Paul Stephan is a Partner in Selman Breitman’s Orange County office and is a member of the firm’s Trucking and Transportation, Commercial Litigation, General Liability, Product Liability, and Toxic Tort/Environmental practice groups.  He represents rental car companies, self-insureds and insurance companies in products liability, general liability, business and corporate, mass/toxic and general litigation, including cases arising out of professional liability defending unique matters from law enforcement activities and EMT services.

A "hands-on" lawyer with "real world" experience, Paul has served as a military legal officer, law enforcement officer, prosecutor, city attorney, in-house claims attorney, and managing attorney for an insurance staff counsel program.

Paul’s extensive experience in trucking and transport provides him a unique ability to address dynamic time-sensitive transportation liability matters, including responding to scenes of catastrophic events and providing on-scene legal services to his clients. He works closely with claim representatives for both transportation insurers and rental car companies to manage pending and potential litigation. Additionally, Paul provides claims and litigation training to various clients on preventative law, as well as compliance with insurance investigative regulations. He regularly tries cases on behalf of clients in state and federal court.

Paul is widely considered a rental car industry expert by his peers and has been responsible for the published opinion in the California Court of Appeal landmark case of Flores v. Enterprise (2010) 188 Cal .App. 4th 1055. He is regularly called upon by clients and legal groups to give presentations on various subject matters relating to rental car law, including those specifically relating to auto/truck products liability and negligent entrustment issues.  Paul is also a regular contributor to the Los Angeles Daily Journal, and has been named a Super Lawyer by Super Lawyers Magazine from 2011-2021, in addition to being named to Super Lawyers’ Top 50 in Orange County in 2017, and being rated AV Preeminent by Martindale-Hubbell.

When not helping clients with their legal needs, Paul spends time as a member of the American Red Cross Disaster Response Team, the USC Alumni Association, and the Wounded Warrior Foundation, among many other organizations noted at right, including service as a Captain in the United States Navy Reserve.

Representative Matters

Toxic Tort/Environmental

  • Obtained a defense verdict in a $10 million mesothelioma trial wherein it was alleged that plaintiff's mesothelioma was caused by exposure to asbestos while laundering clothes for her husband, a general contractor. Selman Breitman's trial team countered with a medically complex, three-tiered defense to convince the jury that plaintiff's mesothelioma and subsequent death were not the result of exposure to asbestos dust on her contractor husband's clothing.
  • In a "confirmed" asbestosis trial, successfully argued that the lung injury was caused by significant exposures to other manufacturer's products and obtained an 11-1 defense verdict in only 2 hours after a three and a half week trial.

General Liability

  • On an admitted liability case on behalf of a San Diego rental car company, faced with a non-negotiable demand of 3.2 million dollars, brought in a jury verdict at 1.6 million on a double spinal fusion and admitted need for a second fusion.
  • In a traumatic amputation case in Federal Court, after the case went to the jury, settled the matter after the jury came back with a note indicating that the jury questioned if they could award the medical specials "even if we found no liability on all three causes of action against" the Florida rental car company.
  • While defending a construction company against the plaintiff claiming a traumatic brain injury, plaintiff received a "net zero" verdict after trial as the award was less than the workers' compensation lien strategically purchased by the defense.
  • Obtained very favorable settlement of breach of contract and breach of fiduciary duty claims on behalf of a Manager of a world famous San Francisco rock band just after jury empanelled due to significant defense rulings on motions in limine.
  • Obtained defense verdict on premises liability claim against a health club when the jury answered first question on verdict form essentially finding plaintiff lied in his testimony.
  • Represented large statewide health club in Court of Appeal proceedings after obtaining a defense verdict at trial on premises liability claims.  The Court of Appeal upheld the trial court results.
  • Published opinion in the Court of Appeal upholding the trial courts' order sustaining a demurrer without leave to amend involving complex statutory interpretation under Health and Safety Code and dealing with automatic external defibbulators (AED) in the context of sporting events. Rotolo v. San Jose Sports & Entertainment, LLC (2007) 152 Cal.App.4th 1055.
  • Published opinion in the Court of Appeal upholding the trial court's granting of summary judgment on statutory and common law duty issues on behalf of the largest rental car company worldwide.
  • Obtained Summary Judgment in the State of Washington in a death case in favor of the parent corporation of rental car company by establishing separate corporate status to defeat agency, ostensible agency and alter ego theories of liability.
  • Obtained Summary Judgment in a California case on behalf of a major rental car company using the application of a novel federal preemption statute commonly referred to as the "Graves Amendment".

Business Litigation

  • Retained by a National Hockey League team in California to negotiate a novel agreement with a player and the NHL on medical procedures to be followed with regard to a medical condition of a player, confidentiality clauses and applications of HIPAA.

Trucking and Transportation

  • Appeared for a major rental car company on behalf of employee in criminal proceedings regarding the collection practices of the Company with the Los Angeles County District Attorney reversing itself and dismissing the case at the preliminary hearing stage.
  • Retained by a rental car company to represent them against the State of California Department of Highway Patrol regarding Motor Carrier Permits of the client's commercial truck fleet.



Recent Events

Mr. Stephan currently holds the rank of Captain, United States Navy Reserve. While a trial lawyer in the firm's San Francisco office, he was recalled twice to active duty after 9/11/01 in the Global War on Terrorism. Mr. Stephan received the Coast Guard Commandant's Letter of Appreciation, the Navy Commendation Medal and National Defense Service Medal for his military service in 2003 as a ship's boarding team officer. Mr. Stephan was awarded the Medal of Valor during his prior service as a Deputy Sheriff in Fresno County, California.

Professional Associations And Memberships

  • American Board of Trial Advocates, 2007-Present, Member
  • Orange County Chapter of the American Board of Trial Advocates
  • Defense Research Institute (DRI)
  • Orange County Bar Association


  • Super Lawyers: 2011-2021
  • Rated AV Preeminent® by Martindale-Hubbell



Paul E. Stephan
Rated by Super Lawyers

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Paul E. Stephan
Rated by Super Lawyers

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Bar Admission

  • California, 1977
  • District of Columbia, 1990
  • U.S. District Court Central District of California, 1978
  • U.S. District Court Eastern District of California
  • U.S. District Court Northern District of California
  • U.S. District Court Southern District of California
  • U. S. Court of Military Appeals
  • U.S. Court of Appeals 9th Circuit


Southwestern University School of Law, J.D., 1976

University of Southern California, B.A., 1973

United States Army Judge Advocate General Corps Basic School

California State Bar Administrative Law College