Michael Donner is a business litigator and trial lawyer, focusing on complex commercial disputes. For more than 30 years, Michael has helped clients – ranging from Fortune 100 corporations to mid- and small-cap companies, partnerships, entrepreneurs, and high net-worth families – resolve their most pressing business challenges through counseling, negotiation, litigation, arbitration, and trial.
Michael's practice covers a broad range of industries, including real estate, technology, banking, financial services, family offices, private equity and venture capital, manufacturing, securities, construction, wineries and vineyards, food and beverage, retail, hospitality, health care, senior care, and life sciences. It also encompasses numerous subject matter areas, including antitrust and trade practices, business torts, class actions, contract enforcement, defamation, employment, false advertising, fiduciary duty, financial fraud, lender liability, officer/director liability, professional liability, real estate and land use, securities, shareholder/partner/member rights, trade secrets and restrictive covenants, and trusts and estates. Michael also regularly advises clients on non-litigation matters relevant to their businesses.
Michael maintains an active presence in courts and arbitral forums throughout the nation, and his work has resulted in several cutting-edge published decisions in the federal district and appellate courts. He is a frequent speaker and author on topics relating to litigation and alternative dispute resolution. Michael has served three consecutive California governors in their selection and appointment of state court judges as a former member of the Judiciary Committee of the San Francisco Bar Association and the Judicial Appointments Committee of the Los Angeles Bar Association. He is actively involved in several San Francisco Bay Area charities and community organizations.
Select examples of Michael’s prior practice experience includes:
- Represented consumer product company in international and California proceedings involving claims for breach of contract and fraud. Settled the dispute before trial for $42,000,000 in total compensation.
- Represented three defendants in multi-million dollar breach of contract action filed by an American multinational technology company involving the recycling and destruction of its devices. Successfully terminated the suit at the pleading stage and before the commencement of discovery based on a single motion to dismiss. Prevailed on motion to dismiss two defendants. Plaintiff voluntary dismissed the third. (Apple, Inc. v, Allan Associates, et. al., N. D. Cal. March 27, 2020, Case No. 5:19-CV-08372-EJD.)
- Represented real estate company and its principals in internet defamation action. Obtained affirmance from the First District Court of Appeal of trial court’s order denying defendant's anti-SLAPP motion to plaintiffs' defamation claim. In its unanimous opinion, the appellate court rejected defendant's arguments that anonymous Yelp postings were protected free speech and that his postings were not defamatory. (Bently Reserve, L.P. v. Papaliolios, 218 Cal.App.4th 418 (2013).)
- Represented software company in unfair competition and false advertising class action. Obtained dismissal of proposed class action after court ruled plaintiff failed to adequately allege that anti-virus software erroneously reported computer errors and misled consumers. (Bilodeau v. McAfee, Inc. (N.D. Cal. June 24, 2013, Case No. 12-CV-04589-LHK.)
- Represented software company in two unfair competition and false advertising class actions. Obtained dismissal of California Consumer Legal Remedies Act claim, a matter of first impression for the court. (Ferrington v. McAfee, Inc., 2010 WL 3910169 (N.D. Cal. Oct. 5, 2010) (holding that software falls outside scope of California's Consumer Legal Remedies Act).)
- Represented manufacturer in action against multinational conglomerate for trade secret misappropriation, unfair competition, breach of contract, and fraud in the Sonoma County Superior Court. Manufacturer prevailed after jury trial.
- Represented telecommunications company in action against competitor for unfair competition and breach of contract in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California. Company prevailed after jury trial.
- Represented investment bank in arbitration proceeding by former employee for wrongful termination, promissory fraud and breach of contract. Investment bank prevailed after arbitration merits hearing.
- Represented multinational pharmaceutical company in action by former employee for wrongful termination and breach of contract in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California. Obtained summary judgment in favor of company. Judgment upheld on appeal by U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.
- Represented well-known winemaker in connection with separation of his employment from multinational beverage corporation. Obtained favorable separation terms for client. Negotiations prompted revision of corporation's incentive compensation plans.
- Represented former CEO of Fortune 500 company in dispute with corporate employer over termination. Resolved dispute on terms favorable to former CEO following negotiations resulting from single demand letter.
- Represented homeowners in defect nondisclosure dispute with sellers and their design professionals. Settled the dispute prior to the filing of a lawsuit for over $1,000,000.
- Represented high net worth family in action arising out of alleged undisclosed construction defects. Settled the dispute after obtaining key witness testimony, with seller agreeing to underwrite entire cost of repair and all legal fees and costs.
- University of California, Hastings College of the Law, J.D.
- Columbia University, M.S.
- Columbia University, A.B.
- U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California
- U.S. District Court for the Central District of California
- U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California
- Named “Northern California Super Lawyers” in Business Litigation by Thomson Reuters (2014-2018)
- Named to the American Lawyer Media’s list of Top Rated Lawyers in Commercial Litigation
- Named a Lawyer of Distinction (a designation representing the top 10% of all litigation lawyers in the United States)
- Highest "AV Preeminent (5 out of 5)" Professional Rating, Martindale-Hubbell Law Directory
- California Bar Association, Litigation Section
- San Francisco Bar Association, Litigation Section
- Association of Business Trial Lawyers
- San Francisco Bar Association Early Settlement Program Mediator (2010-2013)
- American Bar Association, Litigation Committee of the Real Property Section Chair (2000-2005)
- San Francisco Bar Association Judiciary Committee (2000-2004)
- Los Angeles County Bar Association Judicial Appointments Committee (1995-2000)