HON. RONALD S. PRAGER, RET.

  • Available in San Diego, All of California
  • Available for Mediation, Arbitration, and Private Judging assignments

Introduction

Judge Ronald Prager retired from the bench after completing 29 years of service. In his final 18 months on the bench, he served as an assigned judge on the Court of Appeal in San Diego and authored seven published opinions in civil cases. Before that, he spent 22 years as a civil independent calendar judge presiding over a broad spectrum of civil cases. Judge Prager became especially well known for handling complex matters, including the statewide coordinated tobacco class actions and the natural gas antitrust cases. Also in this capacity, he managed the calendars of more than 1,000 cases, including all law and motion matters and case management conferences.

Judge Prager's calendar included virtually every type of civil matter from routine personal injury cases to complex environmental and construction defect cases. He is highly regarded for his lawyer-friendly, efficient case management skills. For example, during his tenure and even in the most complex matters, Judge Prager was able to resolve most discovery disputes without formal briefing by consent of the parties.

Judge Prager acted as settlement judge in hundreds of cases, including employment, catastrophic injury, business disputes, partnership dissolutions, and discrimination cases. He routinely settled more than half of the cases in the early phases of trial, most of which had previously been mediated.

Specialties

Experience Summary

Notable cases Judge Prager oversaw as a superior court judge

Read More

Hobbies & Interests

In his spare time, Judge Prager enjoys spending time with his family and especially playing with his grandchildren. He enjoys aerobic exercise while watching sports on television.

Testimonials

Judge Prager was great at boiling down the issues and explaining his impression of the case. This was particularly helpful given the highly emotional feelings of my client regarding this matter.
- Attorney on a construction breach of contract dispute

Judge Prager did a fantastic job of providing a practical view of how the case would be evaluated by a San Diego jury. He was bright, methodical and dedicated to achieving a resolution.
- Attorney on a personal injury auto dispute

Great with plaintiff. Understanding but firm when required.
- Attorney on a real property/fraud dispute

Judge Prager was one of our finest trial and settlement judges on the bench. He personally settled a high-stakes, complex case of mine that several mediators failed to settle. He fairly takes into account both the plaintiff and defense positions. I would not hesitate to use him as a mediator in any case at all.
- Prominent San Diego Trial Attorney

Judge Prager was instrumental in making a profound positive difference in my client's life. I was especially impressed that he visited the accident scene before the mediation. I will work hard to get a consensus to select Judge Prager as a mediator in my future cases
- Attorney on a Personal Injury Auto matter

This was my first experience with Judge Prager and it was a pleasure. He understood the legal principals and the weaknesses and strengths of the parties' cases and used them to convince both sides to make significant concessions that neither had been willing to make during the course of the litigation. His many years on the bench gives him an heir of authority and confidence that the clients (and lawyers) found charming, unbiased and profound. I am recommending to my colleagues that they use him whenever possible. I certainly will.
- Attorney on a Business/Contractual Dispute

Judge Prager was great at boiling down the issues and explaining his impression of the case. This was particularly helpful given the highly emotional feelings of my client regarding this matter.
- Attorney on a Construction Breach of Contract Dispute

Links and Articles

Experience Summary

IN RE TOBACCO I AND II

Served as statewide trial coordination judge for dozens of tobacco related class actions. Approved 26 billion dollar California Master Settlement Agreement (MSA) between big tobacco companies and State of California and other governmental entities. Served as trial judge in Marlboro Light cigarette class actions.


PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA V. R.J. RENOLDS TOBACCO COMPANY (RJR)

One of many enforcement actions brought by the California Attorney General under the MSA. Ruled that RJR violated the MSA prohibition against youth advertising.


IN RE NATURAL GAS ANTI-TRUST CASES I, II, III & IV

Served as trial coordination judge in class action pipeline cases alleging violation of California anti-trust laws by manipulation of California natural gas prices during the energy crises.. After several weeks of trial the case settled for over two billion dollars.


NORTH COAST WOMEN'S MEDICAL GROUP, INC. V. SUPERIOR COURT

Ruled that the Unruh Civil Rights Act prohibits physicians from withholding artificial insemination services to a Lesbian Patient.


BERNARDO V. PLANNED PARENTHOOD FEDERATION OF AMERICA

Granted anti-SLAPP motion against plaintiffs who were attempting to prevent Planned Parenthood from providing information that abortion was safe and requiring Planned Parenthood to inform patients that abortion increased the risk of breast cancer.


Legal Career

  • Mediator, Arbitrator, Private Judge (Present)
  • Assigned Judge, Court of Appeal (2015-2016)
  • Judge, Superior Court of San Diego (1989-2015)
  • Judge, El Cajon Municipal Court (1988-89)
  • California Deputy Attorney General, including last two years as Chief Attorney, Attorney General's Bureau of Medi-Cal Fraud and Patient Abuse (1981-1988)
  • Enforcement Attorney, State of California Fair Political Practices Commission (1980-1981)
  • Legal Counsel, California Fair Political Practices Commission (1979-1980)
  • San Diego Deputy District Attorney (1970-1979)

Education & Professional Affiliations

  • Juris Doctor, University of Southern California School of Law (1969)
  • Bachelor of Arts, Pomona College, Claremont, California
  • Association of Business Trial Lawyers, executive committee, three multi-year terms.
  • Advisor Judge to State Bar of California Litigation section, 2004-2014
  • Master and member of the executive committee, Wallace Inn of Court, 2005-present

Achievements & Awards

  • Consumer Attorneys of San Diego, Judge of the Year (2016)
  • Presenter on trial procedure and practice at numerous seminars for lawyers sponsored by the American Bar Association, Association of Business Trial Lawyers, and various Inns of Court.
  • Co-author of Matthew Bender Practice Guide: California Trial and Post Trial Civil Procedure, Consultant to CEB publication: California Summary Judgment, 2013, 2014, 2015.

Legal Experience

  • Business/Commercial
  • Employment
  • Environmental
  • Insurance Coverage and Bad Faith
  • Subrogation
  • Professional Malpractice
  • Real Estate
  • Tort

Representative Case Information

Recent Representative Cases

Business/Commercial

Contractual

  • BREACH OF CONTRACT, UNFAIR COMPETITION. Plaintiff franchisee sued new comer defendant franchisee and franchisor claiming that the defendants conspired to drive plaintiff franchise out of business by intentionally impinging on their exclusive territory. Case settled in mediation.

Employment

Discrimination

  • Employment/wage and hour case brought by an undocumented employee who worked two 8 hour shifts per day using two separate employee identities for several years to maximize his income. This arrangement enabled the employer to avoid paying time and a half and double-time pay and essentially allowed plaintiff to work two jobs for the same employer. Back wages and penalties for overtime pay was $60-70k. Defendants claimed that they easily could have hired an additional full time employee and only acceded to plaintiff's scheme to help him maximize his income and that he had unclean hands, which should limit or preclude his recovery. Employee sued both the corporation that employed him and its shareholders, husband and wife defendants, who had always kept the corporation finances separate from their personal assets. Whether the owners could be held personally liable and collectability of a judgment from the corporation, which was no longer in business and had limited assets, was debatable. Case settled in mediation.
  • Non-profit community organizer employer counseled and disciplined employee for tardiness and unexcused absences. Employee claimed retaliation because the employee had signed letter accusing employer of racism and also because employee refused to support embattled manager of a union sponsor of the employer who was publicly accused of sexual harassment. Employee obtained DFEH right to sue letter. Case settled before filing in Superior Court.
  • Pre-filing mediation brought by long time employee, who after being fired, alleged various wage and hour violations. If the case was not settled quickly, defendant trucking company faced bankruptcy, and almost 20 employees could have lost their jobs. Early settlement was based on plaintiff's recognition of company's weak finances.

Wage & Hour Class Action

  • Employees of a temporary employment agency sued the agency for compensation for previously uncompensated time spent on employment interviews with potential third party employers. The agency contended that prospective employees should never be compensated for job interviews. However in this case, the temps had already signed on as employees of the temp agency, which controlled the interview conditions, such as time of interview and selection of prospective employer. Case did not settle after first mediation, but after extensive followup and a second mediation, the case was fully resolved.

Wrongful Termination

  • Plaintiff housekeeper/nanny for wealthy household became pregnant, miscarried but did not return to work. Plaintiff claimed unlawful termination and also alleged wage and hour violations including documented claims for unpaid overtime and other claims for unpaid meal and rest breaks. Defendant admitted unpaid overtime but contested all the other claims. Defendant contended that Plaintiff had told defendants before her miscarriage that she was going to resign in four months to move to another city. Case settled in mediation.
  • Defendant contractor contracted with franchisee of well known national fast food chain to update the franchisee's restaurant for a low six-figure amount to support 25 year extension of franchise. During the construction, to make modifications required by the contract, defendant contractor had to remove part of roof and patch it pending roof replacement by another contractor. When the roof was not promptly replaced, it leaked and damaged the interior. In addition, inspector for franchiser compiled a punch list of minor repairs, but franchisee kicked contractor off the job before the repairs could be completed. Nevertheless, franchiser extended the franchise for 25 years. Plaintiff's expert opined that cost of repairs were over 7 figures. Case settled.
  • Plaintiff was a manager at a major manufacturer of video games displayed excellent technical proficiency but lacked management skills and repeatedly failed to respond to counseling to improve his managerial competency. On the day of plaintiff's termination, he refused to carry out his director's orders to terminate two female employees for poor performance. Plaintiff claimed he was fired because he properly was trying to protect the two women subordinates from gender bias. The company claimed that plaintiff himself had previously recommended termination of the women and that regardless they had long planned to fire him for managerial incompetence. Weeks after mediation, with considerable post-mediation mediator involvement, this hard fought case finally settled.

Professional Malpractice

Medical Malpractice

  • Elderly patient with compromised mental functioning who could not walk safely without falling was not supposed to leave his bed unassisted. Patient's caregiver requested a "sitter" for times she could not be with patient, but the hospital refused. Early one morning, a fire alarm went off, patient left his bed, fell, and broke his arm. Conflicting evidence on whether the alarm, which was supposed to go off if patient left the bed, was turned off by nursing staff. Case settled in mediation.

Professional Malpractice Legal

  • Pro per plaintiff, an experienced trial lawyer, paid defendant attorney to draft a fraud complaint against his former wife for concealing true value of community property business in his dissolution case that had ended years before. Plaintiff had received new information about his former wife's concealment of business assets from pleadings in a case recently filed against his former wife by her former employee. Plaintiff in pro per used the pleadings drafted by defendant to sue his wife and the former employee for fraudulent concealment but lost the case on an anti-SLAPP motion and had to pay five-figures in attorney fees. Plaintiff claimed defendant lawyer should have warned him of the possibility of an anti-SLAPP motion. After mediation the case settled based on mediator's proposal.

Real Estate

Breach Of Contract

  • Applicants for a license from the City of San Diego to operate a legal marijuana dispensary at a specific location not near schools, parks, etc. sought to lease from defendant landlord. Plaintiffs made full disclosure regarding their plans to operate a legal dispensary. Defendant agreed to fully cooperate to help to get the permit which would only be valid at his property's location. However, as the tedious process was nearing approval, he rescinded the lease, claiming he did not realize the adverse potential impacts to him, including possible liability to the city. Plaintiffs' offer to indemnify him did not change his mind. After weeks of post mediation negotiations, the case settled.

Buy/Sell

  • Fraud in the sale of a residence. Seller knew of serious defects in the property, including some of which he concealed by cosmetic repairs. Seller's realtor failed to disclose extensive paperwork from original acquisition which reflected some of the less serious defects. Seller had almost no assets. Case settled upon acceptance of mediator's proposal.
  • Defendant realtor solicited a friend (plaintiff) to buy raw land based on defendant's supposed special knowledge of a new "Density Bonus Law," which would allow subdividing the raw land into a larger number of parcels than most developers believed possible. Defendant represented that plaintiff could quickly subdivide and flip the undeveloped land to a developer and double his $2 million investment. Defendant also miscalculated development costs. Instead of a quick sale, it took buyer almost ten years to unload the property for $1 million less than he paid for it. Plaintiff sued real estate broker and realtor for fraud. Tentative settlement reached at mediation and consummated weeks later because of complications in defendant realtor's personal finances.

Land Slide

  • Real property dispute involving landslide in an area between two residences. A leaky PVC pipe feeding a swimming pool at a residence caused soil saturation, which led to a landslide affecting two residences. Each neighbor accused the other of causing the leak and supported its position with reports of geotechnical and civil engineering reports. Experts from both sides were present at the mediation. Each neighbor had made numerous non permitted improvements on their respective residences. Each neighbor was defended by its homeowners insurance carrier. After a full day of mediation, each party settled, one for mid six figures, the other for low six figures.
  • Two older homes in La Jolla were located on a steep slope, one directly above the other. Under current land use rules, construction on such a steep slope would not be permitted. \ The boundary between the homes was midway down the slope. Years before, the upper homeowner had problems with surface water draining down the slope causing serious erosion but had never properly remedied the situation. The downslope owner failed to maintain retaining walls which should have mitigated erosion. Each owner sued the other and was defended by their respective homeowner insurer. Cost of repair was hundreds of thousands of dollars. Ultimately both insurers paid policy limits to settle the case at a very early stage of litigation.

Real Property

  • This case involved claims of intentional fraud and negligent misrepresentations regarding alleged failure to disclose construction defects causing water intrusion in a multi-million dollar apartment complex. Specifically the case dealt with claimed refundability of the deposit in connection with the sale of the complex. Plaintiff buyer contended that the seller committed fraud and negligent misrepresentation by falsely representing that water intrusion problems were relatively insignificant and had been fixed, when in fact there were various construction defects causing substantial ongoing water intrusion problems. Defendant claimed that no untruthful representations were made, but in any event various disclosure documents that plaintiff received accurately reflected extent of the problems. The case did not settle at mediation, but was successfully resolved after numerous post mediation telephonic contacts.

Warranty of Habitability

  • Mold case: Tenants of single family residence in La Jolla for over one year began experiencing respiratory problems and discovered mold on walls and on their personal belongings. They immediately moved out. Landlord returned their deposit and refunded their rent for the month. They sued for lodging expenses and damage to personal property. Case settled in mediation.

Tort

Common Carrier

  • Personal Injury Admiralty: 68-year-old female passenger on a large vessel broke her femur. Plaintiff claimed that sudden sharp upturn in the vessel's deck during turbulence caused her femur to snap near the hip joint. Plaintiff was suffering from preexisting pain and numbness in the leg that broke. Defendant contended that the seas were calm, that any movements of the deck were foreseeable, and that the Plaintiff's inattentiveness caused her to fall. Defendant also denied plaintiff's contention that vessel's safety warnings to passengers were inadequate. Case settled in mediation.

Personal Injury

  • Pit-bull not on a leash at a dog beach (where dogs do not have to be on leash) bit an 11-year-old boy who was walking with boogie board and suffered bites on upper thighs. Dog then bit another child who was also at the beach. Case settled at mediation for high five figures.

PI Auto

  • This is a traumatic brain injury case (t.b.i.) wherein plaintiff walking on a sidewalk was struck by a car driven by a car dealership employee. Plaintiff suffered a closed head injury, a subdural hematoma. Plaintiff also received orthopedic injuries, including a rotator cuff injury and a knee injury. Plaintiff underwent successful shoulder surgery. Medical expenses, lost wages and future lost wages were factors. Plaintiff had suffered trauma in her life, including child abuse and a similar brain injury in a previous auto v. pedestrian accident 10 years prior. Plaintiff testified she had severe ongoing pain, claimed she needed to use a cane to walk, and testified in depo that she had to wear sunglasses in daylight. Defense produced a post-accident sub rosa video showing plaintiff walking briskly without a cane and not wearing sunglasses during the day. The case settled in mediation after a mediator's proposal.
  • This traumatic brain injury case involved a 20-year-old plaintiff who was running against a red light in a marked crosswalk, attempting to catch a bus. Defendant, a 20-year-old driver of a 2004 Chevy Malibu, was proceeding into the same intersection on a traffic light which had just turned green and did not brake before hitting plaintiff, causing plaintiffs body to fly high in the air and land in the intersection. Plaintiff suffered orthopedic injuries and a traumatic brain injury (t.b.i.), which necessitated his being placed in a 6 day drug induced coma. One eyewitness stated that defendant driver was speeding and inattentive just before impact. This case settled, pre-filing.
  • Plaintiff, a homeless man and marijuana user with .05 blood alcohol, crossing a busy street mid-bloc while pushing a stroller filled with empty liquor bottles, was struck and seriously injured by defendant's pickup truck. Plaintiff moved erratically immediately before the collision as if trying to outrun the pickup, but driver probably underestimated his speed and culpability. After protracted post-mediation negotiations involving the mediator, the case settled.
  • Plaintiff, a sixty-year old obstetrics nurse with 30 years nursing experience was hit by a car driven by a ride-share company while crossing a busy intersection with the light. Plaintiff suffered a broken humerus and a knee injury and had two shoulder surgeries and a procedure on her knee. Defendant claimed that plaintiff's knee pain was caused by a pre-existing injury. Plaintiff attempted to return to work but claimed her shoulder and knee pain made it impossible for her to do her job and refused to do alternate desk work. Case did not settle at mediation but eventually resolved after extensive post mediation negotiations.
  • Auto vs. pedestrian UIM case at or near an unmarked crosswalk. Conflicting expert testimony as to whether driver was at fault for driving too fast under the circumstances or whether pedestrian was responsible for starting to cross without first looking to ensure it was safe to cross the busy street.
  • Ride share driver was instructed by his fare to quickly get to the right to make a right turn on a busy thoroughfare. The driver made an unsafe lane change into the path of plaintiff's motorcycle, which caused the plaintiff to crash into the car. Plaintiff fractured his arm and pelvis. Residual effects of injury were loss of some use of an arm, some chronic pain in pelvis, and a belated claim of short term memory loss. A subrosa video showed plaintiff vigorously riding stationary bike. Plaintiff made a policy limits demand for the million dollar policy limit, but accepted a settlement for less.
  • Car in front of plaintiff's car suddenly stopped, and plaintiff could not avoid impact with that car before being hit from behind by defendant's car. Plaintiff had preexisting back problems, but claimed that the impact from the accident greatly exacerbated his symptoms which are now permanent. Defense contended that plaintiff's symptoms following the accident resolved in a few months. Case settled during mediation.

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