francisco Mayor Edwin Mah Lee was honored with the Daniel K. Inouye Trailblazer Award, NAPABA’s most prestigious award which recognizes the outstanding achievements, commitment, and leadership of lawyers who have paved the way for the advancement of other APA attorneys.  The Asian American Bar Association of the Greater Bay Area (AABA) spearheaded the nomination of Mayor Lee for this award.

Our firm congratulates outgoing President Pankit Doshi from San Francisco for his successful leadership this year. Daniel Sakaguchi, also from San Francisco, was sworn in as the new NAPABA President. Both Pankit and Daniel are members of AABA, which was co-founded by Dale Minami over 40 years ago.

Minami Tamaki is proud to continue supporting NAPABA and its efforts to address civil rights issues, promote professional development, and increase diversity and inclusion in the legal profession.

Photo credits: John B. Lough, Lisa P. Mak, Betty Hsu, Winston Liaw

Jennifer Fraissl wins $4.5 million jury award in case against Skrillex

Jennifer Fraissl wins $4.5 million jury award in case against Skrillex

A Los Angeles jury on Nov. 20 awarded Jennifer Fraissl $4.5 million in damages against DJ and producer Skrillex (real name Sonny John Moore), his touring company, Lost Boys Touring Company, Inc., and the Belasco Theater in Los Angeles.

Fraissl alleged that on February 11, 2012, Skrillex stage dove at the end of his set, causing her to be struck in the back of her head and neck. Although she was unaware of it at the time, the blow caused her to suffer a rare vertebral artery dissection, followed by a catastrophic stroke 16 days later.

The jury voted 12-0, finding all defendants negligent and responsible for Fraissl’s stroke.  The jury found Skrillex 35 percent responsible, Lost Boys Touring, Inc. 40 percent responsible, and the Belasco Theater 10 percent liable.  The jury awarded Fraissl $4.5 million in damages, which will be reduced to over $3.8 million because the jury found Fraissl 15 percent at fault.

Fraissl was represented by Seth I. Rosenberg of Emergent LLP, and B. Mark Fong and Seema Bhatt of Minami Tamaki LLP. Fraissl’s attorneys believe this is the first successful jury award in a case involving injuries resulting from a performer’s crowd dive.

Fraissl’s case faced numerous obstacles, including asking the jury to find the defendants liable for a blow that could not be seen on videos of the show, and which occurred in a setting where many people assume stage diving occurs. Fraissl’s attorneys also had to convince the jury that her stroke being caused by the blow to her head two weeks earlier was not only possible, but probable. Ultimately, credible expert and lay witnesses, plus a remarkably effective trial presentation prevailed.

“Skrillex caused Jennifer Fraissl to be injured, and the jury saw past his celebrity and wealth to hold him and the other defendants responsible,” said Rosenberg. “We presented a common-sense case despite attempts by the Skrillex team to blame the victim.”

Fraissl’s attorneys called experts from fields such as vascular neurology, interventional neuroradiology, security, and biomechanics to explain the complexity of arterial dissections and stroke, as well as crowd dynamics during a stage dive.

“Jennifer Fraissl showed that when the truth is on your side, David can beat Goliath,” said Fong. “We’re glad Jennifer persevered through this six-year-long case and are thankful to the jury and the judge for a fair and impartial trial.”

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U.S. News ‘Best Law Firms’ 2019 Recognizes Minami Tamaki’s Immigration and Personal Injury Practices

U.S. News ‘Best Law Firms’ 2019 Recognizes Minami Tamaki’s Immigration and Personal Injury Practices

Minami Tamaki LLP has again received a Tier 1 ranking on the U.S. News/Best Lawyers “Best Law Firms” list under the “Personal Injury Litigation – Plaintiffs” and “Immigration” categories for our metro area.

This is the fifth consecutive recognition by U.S. News/Best Lawyers of our Personal Injury practice and the fourth consecutive year of our Immigration and Nationality Law practice.

The U.S.News – Best Lawyers “Best Law Firms” rankings are based on a rigorous evaluation process that includes the collection of client and lawyer evaluations, peer review from leading attorneys in their field, and review of additional information provided by law firms as part of the formal submission process.

To be eligible for a U.S.News – Best Lawyers “Best Law Firms” ranking, a law firm must have at least one lawyer who is included in Best Lawyers in that particular practice area and metro.

Earlier this year, Partners Dale Minami, Minette A. Kwok, B. Mark Fong, and Senior Associate Olivia Serene Lee were selected by The Best Lawyers in America, which qualified the firm to be considered for the Best Law Firms list.

The attorneys in Minami Tamaki’s Personal Injury Practice Group fight for the rights of people who are injured or have suffered the loss of loved ones due to the carelessness of others. We use a team approach which brings all of the resources of our practice group to bear on our cases. This has allowed us to recover multi-million dollar settlements and large verdicts for our clients.

The Immigration and Nationality Law Practice Group of Minami Tamaki LLP offers expertise in a broad array of immigration services. We routinely assist employers and employees, nation-wide, in obtaining temporary and permanent employment-based visas. And, just as often, we help individual clients to secure family-based immigration status through marriage or other qualifying family relationships.