Jason R. Thornton, Partner at Finch, Thornton & Baird, LLP

Jason R. Thornton, Partner

Download a PDF for print Printer friendly version

Jason R. Thornton is a partner in the firm. His practice includes representation of clients in complex construction litigation, bid protests, mechanic’s lien foreclosure litigation, construction activity related personal injury defense, and construction defect defense. Mr. Thornton’s litigation practice includes extensive experience in arbitrations, judge and jury trials, civil writs, and appeals. He represented the appellants in the precedent-setting cases of San Diego Unified Port District v. Douglas E. Barnhart, Inc. (2002) 95 Cal.App.4th 1400 [in a construction case, the Fourth District Court of Appeal held the firm’s client could not be forced to pay for destructive testing requested by others]; and Wagner Construction Company v. Pacific Mechanical Corporation 41 Cal.4th 19 (2007) [California Supreme Court agreed with Mr. Thornton’s position that arbitrator, not court, decides statute of limitations defense]. Mr. Thornton also provides strategy counseling and compliance advice on general business, construction, and labor and employment issues.

Mr. Thornton is admitted to practice before all California state courts and before the Central, Eastern, Southern, and Northern United States District Courts of California. He is a member of the State Bar of California and San Diego County Bar Association (Construction Law section). Mr. Thornton received his juris doctor from the University of San Diego where he graduated cum laude and was made a member of the Order of the Coif. He was also a member of the Appellate Moot Court Board and received American Jurisprudence awards for outstanding achievement in Real Property and Evidence. Mr. Thornton received his Bachelor of Science in Economics from the University of California, San Diego. He was named a California Super Lawyer in 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017; a Top 10 San Diego Construction Attorney in 2007, 2012 and 2013; and a Top 20 San Diego Construction Attorney in 2008.

Representative Experience

Subdivision Development Bond Exoneration

The firm was retained by a multi-home developer to obtain a partial release of surety bonds securing a large subdivision development. The client’s goal was to perform a reduced scope of work and obtain exoneration of the bonds from the public entity as the development was no longer economically viable. The firm devised a plan and through litigation obtained complete exoneration of bonds with penal sums in excess of $6.5 million.​

Quiet Title Re Commercial Property

The firm identified a significant cloud on title to valuable real property owned by its client in the City of San Diego. The cloud on title was the result of an unrecorded 1996 quitclaim deed which conveyed full ownership of the property to the client. The original deed was lost and two of the three signers of the original were dead by the time the error was discovered. Thus, record title to the property continued to reflect a divided, 50/50 ownership between the firm’s client and another corporate entity that by the time of discovery was a reorganized debtor in bankruptcy proceedings. The reorganized debtor claimed it continued to own a valuable 50 percent interest in the property. The firm prepared a lawsuit and negotiated a settlement with the bankruptcy estate which resolved the title dispute for a fraction of the property’s value. The firm's client is now the 100 percent fee simple owner of the property.

Brewer Corporation, et. al. v. Point Center Financial, Inc. (Cal.Ct.App., January 31, 2014)

On January 31, the Fourth District Court of Appeal followed Familian Corp v. Imperial Bank, holding stop notice claimants have priority over the entire construction loan amount and lenders must make all fees, interest, and points they took from the loan available to stop notice claimants. This case should expedite recoveries and avoid the tired lender defenses that seek to distinguish Familian or assert it was wrongly decided. In the underlying action, four contractor claimants (two of which were represented by the firm) pursued bonded stop notice claims against the construction lender, Point Center Financial, Inc. After a bench trial, Point Center was found liable for the stop notice claims. Liability against Point Center was imposed not only for the construction funds undisbursed at the time of each stop notice, but also for all amounts that had already been spent on interest, loan fees, and real estate and escrow fees. The total judgment, including attorneys’ fees, was approximately $3 million.

Point Center appealed the judgment on a number of grounds, including whether the Familian decision should be applied. While the Court of Appeal remanded the judgment of one claimant based on a procedural defense raised by Point Center, the Court affirmed the judgment for the other claimants, including the firm’s two clients, and upheld the Familian decision. Point Center also appealed on the ground that one of the firm’s clients failed to serve Point Center with a notice of commencement after filing a lawsuit to enforce its stop notice, which Point Center argued was a jurisdictional requirement that should have entitled Point Center to a nonsuit. The firm’s client timely served its stop notice and timely filed its lawsuit, but did not serve a notice of commencement, pursuant to Civil Code section 3172, within five days of commencing its lawsuit. The firm represented the client at trial. At trial, it was undisputed Point Center suffered no prejudice as a result of the lack of notice of commencement. The trial court denied Point Center’s motion for nonsuit, finding no prejudice to Point Center and substantial compliance by the firm’s client. The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court’s ruling and rationale. The Court of Appeal concluded that the requirement to serve a notice of commencement was not mandatory, unless the lender could show prejudice. Since there was no prejudice to the lender, the contractor claimant was not required to serve a notice of commencement. The firm’s clients will now return to the trial court to seek an award of their attorneys’ fees and costs incurred on the appeal, and will continue to enforce their substantial money judgment. A copy of the published decision can be viewed here.

Protest Of Municipal Project

The firm represented the low bidder on a street and bicycle path improvement project for a large California city. The city rejected the low bid on its assertion the bid was non-responsive and the bidder was non-responsible, due in large part to a subcontractor listing error. The firm filed a comprehensive protest of the rejection and represented the client in a bidder responsibility hearing before the City Attorney. After the hearing, the city reversed its initial bid rejection and awarded the project to the firm’s client.

City of San Diego Subcontractor Substitution Hearing

The firm’s client requested substitution of a listed subcontractor due to the subcontractor’s failure to comply with contractual safety requirements. The subcontractor opposed substitution contending it had complied with all safety requirements. Following a contested evidentiary hearing, the City’s appointed hearing officer granted the substitution.

ProUsys, Inc. v. Taisei-T&K Joint Venture San Bernardino Superior Court Case No. CIVRS 910476 (Lead Case)

The firm represented the programming subcontractor in complex, multi-party litigation arising from the expansion of Regional Wastewater Treatment Plant No. 4 for the Inland Empire Utility Agency. In total, the claims in the litigation included 800 days of delay, design changes, extra work, unforeseen site conditions and false claims allegations. The firm’s client sought payment of its contract balance and for change order work, and to avoid liability for delay damages. The case resolved globally at mediation on terms that included payment to the firm’s client.

Caltrans-Response To Proposed Final Estimate

Following completion of construction, Caltrans notified the firm’s client that it had re-calculated the final pay quantities and that the firm’s client had been overpaid. Caltrans demanded reimbursement. In evaluating the claim by Caltrans, the firm’s client determined the pay quantities had been underestimated and it was owed additional compensation. The firm assisted the client with a detailed response to the proposed estimate, disputing Caltrans’ quantities. The response to the PFE led to settlement negotiations which resulted in Caltrans agreeing to pay the firm’s client additional compensation.

Community College Subcontractor Substitution Hearing

The firm’s client requested substitution of a listed subcontractor based on its failure to prosecute its work in a timely manner. The subcontractor’s failure to advance the work was delaying the project’s completion. The subcontractor opposed substitution contending it had not been paid for work performed. Following a contested evidentiary hearing, the college’s appointed hearing officer granted the substitution.

In re: University of California Los Angeles Westwood Replacement Hospital Cases

The firm represented the mechanical subcontractor in claims arising from the University of California’s construction of the Westwood Replacement Hospital. The litigation involved the owner, prime contractor and over 20 various subcontractors and lower tier subcontractors, and included claims by all parties in excess of $100,000,000. After multiple days of mediation, the firm’s client was paid over $25 million-the largest settlement payment to any of the subcontractors.

Litigation Of Subcontractor And General Contractor Mechanics Liens And Stop Notices Against Commercial Project Owner And Lender

The firm represented a general contractor relating to a multi-use private development in Rancho Cucamonga, California, which included a hotel, gas station, retail stores and offices. The project was bank financed with loans over $36 million and construction costs over $24 million. After litigation had been pending for nearly a year, inclusive of over 25 subcontractor lien claimants, complaints and cross-complaints by and against the developer, lenders, general contractor and subcontractors, a failed mediation and three weeks before the phase one priority-of-title trial, the firm was retained to represent the general contractor. The firm tried the phase one case and established all mechanics lien claimants had priority over the construction lender subject only to a $2.5 million land purchase loan. The firm steered the consolidated actions into mediation and resolved the entirety of the lien cases to the benefit of the general contractor. The firm’s role included representation of the contractor in the owner’s related bankruptcy, trustee foreclosure proceedings, pending subcontractor claims and litigation among lenders for the project.

JBH Structural Concrete, Inc. v. Cleanline Concrete, Inc., et al. San Diego Superior Court Case No. 37-2010-00084120-CU-BC-CTL

The firm represented the structural concrete prime trade contractor in litigation arising from the construction of the expansion to the Larry D. Smith correctional facility. The firm initiated litigation against the place-and-finish subcontractor and the concrete supplier as a result of defective wall panels that had been constructed. The firm’s client alleged the wall panels were defective as a result of a combination of improper finishing and an incorrect concrete mix design. The case settled prior to trial for payment to the firm’s client.

Valdivia v. CertainTeed Corp. San Diego Superior Court Case No. GIC885749

The firm defended a client in this multimillion dollar product defect lawsuit involving the installation of replacement windows in stucco construction homes. In connection with this action, the firm filed a cross-action against the manufacturer for indemnity based on the client’s reliance on the manufacturer’s installation instructions for the installation of replacement windows sold by it. In the face of joint motion for summary judgment, the plaintiff and class representative settled in exchange for a nominal amount from the manufacturer. As a result, the firm’s client obtained a complete release and dismissal of a potentially devastating lawsuit against it with no contribution from the client.

Engineered Structures of San Diego, Inc., dba Cairo Construction Company v. CH2M Hill Constructors, Inc. et al. San Diego Superior Court Case No. 37-2008-00057648-CU-8C-NC

The firm represented a subcontractor in litigation arising from the construction of a large wastewater treatment plant in North San Diego County. The firm initiated a lawsuit on behalf of the subcontractor against the design-build-operate contractor who had not paid the subcontractor in full for contract work performed. The subcontractor also sought damages for disruption to its work, resulting in labor inefficiency, and for change order work for which it had not been paid. The design-build-operate contractor disputed the subcontractor's claim and asserted a cross-complaint in the lawsuit against the subcontractor seeking affirmative relief. After a two-week jury trial, the jury returned a verdict in favor of the firm's client in the amount of $443,884.26. The firm's client then asserted post-verdict claims for interest, costs, and attorneys' fees, and was paid $750,000.00.

C & L Coatings, Inc. v. Apex Development, Inc. et al. Court of Appeal of the State of California, 2nd Dist. Case No. B215701

The firm represented a contractor against a defaulting subcontractor for breach of contract and indemnity relating to its work on a public work of improvement. During the project the contractor obtained the consent of the public agency to substitute its listed subcontractor with another subcontractor. At the end of the project the replacement subcontractor’s supplier sued the subcontractor and the contractor’s payment bond. In the action initiated by the firm against the subcontractor for breach of contract and express indemnity, the subcontractor moved for summary judgment arguing that its contract with the contractor was void because the public agency failed to give the original subcontractor notice of the substitution and an opportunity for a substitution hearing. The trial court granted the motion for summary judgment and the firm appealed the decision to the California Court of Appeal on petition for writ of mandate. The Court of Appeal agreed with the firm that the contract was valid because the failure to comply with the notice and hearing requirements of the Public Contract Code was not caused by the contractor who obtained public entity consent. Accordingly, it reversed the summary judgment order and allowed the contractor to proceed to trial on its breach of contract and express indemnity claims against the defaulting subcontractor.

Blackinton Airport Property Owners Association v. Dino DeLuca et al. San Diego Superior Court Case No. GIN056722

The firm represented a homeowners association that sued to foreclose on a lien to collect delinquent assessments in the amount of $154,000.00. Defendant asserted a cross-claim for declaratory relief seeking to invalidate the homeowners association’s allocation of airport landing rights. After the second day of the client’s case-in-chief at trial, and testimony by sitting Justice MacDonald (who drafted the operating documents for the association), defendant agreed to pay the full amount of the lien plus $150,000.00 in attorneys’ fees and costs; and judgment validating the allocation of landing rights.

Settlement Of Federal Termination For Convenience

The firm’s client was terminated for convenience on a Federal project. The firm assisted the client in preparing a termination settlement proposal. Ultimately, the firm negotiated a settlement of the client’s claim against the Air Force on the terms favorable to the client.

Seminars

Lease-Leaseback Construction Under AB 2316 Effective 1-1-17

January 18, 2017: presented by P. Randolph Finch Jr. & Jason R. Thornton.

What You Must Know To Get Paid – Collection Requirements and Practical Advice

September 21, 2016: Presented by Jason R. Thornton and Andrea L. Petray. Find out more here.

Collection Remedies: Lien Law, Payment Bonds, Stop Payment Notices & Beyond

January 29, 2015: Presented by Jason R. Thornton and Andrea L. Petray. What you need to know to ensure you are paid for the work you perform. Contractors are still adjusting to the 2012 revisions to the civil code. Make sure you know how to protect your rights and GET PAID! We will cover public and probate collection remedies and strategies.

The Future of K-12 Construction: Alternatives to Design-Bid-Build

December 8, 2006: Presented by P. Randolph Finch Jr. and Jason R. Thornton at the Construction Super Conference.

Building a Foundation for Managing Complex Construction Law Issues in California

March 13, 2006: Presented by P. Randolph Finch Jr. and Jason R. Thornton for National Business Institute.

Mechanic’s Lien Law & Strategies in California

May 1, 2003: Presented by P. Randolph Finch Jr. and Jason R. Thornton for National Business Institute.

Wage & Hour Law for the Construction Industry

January 20, 2000: Presented by Jason R. Thornton for Lorman Education Services.

Construction Lien Law in California

January 2, 2000: Presented by Jason R. Thornton for Lorman Education Services.