After 17 years as a successful litigator, Sarah Burke made the decision to pursue her "true calling," when she started a mediation practice in 2006. She had spent her career representing developers, suppliers, contractors, subcontractors, and homeowners in all types of construction litigation. Due to the complexity of such matters, in having to negotiate with multiple parties with divergent interests, Sarah found that her role as an advocate was slowly evolving into that of a facilitator. One attorney commented, "Even as a litigant, Sarah was the "go-to" lawyer to close the deal. Literally in the courthouse, she pulled together over 45 parties to settle a case the Special Master couldn't close. It's our good fortune to have her available now as a neutral, and I couldn't recommend her more highly." In addition to her expertise in construction defects, Sarah has significant experience handling insurance coverage issues, personal injury, employment, and wrongful death cases as well as patent and copyright matters. As a mediator, she has developed a reputation for relentless follow-up. On the infrequent occasion that a case does not settle in the first session, Sarah doesn't just let the parties walk away, rather she leaves them with homework, a road map to continue progress. Counsel commented "Even though the case didn't settle in the original mediation, she continued to follow up with me and plaintiff's counsel until we were able to reach an agreement. It was most appreciated and I now know why she was so highly recommended."
Sarah is an avid endurance cyclist. She spent 8 years coaching cyclists for the Leukemia Society's Team in Training program,
most recently as head coach for the ultra-endurance (and just plain hard) Death Ride: 130 miles over 5 mountain passes. She's
completed over a dozen double century rides (200 miles in a day) and attributes some of her endurance in long mediation sessions
to her long distance cycling training.
"Sarah Burke was once again very helpful in getting our case resolved. Thank you!"
- Attorney on a Construction Defects case
"Went very smoothly. "
- Attorney on a Construction Defects case
Full-time Neutral (2006 - Present)
Partner, Drath, Clifford, Murphy & Mack (2001 - 2009), managed construction defect and insurance coverage litigation sections of the firm.
Senior Associate, Selman Breitman (1995 - 2000), handled insurance coverage, construction defect, personal injury, and wrongful death litigation matters in San Diego and San Francisco.
Associate, Wingert, Grebing, Anello & Brubaker (1992 - 1995), litigated construction defect, insurance coverage and personal injury cases.
Education & Professional Affiliations
JD, University of San Diego School of Law (1992)
BA, Bowdoin College, magna cum laude (1989)
60 hours of advanced mediation training, 40 hours, Steven Rosenberg Mediation Training (2006), 20 hours, Various Local Bar Associations (2007-2013)
The Mediation Society, Board of Directors (2013)
Alameda County Bar Association ADR Executive Committee, Chair (2012)
Association of Defense Counsel of Northern California & Nevada, including 2 years as Chair, Construction Law Sub-Committee, Board of Directors (2002-2006)
Achievements & Awards
Sarah has been a regular speaker/panelists for a variety of different legal educational providers, such as West Coast Casualty's Construction Defect Seminar, the Claims and Litigation Management Alliance Annual Conference as well as the Association of Defense Counsel.
She has also lectured throughout the country on various topics including dispute resolution, construction and insurance litigation, civil litigation and California law.
In 2005, Sarah participated in extensive meetings with California Senate and Assembly Judiciary Chairs Joe Dunn and David Jones to discuss pending legislation aimed at "construction defect reform".
mediated dispute regarding re-negotiation of terms of note for purchase of business. Financial difficulties and a former partner misdirecting funds made it impossible for determined purchaser to live up to original deal.
Design professional liability and non-payment, due to claims of deficiency
Construction Breach Of Contract
Construction material non-payment, (mediator) - settlement involved creating new business relationship between the parties for ongoing work, allowing both to profit from a difficult financial situation
Condominium construction defect case, (special master/mediator) - $3 million settlement.
Multiple single family home case, (special master/mediator) - coordination with 15 subcontractors, developer/genera and multiple plaintiffs
Condominium construction defect case, (special master/mediator) - conversion of apartments to condos with serious insurance coverage gaps and substantial claimed damages.
Construction defect and non-payment, (mediator) - high end single family home, several subcontractors (some with insurance coverage issues) and a general contractor owed substantial amounts of money
Construction defect case, (special master/mediator) - multiple layers of primary and excess insurance coverage had to be sorted through in order to resolve a $4 million condominium defect case.
Construction Delay Claims
Construction non-payment/delay case, (pre-litigation) (mediator) - commercial project with several parties owed money and claiming coordination problems, personality issues and personal investment in the outcome made for a challenging resolution
ADA case, (mediator) - a business owner with severe animal allergies leading to the refusal to serve a blind man with a service dog
Family Leave Act
(mediator) wrongful termination case arising from public entity employee termination following medical leave
Wage and Hour
(mediator) alleged wage and hour violations gave rise to for long term employee
Coverage dispute, defense obligation, (arbitrator) - duty to defend and fees at issue in a coverage dispute arising from a professional liability policy
Coverage dispute, duty to defend and indemnify, (mediator) - duty to defend and indemnify under a professional errors and omissions policy when a loan and sale of property deal went bad
Duty to defend and indemnify, (mediator) insurance guarantee association dispute with insured of insolvent insurer over defense and indemnity duties in numerous cases throughout state
(non-litigated) - mediated dispute regarding terms of sale of home following landslide - insurance coverage problems regarding damage caused
Fire loss subrogation, (mediator) - claims of under-insurance and legal technicalities
Fire loss subrogation and claim against fire investigator, (mediator) - alleged fire investigator prejudiced the insurance company's right to pursue subrogation.
Fire loss subrogation, (mediator) - public utility alleged to be responsible for significant fire loss
mediated dispute regarding terms of sale of property
mediation of several different broker/buyer disputes regarding disclosures in multi unit condominium conversion case.
Habitability, landlord/tenant (mold), (mediator) - water leaks, mold and claims of tenant smoking marijuana in the unit created animosity between formerly friendly landlord and tenant
Personal injury landlord/tenant (mediator) - an immunocompromised drama student tenant sued for mold in a living space
(mediator) - landlord sued by former unit renters with disputed claims of mold issues
Design professional/public entity/homeowner with cross complaints sued for damages arising from landslide, (mediator)
Personal injury (trip and fall), (mediator) - hole in the sidewalk left during construction led to serious injuries and medical expenses
Personal injury (trip and fall), (mediator) - homeowners association and public entity were at odds over control of sidewalk in this trip and fall matter
(mediator) - minor auto accident resulting in high medical bills presented challenging issues and personal dynamics
(mediator) - minor plaintiff and disputed extent of injury from auto accident presented a challenging dynamic
Personal injury (auto/workplace issue), (mediator) - evidence from dashboard camera significant in an auto injury case
(mediator) - commercial warehouse roof was leaking.
Defective Tile product, (mediator)
(mediator) competing claims of defective plumbing products and faulty installation causing leaks throughout large tract of homes
(mediator) - competing claims of defective concrete and steel in 1 million and 2.1 million gallon reservoirs that leaked