In Complex Litigation And Transactions
Richard A. Ergo
- Products Liability
- General Business
- Complex Commercial Litigation
Richard A. Ergo has over 35 years of experience in representing clients across the United States and around the world. He leads a multi-lingual team in matters ranging from international commercial disputes, products liability, business litigation and general business advice. Mr. Ergo's team members include persons fluent in Mandarin, Taiwanese and Spanish and conversational in Japanese and Cantonese.
The commercial litigation that Mr. Ergo and his team handle includes consumer class action defense, supply agreement disputes (including "take or pay" contracts with exposure in excess of $700 million), breach of fiduciary duty claims against majority shareholders and board members, embezzlement and trade secret disputes involving source code and manufacturing processes.
Much of his practice involves representation of product manufacturers in product liability claims, supply agreement disputes, trade secret issues, product recalls and contract drafting and negotiation.
Mr. Ergo began his practice in the Los Angeles and San Francisco offices of Adams, Duque & Hazeltine. In 1985, he became one of the founding attorneys of Bowles & Verna, LLP. He holds the highest rating of "A.V." from the Martindale Hubbell Law Directory (http://www.martindale.com/). He has been named annually to the California Super Lawyers list since 2013.
Mr. Ergo has tried and arbitrated more than 30 cases. He currently serves as national counsel for Worthington Cylinder Corporation of Columbus, Ohio and Grand Hall Enterprise Co., Ltd. of Taipei, Taiwan. Mr. Ergo handles litigation for these and other companies throughout the United States.
Mr. Ergo's practice takes him all over the world. He has represented a variety of clients from China, Taiwan, Singapore, South Korea, Japan and Europe. Mr. Ergo regularly travels abroad, particularly to Asia, to meet with clients at their offices and manufacturing facilities to keep abreast of their operations and legal issues. He and his team routinely work with a network of international attorneys that they have developed over the years.
Particularly for Asian manufacturers, Mr. Ergo and his team act as outside general counsel, providing business advice and developing strategies to proactively avoid exposure to legal liability. This includes negotiating contracts, advising on potential litigation exposure, and ensuring that adequate and appropriate insurance is secured. When claims arise, Mr. Ergo strives to find solutions that not only resolve the claim at hand, but also minimize the potential for negative consequences in other pending or potential claims.
Mr. Ergo was born in Chicago, Illinois while his father was attending law school at Northwestern University. He earned two varsity letters in baseball while attending U.C. Davis. Between undergraduate studies and law school, Mr. Ergo drove an "eighteen wheeler" hauling rice, wheat and tomatoes and worked at Snowbird Ski Resort in Utah where he skied 97 days in one season. Mr. Ergo has five children. His oldest son served 4 years in the Marines and was awarded the Navy & Marine Corps Commendation Medal for his service in Fallujah. Mr. Ergo coached youth baseball, soccer and basketball for over 20 years. Mr. Ergo is a past board member of the Northgate Community Pride Foundation, Walnut Creek Little League and the Walnut Creek Fountain for Youth Foundation.
Highlights of Mr. Ergo's Experience
- Seven figure international arbitration award in favor of our clients, who were the minority shareholders in a U.S. online startup travel technology company. The claims were against the majority shareholder (a major multinational Chinese conglomerate in the airline industry), as well as the board members and officers appointed by the Chinese conglomerate to the U.S. online startup company. The arbitration panel found that the Chinese conglomerate and the directors and officers it appointed breached fiduciary duties, breached the covenant of good faith and fair dealing and tortiously interfered with the employment contract of the startup company's CEO.
- Favorable settlement for our Chinese conglomerate client (one of the largest Chinese solar manufacturers) in a highly contested matter regarding an international supply agreement dispute with more than $400 million in exposure. The representation included multiple trips to company headquarters in China, with bilingual executive meetings and depositions in Hong Kong and throughout the United States.
- Favorable settlement for our Taiwanese corporation solar manufacturing client in an international supply agreement dispute with more than $730 million in exposure. The representation involved numerous bilingual meetings in Taiwan with client executives and shareholders, inspections of manufacturing facilities and multiple mediations.
- Obtained temporary restraining order prohibiting the dispersal of $100 million in proceeds from the sale of a Chinese company that constructed and managed water treatment facilities. After the TRO, the parties entered into a resolution. Subsequent litigation ensued against domestic and foreign individuals and entities, where additional TROs were issued as well as a preliminary injunction.
- Representation of a U.S. manufacturing client in a worldwide recall of one pound propane cylinders, including North America, South America, Europe and Asia.
- After two weeks of trial in Federal Court, Central District of California, a dismissal of a $15 million products liability case based on repeated acts of perjury by the plaintiffs. See Englebrick v. Worthington 944 F.Supp. 899 (2013).
- Conducted audits of manufacturing sites for U.S. manufacturer to evaluate implementation of additional quality control procedures, revision of warnings, and revision of owner manuals for the purpose of reducing occurrences of accidents and mitigating against consumer class action lawsuits.
- Obtained a $5.7 million judgment in Contra Costa County, California in favor of a life insurance company, after a five-week trial, against a former agent of the company. The agent allegedly misrepresented to an insured that a $2 million premium would indefinitely sustain a $10 million universal life insurance policy. As a result of this verdict, Mr. Ergo was featured in an article in the Verdicts & Settlements supplement in the June 6, 1997 edition of The Los Angeles Daily Journal and The San Francisco Daily Journal.
- Obtained a defense verdict in El Dorado County on behalf of Kwang Yang Motor Company (KYMCO) after a three-week trial on a product liability case involving an ATV (all-terrain vehicle) accident.
- Dismissal of a products liability action with a brain damaged minor based on lack of jurisdiction over a Taiwanese manufacturer.
- Favorable settlement for a client (a Taiwanese bicycle component part manufacturer) after a major US customer was liquidated while owing client in excess of $2 million. Client successfully attached assets of customer in Taiwan. The successor in interest to the US customer challenged the attachment in Taiwan and in the US (Federal Court in Los Angeles), claiming that the attachments were fraudulent and in breach of an alleged verbal agreement between the client and successor company.
- Obtained a $3.5 million settlement in a Los Angeles County lawsuit in favor of a distributor of nutritional supplements imported from China against the subsidiary of a Japanese public company that breached a multi-million dollar purchase order.
- A defense verdict in a four-week real estate class action jury trial in San Francisco, California. Prior to trial, the plaintiffs' class representatives made combined settlement demands in excess of $25 million.
- Obtained summary judgment on a claim in Federal Court in San Diego alleging that a client's flammable gas cylinder was defective resulting in severe burns. The court granted Mr. Ergo's motion to preclude Plaintiffs' experts from testifying on the grounds their opinions were not scientific and were unreliable. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the ruling and the US Supreme Court rejected plaintiffs' request to hear the case.
- A defense verdict in a four-week jury trial in Fresno County, California where the plaintiffs alleged that a propane retailer overfilled a propane cylinder. Mr. Ergo demonstrated that the cylinder was not over filled and that the accident resulted from other causes. Plaintiffs' pre-trial settlement demand of $2 million was rejected.
- A successful defense of a products liability jury trial in Federal Court in Phoenix, Arizona. Mr. Ergo represented a major U.S. retailer and the Taiwanese manufacturer of a propane barbecue grill against claims of inadequate warnings. During the trial, plaintiff agreed to dismiss the action with prejudice for a waiver of costs.
- Summary judgment in Santa Clara County (upheld on appeal) in favor of a major life insurance company (as well as in favor of other numerous co-defendant life insurers) regarding allegations of fraudulent misrepresentations involving agent transactions replacing existing coverage of more than $30 million of coverage.
- A defense verdict in a two-week products liability action in Orange County, California. Mr. Ergo represented a Taiwanese company and two U.S. companies against allegations of a manufacturing defect in a propane valve. Prior to trial, plaintiff's $550,000 settlement demand was rejected.
- Nominal contribution (less than 10%) to a seven figure settlement after the close of evidence in a six-week products liability trial in Bronx County, New York. Mr. Ergo's client was charged with providing inadequate product warnings. Separate settlement demands to Mr. Ergo's client of $2,000,000 during jury selection and $1,000,000 during the course of the trial were rejected.
- A defense verdict in Sacramento County, California in a three-week products liability trial involving allegations that a propane cylinder had various design defects.
- Summary judgment in favor of a propane cylinder manufacturer in a wrongful death claim in Queens County, New York.
- Summary judgment in Federal Court in San Francisco in favor of a major life insurance company regarding claims that annuity payments had been misdirected.
- September 2014, Beijing, China. Presentation to the Trade and Economic Association, Chaoyang District. Topic: Overview of U.S. Litigation System; Overview of U.S. Product Liability Law.
- June 2014, Taipei Bar Association, Taipei, Taiwan. Topic: California Uniform Trade Secrets Act and US Jurisdiction over Foreign Manufacturers.
- June 2013, Taipei, Taiwan. Topic: Tax and Penalty Liabilities Under the Foreign Accounting Tax Compliance Act.
- Panel Speaker: "Navigating the CPSC: From Initial Injury to Rulemaking," DRI, Products Liability Conf., Hand & Power Tool SLG, April 2012.
- March 2011, Presentation to Kaiohsiung Branch of TAITRA. Topic: Effective Strategies for Preventing US Lawsuits.
- March 2011, Taipei Bar Association, Taipei, Taiwan. Topic: Purchase Orders: Obligations Under the UCC and CISG.
- November 10, 2009, Taipei Bar Association. Taipei, Taiwan. Topic: Representing Product Manufactures and Exporters: What every Taiwanese Attorney Needs to Know About US Law.
- June 2, 2009, Sponsor Hangzhou Entry-Exit Inspection and Quarantine Bureau (CIQ). Hangzhou, China. Topic: Sino-US Trade Related Laws and Regulations.
- March 2009, Separate Presentations to TAITRA branches in Taipei and Kaohsiung, Taiwan. Topic: What You Need to Know about the 2008 CPSIA and Strategies for Preventing Lawsuits for Companies Selling Goods to the U.S.
- October 2008, Separate Presentations to TAITRA branches in Tainan and Kaohsiung, Taiwan and Chang An, China. Topic: Protecting Patent Rights in the US and Limiting Foreign Manufacture Exposure in the U.S.
- February 8, 2008, Defense Research Institute Product Liability Conference - Product Liability in the Global Economy (Consumer Goods and Office Equipment Workshop), Phoenix, Arizona. Topic: Guiding Asian Defendants through U.S. Consumer Product Liability Litigation.
- October 2007 Separate Presentations to the Neihu Business Association, Taipei, Taiwan; Taichung Industrial Park, Taichung, Taiwan. Topic: Effective Strategies for Preventing Lawsuits for Companies Selling Goods to the U.S.
- May 21, 2007, International Consumer Product Safety Conference (Household Products Workshop), jointly sponsored by AQSIQ and ICPHSO, Beijing, China. Topic: Practical Realities for Asian Manufacturers in US CPSC Product Recalls.
- May 10, 2006, National Hardware Show, Las Vegas, Nevada. Topic: IP, CPSC and Products Liability Issues for Foreign Manufacturers.
- April 13, 2006, Taipei International Sporting Goods Show (TaiSPO), Taipei, Taiwan. Topic: U.S. Product Liability Law and Consumer Product Safety Commission.
- April 15, 2005, Propane Gas Defense Association meetings, New Orleans, Louisiana. Topic: Product Liability Issues for Propane Valve and Cylinder Manufacturers.
- County of Alameda v. Superior Court, 195 Cal.App.3d 1283 (1987)
- Kentucky Central Life v. LeDuc, 814 F. Supp. 832 (N.D. Cal. 1995
- Eisenberg v. Principal Life Insurance Company, 275 F.Supp.2d 1077 (NV 2003)
- Perez-Encinas v. Amerus Life Insurance Co., 468 F.Supp. 2d 1127 (N.D. Cal. 2006)
- Englebrick v. Worthington Industries, Inc. 670 F.Supp.2d 1048, (C.D. Cal. 2009)
- Englebrick v. Worthington Industries, Inc., 944 F.Supp. 899 (C.D. Cal. 2013)
- University of Utah College of Law, Salt Lake City, Utah
- J.D. - 1983
- University of California, Davis, Davis, California
- B.A. - 1978
- Honors: With Honors
- California, 1983
- U.S. Court of Appeals 9th Circuit, 1984
- U.S. District Court Northern District of California, 1984
- U.S. District Court Southern District of California, 1984
- U.S. District Court Eastern District of California, 1984
- U.S. District Court Central District of California, 1984
- U.S. District Court Northern District of Indiana, 2006
- U.S. District Court District of Colorado, 2006
- U.S. District Court Northern District of Illinois, 2015
- Litigation Counsel of America, Member
- American Bar Association, Member
- Defense Research Institute, Member
- Propane Gas Defense Association, Member
- International Bar Association, Member
- Contra Costa Bar Association, Member