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The founding of CSFW (now Scruggs, Spini & Fulton)

Santa Cruz Sentinel June 6th, 2006

Lawyers Pool Their Talents


Sentinel Staff Writer

Lawyers are known for socializing on the golf course, but here in Santa Cruz, surfer chat is what led to this legal deal. Harold Cartwright, G. Dana Scruggs, David Fulton and Laura Walther, all of whom specialize in personal injury cases, formed the partnership, SS&F, as of June 1.

Fulton, 44, of Aptos, a graduate of Southwestern Law School in Lousiana, and Scruggs, 51, of Pleasure Point, a graduate of Santa Clara University Law School, crossed paths not only at the courthouse but at the same surf spots. Their conversations led to the idea of pooling their legal expertise.

“I said ‘Someday we should get together,’ ” Fulton said.

They did. The partnership, based at 340 Soquel Ave., will specialize in accidents involving cars, trucks and construction sites, elder abuse, child sexual abuse, insurance disputes, premises and product liability and wrongful death. Scruggs, a sole practitioner, moved in with Fulton and Cartwright.

Cartwright, 65, of Santa Cruz, is shifting his practice after 30 years to focus on mediation. In 10 years of mediating disputes, he has resolved more than 95 percent of them.

“He’s sought after by a lot of people in town,” Fulton said.

Walther, 42, of La Selva Beach, a graduate of Monterey College of Law, is the fourth member of the partnership. She was available because the lawyer she had worked with, Paul Burdick, was appointed a judge, and his partner, Mike Dunlap, retired.

In the past year, the four lawyers in the partnership obtained more than $10 million in personal injury awards and settlements for their clients.

Fulton said he chose personal injury as a specialty because “it gives you a sense of helping people and making a difference in people’s lives.”

For example, he represented a 17-year-old who was thrown out of a car and ended up a quadriplegic, securing $5 million to pay for round-the-clock care. The case involved a restaurant that served alcohol to minors in Modesto.

Scruggs obtained a $2 million out-of-court settlement for a client in a sexual molestation case in Santa Cruz.

Walther represented two of the 20 plaintiffs in the lawsuits filed after a big-rig truck lost its brakes three years ago on Highway 17, creating a chain collision and killing an eight-month-old baby girl. The attorneys met in a 16-hour mediation with Judge John Marlo.

“We managed to work out a settlement for all the plaintiffs,” said Walther, who remembered the discussion very well because it took place on her birthday.

She also runs a program that brings fifth-graders to the county courthouse in the spring to participate in a mock trial.

“It’s an opportunity to show children that the legal system is here to keep us safe and punish people who make wrong choices,” she said.


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