Hon. Rita “Sunny” Miller (Ret.)

Profile

EDUCATION

  • Loyola Law School, J.D., 1979
  • Harvard University, Special Studies
  • Connecticut College for Women, B.A.

Judge Miller graduated first in her class of 375 from Loyola Law School in 1979, summa cum laude with the highest grade-point average in the school’s history at that time. She was the Chief Articles Editor of the Loyola Law Review and published a comment.

Judge Miller was the recipient of the following awards for academic excellence: the Aggeler Award “for superior scholarship and noteworthy achievement,”; the J. Rex Dibble Honor Award; the Loyola Law School Scholarship for Excellence in the Study of Law; the Loyola Law School Scholarship for Academic Achievement and Financial Need; a Bancroft-Whitney Award; an American Judicature Society Award; and four American Jurisprudence Book Awards. She was also a member of the Alpha Sigma Nu Honor Society and the St. Thomas More Law Honor Society.

CIVIL LITIGATION CAREER

  • Munger, Tolles & Olson, 1979-2000
  • Associate, 1979-1984
  • Partner, 1985-2000

Judge Miller joined the Downtown Los Angeles firm of Munger, Tolles & Olson as an Associate upon graduation from law school in 1979 and was made a partner after five years. She remained at the firm until she was appointed to the bench in 2000.

Judge Miller specialized in complex civil litigation and had extensive experience in many areas, including legal malpractice, entertainment litigation, insurance coverage, insurance bad faith, commercial disputes, and land use litigation.

SUPERIOR COURT ASSIGNMENTS

Judge, Los Angeles Superior Court, 2000-2018

Judge Miller was appointed to the bench by Governor Gray Davis in June 2000. For more than 14 years, she presided over an Independent Calendar general civil courtroom in Downtown Los Angeles. Previous judicial assignments included Limited Civil Jurisdiction, Misdemeanors, Traffic, and Proposition 36 (Drug) Court.

HONORS AND AWARDS

Trial Judge of the Year (2012), Consumer Attorneys Association of Los Angeles

APPELLATE COURT ASSIGNMENTS

Justice Pro Tem, California Court of Appeal, Second Appellate District, 2009, 2013-2015

Judge Miller served as a Justice Pro Tem of the California Court of Appeal from 2013-2015 and for several months in 2009, hearing arguments and issuing opinions as a member of Division One of the 2nd Appellate District.

TYPES OF CASES HANDLED

  • Employment
  • Complex Business Litigation
  • Insurance and Reinsurance
  • Legal and Medical Malpractice
  • Intellectual Property
  • Products Liability
  • Toxic and Other Torts

COURT, PRO BONO, AND COMMUNITY ACTIVITIES

Judge Miller has served on several professional and community organizations, in the following capacities: member of the Executive Committee of the Court; editor for more than 10 years of Gavel to Gavel, a magazine published by and for bench officers of the Los Angeles Superior Court; member of the Association of Business Trial Lawyers’ Judicial Advisory Committee and the Board of Directors; founding member of the Loyola Law School Civil Justice Program; member of the Board of Directors of Family Assistance Involving the Homeless; member of the Standing Committee on Group Insurance of the State Bar of California; Secretary of the Human Rights Section of the Los Angeles County Bar Association; member of the Board of Governors of Loyola Law School; member of the Board of Directors of the Cowboy Lawyers Association; and Judicial Advisor to the Civil Jury Project at NYU Law School.

For many years, Judge Miller served as Special Counsel to the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors assisting the Board by investigating and participating in the publication of semi-annual public reports concerning the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. The work involved evaluation of whether the department had implemented reforms designed to achieve gender neutrality in promotions, job assignments, and work evaluations. This necessarily also involved review of practices that might discriminate against other groups. The work also included investigation of incidents of sexual harassment and how the department performed in addressing these incidents and their root causes.

Judge Miller also served as a Hearing Examiner for the Los Angeles Police Department, adjudicating police officer discipline and/or suspension matters and presiding at Police Department license revocation hearings. These hearings involved police misconduct including sexual harassment, improper use of force, utilization of the trappings of office for personal gain, and other claims.

Judge Miller has spoken and taught extensively at events for several organizations such as the Consumer Attorneys Association of Los Angeles, the Association of Business Trial Lawyers, the Loyola Law School Civil Justice Program, the Litigation Section of the State Bar of California, Continuing Education of the Bar, the Los Angeles County Bar Association, and many others.

She has published several scholarly and more colloquial articles, as well as being an author of the California Judges Benchbook series.

Representative Cases

Aviation

  • Dispute arising from crash of Cessna as to whether pilot or co-pilot or aircraft malfunction caused the crash and which victims should recover from whom.
  • Dispute as to cause of crash of helicopter on roof of aerospace manufacturer’s building and extent of damages to building and business interruption.
  • Investigations of whistleblower claims that aerospace contractor was not following protocols in the manufacture of test equipment.

Commercial Contract, General Business

  • Numerous contract disputes.
  • Numerous alleged frauds.
  • Fraud and misappropriation of opportunities in development of nursing home project.
  • Embezzlement by tax preparer/business manager.
  • Dispute between commercial tenant and real estate developer as to rights in commercial real property.
  • Dispute between developer and investors and buyers of real property.
  • Fraudulent schemes to deprive investors of fruits of their investments.
  • Fraudulent schemes to victimize immigrants seeking visas available to large investors in small businesses.
  • Contractual dispute between municipality and provider of services.
  • Construction disputes between contractors and subcontractors and/or owners and/or municipalities.
  • Commercial lending disputes.
  • Disputes about alleged misappropriation of corporate assets and opportunities by fiduciaries and employees.
  • CEQA challenge to development.
  • Contractual dispute between owner of outdoor advertising signs and past and future renters.
  • Safe deposit box owner sued bank for loss of more than $2million in allegedly misappropriated contents.
  • Dispute between government contractors in which one contractor was alleged to have improperly eliminated its joint venturer from contract.
  • Investigations of whistleblower claims that aerospace contractor was not following protocols in the manufacture of test equipment.

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Corporate Governance & Dissolution

  • Surgeon who had been in business with two other surgeons sued the two other surgeons for ousting him from the business.
  • Brother and sister who had inherited family business disagreed as to whether to reinvest profits to grow the business for their heirs or to take profits out. Sister sued company controlled by her brother to dissolve business.
  • Dispute as to which of two groups was the legally constituted board of directors of an organization.
  • Dispute as to which of two groups was the legally constituted governing body of a religious organization.
  • Dispute among joint venturers in medical marijuana growing operation as to dissolution of the relationship.
  • Dissolution of limousine business located on east and west coasts.
  • Dissolution of partnership that owned and operated banquet halls.

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Employment

  • Employee with breast cancer sued employer for failure to accommodate, family leave violations and disability discrimination after she was terminated due to length of absence from work due to unexpectedly long recovery time. Employer claimed it needed to put another person in the job and could not wait.
  • Manufacturing assembler recovering from knee surgery sued employer for failure to accommodate and disability discrimination after he was terminated for the stated reason that he made an implicit threat of violence against a supervisor.
  • Employee sued employer for sex discrimination and harassment after supervisor made flirtatious comments. Co-workers who spoke up to supervisor for this conduct sued employer for sex discrimination and whistleblower retaliation against them.
  • Substitute teacher sued school district for age, race, and sex discrimination and harassment after principal referred to him as a “big old white guy”. He also sued for disability discrimination and failure to accommodate him by failing to provide him with an elevator key causing him to use a staircase frequently with a bad knee.
  • Police officer sued the Department and City for disability discrimination and failure to accommodate her after she was off work with an injury and reassigned upon her return to a less desirable position. She alleged that the assignment was retaliatory.
  • Female police officer sued the Department and City for sex discrimination after the Department selected a male employee over her as a helicopter pilot.
  • Female employee sued employer for disability discrimination and failure to accommodate for failing to accommodate her need for frequent medical appointments.
  • Waitress sued employing restaurant.
  • Caucasian housekeeper for multi-national hotel chain sued employer for wrongful termination claiming her supervisor discriminated against non-Hispanics.
  • Nurse sued employer for whistleblower retaliation after she reported that she and other nurses were performing tasks that should only have been performed by doctors.
  • African-American in-house attorney sued employer for race discrimination.
  • Female employee who was sexually harassed in a bathroom stall on a single occasion claimed that the event was so extreme as to be sufficient to alter the conditions of her employment.
  • Police captain sued employer for wrongful termination.

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Entertainment

  • Producer of mini-series sued television network pursuant to “pay or play” contract when producer claimed deadline had passed and network claimed producer had prevented its performance.
  • Movie production houses sued television network for millions of dollars in costs incurred in responding to network subpoenas in “Family Hour” litigation.
  • Movie star who created a unique gangster persona in an iconic gangster movie sued animation studio for creating a character with some similarity to the persona created by the movie star.
  • Imprisoned rapper with reputation for being drug kingpin and “bad boy” sued clean-cut rapper for misappropriation of his name and “bad boy” identity and sued record label which published the clean-cut rapper’s music.
  • Grunge star sued manager.
  • Heir of famous author entered contract for screenplay based on author’s book and dispute with screenplay writers ensued.
  • Famous performer was sued by his girlfriend for battery; he sued his insurer for defense and indemnity.

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Insurance

  • Dispute among insurers and reinsurers concerning the triggering of their policies and exhaustion of underlying tranches.
  • Disputes among insurers and their insureds as to the interpretation of policy language.
  • Disputes as to comprehensive general liability coverage.
  • Dispute as to errors and omissions coverage.
  • Dispute as to business interruption insurance coverage involving public adjuster.
  • First party insurance bad faith disputes against health care insurers, automobile insurers, and homeowners’ insurers.
  • Coverage dispute after music teacher was alleged to have molested minor student.
  • Disputes as to duty to defend.
  • Dispute as to whether applicant for life insurance policy made misrepresentations on application invalidating policy.
  • An insured sued the general counsel of a large insurance company claiming the general counsel was liable for malicious prosecution because the general counsel authorized the filing of a lawsuit against the insured, claiming the insured had obtained payment under a liability insurance policy by fraud. The insurance company lost the suit because the fraud, if any, was intrinsic rather than extrinsic.
  • Famous singer sued for battery sought declaration that he was entitled to defense and indemnity from his insurer.
  • Bank sued for malicious prosecution sought declaratory relief that it was entitled to a defense despite intentional nature of the tort alleged.

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Intellectual Property, Defamation, Unfair Competition

  • Small company developing technology for the Air Force sued a large company that had been its alleged joint venturer because the large company allegedly misappropriated small company’s trade secrets, cut the small company out of the business with the Air Force, and defamed it.
  • Movie star who created a unique gangster persona in an iconic gangster movie sued animation studio for creating a character with some similarity to the persona created by the movie star.
  • Bodybuilder sued a bodybuilding magazine for misappropriation of his likeness in advertising.
  • Imprisoned rapper with reputation for being drug kingpin and “bad boy” sued clean-cut rapper for misappropriation of his name and “bad boy” identity and sued record label which published the clean-cut rapper’s music.
  • Grunge star sued manager.
  • Heir of famous author entered contract for screenplay based on author’s book and a dispute with the screenplay writers ensued.
  • American manufacturer of hip blue jeans sued Japanese distributor of its garments for unfair competition resulting from Japanese distributor selling its overstocked blue jeans in competition with plaintiff at cut prices.
  • Bar Review educational firm sued former employee for misappropriation of its trade secrets upon his departure.
  • Action for slander on the internet in cat-lover chat rooms.
  • Action for slander among joint venturers.
  • Producer of mini-series sued television network pursuant to “pay or play” contract when the producer claimed a deadline had passed and the network claimed producer had prevented its performance.

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Legal Malpractice, Fee Disputes

  • Dispute as to whether former attorney for Company A was permitted to testify in court as “Person Most Knowledgeable” for Company B over protest of Company A on matter that arguably did not involve information obtained during representation of Company A and was not directly adverse to its interests.
  • Where law firm representing real estate developer made a mistake and real estate market thereafter became unstable, developer sued law firm but law firm claimed its mistake was not the cause of the real estate developer’s damages.
  • Dispute as to whether attorney representing Client D in litigation had disqualifying past relationship with Client D’s litigation adversary, causing him to be disqualified.
  • Dispute as to whether attorney in family law matter met standard of care in representation of plaintiff.
  • Dispute as to whether attorney preparing will and trust met standard of care in representation of plaintiff’s decedent.
  • Dispute as to whether expert witness who had initially discussed a case with Attorney C could testify for the other side in the same litigation, because Attorney C had not given the witness any information about the case and the discussion had consisted of only a few sentences.
  • Where CEO of healthcare business absconded with embezzled funds, the bank whose funds were stolen sued the company’s attorneys claiming they aided and abetted the absconding CEO.
  • Dispute between law firm E and law firm F where law firm E hired law firm F to do work for it but allegedly overcharged for the work and put a lien on the ultimate recovery.
  • Dispute among lawyers over fee-splitting agreement.
  • Dispute between lawyer and an individual client where the lawyer had omitted to obtain a retainer agreement from the individual client and the issue was whether the lawyer could recover the amount agreed upon or only on a quantum meruit basis.
  • Dispute between lawyer and individual client as to fees where client claimed lawyer had churned the file and performed below the standard of care.

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Medical Malpractice, Elder Abuse

  • Dispute as to whether radiologist failed to discover fatal intestinal blockage.
  • Dispute as to whether surgeon was qualified to operate on brain.
  • Dispute as to whether doctor was qualified to operate on heart.
  • Dispute as to cause of brain injury to baby during delivery.
  • Dispute as to adequacy of psychological care given to young adult who committed suicide.
  • Dispute as to allegedly wrongful 5150 hold imposed on 6-year-old.
  • Disputes as to whether health insurer’s denial of benefits for psychological and other care was proper.
  • Disputes as to whether nursing homes committed elder abuse causing injury and death.
  • Disputes as to whether claims were for medical malpractice or elder abuse.

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Personal Injury

  • Numerous automobile accidents.
  • Driver of car sued manufacturer where vehicle allegedly rolled out of park, running over and dragging exiting driver.
  • Injured driver sued good Samaritan who extricated her from car after accident, further injuring her.
  • Teenager sued driver who inflicted traumatic brain injury on teen in auto accident.
  • Teenager who suffered traumatic brain injury after being hit by car while crossing in crosswalk sued the driver and municipality, claiming the accident was caused in part by municipality’s landscaping, obscuring driver’s view.
  • Family sued municipality for drowning of minor in public swimming pool, alleging lifeguard negligence.
  • Family sued county and waverunner manufacturer after minor drowned after being pinned underneath waverunner.
  • Minor and family of decedent sued school district for off-campus stabbing of students by gang member after incident at school.
  • Special needs student sued school district for sexual molestation en route to and from school.
  • Family of young adult sued apartment building owner/manager after the young adult fell from rooftop or committed suicide.
  • Injured parties sued building owners for failure to provide adequate security in parking lot and common areas.
  • Arrested party’s family sued law enforcement for excessive use of force, violation of civil rights and wrongful death.
  • Disabled public bus patron sued for failure to secure wheelchair properly and failure to deploy ramp for access to bus.
  • Various parties sued for slip and trip and fall incidents on public sidewalks.
  • Various premises liability disputes.

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Products Liability

  • Vehicle products liability matters
  • Airplane and helicopter products liability matters
  • Wave runner products liability
  • Pharmaceutical products liability
  • Construction liability

Real Property

  • Boundary disputes
  • Easement disputes
  • Easement for public recreation
  • Disputes as to removal of invasive landscaping
  • Disputes as to allegedly improper removal of trees and shrubs
  • Disputes as to nuisances and bad neighbors
  • Disputes between individuals and homeowners’ associations
  • Disputes as to neighbors damaging adjoining properties
  • Dispute as to public utility damaging real property
  • Premises liability
  • Suit seeing damages for personal injury due to alleged failure to provide adequate security
  • Suits against title insurers
  • Disputes as to whether monetary contributions to purchase of property were loans or investments
  • Disputes as to title to real property
  • Disputes among investors in real property
  • Disputes between condominium developer and buyers and investors
  • Dispute between owner of outdoor advertising signs and past and future renters
  • Construction disputes and defects
  • CEQA challenge to development

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Toxic Torts

  • Asbestos/mesothelioma matters, including second-hand exposure, involving disputes as to causation and expert testimony.
  • Benzene exposure cases.