Steven Roland is active in the handling of real estate litigation involving purchase and sale, leaseholds, secured transactions, land-use litigation, eminent domain, inverse condemnation and title issues. Steven has represented Fortune 500 companies, financial institutions, developers, public entities, landlords, tenants, retailers, managers and brokers in matters involving shopping centers, urban and suburban mixed use projects, condominium developments, office towers, business parks, industrial properties, master planned communities and mining projects. Steven’s practice also encompasses commercial matters, including unfair competition, trade secret, licensing, partnership and contract issues.
Steven has extensive jury trial, court trial and arbitration experience and has regularly appeared before administrative agencies including planning commissions, city councils and administrative appeals boards.
Steven’s work has involved properties and transactions in numerous states and in England, Canada, Norway and Australia. In addition to practicing in the federal and state courts of California, Steven has been admitted to practice pro hac vice or otherwise provided counsel in matters in Florida, Colorado, Texas, New Jersey, Nevada, Oregon, Hawaii and Washington.
Steven joined Sedgwick’s San Francisco office in 1982, following clerkships with the California Supreme Court, Honorable Frank Richardson, and the San Francisco Superior Court, Honorable Ira Brown. He has served as an arbitrator and settlement panelist for the San Francisco Superior Court and as an expert witness on matters pertaining to the standard of care of counsel in commercial litigation.
Steven’s notable achievements include:
- Obtained a defense verdict at jury trial for our client, an international home improvement retailer. Our client faced eviction after being sued by its landlord in unlawful detainer for allegedly failing to pay the correct rent under a complex formula disputed by the parties for many years. After an 8-day trial, the jury found that the rent sought was an unreasonable estimate of the amount due and rendered a defense verdict. The court also awarded all attorney’s fees to our client as the prevailing party under an attorney fees clause in the lease.
- Obtained a directed verdict at trial for our client, an international retailer, after plaintiff challenged the enforceability of covenants and restrictions (CC&Rs) and particularly, restrictive use covenants, in a shopping center near Seattle, Washington. Plaintiff, who owns a parcel in the center, claimed the CC&Rs were void because they were entered without plaintiff’s consent and plaintiff also sought damages for lost rents and diminution of property value. Mr. Roland showed that the sophisticated plaintiff had notice that the CC&Rs could be recorded and that our client had a right to adopt the new restrictions.
- Represented a Fortune 500 retailer in a five-week jury trial of a $39 million real estate fraud and breach of ground lease claim involving a proposed retail center development. Plaintiff lessor charged that the client misrepresented its efforts to obtain land use approvals to develop the center and that the client’s primary intent was to prevent a competitor from obtaining the property. The jury rejected these claims after a showing through land-use experts, lawyers, architects and development managers of the many design, political and regulatory efforts made to gain entitlements.
- Represented the owner of a high-rise office building sued by a restaurant tenant for fraud, nuisance, breach of contract and trespass arising from claims that the owner misrepresented the nature of the proposed retail tenant mix and allowed unwelcome competition. Through a series of demurrers, motions for judgment on the pleadings and summary adjudication motions, Sedgwick eliminated the various claims one by one, and obtained judgment and an award of attorney’s fees.
- Defended a publicly traded company in a jury trial on approximately $28 million in claimed breach of contract damages after our client terminated a development agreement. Mr. Roland presented market data and other evidence showing the many political, community relations and physical impediments to development, and showing that plaintiff was not entitled to the demanded damages for diminution of the property’s value and for the value of the approvals.
- Obtained summary judgment in a lease dispute for a Fortune 50 client after the client’s landlord asserted two years into the option term of a long-term lease that the exercise of the option had carried with it a rental adjustment that would result in almost $13 million in additional rent over the option term. The landlord asserted a novel theory that CPI rental increases accrued through the original lease term carried over into the option term — a position seemingly at odds with industry standards and inconsistent with the parties’ initial handling during the commencement of the option period. The court found that the landlord was estopped to assert the novel theory based on the landlord’s failure to raise the theory earlier.
- Represented a national high-rise developer and property manager after a major tenant defaulted on a long-term lease. Mr. Roland obtained a prejudgment attachment of more than $48 million of the tenant’s assets.
- Obtained summary judgment for a national retailer involving a dispute over the application of CC&Rs to a shopping center property. Plaintiff’s predecessors had effected a lot line adjustment intended to improve access to its parcels but, in the process, incorporated into its parcels property that had previously been a part of the shopping center encumbered by the CC&Rs. Plaintiff contended that it took the parcels free of the CC&Rs. Mr. Roland demonstrated that plaintiff, having incorporated property subject to the CC&Rs, rendered the entirety of the parcels subject to them.
- When a consolidation plan caused a Fortune 500 client to move from leased industrial property in Southern California, the company subleased the space; however, at the end of the lease term the subtenant claimed that it had option rights to extend the lease or purchase the property. Multiple suits involving the landlord, subtenant and Sedgwick’s lessee client resulted. Within six months, Mr. Roland obtained summary judgment and a nonsuit ruling in two crucial cases, and the sub-lessee was evicted by the sheriff.
- Obtained pre-trial dismissal of fraud and breach of contract claims against a major retailer sued by a landowner when the retailer declined to pursue a ground lease after extended negotiations; along with a favorable judgment, the court awarded all attorneys’ fees incurred in the defense.
- Obtained a $19 million judgment for a financial institution in a judicial foreclosure action involving an office property in San Francisco and a related municipal bond issue, including a summary judgment on lender liability defenses proffered by the borrower. Following foreclosure and purchase by the client of the property at public sale, the firm obtained a deficiency judgment for $4.2 million, assisted in negotiations with a public entity lessee and sub lessees regarding lease option rights, and assisted with resale negotiations of the foreclosed property to a third party.
- Served on a cross-disciplinary team of real estate and construction attorneys that obtained unanimous relief for its client at hearing before a City Appeals Commission after the client was prevented from securing permits for improvements in five downtown office towers. The permit denials, which threatened to upset leasehold relationships, were premised on a position that the improvements were not yet sanctioned by state disability access regulations. At hearing, a showing was made of the equivalence and benefit of the improvements, and of consistency with prevailing policy and regulations.
- Provided advice and counsel to a national developer regarding secured transaction and foreclosure issues involving a $152 million note and deed of trust on office and retail property, and a receivership imposed on the property; assisted in obtaining a dismissal of suit against the developer.
- Obtained a victory in the jury trial of quiet title, contract and fraud claims brought by plaintiffs who sought rights to land by adverse possession and $1.4 million in damages. Plaintiffs abandoned their case-in-chief midtrial after Mr. Roland’s cross examination of one of the plaintiffs. The court entered judgment for Mr. Roland’s clients on their cross-complaint for breach of contract and awarded attorneys’ fees.
- Obtained a verdict after a five-week jury trial on behalf of a utility client which had condemned an easement for a new transmission line across property zoned for commercial development; the jury returned a verdict in the amount of the client’s pre-trial offer of just compensation and rejected the landowner’s claims for an additional $8 million.
- Obtained a fully successful judgment at trial of a dispute between a riverbed sand and gravel mining company and a public entity over vested rights claims and the public entity’s effort to modify riverbed mining operations to protect infrastructure and environment.
- Assisted in obtaining a writ of mandate compelling the Coastal Commission to withdraw specified conditions which would have essentially vitiated County approvals for development of a 50-acre parcel two miles from the Ano Nuevo Nature Preserve on the Monterey coast.
- Represented a national retailer and service company whose major vendor in one business category filed for bankruptcy, interrupting supply chain and potentially severely straining customer relations. Mr. Roland and a team of civil and bankruptcy attorneys obtained emergency relief during a series of hearings, which allowed the client to obtain release of warehoused products, to take over certain services and to access the vendor’s records, all of which assisted the clients to preserve critical customer relations.
- Represented a Fortune 500 medical products company who was sued for $77 million for the alleged breach of a licensing and distribution agreement covering a family of medical products. Mr. Roland obtained a successful award after a seven-week binding arbitration before a panel of three arbitrators, by showing that the commercial value of certain products had been grossly reduced as a result of unanticipated regulatory restrictions and that other products showed no scientifically supportable basis for success.
- Represented an international medical products company in the defense of patent infringement and trade secret litigation arising from the development of an anti-microbial wound dressing. The action was resolved successfully on the first day of trial after partial summary judgment was awarded to the client.
Presentations and PublicationsSteven has been a speaker before the American Bar Association, San Francisco Bar Association, Association of Defense Counsel, Lloyd’s Insurance Market, The Real Estate Roundtable, corporate counsel and real property and claims groups. His presentation topics have included trial practice, litigation management, cost-control methods in complex commercial litigation, alternative dispute resolution, investigative techniques, unfair competition law, real estate and eminent domain issues, and issues germane to the financial services industry. Steven recently published an article on “Early Resolution Strategies for Real Estate Disputes.”
- J.D. (1982) University of San Francisco School of Law
- B.A. (1979) Cornell University, cum laude
- “AV” Martindale-Hubbell Peer Review Rating
- Who’s Who in American Law
- Northern California Super Lawyers (2005 - 2006, 2009 - 2010, 2013 - 2016)
- Top Lawyer, Bay Area Lawyer Magazine