Don Howarth, Suzelle M. Smith and Padraic J. Glaspy

Howarth & Smith is led by founding partners Don Howarth and Suzelle M. Smith, along with their partner Padraic J. Glaspy. 

Howarth & Smith is selective in its client representation, undertaking matters involving intellectual challenges, serious social concerns, and the opportunity to address groundbreaking legal issues.  The firm, which represents both plaintiffs and defendants, handles complex civil actions, including business, contract, and fraud cases.  It also represents clients in securities litigation, white collar and corporate criminal defense, intellectual property matters, legal malpractice, law partnership disputes, antitrust cases, class actions, toxic torts, and catastrophic personal injury cases.  

The firm partners have tried cases in state and federal courts throughout the United States and often appear as trial specialists.  They are supported by associates and experienced legal assistants.

The firm’s focus on high-stakes trials and appeals, including “bet the company” cases, means that it typically refers routine litigation to other capable attorneys and firms, many of which it has worked with as co-counsel over the years. 

Howarth & Smith has a close relationship with attorneys and law firms throughout the country, and many of its clients, which include individuals, corporations, sovereign nations, and nonprofit organizations, are referred by other lawyers. 

Howarth & Smith’s attorneys also serve as designated trial counsel in significant cases, where pretrial preparation is handled by other firms in co-counsel capacity.

The firm is set apart by the individualized trial and appellate advocacy that Howarth & Smith provides to its clients.  This individualized approach is often difficult to find in larger firms that take a generic approach to legal counsel.   Howarth & Smith believes that creative attorneys with the right approach and the right set of skills can provide what is necessary to succeed in today's legal arena.

Best Law Firms In California: First-Tier Rankings Recognition. Published in U.S. News & World Report, 2016.

What further distinguishes Howarth & Smith is its ability to distill complex legal issues, technicalities, and jargon into understandable and compelling arguments, enabling juries to grasp relevant issues and understand the client's position.  Howarth & Smith's flair for crisp and concise communication – coupled with its analytical skills and mastery of trial strategy – are a potent combination that makes the firm a powerful force in the nation’s courtrooms. 

Howarth & Smith's unique accomplishments stem from its partners' recognized ability to combine strategic thinking, high-quality legal analysis, and a persuasive courtroom presence. 

Many of the substantial matters Howarth & Smith has successfully handled for its clients are subject to confidentiality agreements due to the sensitive nature of or the substantial amounts involved; however, the following brief descriptions of some of Howarth & Smith’s most prominent cases, which are a matter of public record, are illustrative of our firm's achievements throughout the years.

Among many defense matters, Howarth & Smith has represented numerous individuals and corporate entities in multimillion-dollar suits, including prominent law and accounting firms, NBA and NFL stars, high net worth individuals, the Vatican Library (as custodian of Vatican artwork), healthcare providers, vitamin manufacturers, cement manufacturers, glass container manufacturers, and catfish farmers.

In 2012, Howarth & Smith represented investors, led by Muse Family Enterprises, Ltd., in a fraud action against BTM Funding, Inc. and Mr. David Smith.  Howarth & Smith obtained a $21 million jury verdict against BTM Funding, Inc. for fraud, a jury verdict finding that Mr. Smith was the alter ego of BTM Funding, and a $10 million jury verdict against Mr. Smith personally for the fraudulent transfer of company assets.

In 2011, Howarth & Smith represented a plaintiff in a claim against Rutter, Hobbs & Davidoff for legal malpractice in the handling of a business transaction.  The firm’s client was an executive who lost a valuable stream of income due to errors in a contract negotiated and drafted by Defendant.  Howarth & Smith obtained a jury verdict of over $10 million in compensatory damages, which led directly to the breakup of Rutter, Hobbs & Davidoff.

In 2010, the firm successfully defended Life Care Centers of America in a criminal trial in Boston, obtaining an acquittal from the jury.  Before trial, the firm received a unanimous opinion from the Massachusetts Supreme Court on the novel “collective corporate intent” theory put forward by the Massachusetts Attorney General.  The published opinion appears as Commonwealth v. Life Care Centers of Am., Inc., 456 Mass. 826 (2010).  Mr. Howarth’s oral argument before the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts can be viewed on the Suffolk Law School website.

In 2009, the partners successfully tried a patent infringement case involving high definition switching jacks for televisions.  After a three-week trial on a $35 million claim, Howarth & Smith was able to obtain a unanimous jury verdict for the defense in the United States District Court for the District of Minnesota, and then successfully defended the result on appeal in the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit.

In 1997, the firm was responsible for one of the most notable defense verdicts in the nation in a product liability action defending Suzuki Motor Corporation against the same opposing counsel who had obtained a $90 million verdict against Suzuki in a prior suit.  Howarth & Smith's trial strategy and trial presentations, including closing argument, led to a defense verdict after the jury deliberated for three hours.

In 1996, Howarth & Smith represented the plaintiff in a fraud and breach of contract action against General Dynamics, winning $107.4 million — the largest jury verdict in California that year. 

In 2004, Howarth & Smith represented a major manufacturer in a breach of contract and fraud suit against a company that failed in implementing a multimillion-dollar enterprise resource planning system to coordinate inventories, plants, manufacturing processes, and billings.

The firm arbitrated a case involving claims of trade secrets and unlawful competition on behalf of a leading employment services company, obtaining an award of over $750,000 and punitive damages.

The firm represented a group of shareholders of a multinational internet infrastructure company, including a former Hawai’i governor and a prominent Honolulu businessman who were frozen out of a three-way merger by the preferred shareholders.

The firm concluded a major federal class action as trial counsel in a shareholders suit for violations of the securities laws.

The firm represented the late Doris Duke and played a leading role in the battle over the billion-dollar estate of the tobacco heiress, resulting in the removal of the opposing trustees, preliminary executor and a major banking institution, and the appointment of the firm's client as a trustee of the Duke Estate. Since then, there has been continued interest in her life, with several sensationalized film versions of her death. A dramatization of the Duke cases, with commentary by the firm’s partners was aired on the Discovery Channel and commentary by the partners on the case appeared on Unsolved Mysteries and A&E. Miss Duke’s nephew, D.W. Duke, has now published an account of her life, The Duke Legacy. His account includes a segment on the court battle ensuing upon her death and Howarth & Smith’s role in bringing it to a successful conclusion. These segments can be viewed here.

In 2008, Howarth & Smith secured a $29 million judgment against the Islamic Republic of Iran on behalf of a former CNN Middle-East Bureau Chief and his wife.  The Bureau Chief was kidnapped in 1984 and held hostage for nearly a year in Beirut, Lebanon.  The firm has to date collected over $15 million, in partial satisfaction of this judgment, from assets held in United States financial institutions.  Howarth & Smith, along with a group of other plaintiffs with terrorism-based judgments against Iran, has obtained a turnover order totaling more than $1.75 billion on behalf of victims of foreign terrorism; recently upheld by the Supreme Court of the United States.

In 1994, the firm filed suit against a Pasadena shopping mall, successfully arguing that the mall's deficient security allowed two criminals to rape and murder the wife of Howarth & Smith’s client.  The jury returned a $3.6 million verdict in favor of the husband and against the mall.

The firm won a $7 million jury verdict in a product liability case for a man left paralyzed in connection with the use of a Sears extension ladder sold without adequate safety warnings.

In a case involving a breach of oral contract, Howarth & Smith obtained a $9 million jury verdict for a corporate executive who was to be transferred an equity interest in the company.

The firm also represented twelve California cities and municipalities in an action against other municipalities to recover $30 million lost in a fraudulent investment scheme.

Howarth & Smith represented the wife and son of the original “Marlboro Man” in their suit against Philip Morris and was a part of landmark class action cases against the tobacco industry, including being a founding member of the Castano Class Action legal team which sought restitution for a class of nicotine dependent smokers of American Tobacco’s cigarettes.  Howarth & Smith was also lead trial counsel for the Government of the Republic of the Marshall Islands in its action against the tobacco industry to recover health-care costs incurred due to tobacco use on the islands.

In 1997, the firm represented a Newport Beach couple in a substantial legal malpractice action against their former law firm on a claim that it mishandled the sale of the couple’s $150 million company, resulting in a loss of virtually the entire value of the company the couple had built together.

In 2006, Howarth & Smith represented a venture capitalist for breach of an oral partnership agreement in a two-month jury trial before the Superior Court of Los Angeles County, where claimed damages exceeded $1 billion.

Howarth & Smith represented about twenty professional National Football League players in a high-profile case involving an antitrust challenge to the NFL.

Howarth & Smith was lead counsel in a derivative action for corporate waste and mismanagement brought by a major shareholder of a billion-dollar financial institution against the board of directors and executives.

In addition to representing individuals and corporate entities, Howarth & Smith has also handled a number of class action and mass disaster cases involving a variety of issues, on behalf of both plaintiffs and defendants.

For example, in 1999, Howarth & Smith tried a two-month jury trial in the United States District Court for the District of Colorado, in an “Erin Brockovich” type toxic pollution case, obtaining a $43 million judgment for its clients against the Cotter uranium mill.

Howarth & Smith has successfully handled several employment law class actions on behalf of the employees in wage and hour suits against major national employers who misclassified employees as independent contractors.

Howarth & Smith brought a price fixing class action on behalf of all purchasers of eggs in Southern California.  It was also involved in the silicone breast implant product liability litigation and represented claimants in the Vioxx litigation.

Howarth & Smith also represented defendants in class actions involving personal injuries where class certification was defeated, in health care and skilled nursing litigation, and in alleged consumer fraud actions.