Millar Law Firm is a well-established boutique law firm in San Francisco's Financial District. Our office has over 20 years of civil litigation experience in the San Francisco Bay Area. We handle multiple trials each year in Bay Area Courts. We take pride in our performance and record at trial. We have earned a reputation before Bay Area judges for aggressive and winning advocacy. Our attorneys have worked in both the public and private sectors, both criminal and civil law, as well as having worked in both large and small firms. We are well-respected by other firms in the Bay Area legal community. Our attorneys and staff speak fluent Spanish.

We have a variety of fee structures we offer our clients. Most personal injury cases, and some affirmative tenant matters, are handled on a contingency fee basis. These clients do not pay a fee to our office, unless they win their case. Almost all cases that are not handled on a contingency fee basis are billed at our hourly rates. Our rates are very reasonable compared to other Bay Area firms. A few select matters are handled on a flat fee basis, such as eviction notices.

We work with a number of attorneys who specialize in areas of the law that we do not handle. We are always happy to help arrange these referrals for our clients.

About James Millar

James M. Millar, Attorney
millar@millar-law.com

Principal of Millar Law Firm since 1990. Born in Coos Bay, Oregon. Member: Bar Association of San Francisco, San Francisco Trial Lawyers Association, San Francisco Apartment Owners Association, San Francisco Chamber of Commerce, San Francisco Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and Consumer Attorneys of California, contributor to S.F. Apartment Magazine Legal Section, President Hispanic Business Educational Network (SF Fundadores Chapter), California State Bar Section member Real Property and Litigation. Fluent in Spanish.

Education: University of Washington (B.A., 1984); University of San Francisco (J.D., 1987); Admitted to State Bar of California, 1987.

Practice Areas: Civil litigation, including judicial arbitrations and many jury trials, San Francisco Rent Board hearings and appeals. Specific practice areas include: Real Estate; Personal Injury; Landlord and Tenant Law; Collection and Collection defense matters, select probate matters.As a Spanish speaker, he reaches out to the Latino community to help them with their legal needs.

Other Activities: Judge Pro-Tem of the San Francisco Superior Court, Panel Attorney for the Bar Association of San Francisco and volunteer work as a panel attorney with La Raza Centro Legal and the Volunteer Legal Services Program of the Bar Association of San Francisco. … (read more…)

Testimonials

“I was referred to Millar & Associates by one of the many Mission District social services for the Latino community. I was desperate because I was being sued by the management company that recently had purchased the building that I lived in. They didn’t want to recognize me as a tenant because I was subleasing the place—even though the prior management company had cashed my rent checks for about a year. Millar & Associates aggressively took charge and not only made them drop the summons but also to agree to let me stay in my apartment until I found something suitable six months of free rent and money to move out. I am very happy with the outcome and in fact have recommended Millar & Associates services to other friends. Thank you for your help.”

Rodolofo M., Former Client


“Millar & Associates were awesome! Not only did they get me the most amount of money possible for my terrible motorcycle accident (I broke my pelvis and fractured my sacrum), but the attorneys were “real people” who truly cared about me and my case. I hope I never have to use their services again (no more accidents!), but I would recommend their office to anyone who needs help if they get into a car or motorcycle accident.”

Meghan M., Former Client


I have worked with Millar & Associates for 7 years now and highly recommend their office for their services. I am a Chiropractor who uses their services for my PI cases and we always settle at a reasonable time and they have never been anything but … (read more…)

Jury Verdicts and Settlements

Wrongful eviction by UOP left dental student homeless
Landlord and Tenant
Wrongful eviction by UOP left dental student homeless

Mixed Verdict: $64,200.00

Case Type: Wrongful Eviction

Case: Sophon Heng v. University of the Pacific and the John Stewart Company, No. 03-419279

Venue: Superior Court of San Francisco County, San Francisco, CA

Judge: Julie Tang

Date: 03-28-2005

Plaintiff(s) Attorney: James M. Millar; Millar & Associates; San Francisco, CA, for Sophon Heng

Expert: None

Defendant(s) Attorney: James F. Waite; Offices of Jeffrey F. Paccassi; San Francisco, CA, for University of the Pacific, John Stewart Company

Expert: None

Facts:
In April 2002, plaintiff Sophon Heng, 30, was in last year of his dental school education at the University of the Pacific. He was residing in a rental unit at the San Francisco Presidio, which the UOP had leased from the Presidio Trust. The John Stewart Co. was the agent for the Presidio Trust. The school gave Heng what it described as a "seven-day notice to quit," and on April 12, it removed all of Heng's possessions and changed the locks on his apartment. Heng was rendered homeless for a period of approximately 18 days.

Heng sued the UOP for wrongful eviction. Heng's claims were also directed against the John Stewart Co. He alleged that he was warned by a staff member at the John Stewart office on the morning of the lock-out that if he returned to the unit, he would be removed by Presidio police.

The UOP maintained that Heng had completed his coursework and was no longer entitled to student housing.The defense contended that California eviction law did not apply, as the Presidio, as a federal enclave, was not subject to California landlord-tenant law. The defense also argued that Heng's apartment was school housing offered by the UOP, and therefore exempt from application of California unlawful detainer law. After extensive briefing and arguments over the course of several weeks, Judge Julie Tang eventually found California eviction law to be the applicable law in the case, and rejected the defense claim that the unit was exempt from those laws.

Injury:
Heng was rendered homeless and lived on the streets of San Francisco for approximately two-and-a-half weeks. After that, he was able to buy a bus ticket to Phoenix, Ariz., where he purchased a car. He lived in the car for another 30 days. At that point he was able to obtain his first dentistry position and moved into a rental unit.

Heng claimed that the period of time he spent homeless was very traumatic, and Heng sustained ongoing emotional problems related to the wrongful eviction. He claimed that the UOP had negligently disposed of his personal property, including photographs and letters and the personal effects of his deceased mother.

Verdict Information: The jury reached a plaintiff's verdict on liability against the UOP. It found no liability against the John Stewart Co. It awarded Heng $64,200, including $9,200 in economic damages and $55,000 in general damages. The jury also found that the UOP's conduct constituted malice. The punitive damages portion of the trial was scheduled for March 21, 2005. Just prior to the hearing, the case settled globally for $148,000, including forgiveness of $38,000 in student loans. As part of the settlement, John Stewart Co. agreed not to seek costs. The court vacated the verdict upon settlement.

Sophon Heng

$55,000 Personal Injury: general damages

$9,200 Personal Injury: compensatory

Landlord accused tenant of subletting to get rid of her

Landlord and Tenant
Landlord accused tenant of subletting to get rid of her:

Settlement: $130,000.00

Case Type: Wrongful Eviction, Landlord and Tenant - Rent Regulations, Landlord and Tenant - Habitability, Landlord and Tenant - Warranty of Habitability, Contracts - Implied Covenant of Fair Dealing, Negligence, Intentional Torts - Private Nuisance, Contracts - Statutory Claims, Landlord and Tenant - Eviction, Landlord and Tenant - Interference with Quiet Use, Contracts - Breach of Contract, Intentional Torts - Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress, Business Law - California Business and Professions Code, Landlord and Tenant - Security Deposits, Equitable Relief - Declaratory Judgment

Case: Nubia Cisneros v. Ron Van Pool, Brian Kearney, Sandy Kearny, No. CGC-05-446653

Venue: Superior Court of San Francisco County, San Francisco, CA

Judge: Julie Tang

Date: 05-02-2006

Plaintiff(s) Attorney: James M. Millar; Millar & Associates; San Francisco, CA

Expert: None

Defendant(s) Attorney: Brenda Cruz Keith; Law Offices of Brenda Cruz Keith; San Francisco, CA, for Ron Van Pool, Brian Kearney, Sandy Kearney Scott C. Stratman; Valerian, Patterson, Field & McGraw; Alameda, CA, for Ron Van Pool, Brian Kearney, Sandy Kearney

Expert: None

Insurer: Farmers Insurance Co. for Van Pool, the Kearneys

Facts:
From 1991 to 2005, plaintiff Nubia Cisneros, 64, a housecleaner, rented an apartment in a two-unit San Francisco house owned by Ron Van Pool, Brian Kearney and Sandy Kearny.

In October 2005, the landlords inspected Cisneros' apartment and noticed temporary bedding on the floor in one room, men's clothing hanging in an open closet and locks on all the interior doors. They concluded that Cisneros was subletting her unit without their authorization and served her with an unlawful detainer and a three-day notice of eviction.

Claiming wrongful eviction, Cisneros sued Van Pool and the Kearnys for violation of the San Francisco Residential Rent Stabilization and Arbitration Ordinance, breach of implied warranty of habitability, breach of covenant of good faith and fair dealing, negligence, nuisance, violation of statutory duties, retaliatory eviction, breach of implied covenant of quiet enjoyment, breach of contract, intentional infliction of emotional distress, unfair competition under state law, failure to pay interest on a security deposit and declaratory relief.

Plaintiff's counsel claimed that Cisneros was a tenant in good standing who always paid her rent on time, did not violate any of the stipulations of her lease and was a good neighbor. Thus, he reasoned that Cisneros had a right to continue living in her apartment as long as she wanted because San Francisco law prohibits evicting tenants who meet certain age and length-of-tenancy requirements.

Plaintiff's counsel alleged that the landlords invented the subletting issue to evict Cisneros because they want to convert the building into cooperative condominiums and make more money. In September 2005, the building's other tenant, a senior citizen who lived in the upstairs apartment, died. Cisneros admitted that she had a subletter a few years ago, but insisted that she stopped when her landlords confronted her about it.

Defense counsel denied the allegations, saying that the landlords had no intention of evicting Cisneros until they found out that she was subletting her apartment. Then they realized that they had to take swift disciplinary action.

Defense counsel also argued that the landlords had no intention of converting the building into condos or co-ops. Their intent was to sell the structure as a single building.

Injury:
Cisneros claimed that the attempts to drive her out of her apartment caused severe emotional distress and insomnia. She demanded $250,000.

Verdict Information: After three days of deliberations in front of Judge Julie Tang, a settlement was reached in which the landlords agreed to pay Cisneros $130,000, and Cisneros agreed to move out of her apartment.

Nubia Cisneros

$130,000 Personal Injury: Settlement amount

Explorer traveling at 35 mph hit Camry stopped on hill
Motor Vehicle
Explorer traveling at 35 mph hit Camry stopped on hill

Verdict: $37,941.00

Case Type: Rear-ender

Case: Ramon Gutierrez and Jeremie Lim See v. Platon Craft Floral, Inc., No. 415534

Venue: Superior Court of San Francisco County, San Francisco, CA

Judge: James McBride

Date: 05-24-2004

Plaintiff(s) Attorney: James M. Millar; Millar & Associates; San Francisco, CA, for Ramon Gutierrez

Expert: Robert Aguilar D.C.; Chiropractic; San Francisco, CA called by: James Millar

Defendant(s) Attorney: Ira J. Spratley; Law Offices of Brian J. Har; San Francisco, CA, for Platon Craft Floral Inc., Jeremie Lim See

Expert: Arthur Scaroni M.D.; Orthopedics; San Francisco, CA called by: Ira Spratley

Insurer: Allstate Insurance Co. forall defendants

Facts:
On Jan. 10, 2002, at approximately 7 a.m., plaintiff Ramon Gutierrez, 57, a detailer at an auto body shop, was driving his 1991 Toyota Camry on Hillside Boulevard in South San Francisco when the Camry was rear-ended by a 1992 Ford Explorer being driven by Jeremie Lim See. The Camry was stopped and the Explorer was traveling between 35 and 40 mph at the time of the collision. Additionally, the Explorer was See's uncle's work vehicle for the registered owner, Platon Craft Floral Inc., San Francisco. The defense stipulated that See was an authorized driver.

Gutierrez sued See and Platon Craft Floral Inc., alleging vehicular negligence.

The defense contended that Gutierrez's rear lights were not working. In the alternative, it argued that the accident took place on a hill that made it difficult for See to spot the Camry.

Injury:
Gutierrez claimed that he suffered soft-tissue injuries to his lower back. He was transported to a Kaiser hospital for emergency room treatment. He had two follow-up appointments at Kaiser, and he received chiropractic care from Robert Aguilar for three months.

Gutierrez claimed $3,801 in chiropractic expenses; $958 in ambulance expenses; $1,115 in medical expenses; and $6,200 in loss of earnings. He asked the jury to award him between $40,000 and $60,000.

Verdict Information: At a non-binding arbitration, the arbitrator awarded Gutierrez $12,500, which was rejected by both parties. Both parties requested trial de novo, and the case proceeded to trial.

The jury found for Gutierrez and awarded him $37,941, which was broken down as $12,941 in economic damages and $25,000 in noneconomic damages. Allstate Insurance will pay the award.

Wrongful Eviction forces tenants to lose home and business
Landlord and Tenant
Wrongful Eviction forces tenants to lose home and business

Settlement: $147,500.00

Case Type: Wrongful Eviction

Mediator: Vivian Williamson

Case: Ekaterina Norris And Graham Norris vs. Norman Liu, Anne Bong, And Does 1-20, Inclusive

Venue: Superior Court of San Francisco County, San Francisco, CA 

Date: October 5, 2006

Plaintiffs Attorneys: James M. Millar, Sally Morin, and Christina J. Collins, Millar & Associates, for Ekaterina and Graham Norris

Defendants Attorneys: Todd Angstadt and Kathy Lee , Law Offices of Phillips, Spallas & Angstadt LLP, for Anne Bong and Norman Liu

Facts:
In 2003, plaintiffs Ekaterina Norris and Graham Norris entered into an agreement to rent a property owned by Norman Liu and Ann Bong, located at 1547 Clement Street in San Francisco. While the contract entered into was for the rental of a commercial space, all parties confirmed at their depositions that the rental agreement between the parties was actually for commercial as well as residential use. Further, plaintiffs counsels physical inspection of the unit confirmed that it was a large dwelling unit with a kitchen, bathroom with shower, living room and bedroom with walk-in closet. As such, plaintiffs tenancy was governed by the San Francisco Rent Ordinance, as it applies to all residential units built before 1979.

During the plaintiffs tenancy, the defendants, who are seasoned real estate investors, convinced Mr. and Mrs. Norris to continue their tenancy at the premises, although the defendants were applying to demolish the building. The defendants assured Mr. and Mrs. Norris that they would be able to stay for at least 2-3 more years at the premises during this process. Rather than have the property sit empty or try to find a new tenant, the defendants negotiated a deal with the plaintiffs wherein they waived their rights as tenants. That agreement was void as against public policy under San Francisco Rent Ordinance, 37.10A(g). The one-sided and unenforceable agreement allowed plaintiffs to stay at the unit at a discounted rent, but set out terms that would allow the defendants to evict Mr. and Mrs. Norris whenever they liked. The agreement locked plaintiffs into the tenancy until they were served with a demolition notice or if they vacated earlier they would forfeit their $1,500.00 security deposit.

Once the defendants learned that they would not get the demolition permit, rather than follow proper eviction procedure for San Francisco rental units, they served Mr. and Mrs. Norris with a generic 30 Day Notice to Terminate Tenancy. Mr. and Mrs. Norris quickly vacated the unit under the false belief that the defendants had properly terminated the tenancy because of an impending demolition of the premises, which defendants clearly stated would occur. However, the notice was in violation of Section 37.9(c) of the San Francisco Rent Ordinance in that it failed to state a just cause reason for the eviction.

The sole reason for the eviction was financial gain. By Ms. Bongs deposition testimony, defendants were incurring approximately $1,000.00 in negative cash flow at the premises, and the only way to raise the rent to market rate was to evict the plaintiffs. The profit motive was further evidenced by the fact that once plaintiffs vacated, a for sale sign was almost immediately displayed on the front of the premises. The defendants knew that they stood to profit significantly by selling the property empty or by renting it to another tenant at market rate, rather than be saddled with a below market, eviction controlled lease. Moreover, this was not the first time the defendants had served an illegal eviction notice without just cause simply to raise the rent to market rate. See Walter Fredrick v. Norman Liu, et al., San Francisco Superior Case No. 401929 (2001-2002)

Injury:
Mr. and Mrs. Norris were devastated as a result of the defendants illegal actions, as they were essentially rendered homeless due to the eviction. Mr. and Mrs. Norris had limited financial means, and no security deposit with which to rent a comparable unit. In addition, they not only lost their home of over two years, but Mrs. Norris also lost her clothing design business, which she ran out of the premises. Plaintiffs incurred special damages including loss of the value of their tenancy, relocation and moving costs, loss of earnings, and general damages as a result of the illegal eviction.

Settlement Details: Plaintiffs demanded $250,000.00 as full and final settlement of the matter. No settlement offer was made by defendants. Mediation was conducted by Vivian Williamson on October 5, 2006. At mediation, the parties reached a settlement in the case for $147,500.00 in favor of plaintiffs.