Michael’s practice encompasses real property valuation, eminent domain, easement disputes, professional liability, employer liability, business torts, class action defense, Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA or Superfund) matters, wrongful foreclosure, municipal tax, civil rights, land use and contract and construction defect disputes. He has litigated claims for both plaintiffs and defendants spanning a wide range of matters involving hundreds of millions of dollars.
Michael has a particular expertise in railroad real estate matters and is well known in the industry. For nearly 25 years in this capacity, he has adeptly handled railroad title, eminent domain and other valuation matters as well as other real estate issues. He is frequently invited to speak on these matters. He also represents developers, transportation authorities, health-care providers, financial institutions, public entities, and a broad spectrum of companies and individuals in 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 prevailing 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.” He also successfully defended a local city at trial on a multimillion-dollar CERCLA claim. He has argued cases before the California Supreme Court and the California Court of Appeal.
From the outset of a case to trial, Michael continuously seeks creative solutions to drive settlement and reduce litigation costs. He focuses on connecting personally with both clients and opposing counsel, and uncovering overlooked facts and legal issues, often opening the door to solutions that others might miss.
Real Estate Litigation
- Lead counsel for Class I railroad in contract dispute involving 1850 miles of pipeline easements, culminating in 265-day trial spanning 4.5 years and resulting in top-five plaintiff’s verdict by dollar amount statewide in 2012.
- Authored amicus brief on behalf of four regional transportation authorities in utility relocation dispute raising novel issues of law.
- 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.
- Through quiet title and prescriptive easement counterclaims, successfully defended Class 1 railroad against attempt by adjacent property owner to enforce written easement and compel construction of retaining wall.
- Defeated quiet title action against railroad brought by surface owners of tunnel property based on extensive title research.
- Defeated claim for prescriptive and equitable easement from adjacent landowner through creative motion for judgment after plaintiff’s case; then obtained large arbitration award for same client on title insurance claim related to same alleged easement.
- Represented national healthcare company in eminent domain and relocation dispute involving California’s high-speed rail project. Successfully compelled relocation assistance amounting to potential recovery of more than $3 million for facility not directly impacted by project.
- 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 million settlement for entire property.
- 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 real estate developer against architects for professional liability in connection with designs for new housing development.
- 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 federal civil rights and Americans with Disabilities Act (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.
Class Action Litigation
- 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 multidistrict class action litigation, resulting in defeat of class certification and settlement for pennies on the dollar.
Public Entity Litigation
- Defended major Southern California city in multimillion-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 large Southern California city in federal environmental contamination case brought by ground lessor of city property alleging contamination caused by a sewer leak. Three-week trial resulted in defeat of most claims leading to favorable settlement brokered by trial judge in “baseball arbitration” after oral argument.
- Successfully defended large city against constitutional and related claims brought by developer in connection with denial of large-scale hillside development application.
- 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.
- Successfully defeated unlawful detainer action brought by mother of intestate decedent against long-time cohabitating fiancé; obtained substantial portion of estate for fiancé after raising palimony claims against estate.
- Super Lawyer, Southern California Super Lawyers (2021-2023)
- Rising Stars, Southern California Super Lawyers (2006-2007)
Professional and Community Activities
- American Diabetes Association
- Charity Cyclist
- Ghost Road Theater Company
- Member, Board of Directors (2015-2022)
- National Multiple Sclerosis Society
- Charity Cyclist
- Vox Femina Los Angeles
- Member, Board of Directors (2015-2018)
- Co-Author, “Border Wall Battles,” Pillsbury Client Alert, April 18, 2017
- Author, “Legal and Valuation Issues Involved in Utility and Road Crossings,” American Railway Development Association (ARDA) Newsletter, Fall 2012
- Author, “Gun Manufacturers and Unfair Business Practices,” Southwestern University Law Review (30 Sw. U. L. Rev. 435), 2001
- Speaker, “Taking Property Already Devoted to a Public Use: Not So Fast There, Cowboy”; CLE International California Eminent Domain Conference, October 14, 2022
- Speaker, “Condemnation and Railroad Corridors – Defenses and Valuation (A Country Music Tale)”; American Railway Development Association 2019 Annual Meeting, June 4, 2019
- Speaker, “Legal Updates for the Rail Industry,” American Railway Development Association 2016 Executive Forum, January 27, 2016
- Presenter, “Eminent Domain 101,” Pillsbury 2016 CLE Marathon, January 2016
- Speaker, “Significant Developments for Utilities in Railroad Rights of Way: Valuation and BLM Interpretation of Congressional Land Grants,” American Railway Development Association 2015 Executive Forum, January 28, 2015 / American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association 2015 Annual Meeting, March 2015
- Panelist, “What Every Litigator Wants Every Transactional Attorney to Know,” McKenna Long & Aldridge MCLE Program, 2014
- Speaker, “Corridor Valuation and the Across the Fence Method,” International Right of Way Association 2012 Annual International Education Conference, June 2012
- Speaker, “Current Issues in Railroad Title and Valuation – Tales From the Trenches,” American Railway Development Association 2011 Annual Meeting, July 2011
J.D., Southwestern University School of Law
(summa cum laude)
M.F.A., California Institute of the Arts
B.A., University of California, Santa Cruz
- U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
- U.S. District Court for the Central District of California
- U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California