Areas of Practice
Susan is an employment and business litigation jury trial lawyer. She regularly tries high stake claims to judgment in federal and state courts in a variety of matters including employee and officer/director breaches of fiduciary duty, theft of employer trade secrets, breaches of contract, breach of noncompetition agreements, as well as discrimination, harassment, retaliation and whistleblower claims.
Susan has also brought and defended against many emergency temporary restraining order motions and hearings, followed by immediate preliminary injunction trials for the purpose of recovering intellectual property or restraining conduct highly damaging to entity assets. She has held the highest available AV Preeminent® attorney rating by Martindale-Hubbell for more than two decades, and since 2006 has been continuously named an “Oregon Super Lawyer” in both Business and Employment litigation by Super Lawyers® magazine. Susan has received numerous accolades from her clients for her exceptional work, industry knowledge and results in court. Click the accolades link to read unsolicited client testimonials.
Susan is also a member of the International Association of Defense Counsel. On a world-wide basis, there are 2,500 members by invitation only following a rigorous peer review process by the IADC’s Membership Committee, followed by a second level peer review conducted by the IADC’s Board.
- Cosgrave Vergeer Kester LLP, Partner (2006-2012)
Admitted to Practice
- U.S. District Court, District of Oregon
- Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals
- U.S. Supreme Court
Academics and Accreditations
- Legal Lean Sigma® and Project Management — Yellow Belt Certification
- Georgetown University Law Center (J.D., 1982)
- Georgetown Journal of Law and Policy in International Business, Editor (1981-1982)
- University of California at Berkeley (B.A., with highest honors, 1976; M.A., with honors, 1977)
- Phi Beta Kappa
Practice Group and Specialty Team Memberships
- Business Crisis Management and Emergency Remedies
- Fiduciary Litigation
- Food, Beverage and Hospitality
- Labor and Employment
Representative Matters and Clients
- Defending Siemens Industry Inc. in multi-defendant class action alleging breaches of fiduciary duty or aid and abetting such breaches arising out of an agreement entered with Mentor Graphics Corporation to sell all outstanding shares to a Siemens subsidiary. The proposed transaction is valued at approximately $4.5 billion.
- Prosecuting claims for breach of restrictive covenants, including a covenant not to compete, on behalf of a building envelope diagnostics and testing entity doing business throughout the Northwest and California.
- Defended major national manufacturer and supplier of perishable consumer goods against multiple claims brought by major national purchaser and distributor asserting violations of CPG supply chain industry standards of notice for supply termination, including claims for interference with economic relations, promissory estoppel and breach of contract.
- Served as arbitrator in a highly-publicized whistleblower and wrongful termination suit filed by a former technical services manager for the Water Environmental Services (“WES”) Department of Clackamas County. The manager claimed he was terminated in retaliation for complaining that his supervisor was violating county and state contracting rules, and that the supervisor, when presenting to the Clackamas County Board of Commissioners, would be misrepresenting the need to pay an additional $300,000 to an outside vendor on a project where more than $1.5 million had already been spent by WES. The matter was settled in favor of the former employee, the supervisor was put on leave while his contracting practices were audited and Clackamas County was ordered to pay $322,236 in damages.
- Tried preliminary injunction trial defending former employee in exterior insulation finish industry who allegedly breached a non-competition and non-disclosure agreement. Following submissions of the evidence and testimony, the court denied the motion for injunctive relief, and the party seeking relief dismissed all claims.
- On behalf of a Silicon Valley high-technology entity in the industrial digital imaging industry, defended a suit brought by a Fortune 500 company against its former employee for alleged breaches of a non-compete, confidentiality and non-disclosure agreement. Denied all claims, moved for summary judgment on grounds of invalidity of agreement, and filed counterclaims for wage and hour violations. The matter was settled in favor of the former employee, including reimbursement of attorney fees incurred in bringing countersuit.
- Represented Fortune 500 company in heavy duty truck manufacturing industry in action for breach of fiduciary duty and conversion against former high level executive following resignation and joining chief competitor. Defended multiple counterclaims including race discrimination, national origin discrimination, and alleged violations of ERISA. After substantial local and multi-district third party discovery and trial preparation, all claims were settled favorably.
- Represented an investment adviser in defense of federal unsuitability claims arising out of investing all of a college teacher’s retirement funds in secondary stocks on margin. Expert testimony from the parties was received concerning standards for determining suitability; the adviser’s chosen portfolio at the time of losses; and inherent market volatility. The jury returned a unanimous defense verdict on all claims for relief.
- Represented members of the Northwest Food Processors Association in a federal court action seeking a preliminary injunction barring the EPA’s enforcement of a national emergency order suspending the use of dinoseb, a broad leaf weed control agent. The federal court heard all the evidence, including the testimony of agricultural producers and economic experts, and granted the preliminary injunction sought. The U.S. Department of Justice then sought and obtained an emergency appeal to the Ninth Circuit which, following oral argument, affirmed the U.S. District Court’s entry of the preliminary injunction.
- Represented a multinational Japanese corporation and its two Oregon subsidiaries operating in the light utility vehicle manufacturing and distribution sector. Brought suit for theft of trade secrets, breach of fiduciary duties of loyalty and honesty, and conversion against a shareholder and former officer and director. The defendant counterclaimed for wrongful discharge and an accounting of the value of shares held. The counterclaims were dismissed, and a unanimous jury verdict was awarded in favor of the Japanese national on all claims brought.
- Represented one of the top five suppliers of shipping containers in North America in an action for breach of employment agreements, misappropriation of trade secrets, breach of fiduciary duty, and fraud against former salespersons. Sought and obtained a temporary restraining order addressing post-employment conduct of the former sales persons. Following entry of the TRO, the matter was then settled favorably to the client.
- Represented major real estate developer with interests in Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada and Oregon. Presented and defended claims in seven separate civil actions generally arising out of debt repayment obligations addressed in numerous LLC operating agreements, including the defense of claims of securities law violations. All matters were resolved favorably to the client.
- Represented members of the Oregon State Bar Board of Governors, President of the Oregon State Bar, the Executive Director of the Bar, and Disciplinary Counsel for the Bar in defense of federal claims brought by a former member of the Board of Governors for violations of 42 USC § 1983, including claims for First Amendment retaliation and violations of Fourteenth Amendment rights to due process of law and equal protection. The federal court granted summary judgment as to all claims, the Ninth Circuit affirmed, and the U.S. Supreme Court denied petitioner’s writ of certiorari.
- Defended Fortune 500 company against claims for sexual harassment, hostile work environment, and retaliation brought by former employee terminated after lodging internal complaint of harassment and filing administrative law charges during employment. Substantial claims were dismissed on summary judgment, and the remaining claims were settled favorably to client.
- Defended Fortune 500 company against claims for race discrimination and retaliation, and violations of ERISA, brought by a minority employee discharged by new manager after more than 25 years of service. Following limited discovery, claims were settled favorably to client.
- Served as second chair in defense of claims that the formation and operation of the Oregon State Bar Professional Liability Fund violated federal antitrust law, including 15 USC §1, Sherman Act, and established record demonstrating applicability of the Noerr-Pennington defense. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the U.S. District Court’s decision that the operation of the Professional Liability Fund falls within the Noerr-Pennington exception to anticompetitive conduct.
- Represented Susan Kuhnhausen against Michael Kuhnhausen, Sr., her estranged ex-husband, who pled guilty to solicitation to murder her and was sentenced to an eight-year prison term. In defense of her own life during the attack by Edward Haffey, hired by the ex-husband, Mr. Haffey died. The jury awarded Ms. Kuhnhausen $1 million in emotional distress damages.
- Represented claimant in wrongful discharge matter and tried case to a jury verdict recovering 90 percent of prayer and full award of attorney fees.
- Represented claimant in retaliation and discrimination matter after and tried case to the jury and bench recovering economic damages and full award of attorney fees.
- Interview regarding former Portland Police Chief, Derrick Foxworth’s potential race discrimination lawsuit, KGW news channel 8
- Client testimonial by former General Counsel for Daimler Trucks North America, LLC, Paul Hurd
- “Post-Election Workplace Challenges for the Employer and Employee,” Oregon Business magazine (March 2017)
- “Title VII and Islamophobia: Maintaining Compliance,” Oregon Business magazine (February 2016)
- “Colleges Climbing the Learning Curve: Sexual Violence,” Oregon Business magazine (August/September 2015)
- “Banking on Your Executive’s Compliance With the Trade Secrets Law,” Banking Matters magazine (Fall 2014)
- “Check Your C-Suite Employee at the Door — Managing Competitor Misconduct,” Oregon Business magazine (October 2014)
- “The California Myth About Non-Compete Agreements,” Oregon Business magazine (September 2014)
- “Non-Competes: The California Myth,” Oregon State Bar Litigation Journal (Summer 2014)
- “A Case in Point: When and How to Use Non-Compete Agreements for Bank Executives and Key Managers,” Oregon Bankers Association’s Banking Matters magazine (Spring 2014)
- “Clackamas County Tagged Over Firing,” The Oregonian, Quoted (March 16, 2014)
- “Employees Claimed County Paid Contractor Twice for the Same Work,” The Oregonian, Quoted (March 13, 2014)
- “Recent Court Decisions Shine a Renewed Light on the Desirability of Employee Arbitration Agreements,” Oregon Business magazine, Co-author (October 2013)
- “The Next Four Years: The LGBT Community and the New Normal,” Oregon Business magazine (March 2013)
- “EEOC Vote Approving Class-Based Initiatives: What Employers Need to Know,” Oregon Bankers Association’s Banking Matters magazine (Winter 2013)
- “EEOC Anticipates Class-Wide Actions Over Discrimination,” Portland Business Journal (November 2, 2012)
- “Oregon’s Erosion of the Non-compete Agreement,” IADC Committee Newsletter (June 2010)
- “Non-compete Agreement Caveat,” Ask the Expert column, Portland Business Journal (June 2009)
- “Covenants Not to Compete,” Ask the Expert column, Portland Business Journal (June 2009)
- “Oregon Evidence Code: Objections,” Oregon State Bar publication, Co-editor (2009)
- “Trade Secret Theft,” Ask the Expert column, Portland Business Journal (August 2009)
- “When the Employee Owes Fiduciary Duties of Loyalty to the Employer,” Oregon Business magazine (September 2008)
- “Trial Practice,” Federal Civil Litigation in Oregon, Oregon State Bar Continuing Legal Education (1997)
- Susan has authored for the Portland Business Journal’s labor and employment Q&A column titled “Ask the Legal Professionals”
- “Restrictive Covenants and Non-Compete Agreements: 2017 Updates,” The Knowledge Group CLE webcast (April 24, 2017)
- “Introduction to Employment Law: Hiring, Firing, and Administrative Oversight,” Multnomah Bar Association Employment Law Fundamentals CLE seminar (September 18, 2016)
- “Best Practices Handling the Annoyed Employee and Handling the Whistleblower,” Lane Powell’s 33rd Annual Labor and Employment Seminar, Portland (April 7, 2016)
- “Protecting Trade Secrets or How Best to Manage the C-Suite Employee,” Lane Powell’s 32nd Annual Labor and Employment Seminar, Portland (April 9, 2015)
- “Introduction to Employment Law: Hiring, Firing and Administrative Oversight,” Multnomah Bar Association Employment Law Fundamentals CLE seminar (September 18, 2014)
- “Keeping Up with Marriage: Serving Your Same-Sex Couples Right,” Oregon Law Institute of Lewis & Clark Law School CLE seminar (June 13, 2014)
- International Association of Defense Counsel’s Corporate Counsel College, Presenter (April 10-11, 2014)
- “Our Former Executive is Doing What?! When to Fight Over Trade Secrets and Unfair Competition,” Lane Powell’s 31st Annual Labor and Employment Seminar (April 3, 2014)
- “Objections at Trial,” Multnomah Bar Association Young Lawyers Section Professional Development and Education Committee CLE (October 31, 2013)
- “What You Need to Know About the EEOC’s Vote Approving Class-Based Initiatives,” Lane Powell’s 30th Annual Labor and Employment Seminar, Portland (April 2, 2013)
- “Professional Liability Claims Against Attorneys — Responding to Claims and Minimizing Malpractice Reports,” CLE webinar (February 12, 2013)
- “Witness Examination Strategies in Employment Litigation: Best Practices for Direct and Cross-Examination of Lay, Expert and Percipient Witnesses,” CLE webinar (January 23, 2013)
- “Third-Party and Informal Discovery — Strategy and Ethical Limits,” Oregon Law Institute of Lewis and Clark’s workshop titled Pretrial Litigation Skills 101 (May 4, 2012)
- “Employers at Home and Abroad,” Employment Law and Corporate Counsel, International Association of Defense Counsel (February 2012)
- “Complex Litigation, Tips and Procedures for Trying Complex Cases,” Multnomah Bar Association (February 2012)
- “Practical Skills: Direct and Cross Examination,” Professional Liability Fund Panel Conference (August 2011)
- “Review of Recent Supreme Court Employment Law Decisions,” International Association of Defense Counsel Midyear Meeting (February 2011)
- “2010 An Employment Odyssey: Are You Ready for a New Era?” ALFA International, Labor & Employment Conference, Moderator (2010)
- “Motions Practice in Tort Cases,” Multnomah Bar Association Young Lawyers Section Tort Law Seminar (April 2010)
- “Hot Topics: The Latest Interpretations of Current Employment Law,” Sterling Education Seminar (February 2009)
- “Investigating and Resolving Alleged Employee Misconduct,” Seventh Annual Commerce Concepts Series (October, 2009)
- “Employee Lawsuits: How to Avoid Them, What to do When They Happen,” Employment in 2008: Are you Ready? Seminar (January 2008)
- “Risk Management and Litigation Strategies,” Employment Practices Liability Seminar (June 2008)
- “Covenants Not to Compete in the Global Marketplace,” ALFA International (2007)
- “Direct Examination,” Oregon State Bar Continuing Legal Education Committee’s Ninth Annual Oregon Trial Advocacy College (2007)
- “Cross Examination,” Oregon State Bar Continuing Legal Education Committee’s Eighth Annual Oregon Trial Advocacy College (2006)
- “Cross Examination Techniques,” Oregon Trial Lawyers Association’s February Meeting (2006)
- “2005 Annual Employment Law Update: Retaliation Claims,” Oregon Law Institute, Panelist (2005)
- “Sexual Discrimination Claims in Oregon,” Oregon State Bar Labor and Employment Law Section Annual Conference (2005)
- “Trial Tips,” Multnomah Bar Association Young Lawyers Section (2005)
- “Depositions,” Multnomah Bar Association Young Lawyers Section (2004)
- “Direct Examination,” Oregon State Bar Continuing Legal Education Committee’s Fifth Annual Oregon Trial Advocacy College (2003)
- “Voir Dire,” Oregon State Bar Continuing Legal Education Committee’s Annual Oregon Trial Advocacy College (2002, 2004 and 2005)
- “Employment Law Advice and Litigation Update: Advising Clients on Employment Law Issues in a Transitioning Economy,” Oregon Law Institute, Panelist (2002)
- “Employment Law Advice and Litigation Update: This Time it’s Personnel,” Oregon Law Institute Seminar, Panelist (2001)
- “Employment Law Issues for Workers’ Compensation Lawyers,” Oregon State Bar Workers’ Compensation Section Meeting (2001)
- “Pretrial Preparation,” Oregon State Bar New Lawyers Division on Trial Strategies, Practices and Techniques, Co-presenter with the former Chief Justice of the Oregon Supreme Court, Edwin Peterson (2001)
- View additional speaking engagements.
Awards and Honors
- Named as “Oregon Super Lawyer,” Super Lawyers® magazine, Business Litigation (2006-2016)
- AV Preeminent® in Martindale-Hubbell® Peer Review Ratings™
Professional and Community Activities
- International Association of Defense Counsel
- Member (after peer review and nomination), Programs and Projects, Employment Law Committee
- Member, Oregon State Bar
- Member, Multnomah Bar Association
- Associated Oregon Industries, Employment Policy Committee (2013-present)
- Past President, Owen M. Panner American Inn of Court
- Past Member, Oregon State Bar Continuing Legal Education Committee
- Past Member of Editorial Board, Oregon State Bar Litigation Journal
- Past Member, Oregon State Bar Federal Practice and Procedure Committee
- Past Editor, Federal Civil Litigation in Oregon, Oregon State Bar Continuing Legal Education
- Past Chair, Multnomah County Continuing Legal Education Committee
- Past Member, Local Professional Responsibility Review Committee for Multnomah County
- Past Member, Oregon State Bar Ad Hoc Committee on Specialization