Confidential Consultation

March 7, 2001 Verdicts & Settlements
by Leonard Novarro

Clients measure a lawyer’s worth in many ways. In Paul D. Scott’s case, it was in boxes.

When client Daniel Dean, 34, came to his office in San Francisco to discuss his case, the “boxes and boxes and boxes” lining every corner of Scott’s office impressed Dean.

“And every one was my case,” says Dean, whose wife, Dr. Kerry Spooner-Dean, 30, was killed by a carpet cleaner hired to work in their house.

Scott, on behalf of Dean, sued the company that hired the cleaner, an ex-convict, and won a 9-3 jury verdict declaring America’s Best Carpet Care of Milpitas negligent in its hiring and awarding Dean $11.5 million, later negotiated to an undisclosed settlement amount.

“He basically gave up his practice for six to eight months to pursue this,” Dean says.

Scott even made six-hour round trips to Mule Creek Prison in Ione where the laborer, Jerrol Glenn Woods, was serving time for the murder.

“Scott did it without knowing he’d get anything. That’s how he pursued it,” Dean adds.

San Francisco Superior Court Judge Quentin Kopp, a former state senator, had worked with Scott on a number of cases before his election to the bench. Kopp’s former partner, Thomas DeFranco, worked on the Dean case, calling Scott’s performance “magnificent.”

“And my partner is less likely to use strong expressions,” Kopp says.

That same doggedness and commitment marked Scott’s six years with the U.S. Justice Department’s civil fraud division in Washington, D.C., where he handled a number of high-profile cases, winning back tens of millions of dollars for the federal government before leaving in 1995 to found his own firm in San Francisco.

His last case for the Justice Department involved dozens of German firms accused of bribing procurement officer for the U.S. Army to secure government contracts. The cases concluded with a significant settlement.

Scott also recovered $6.9 million for the Department of Veterans Affairs in another case, in which a bank employee made fraudulent loans to veterans who defaulted on their properties. The Veterans Administration then bought the homes back at inflated prices.

In his earliest case for the Department of Justice, he prosecuted a Richmond, Va., defense contractor who overcharged the government on radio parts that proved defective.

“They were being put into the hands of men and women who would be in potentially hazardous situations, where they would rely on communications for survival,” Scott recalls.

Scott’s work for the federal government earned him several awards, including commendations from the Department of Veterans Affairs and former Attorney General Janet Reno.

Other government lawyers also recognize Scott’s talents.

“I have practiced against and with some of the finest lawyers in the country, and I think of Paul as the finest lawyer I know. In terms of work ethic, he’s an animal,” says Robert Kirsch, a prosecutor with the U.S. attorney’s office in New Jersey and former colleague of Scott’s.

As a result of his work with the Justice Department, whistle-blower claims have become a specialty with Scott, 36, and the subject of articles he’s contributed to several legal journals.

The fights are long, and so are the odds, Scott says. And the chance of recovery sometimes can be a gamble. But the pursuit gives him purpose.

The cases are intellectually challenging, requiring an enormous amount of discipline to mount an attack against what Scott sometimes sees as overwhelming odds.

“You’re often facing lawyers from big firms with enormous resources. Whistle-blowers are very much the underdog in these battles,” he says.

“But you cannot be afraid of having the odds stacked against you, because they usually will be,” Scott adds.

Scott explains a way to even the playing field.

“You outwork them,” Scott says. “You just have to work very hard to keep ahead and rely at the end of the day on the undisputed facts in the case.”

“If you live by the truth, and your objective is to live by the truth no matter what a lawyer throws at a case, you can’t undo those facts,” Scott says.

Scott’s attack plan encompasses many angles.

“Convincing a jury can sometimes take a massive procedural battle, but that comes with the territory,” he adds.

Scott, a native of Calgary, Alberta, Canada, moved to the United States to attend the University of California, Berkeley, where he majored in economics.

The path to a career in law was not particularly well-thought-out.

“As a youngster, I remember seeing an attorney with a cool car and declaring to my dad that I wanted to be a lawyer. I wound up sticking to that,” he says.

While attending Yale Law School, he worked summers for the San Francisco offices of Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe and, later, Morrison & Foerster. But on graduation in 1989, public service beckoned.

“On my death bed, I want to look back and see that I did something worthwhile, pursuing cases for purposes I believed in,” he says.

Those cases paved the way for his eventual specialty, whistle-blower matters, which he pursued after opening his own office in San Francisco.

To Scott, whistle-blowers are today’s unsung heroes and, sometimes, the only thing standing between fraud and corruption.

“Often, they’re the underdog, terminated by a large defense contractor or a health care concern for trying to prove that the organization defrauded the government. It’s not easy to do that,” Scott explains.

One such underdog – a hero in Scott’s mind – is client Joseph Kimball, who uncovered false Medicare claim submissions by his employer, a hospital chain. Kimball was fired, according to Scott, and is suing the company.

“He intended to spend his career there and was faced with the decision whether to put all that in jeopardy. It’s not easy to walk away from a career and put up with all the flap that follows when you stand up to be counted like that,” Scott says.

On the plus side, according to federal law, whistle-blowers are entitled to 15 percent to 25 percent of what is recovered in a civil lawsuit, or 25 percent to 30 percent if the government intervenes. The U.S. Justice Department has joined Scott in his claim against the hospital chain, according to Scott.

“Still, it takes people with courage,” Scott says. “You don’t know whether you are going to recover anything.

“You’re risking being blackballed in the business you’re working in. But that’s OK. If what you believe is the right thing, it’s all right if you lose. It’s not all about the money.”

Please be advised that this website is an information resource and is not intended to provide legal advice in your particular case.  We would be pleased to conduct a confidential review of your potential claim, but by doing so we are not agreeing to act as your counsel.  A written agreement between you and the Law Offices of Paul D. Scott is prerequisite to representation.  Past successes by the firm do not guarantee future results.


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