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THE FIRE LAWYERS. Singleton Law Firm Fights for Fire Victims.

“One of the things I love about my work is that we represent families in times of their greatest stress, particularly when we represent people with losses due to fires. When people come to us, they’re in a very difficult situation. By the time the case is over we have assisted them in rebuilding their lives, starting over and moving forward. To me that’s incredibly rewarding professionally, but also on a personal level,” says Gerald “Jerry” Singleton, founder of Singleton Law Firm.
While the firm represents clients in personal injury, civil rights, and mass torts, they have built a remarkable record in fire litigation and an equally remarkable record in the professional and personal service provided to their clients. Singleton has a reputation for fighting against mass tort models that lump clients together without consideration for each person’s individual needs. As Singleton says, “Mass torts present risky incentives for lawyers to put their needs for convenience and maximizing fees above the client’s needs to have an attorney fight for each person on a case-by-case basis. Every fire victim is not alike. Every Roundup victim is not alike. They need lawyers who fight individually not en masse.”
One example of Singleton’s drive to help each client is illustrated in his advocacy in the 2015 Butte Fire. The firm represented more than 2,000 people in the fire that destroyed more than 500 homes in Calaveras County. Singleton was concerned about his clients who were living in temporary shelter without heat and were vulnerable to freezing temperatures from a fast approaching winter. Singleton pitched the idea of an emergency needs fund to counsel for defendant Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E). Although the case had barely begun and Cal Fire had not issued its report on the cause of the fire, PG&E counsel was willing to entertain the idea of a fund to help uninsured fire victims. Singleton credits PG&E’s counsel at the time with embracing his idea and advocating with their client to make the fund a reality. Out of this unusual collaboration, the Urgent Needs Fund was created. The fund provided grants up to $50,000 for uninsured homeowners and up to $10,000 for uninsured renters who lost homes in the fire.
Singleton refused to charge any fees for assisting these devastated families in applying for the Urgent Needs Fund. Singleton Law Firm provided free assistance to all fire victims who applied to the fund whether or not they were clients.
“It’s all about people. Victims like these folks are either very raw and emotional or they’re shell shocked and functioning on autopilot. It can take a long time for people to fully comprehend the scope of loss and devastation that happens when your home and all your belongings are destroyed by fire. These are life-changing events. We try to help clients return to some degree of normalcy,” Singleton says.


A client sums up their approach well. Jeff Robinson says, “When I met Jerry Singleton, I didn’t know what to expect. I had never dealt with a fire before. I had a stereotype of ambulance chasers telling us all the great things they are going to do us for us. He blew up all the stereotypes of ambulance chasers. He is a shining star. I always knew he was fighting for me.” Robinson is a founder and director of nationally renowned summer camps for at-risk youth. His camp was damaged by the 2013 Powerhouse Fire in northern Los Angeles County.
“I couldn’t get anybody to pay attention to us: not the Forestry Service or our Congressmen nor anyone else except for Singleton’s team. They held my hand all the way through. The way he handled the settlement was genius. I would have gone out of business if it wasn’t for Jerry. He took every call and answered every question I had. This is the guy you would want by your side.”
Singleton Law Firm has represented more fire victims than any other firm in California and has recovered more than $850 million for their clients. The numbers tell a remarkable story of people served: 1,600 people in the 2007 San Diego Fires, 300 in the 2013 Powerhouse Fire, 2,000 in the 2015 Butte Fire, 2,000 in the 2017 North Bay Fires, 2,000 in the 2018 Camp Fire, and 1,300 in the 2017 Thomas and 2018 Woolsey Fires. Singleton says, “Where else can you get that kind of reward? Yes, the law is my work. It’s my job. But it’s my life’s work. I truly enjoy helping people through hard times.”

Every Client Counts

Singleton’s first job out of law school was with Federal Defenders, Inc. of San Diego. Singleton uses the lessons he learned at that office every day in his practice. At Federal Defenders, he represented people who could not afford a lawyer and were accused of federal crimes. “The ethos of the office was that you give the best defense to everyone no matter their station in life. In my career, I have represented everyone from homeless people to billionaires. They all have one thing in common: they need a lawyer to fight for them. I give them all the same level of service,” Singleton says. He learned well from two lawyers who were his mentors at Federal Defenders. Shereen Charlick and Mark Fleming went onto illustrious careers: Charlick is a Superior Court Judge in San Diego and Fleming is a successful criminal and civil lawyer.

It’s a Family Thing

“There is a thread of family in my professional life,” Singleton says.
He first became interested in a career in law while working in his father’s law firm in high school. Singleton’s father, Terry Singleton, has been a personal injury lawyer for more than 40 years and father and son still work on select cases together.
Singleton began working on fire cases before he became a lawyer. At his father’s firm, he worked on a behalf of fire victims who lost their homes in the 1993 Guejito Fire, which was sparked by San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) power lines. He became close with the fire victims by sitting with them, listening to their harrowing stories of escape, and helping them quantify their extensive losses.
Singleton and his father teamed up in 2007 when three power line fires devastated parts of San Diego County. They joined with other law firms to form the San Diego Fire Lawyers, a group that represented the largest group of plaintiffs in litigation against SDG&E.
The family thread continued to wind through his career when Singleton met his future wife and law partner, Joy, at Escondido High School in 1988. They went to different law schools (she attended Yale while he attended Boalt Hall at UC Berkeley). They now practice together at Singleton Law Firm.

From simple beginnings in borrowed office space in 2003, the firm has grown into a multimillion dollar firm with more than 40 employees, offices in San Diego, Sacramento, Ventura, and Santa Rosa, and thousands of clients in 2019. They employ 16 attorneys and more than 25 paralegals, assistants, and support staff.

One of the key philosophies behind the firm’s rapid and successful growth is in Singleton’s drive to find the right mix of people who have the talent, skill and compassion to meet his high standards. “It’s finding the right people and giving them the latitude to do what they need to do. You can’t micromanage, particularly when you have nearly fifty people in your organization. You have to be comfortable giving others authority and making sure you set the overall goals clearly,” he says.

Singleton’s advice to young attorneys is to find what they really want to do in life. “It is very common advice; I think it is so common because it is true.” He says, like most people, finding that career path took time. “I like criminal defense, but that wasn’t it. What I really enjoy are large-scale personal injury cases. I put together teams of people, and I like being able to help large numbers of people. That’s what these cases allow us to do. The advice I’d give everybody is to find what you really enjoy because when you do that, you love going to work every day. Some days are obviously more fun than others. But how many people can say their job is professionally and personally rewarding and at the same time fun?”

Answering the Call

Singleton Law Firm attorneys work with outside attorneys on approximately 90 percent of their cases. Singleton enjoys teaming up with other lawyers who bring their own unique talents to each case.

The firm has paid out millions of dollars in referral fees since its inception. “We pay very good referral fees. We deal with people the way we’d like to be dealt with if we were referring a case. Many lawyers end up referring their fire cases to us because we have the expertise and the experts to work up the cases. Proving up fire cases requires an incredible capital investment for experts and intensive staffing to prove liability and damages. One thing I’ve never had is issues with people who have referred cases. It’s always worked out for them, and it’s worked well for us,” Singleton says.

As part of its commitment to the community at large, the firm has litigated many pro bono cases. Several staff members serve as Court Appointed Special Advocates for foster children and Big Brothers. Singleton is a member of the American Association of Justice and co-chair of the Wildfires Litigation Group. Additionally, Jerry and Joy Singleton have both served on the Boards of Directors of foster care advocacy organizations, including the Youth Law Center, the North

American Association of Adoptable Children, and California Youth Connection. Joy Singleton is currently the Chair of the Board of Directors of Angels Foster Family Agency in San Diego.

Singleton says, “Regardless of whether we’re working pro bono or for paying clients or serving in a volunteer position in the community, the best part of the job is being able to help people. When you can help people in trouble—in serious, sometimes life-threatening trouble—and you can see them through one of the hardest moments in their lives, there’s just no feeling better than that.”

» EDUCATION

  • University of California, Berkeley (Boalt Hall),
    Juris Doctorate May 2000

    Honors: Legal Research and Writing Award
  • Dartmouth College, Cum Laude, Bachelor of Arts in Political Philosophy June 1996
    Honors: High Honors for Thesis; Department of Government Prize for Thesis, Dean's List

» PROFESSIONAL HIGHLIGHTS

  • More than 100 verdicts or settlements of $1,000,000 or more.
  • Represented over 1,600 clients in suits against SDG&E and Sempra Energy stemming from the October 2007
    fires. This was the largest civil case in the history of San Diego County at the time it was filed.
  • Obtained a verdict of $8,234,522.00 in Vista Superior Court in 2009 on behalf of a construction worker who
    sustained catastrophic electrical burns on a job site.

» REVIEWS FROM PAST CLIENTS

  • Google Reviews: Average rating of 5-Stars
  • Facebook Reviews: Average rating of 5-Stars
  • AVVO Reviews: Average rating of 5-Stars
  • Yelp Reviews: Average rating of 5-Stars

» MEMBERSHIPS AND AFFILIATIONS

  • National Lawyers Guild
  • National Police Accountability Project (NLG)
  • Consumer Attorneys of San Diego
  • Consumer Attorneys of California
  • American Association for Justice
  • State Bar of California
  • State Bar of Texas
  • Past Board President, Encinitas Educational Foundation
  • Past Board Member, Youth Law Center

Contact
Jerry Singleton
Singleton Law Firm
450 A Street, 5th Floor
San Diego, California 92101
(619) 771-3473
www.SLFfirm.com

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