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MELISSA BLAIR ALIOTTI, ESQ.

  • Based in Northern California, available in All of California
  • Available for Mediation, Arbitration, and Private Judging assignments

Introduction

Melissa draws upon more than 30 years of legal experience to resolve a variety of civil litigation matters including construction defect, all types of personal injury, landlord tenant and habitability matters. A part-time private mediator, arbitrator, and special master since 2010, she made the decision in 2016 to follow her passion and transitioned to full-time neutral work. She volunteered as an arbitrator, mediator and settlement judge for local courts before embarking on her private mediation practice and has served as a judge pro tem and settlement officer for the Sacramento County Superior Court for over two decades.

As an Arbitrator and a Referee, she has earned a reputation for being neutral, flexible, and thoroughly prepared and prides herself in managing an efficient hearing and allowing everyone to feel heard and respected.

As a Mediator, Melissa’s friendly demeanor, combined with her direct and persistent approach, provides a sound foundation for the candid dialogue required to achieve resolution. She has the insight and experience to efficiently identify issues and discern on a case-by-case basis how to get parties engaged to bring about resolution. Her goal is “to bring to the negotiation table a distinct set of problem-solving skills that will assist the parties in resolving their disputes on their terms so that they can get back to what they care about most in their lives – their families, their businesses, their passions.”

Specialties

Hobbies & Interests

In her spare time, she enjoys music, gardening, reading, and skiing, and keeping current on political and cultural issues.

Testimonials

"Aliotti is firm with all sides which brings the parties together. Excellent work!"
- Attorney on a Personal Injury Auto Dispute

"Melissa worked well working with me to explain the risks and costs of litigation. We were well satisfied with the mediation. "
- Attorney on a Premises Liability Case

"Melissa Aliotti is a seasoned litigator who has what it takes to resolve litigation disputes, both big and small. She brings to the table a sharp legal mind, a tremendous work ethic, and the ability to bring litigants together to settle their disputes. I recommend Melissa for your mediation needs without reservation."
- Civil Litigation Attorney

"I want to thank [her] for [her] skillful leadership of my mediation. From the beginning [she] set the tone with diplomacy and professionalism while creating a warm, welcoming atmosphere."
- Client on a Real Property Transaction Dispute

"She was very good at making my client feel heard."
- Attorney on a Product Liability Matter

Links and Articles

Experience Summary

Legal Career

  • Neutral, Judicate West (Present)
  • Mediator, Arbitrator & Private Judge, Aliotti Dispute Resolution (2010-Present)
  • DRC Officer, Dispute Resolution Conference, El Dorado Superior Court (2000-Present)
  • Appointed Mediator and Arbitrator, Sacramento County Superior Court (1998-Present)
  • MSC Judge Pro Tem, Department 59, Superior Court of Sacramento (1998-Present)
  • Partner, Read & Aliotti PC handling civil litigation: personal injury, landlord/tenant, habitability, construction, construction defect, sexual abuse, assault/battery, D&O, HOA (1997-2016)
  • Associate, Tennant Read & Dutra; Read & Dutra; Read, Dutra & Oates; Law Offices of Michael B. Read, handling civil litigation: personal injury, construction defect, D&O (1990-1997)
  • Associate, Mullen & Filippi, handling workers’ compensation defense (1988-1990)

Education & Professional Affiliations

  • J.D., Monterey College of Law (1987)
  • B. A., San Diego State University, Political Science and Sociology (1983)
  • Dispute Resolution Training (100+ hours), Pepperdine University School of Law/Straus Institute for Dispute Resolution, American Bar Association, and Sacramento County Bar Association (2010-Current)
  • American Bar Association (1987-Current)
  • Association of Defense Counsel of NorCal and Nevada (1980-Current), Board of Directors (2006-2011)
  • Sacramento County Bar Association (ADR, Construction, Litigation) (1990-Current)
  • National Association of Women in Construction (2011-2014)

Achievements & Awards

  • Alternative Dispute Resolution, Northern California Super Lawyers (2020)
  • Named, “Top Lawyer” by Sacramento Magazine (2016-Present)
  • AV-Rated Preeminent (Martindale-Hubbell)
  • Recipient, President’s Award, Association of Defense Counsel of Northern California and Nevada (2011)

Legal Experience

  • All types of Construction Disputes
  • Insurance Coverage
  • Personal Injury
  • Product Liability
  • Real Estate

Representative Case Information

Recent Representative Cases

Cannabis

Cannabis Industry

  • In a dispute among cannabis industry business associates over real property, plants, and product, in three operations, this pre-litigation case involved allegations of fraud and conversion, among other standard business claims. After a full day, the case resolved for the payment of a certain sum over time, with property serving as collateral, and full dissolution, and necessary assignments and assumptions. All parties provided mutual releases with CC 1542 waivers.

Construction

Constr. Defect/Real Property

  • Plaintiff’s single family home vacation rental property was allegedly damaged when a construction company crushed a sewage line, resulting in backflow into the residence and damage to finishes and systems, necessitating mitigation, demolition, remediation, and ultimately reconstruction. Case settled in the middle 6-figures, including lost rent and rental opportunities, for which coverage was disputed.

Construction Breach Of Contract

  • Brought in as third Special Master to settle a residential construction defect litigation action involving 30+ plaintiffs and 25+ contractor entities. The causes of action at issue were products liability, breach of contract, professional negligence and insurance coverage.
  • Public works construction project involving changed scopes, delays, stop notices, liquidated damages, attorneys fees, and 998 offers. Litigation between general and subs settled for confidential amount during half-day mediation session.
  • After a general contractor submitted a commercial project bid in reliance on the lowest trade bid, the trade contractor determined the bid it had submitted was too low, and backed out of the project. After the general incurred additional expense to complete the project with a different trade contractor, it pursued the original trade contractor for the difference between its bid and the price paid for the work performed by the substitute trade contractor. The trade contractor argued the original bid was so low that it was unreasonable to rely upon it, and that the contracting terms as presented were different than those upon which the bid was made, relying on the Flintco decision. The parties were able to reach a compromise settlement, saving tens of thousands in anticipated legal fees.
  • In an unfinished large multifamily residential remodel, contractor and owner had competing claims for moneys owed due to non-payment, delay of project, prompt payment violations, and attorneys fees. The case resolved in a full day of mediation.
  • In action to foreclose on mechanic's lien, the building owner cross-complained for defects in construction leading to water intrusion. In a global settlement following a partial-day mediation, the contractor's insurer paid for damages to the building, and the building owner paid the contractor for release of the mechanic's lien.

Construction Defects

  • Served as Discovery Referee in a commercial construction defect case involving a Native American tribe and the contractors involved in the construction of their casino establishment. Disputes involved the intersection and application of tribal, state, and federal laws.
  • Public entity sued the suppliers and installers of an underground utilities system, due to alleged failure. Various elements of the infrastructure were adversely affected. The case ultimately settled in the 7-figure range, requiring the resolution of claims involving SIRs, surety bonds, coverage, and excess insurance.
  • Multiple contractors were alleged to have caused the complete destruction of plaintiffs' home and personal property due to water intrusion and mold, as well as mold bodily injury and prolonged displacement. Cross-complaints for equitable indemnity and contractual indemnity, issues of coverage and AI, and unpaid contractor claims complicated the negotiation. After a full day of mediation, the case was resolved in its entirety on confidential terms.

Govt./Public Agency

Regulatory

  • Elderly mountain resident sustained property damage and prolonged displacement, following a sewer mainline backup. Public entity paid for repairs and remediation in pre-litigation process pre-Oroville decision. In ensuing litigation, the homeowner alleged additional expenses associated with cleaning, remediation, repair, and replacement, as well as personal injury from bacterial contamination and resulting anxiety with physical manifestation. The public entity raised recoupment via cross-claim post-Oroville. Through a full day mediation, the parties resolved their dispute for an additional approximate 10% of total loss previously paid in exchange for mutual comprehensive releases, before incurring the significant expense associated with percipient and expert discovery and an expedited trial.

Insurance

Subrogation

  • General contractor's CGL carrier which paid for water damage to newly-constructed custom home sought reimbursement in subrogation from contractor alleged to have improperly installed deck waterproofing. Decking contractor's CGL carriers paid approximately one-third full value in full settlement, in exchange for release with 1542 waiver.
  • In this clear liability, industrial, motor vehicle accident case, the injured worker plaintiff claimed extensive injuries resulting in years of lost wages and medical care, all of which were paid, albeit at a reduced rate, through the workers' compensation proceeding. Significant issues of medical causation (due to transfer of force analysis) and apportionment to (disputed) pre-existing conditions potentially limited recovery to both the injured worker and the intervenor. Case resolved as to all parties, including a third-party Compromise and Release.
  • In extreme weather, losses sustained by an agricultural operation were covered by the operation's insurer. In subrogation, the insurer sought recovery from the manufacturer of failed equipment which resulted in the loss.

Real Estate

Buy/Sell

  • In a residential non-disclosure case, Buyer alleged that moisture under the house resulting in structural damage was known to Seller, but not disclosed. Seller contended Buyer was aware of moisture and other issues per the inspector's report, but elected not to pursue the issues raised, and that in any event Seller did not know of any structural damage. The case resolved in a half-day mediation.

Home Owners Association

  • Homeowner sought compensation for flooding after community-owned drainage system failed to divert rainwater adequately.

Landlord/Tenant

  • Landlord tenant dispute over failed remediation and reconstruction of unit resulting in confidential six-figure resolution involving contractors, property owners, and tenant.

Property Damage

  • Homeowner sued developer for property damage and bodily injury arising from mold contamination attributed to water intrusion from multiple sources. Resolved on confidential terms among all parties including trade contractors and materials suppliers.

Real Property

  • As trial attorney, tried to verdict a property line dispute in rural area involving residential building sited partially on neighbor’s agricultural parcel, with claims of adverse possession, quiet title, and trespass, and cross-claims involving drainage water and nuisance.
  • In this real estate nondisclosure matter, the buyers discovered conditions apparently caused by longstanding leaks, which they claimed the sellers hid by painting over cracks and applying sealant to window frames. The buyers' minor child with physical vulnerabilities may have been affected by exposure to mold growth arising from the water intrusion. The sellers provided some information in their disclosures, but omitted arguably significant facts which might have led to the buyers' further investigation. Nevertheless, prior to close both buyers and sellers had obtained inspection reports which did not reveal problems related to the areas in dispute. The parties settled in a full-day mediation, cutting off a potentially protracted adversarial process which would have drawn in agents and brokers, and involved multiple witnesses. The settlement included the minor's claims and a 1542 waiver.
  • In a real estate non-disclosure case, a leak occurred after buyers moved in, whereupon sellers informed buyers they recalled a leak had occurred in the same location some 15 years prior. There had been no disclosure of that earlier leak on the SPQ or TDS. Buyer sought full compensation from sellers for the cost of repair. The parties reached a full settlement of all claims in pre-litigation mediation.

Warranty of Habitability

  • As trial attorney, tried to verdict a landlord tenant case involving bodily injury and personal property damage arising from improper wastewater line installation, resulting in filth and mold conditions. Case tried to defense verdict and pursued by opposition on appeal. CCP 998 offer employed successfully to offset attorneys’ fees award on habitability only.
  • As litigator, handled landlord-tenant dispute over arsenic levels in well water. Case resolved on confidential basis to satisfaction of the parties.
  • In this habitability case, a mother and infant son complained of rodent and pest infestation so severe that the infant sustained a rat bite to his face as well as multiple respiratory and gastrointestinal infections. Landlord contended there had been no notice of any problem pre-dating the bite. The case settled globally subject to minor's compromise.
  • Plaintiff, a collegiate athlete, attributed a serious bout of pneumonia to moisture intrusion and mold. The new owners of the apartment building did not have actual notice of the conditions until after the plaintiff fell ill, at which time they immediately remediated the problem. A defense expert was prepared to testify there was no medical causation.

Tort

General Negligence

  • An entire residential neighborhood of senior citizens sued a national retailer who was developing a lot for a new store. Plaintiffs alleged that the noise and vibrations from the construction activities caused damage to their homes. The defendant disputed causation. Case resolved with confidential terms to everyone’s satisfaction.

Personal Injury

  • Part-time, temporary construction laborer fell at job site and was taken by ambulance to the hospital. He was deemed to be permanently disabled from his injuries. Liability and causation were disputed. Resolution of this case was dependent upon identification of and participation by the appropriate employer and insurer(s) for workers compensation as well as general liability. The dispute was further complicated by multiple cross-complaints arising from indemnity contracts. After two mediation sessions, the case settled, followed by WCAB approval.
  • Plaintiff alleged injury to knees and back resulting from a slip and fall on a rainy day just inside the entry doors of a nationwide retail establishment. The retailer had placed wet floor signs at the location of the fall, but plaintiff 's experts would testify about how much more could have been done, both easily and inexpensively, to protect customers from the slippery tile conditions sure to exist in inclement weather. Following plaintiff's surgery and a failed mediation with another provider, case resulted in a confidential settlement to both parties' satisfaction.
  • In pre-litigation case involving disabled car abandoned on freeway, claimant's significant injuries from freeway-speed collision merited exploring settlement. Despite claimant's toxicology screen showing a high BAL, alcohol was not indicated as a factor in the Traffic Collision Report. Case resolved in full-day mediation.

PI Assault and Battery

  • As trial attorney, tried to verdict a battery case with admitted minor injuries, but disputed head injury versus early-onset Alzheimers’ disease. CCP 998 offer employed successfully.

PI Auto

  • Plaintiff bus driver injury case, complicated by multiple prior mental and physical conditions, and workers compensation. Mediation resulted in a settlement of all issues.
  • Public servant who sustained occupational injury in a motor vehicle accident brought an action against the negligent driver. The workers' compensation lien (as asserted) exceeded the value of the third-party case. The cost of medical discovery necessary to reduce the lien would have likewise exceeded the value of the case. Through mediation, the lien claim could be significantly reduced due to attribution of expenses to injuries from other causes and reduction of other expenses. This created the opportunity for the third party case to resolve to everyone's satisfaction.

Premises Liability

  • Restaurant customer trip-and-fall in inadequately protected construction zone resulting in injuries requiring surgery, mental health treatment, and significant recuperation period. Case resolved on confidential terms with contributions from the business as well as the contractors’ insurance carriers.
  • In a personal injury claim for mild traumatic brain injury, plaintiff claimed reduction in recall and neurogenic bladder. Defendant admitted liability for incident, but disputed medical causation. The case resolved to the parties' mutual satisfaction.

Product Liability

  • Homeowners carrier subrogated to a mid six-figure water loss originating with water filtration system. Causation was disputed with competing theories of product liability (manufacturing and design), negligent installation, and failure to maintain. Case settled in mediation.