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Stephanie Cao

Shareholder | Los Angeles


As a shareholder in both the Public Law and Litigation Departments, Stephanie Cao represents public agencies of diverse sizes in a wide-range of governmental law issues and state and federal court litigation matters.  Stephanie advises and represents public agencies on issues including governmental tort claims, public works laws, civil and constitutional laws, ethics laws, condemnation, contract drafting, and compliance. 

Stephanie serves as the Chief Assistant City Attorney for the City of Beverly Hills, Assistant City Attorney for the cities of South Pasadena and Calimesa, and Assistant General Counsel for the Greater Los Angeles County Vector Control District. Stephanie has also served as City Attorney for the City of San Marino and Assistant City Attorney for the cities of Monrovia and South El Monte. She works with staff to adopt and implement new laws and procedures, and assists staff with residential and commercial projects for zoning and permitting compliance. She also works closely with city enforcement teams, providing assistance in identifying and selecting cost-efficient and effective options to obtain compliance, enhance public safety, rehabilitate properties, and maintain safer, cleaner neighborhoods. 

Stephanie has extensive experience in representing governmental entities in court, including successful disposition of lawsuits at the demurrer and summary judgment stages.  She has trial and mediation experience, and is well-versed in obtaining favorable settlements for her clients.

Work for Clients

Stephanie has represented Artesia, Baldwin Park, Beverly Hills, Brea, Burbank-Glendale-Pasadena Airport Authority, Calimesa, Greater Los Angeles County Vector Control District, Highland, Indio, Jurupa Valley, Laguna Niguel, Manhattan Beach, Monrovia, Newport Beach, Palmdale, Pasadena, Pismo Beach, Rancho Cucamonga, San Marino, Santa Ana, Seal Beach, South El Monte, Temecula, Upland, Vista, Yucaipa, and the Beaumont-Cherry Valley Water District.

Professional Experience

Prior to joining Richards, Watson & Gershon, Stephanie specialized in complex multi-party actions including business, construction, public works, and general civil litigation at Chapman, Glucksman, Dean & Roeb in Los Angeles, California.

Stephanie previously worked for the Honorable Judge Elizabeth Allen White and Honorable Aurelio Munoz of the Los Angeles Superior Court.  She has also performed pro bono work, representing indigent juvenile clients through the Center of Juvenile Law and Policy.

In 2011, Stephanie became a trained mediator under the Dispute Resolution Program Act.

Professional and Community Affiliations

Member, Los Angeles County Bar Association



  • Huckey v. Temecula, 2019 WL 3368680. Certified for publication in the Fourth Appellate District of the Court of Appeal, Division 2 on July 26, 2019
  • Mercury Casualty Co. v. Pasadena, 14 Cal.App.5th 917 (2017), reh’g denied, review denied 11/15/17.  Certified for publication in the Second Appellate District of the Court of Appeal, Division 3 on August 24, 2017


  • Huckey v. Temecula. Represented City of Temecula in a sidewalk trip and fall lawsuit based on the “trivial defect” defense, resulting in a landmark decision. Obtained a published opinion where the California Court of Appeal found that sidewalk slab rises of up to one and one-half inches are generally trivial defects as a matter of law, and the City was not liable for the plaintiff’s injuries.

    Plaintiff alleged that he tripped on a sidewalk slab rise that measured approximately one and one-quarter inches. He further alleged that, as a result of the fall, he sustained a brain injury, that he was unable to speak without slurring his speech, and that he was totally disabled. This case is significant because many lawyers and risk-management professionals believe that the trivial defect defense is only available if a sidewalk rise is three-quarters of an inch or less. However, this decision expands the scope of the “trivial defect” defense, finding that rises of nearly double that height are trivial defects.
  • Mercury Casualty Co. v. Pasadena. Represented City of Pasadena as trial and appellate counsel in an important, first of its kind, inverse condemnation case involving a hurricane-force windstorm in 2011 involving Mercury’s insureds’ residence that was extensively damaged when a 110 foot street tree fell on their house during a windstorm in which wind speeds reached over 100 m.p.h.  Obtained a published opinion where the California Court of Appeal reversed the trial court’s decision, ordering the trial court to enter judgment in the city’s favor.

    The decision rests upon the court’s single conclusion that the street tree that fell was not a work of public improvement because “there was no evidence it was planted as part of a planned project or design serving a public purpose or use.”  Important for all cities, the court further concluded that “the City’s tree maintenance plan . . . does not subject the City to liability for an inverse condemnation claim because no evidence was presented that the plan was deficient.”  This case is a significant case for cities, with far-reaching benefit for other public agencies that maintain extensive street tree inventories and urban forests. 



  • Cause to Review Retainer Arbitration Clauses
    2013 DJDAR 11506 (August 26, 2013)
    Los Angeles Daily Journal


J.D., Loyola Law School, Los Angeles

B.A., University of California, Irvine

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Richards, Watson & Gershon delivers practical advice and solutions tailored to the unique needs of public entities. Working seamlessly across offices in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Orange County, Temecula, the Central Coast, and Sacramento, and our dedicated team of experts provides the full scope of public law services.

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