Michael H. Wallenstein
Michael joined Wolf Wallenstein & Abrams in 2017 after nearly ten years as a partner at two AmLaw 100 international law firms. Having spent his first nine years in practice as an associate and later a partner at the highly regarded real estate and public entity boutique firm, Brown Winfield & Canzoneri, Michael is pleased to return to his small firm roots where he can provide clients with the same world-class service and expertise at much more affordable rates.
Michael has litigated claims on a wide range of matters involving hundreds of millions of dollars for both plaintiffs and defendants.
His practice encompasses real property valuation, eminent domain, easement disputes, professional liability, employer liability, business torts, class action defenses, CERCLA, wrongful foreclosure, municipal tax,
civil rights, land use and contract and construction defect disputes.
Michael has a particular expertise in railroad real estate matters, and is well known in the industry. In this capacity, he adeptly handles railroad title, eminent domain and other valuation matters, and other real estate issues. He is a frequent invited speaker on these matters. He also represents developers, transportation authorities, health-care providers, financial institutions, public entities, and a wide range of companies and individuals with their real estate and general business litigation and counseling matters.
Michael has substantial first chair trial experience in numerous matters. He was co-lead counsel for the victorious plaintiff in Union Pacific Railroad Co. v. Santa Fe Pacific Pipelines — a trial lasting 265 days over four years and selected by the Daily Journal as one of the "Top Plaintiffs' Verdicts By Dollar Amount of 2012." Michael also successfully defended a local city at trial on a multimillion-dollar CERCLA claim. Michael has argued cases before the California Supreme Court and the California Court of Appeal.
Michael is a conservatory-trained actor and, prior to becoming a lawyer, appeared in various theatrical, film and television productions. He also co-founded two theater companies and produced several theatrical works. He is an avid cyclist, logging about 4,000 miles on the road each year.
Lead counsel for Class I railroad in contract dispute involving 1850 miles of pipeline easements, culminating in 265-day trial spanning 4 ½ years and resulting in top-five plaintiff’s verdicts by dollar amount in 2012.
Represented property owner in attempt by County to condemn small portion of owner’s otherwise unproductive land. Through cross-complaint for inverse condemnation, converted $20,000 condemnation action into $5,000,000 settlement for entire property.
Defended large Southern California city in federal environmental contamination case brought by ground lessor of city property alleging sewer leak caused contamination. Three week trial resulted in defeat of most claims leading to favorable settlement brokered by trial judge in “baseball arbitration” after oral argument.
Represented Class 1 railroad in eminent domain action for portion of unused former rail-owned property. Compelled public entity to acquire remainder of property resulting in compensation at more than three times original offer.
Successfully prosecuted breach of contract and fraud claim involving mold contamination by buyer against seller of large condominium complex resulting in rescission of agreement and payment of substantial damages.
Achieved highly favorable settlement for developer against architects for professional liability in connection with designs for new housing development.
Successfully defended large city against constitutional and related claims brought by developer in connection with denial of large-scale hillside development application.
Represented national healthcare company in eminent domain and relocation dispute involving California High Speed Rail project. Successfully compelled relocation assistance amounting to more than $1.5 million for facility not directly impacted by project.
Through quiet title and prescriptive easement counter-claims, successfully defended Class 1 railroad against attempt by adjacent property owner to enforce written easement and compel construction of retaining wall.
Defended expert consultants against professional liability claims brought by class in underlying litigation after its counsel settled for insufficient amount. Case settled for less than 2% of claimed damages.
Represented national plumbing parts manufacturer in multi-district class action litigation resulting in defeat of class certification and settlement for pennies on the dollar.
Represented property owner in administrative proceedings to defeat previous approval of development on adjacent property. Negotiated terms that eventually ended development efforts.
Represented owner of major portfolio of utility encroachment agreements as lessor in valuation dispute with large petroleum pipeline company resulting in complete victory for client’s position.
Defeated quiet title action against railroad brought by surface owners of tunnel property based on extensive title research.
Defended major Southern California city in multi-million dollar federal civil rights action brought by former prisoner against police detectives for wrongful arrest and eight years of incarceration after finding of factual innocence. Court granted Judgment as a Matter of Law on eve of trial based on qualified immunity.
Defended Central Coast county against First Amendment claims brought by ACLU against application of County parade ordinance. Federal Court upheld majority of ordinance and resulting revisions to ordinance were not challenged.
Defeated federal civil rights and ADA lawsuit brought by mentally disabled minor against landlord after eviction for molestation of neighbor. Case was dismissed after third amended complaint failed to state cause of action. Court relied on novel use of Noerr-Pennington immunity arising from underlying unlawful detainer action.
Representative Speaking Engagements:
Condemnation and Railroad Corridors – Defenses and Valuation (A Country Music Tale); American Railway Development Association, 2019 Annual Meeting, Nashville, TN
"Legal Updates for the Rail Industry," American Railway Development Association 2016 Executive Forum, Miami, FL
"What Every Litigator Wants Every Transactional Attorney to Know," Panelist with Hon. Lawrence W. Crispo (Ret.) and Tony Canzoneri, Esq., MLA MCLE Program
"Eminent Domain 101," Pillsbury 2016 CLE Marathon, Los Angeles, CA and San Diego, CA
"Significant Developments Regarding Utilities in Railroad Corridors," American Railway Development Association 2015 Executive Forum, New Orleans, LA; Reprised for American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association 2015 Annual Meeting, Orlando, FL
"Corridor Valuation and the Across the Fence Method," International Right of Way Association 2012 Annual Conference, Seattle, WA
"Current Issues in Railroad Title and Valuation – Tales From the Trenches," American Railway Development Association 2011 Annual Meeting, Seattle, WA
Border Wall Battles, Authors: Michael H. Wallenstein, Elaine Lee, 04/18/17
Legal and Valuation Issues Involved in Utility and Road Crossings, American Railway Development Association ("ARDA"), Author: Michael H. Wallenstein, Fall 2012
Gun Manufacturers and Unfair Business Practices, 30 Sw. U. L. Rev. 435, Author: Michael H. Wallenstein, 2001
J.D., Southwestern University School of Law, 2000
summa cum laude
M.F.A., California Institute of the Arts, 1989
B.A., University of California, Santa Cruz, 1985
U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
U.S. District Court for the Central District of California
All California State Courts
Community Service Activities:
Board of Directors, Ghost Road Theater Company
Board of Directors, Vox Femina Los Angeles
National Multiple Sclerosis Society – 10 years charity cyclist
American Diabetes Association – 6 years charity cyclist