Melanie Smith is a Partner in Selman Breitman’s San Diego office and is a member of the firm’s Commercial Litigation, Construction, Equine, Trucking and Transportation, and General Liability practice groups. Melanie's litigation experience includes premises liability, commercial auto, personal auto, construction accidents, construction defects, subrogation claims, equine law, labor and employment, toxic torts, and breach of contract matters. Her clients include developers, general contractors, subcontractors, product manufacturers, and healthcare providers. She also has experience in defending horse ranches and horse trainers in disputes involving unique matters ranging from personal injury claims to contract claims relating to purchases and sales, as well as loss-of-use claims, and has experience in transactional matters and corporate formation.

With extensive experience in general liability, including taking numerous matters to trial or arbitration, Melanie has a unique ability to investigate and defend cases through final resolution or judgment. She works closely with clients to effectively and efficiently manage all aspects of litigation in order to best serve her clients’ interests. 

While in law school, Melanie was an extern for the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California, working on voters' rights issues and Anti-SLAPP matters, and was the recipient of the American Jurisprudence equivalent award in Trial Advocacy and Advanced Trial Advocacy.

Melanie currently serves on the Wake Forest University Alumni Council and as the San Diego Wake Forest Club president. She is also the coordinator for Wake Forest's Alumni-In-Admissions program for San Diego and Orange Counties.

Representative Matters

  • Prevailed on summary judgment in negligence action against horse ranch, obtaining a substantial award for client in attorneys' fees and costs as prevailing party.
  • Represented a major San Diego area hospital in multiple labor and employment matters, including at trial.
  • Represented Olympic equestrian athlete in multiple equine law matters.
  • Defended numerous motorists, including truckers, in bodily injury and wrongful death lawsuits brought by plaintiffs arising from auto collisions, including at trial. Represented insurance companies in uninsured/under-insured motorist arbitration actions.
  • Prevailed on a Writ of Mandate on behalf of client insurer. The Second District found that the trial court erred in denying insurer's motion to stay a default prove-up hearing pending insurer's appeal of the trial court's denial of its motion to intervene in the underlying construction defect suit against the insured.
  • Defended major framing subcontractor in numerous construction defect matters, including obtaining the dismissal of dozens of residences by way of summary judgment in multiple actions.
  • Summary judgment was granted in favor of client insurer in a case in which a general contractor of a large apartment complex filed a judgment creditor action, based on a default judgment obtained as a result of an arbitration award against the named insured. General contractor sought over $300,000 in satisfaction of the judgment, interest, and costs of suit, but was denied recovery on the basis that coverage was precluded pursuant to a "Development/New Construction Residential Exclusion."
  • Served as general counsel for a start-up health and wellness company, negotiating all initial contracts and overseeing incorporation of the entity.

Professional Associations and Memberships

  • Association of Southern California Defense Counsel
  • Defense Research Institute (DRI)
  • San Diego Wake Forest Club, President
  • Wake Forest University Alumni-in-Admissions Program, Representative
  • San Diego County Bar Association

Bar Admission

  • California, 2003
  • U.S. District Court Central District of California
  • U.S. District Court Southern District of California


Loyola Law School, J.D., 2003

Recipient, American Jurisprudence equivalent award in Trial Advocacy and Advanced Trial Advocacy

Wake Forest University, B.A., cum laude, 1997

Women's Construction Litigation Alliance

Wake Forest University Alumni Council Representative

President, San Diego Wake Forest Club

Wake Forest University Alumni-in-Admissions Program Representative