Robert Bernstein - Senior Counsel

Robert Bernstein is Senior Counsel at Tyson & Mendes’ San Diego office.  Mr. Bernstein is in his 30th year of practicing law in California.  During his career, he has defended clients in construction defect, real estate, premises liability, and personal injury/auto accident cases. He has also litigated land use and entitlement matters on behalf of residential and commercial developers.  Mr. Bernstein’s construction litigation clients include national developers and general contractors, manufacturers and material suppliers, design professionals including architects and engineers, and trade contractors of many specialties.

Mr. Bernstein has extensive experience in representing clients in state and appellate courts throughout California. He has also appeared before governmental agencies including county supervisors, city councils, school districts and other county and local governmental organizations.   Mr. Bernstein has successfully prosecuted and opposed many summary judgment and adjudication motions, discovery motions, and pre-trial motions, leading to outright dismissals or advantageous settlements on behalf of his clients.  He has resolved hundreds of claims through motion, settlement, or decision.

Mr. Bernstein has spoken before insurance and industry groups on a variety of legal topics and has written extensively on developments in the law, including profiles of new laws and recent case decisions.  He served for several years as editor and frequent contributor to the Update publication for the San Diego Defense Lawyers organization.

Mr. Bernstein obtained his J.D. from the University of San Diego in 1988, where he was a member of the Phi Alpha Delta legal fraternity.   He attended the University of California, Santa Barbara and the University of California, Los Angeles, where he obtained a B.A. in History in 1985.  He is admitted to practice before all courts of the State of California and several U.S. District Courts and is a member of the San Diego Defense Lawyers.

In his personal time, Mr. Bernstein enjoys golf, working out, playing guitar, and spending time with his wife, children, and dogs.

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Recent Posts

California Contractor Licensing Law Update: Disgorgement Claims Against Unlicensed Contractor Expire in One Year

The California Legislature really wants construction contractors in California to be licensed. As we have written previously, public policy supporting California’s contractor licensing requirement is so strong that even if you know a contractor is unlicensed when you sign a contract with them, you are still entitled to not only to refuse to pay them, you may benefit from any and all work they have performed. It gets even worse for the contractor. You may also sue them to obtain a refund (“disgorgement”) of any…

Travelers Sent Packing in Claim for Reimbursement of Defense Fees and Costs Against Co-insurer

If Covid-19 has left you desperate for anything new to read, this hot-off-the-press decision may interest you – even though it involves insurance law! In a recent case, Travelers sought reimbursement from Hanover for funds incurred in defending an engineering firm which was insured by both companies. Hanover’s motion to dismiss was granted, with the Court determining : 1) Travelers’ claim was not among the kinds of claims which can be pursued against a party’s insurer under California…

California Supreme Court Favors Policy Holders in Excess Insurance “Vertical Exhaustion” Decision

Although insurance coverage law is generally considered a subject sufficiently dry to rival a James Bond martini, a recent decision by the California Supreme Court is sufficiently important to leave excess insurers shaken and their insureds stirred. In Montrose Chemical Corp. of Cal. v. Superior Court (No. S244737, filed 4/6/20) (Montrose III), the Court held that as between excess insurers at differing levels of coverage, a rule of “vertical exhaustion” or “elective stacking” applies…

Crosno v. Travelers – Payment Bond Claim Voids Surety’s “Pay-When-Paid” Defense

The purpose behind a public works payment bond is to provide subcontractors with “a quick, reliable and sufficient means of payment.”  (Cooley v. Freeman (1928) 204 Cal. 59, 62.)

New California Civil Code Section 5986 “Saws Off” Branches Decision Which Allowed Dismissal Of HOA Defect Lawsuits Not Approved By Homeowner Vote

A 2018 decision from California’s Fourth District Court of Appeal held that the homeowner’s association (“HOA”) for the Branches residential development could not proceed with a construction defect lawsuit against the project’s developer.  They reasoned the HOA failed to comply with a Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions (CC&R) requirement compelling it to obtain approval of a majority of members before pursuing litigation or arbitration.

California’s AB5 – A Bump in the Road or a Brick Wall For the Gig-Economy?

On January 1, 2020, AB5 will be the law of the land in California. The law is codified as California Labor Code, Section 2750.3. The new law provides significant protections to workers by classifying many who were previously deemed independent contractors as employees, and by placing the burden to prove that a worker is not an employee on the employer.  The law has the potential to create major changes in the labor market…

License Requirements for California Contractors and a Novel Trial Strategy that Failed

Most California construction contractors know that they must be licensed in order to do business in the state.  This requirement is contained in a provisions of the California Business & Professions Code.  California Business & Professions Code, Section 7031 provides, in part…

American Safety Takes a Hard Fall After Ignoring Million-dollar Claim Against Insured Based on Soil Subsidence

Liability insurer American Safety Insurance Company (“ASIC”) learned a tough and expensive lesson arising out of a dispute with Insurance Company of the State of Pennsylvania (“ICSOP”), in an appellate decision issued by the Second Appellate District, Division Eight, on March 1, 2019.

New California Law Requires Contractors-Insurers to Disclose Settlements

As part of the long-term response to the June 2015 collapse of an apartment building balcony in Berkeley, California which killed six young people, California Governor Jerry Brown signed into a law Senate Bill 1465, which requires contractors, subcontractors and insurers to report most settlements reached in construction defect cases. This new law took effect on January 1, 2019 and should be on the radar of California general…

Release of Past Fraud, Negligence, Breach of Contract & Violation of Law Allowed by California Court

A recent court decision involving claims of alleged defective construction provides guidance for parties entering into all manner of contracts under which they provide a release to the other party of its potential liability for negligence, breach of contract or statutory violations. In short, although releasing another party from liability for potential intentional or negligent conduct is prohibited under California law as against public policy, the prohibition applies only to current or future actions, and not to past conduct, absent appropriate contract language.

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