Susan Kay Leader is a trial lawyer with a diverse civil litigation practice in federal and state courts. She handles matters involving complex business, high-profile, and, oftentimes, bet-the-company commercial litigation and arbitration. Her clients include global players in sectors including telecommunications, media and energy.
Ms. Leader has experience with disputes involving:
- breach of contract, fraud, unfair competition and other business torts
- allegations of wage and hour violations
- franchise law
- product liability
- breach of fiduciary duty
- intellectual property (IP) claims in copyrights, trademarks and trade secrets
- IP claims under the California Uniform Trade Secrets Act
- trusts and estates
- False Claims Act (FCA) cases brought by qui tam relators or the Department of Justice.
Practice & Background
Ms. Leader litigates and tries complex commercial matters in federal and state courts, and arbitration, from pre-filing through trial and post-trial law and motion. She advises companies in the telecommunications, hospitality, energy, retail, fitness, aerospace and entertainment industries. She also represents large trusts and estates.
Ms. Leader serves as an instructor for the National Institute for Trial Advocacy. In addition to teaching trial advocacy skills in Los Angeles, she traveled to Lagos, Nigeria with the National Institute for Trial Advocacy in 2016 to teach a one-week pilot program for the public defender’s office.
Ms. Leader chairs the hiring committee for the Los Angeles office.
Ms. Leader’s recent engagements include:
- representing a Chinese film financing, distribution and production company in various disputes related to film production, including an engagement relating to a joint production agreement for a Chinese film, resulting in a favorable result and an award of significant damages to the client
- representing a leading telecommunications company in various employment-related matters, including an employment class action suit alleging independent contractor misclassification
- serving as litigation panel counsel for a large oil refinery company in a variety of disputes, including those related to the Petroleum Franchise Act and breach-of-contract litigation
- representing a lifestyle and entertainment brand in a litigation against a cryptocurrency technology company alleging fraud, breach of contract and unauthorized use of intellectual property
- representing a large investment fund in connection with a variety of entertainment-related disputes
- representing a leading satellite service provider in defending 12 related single-plaintiff actions by technicians alleging joint employment and various wage and hour violations under the FLSA and California law
- representing a luxury hotel owner and ground lessor in a dispute against a well-known luxury hotel management company for contract claims involving a radius restriction in the hotel management agreement
- representing a multinational retail corporation as national coordinating counsel on nationwide products liability actions
- representing a large fitness center chain in arbitration concerning alleged participation rights in the $1.85 billion stock sale of the company; defeated claims of liability and awarded more than $1 million in attorney’s fees and costs
- counseling a leading telecommunications service provider in premerger integration planning and antitrust compliance
- obtaining summary judgment against the government on a $300 million FCA case involving the largest beef recall in history
- obtaining summary adjudication and attorney’s fees on behalf of the Estate of Theodore Forstmann, IMG and 24 Hour Fitness in an arbitration alleging unlawful gambling practices by Mr. Forstmann and breach of oral contract
- representing the trustees of a half-billion-dollar trust as defendants in a four-week jury trial focused on whether the trust had breached its promissory note and security agreement with plaintiff (a private third-party company); plaintiff sought $400 million in damages, but a complete defense verdict was rendered
- serving as lead trial counsel on behalf of the defendant in a multimillion-dollar, bet-the-company case concerning misappropriation of trade secrets, trademark infringement and unfair competition, in which she obtained a complete defense verdict after a two-week trial
- representing a Korea-based client in a federal dispute against a large retail manufacturer regarding a breach-of-franchise agreement, in which she successfully defeated numerous motions to dismiss and obtained a multimillion-dollar settlement for the client
- representing a large out-of-state packaging company in a one-week breach-of-contract arbitration initiated by a local business represented by a large Los Angeles-based international law firm, in which she recovered attorney’s fees and costs
- serving as co-trial counsel on behalf of the defendant in a seven-week trial concerning alleged Cartwright Act violations and intentional interference with a prospective business advantage.
- Treasurer, Association of Business Trial Lawyers
- Member, Complex Court Committee, Los Angeles County Bar
- Member, Board of Directors, Western Center on Law & Poverty
- Instructor, Trial Advocacy Skills, National Institute for Trial Advocacy (2016-present).
Awards & Accolades
- Inclusion in Daily Journal “Top Verdicts” of 2012 for “Top Defense Verdicts” in the successful and precedent-setting representation of the trustees in the $380 million suit filed by Zacadia Financial Ltd. in the case of the estate of the Herbalife founder.
- Presenter, “Arbitration 101,” Client Presentation, December 2017 and January 2018
- Panelist, “Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace,” Client Presentation, August 2017
- Co-Presenter, “Trends in Consumer Class Actions: How to Avoid Becoming a Target,” Akin Gump In-House CLE Series, October 2016
- Presenter, “Land Mines for In-House Counsel,” Akin Gump In-House CLE Series, May 2016.