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MASTER OF ALL Trades

Dan Callahan Has Won the Largest Settlements and Jury Verdicts in the County and the Country in Areas Ranging From Business Disputes to Personal Injury

For an attorney who has set records for the largest settlements and jury verdicts in both Orange County and the entire United States, Dan Callahan, founder of Callahan & Blaine, is noticeably unpretentious. In fact, he’s downright affable. With an almost self-deprecating sense of humor, Dan seems almost sheepish when saying, “The harder I work, the luckier I get.” A Chicago native, Callahan moved to California to attend University of California School of Law at Davis, after excelling in debate and argument as a teenager, and young man. “I was repeatedly assured by my parents that I would be an excellent attorney,” he laughs. “It became my life’s goal, because I considered myself a problem solver.”

Immediately upon graduation, he was recruited by the oldest and largest law firm in the State of Hawaii. He spent his first two years as an attorney with Carlsmith, Carlsmith, Wichman & Case before relocating to Newport Beach in 1981. “I joined Allen, Matkins, Leck, Gamble & Mallory, where I worked for two years. I noticed I was bringing in a lot of business, so I thought ‘Maybe I’ll hang out my shingle, and go out on my own,’” he recalls. He did just that, opening the predecessor to Callahan & Blaine on St. Patrick’s Day of 1984. In the time since then, Callahan has become synonymous with versatility in advocacy. Representing equal numbers of plaintiffs and defendants, he has multiple precedent-setting cases to his credit, including the largest jury verdict in Orange County history ,which happened to be in a complex business case ($934 million), the largest insurance bad faith judgment in the county ($57 million), the largest personal injury settlement in the history of the United States ($50 million), and the largest employment judgment in Orange County history ($38 million). Indeed, a lot of attorneys have walked through the doors of the Orange County Courthouse over the years, but none can claim more or greater victories.

Mastering his Craft through Ingenuity

During the first 15 years of his career, Callahan worked solely on business litigation. He credits that time honing his craft for his eventual success in incredibly diverse areas of practice. “Business litigators use a different approach than many other attorneys. It’s very comprehensive and incredibly thorough. Business litigators are paid hourly, so nothing gets overlooked. Personal injury attorneys usually work on contingency, so economically they can’t always do everything that could help their case,” he says. In fact, it was Callahan’s meticulous attention to detail which inadvertently led him to become one of the nation’s leading experts in getting insurance coverage for both patent infringement cases and later, trade secret misappropriation cases.

“In the mid-80’s I was working on a case, looking to recover money from various sources. I discovered a way to trigger insurance coverage for patent infringement cases, under general liability policies,” Callahan says. Word got out, and he was soon featured in the Wall Street Journal, and began speaking all over the country to patent attorneys on how they could do the same for their clients. Callahan laughs when recalling “I became an insurance expert, and the patent lawyers would attend my seminars, where I laid it all out for them. But they would still hire me for their cases, anyway.”

Insurance providers were obviously less than thrilled, and Callahan says, “They closed that loophole a few years later.” However, within several years Callahan had done exactly the same thing with recovering insurance money for trade secret misappropriations. He set national precedent in Sentex Systems v. Hartford Accident & Indemnity, resulting in a published opinion by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in that arena as well.
If he wasn’t labeled an insurance expert before, he certainly was after winning a $57 Million Insurance Bad Faith judgment a few years later. That judgment remains the highest Insurance Bad Faith judgment in Orange County history. But Callahan resisted the label of insurance attorney. “I was pigeonholed as a business attorney for years, and then I was labeled an insurance attorney. I’ve been fighting my whole career to avoid any one label,” he says.

Hard Work: Lock Down Mode

Callahan is very open about why he’s been so successful. “I truly believe that I work as hard, if not harder, than any other trial attorney in California in preparing for and conducting jury trials in complex litigation cases. In every trial, I engage in ‘lock-down.’ In my lock-down mode, I go into my office approximately 30 days before each trial and put an absolute do not disturb sign on my door. I then proceed to read every piece of relevant information and every relevant document in the case, from beginning to end. I read all the pleadings and discovery. I read all of the depositions,” he says.
Continuing, Callahan explains, “I review in detail all of the important factual documents and evidence. As I’m conducting this detailed review, I am simultaneously dictating ‘Trial Thoughts or Assignments’ memos.

16

These are instructions to my trial team (and also myself) to note all of the creative ideas and thoughts that come to me while reading the file so that I make sure every idea is followed up on, and if appropriate, incorporated into my presentation.
I also personally prepare my direct and cross examinations of witnesses, my opening statement and closing argument, my theories and themes for my voir dire, and all other aspects of the trial. By the time the trial starts I will have spent approximately 12 hours a day, six days a week, for the preceding 4 to 6 weeks preparing for trial. It is the only way that I will conduct a trial 100% prepared and confident that I have out-worked and out-prepared my opposition.”
The reason for this disciplined approach is simple. “The best results come when you are fully prepared. Winning is truly not about luck, it’s about hard work and dedication and a never say die attitude,” he concludes.
The results of his lock-down mode speak for themselves. By way of example, Callahan refers to yet another record-breaking victory. “I was retained by a large publicly traded corporation to battle with another even larger publicly traded corporation over a breach of contract. Due to my persistence, I also discovered a fraud that had been perpetrated upon my client. I took a $2 million breach of contract case and turned it into a $934 million unanimous jury verdict following a three-month trial,” he says. That jury verdict remains the highest jury verdict in Orange County history.

Using Creativity to Diversify

Callahan had clearly found a system that worked. Moreover, it worked just as well for defendants as it did plaintiffs, so he’s never found a reason why he should limit himself to either side of representation. “By working for both plaintiffs and defendants, I am able to see both perspectives in any case. I’m as aggressive as any plaintiff’s lawyer out there, but I also know what the plaintiff’s weaknesses will be,” he says.
Given that Callahan had proven to himself and those around him that he can win big for clients regardless of what side of the claim they are on, or what area of law a case is in, it’s no surprise that when he was approached by a colleague approximately 15 years ago to assist in a family member’s personal injury case, he was happy to help. His very first personal injury client was consequently awarded a $2.9 million cash settlement. “When I got into P.I. work, I didn’t change my strategy at all. I’m pedal to the metal in every single case I take.”
More recently, Callahan set the record for the largest personal injury settlement in the entire United States, for his work representing two female joggers who were rendered quadriplegic after being hit by an uninsured drunk driver who was driving in the bicycle lane, mistaking it for a travel lane. “Several attorneys had concluded that there was no viable defendant that could compensate these young mothers for their injuries. That limited view left no recovery for the Neria or Daniel families. It was my belief that the City of Dana Point had improperly designed the roadway. I first drove to the scene myself for a site inspection and noticed that the bike lane seemed much wider than normal,” he says. Callahan was right. The lane was twice the width of a normal bike lane, and Callahan dug in. “I found old drainage reports, and collected big maps from 30-40 years ago, which clearly showed that the lane had been redesigned improperly following mudslides years prior.”
15“I prepared their case for trial as a municipal liability road defect case. With the help of skillful depositions and expert opinions, we overcame the government defense of governmental immunity. We were able to settle that case for $50 million. It was extremely rewarding, not only because it was the largest settlement in the nation’s history, but that it brought some compensation to the families, and allowed the women to obtain the necessary future care and accommodations needed,” Callahan says. At that time Callahan was also told by West Law, a company that tracks verdicts and settlements nationwide, that he was also credited with the third highest personal injury settlement in the nation at $28 million for an earlier case.
Callahan understands that some attorneys choose to focus their practice in exclusively one area, but it just doesn’t appeal to him, personally. “Regardless of whether it’s a construction, intellectual property, business litigation or personal injury case, there are 1 or 2 statutes and/or 1 or 2 cases that are relevant and key to the case. I focus on those.”

Likeable Leadership

With record-setting verdicts and settlements in a variety of fields, suffice it to say Callahan has accrued numerous professional accolades over his 30+ year career. He’s been named the Orange County Trial Lawyer of the Year in 2000, 2004, and 2012. He’s been named one of the Top 10 Attorneys in the United States by the National Law Journal, and named the Lawyer of the Year by California Lawyer Magazine for litigation. In early 2014, both the California Senate and the California Assembly passed resolutions recognizing his historic achievements and continued commitment to his clients. But Callahan is frankly humble when saying “The reason for these awards is simple: preparation and hard work.”

His incredibly friendly nature almost belies his tenacity in the courtroom. Though extremely professional, and uncompromisingly ethical, he admits that when he is fighting for a client he is there to win, and hates nothing more than losing. It is likely this delightfully dichotomous nature that prompts opposing counsel—even those losing the biggest case in the history of the county—to continue to send Callahan referrals.

Callahan’s charismatic personality has also drawn experienced attorneys to his firm in droves. From a solo practice 30 years ago, Callahan & Blaine has grown to include 35 attorneys and another 50 support staff. The firm however, painstakingly selective about the attorneys that it hires. “It takes too much effort to train someone right out of law school. We only hire attorneys who are experienced, but still eager to grow and eager to learn. We’ve found that there is a sweet spot, where they are not so experienced that they are set in their ways, but experienced enough that they are skilled. For hiring we’ve found the sweet spot to be with attorneys who have about 8 or 10 years of experience. The majority of attorneys now in our firm have been with us for years and have an average 15 years’ experience and a number have 25 or more,” says Callahan. “It is unique to have a firm this large that is indigenous to Orange County, which is comprised only of highly experienced attorneys.”

As for Callahan’s life outside of the courtroom? He’s happy to give back to the local community, having served in multiple positions within the bar association and other civic organizations. Likewise, he currently serves on several charitable boards, including the Coastline Foundation, which is the charitable arm of Coastline Community College District.
He is also happy to spend time with his family. Callahan is the proud father of two adult children, Caitlin and Michael, and has a beautiful young granddaughter, Madison. He’s also happily married to Maureen Callahan, Partner with Borchard & Callahan in Mission Viejo. “More than anyone, Maureen has given me insight and encouragement. I bounce ideas off of her and she, like a good wife, is not afraid to tell me when she thinks I’m wrong. We have a great time discussing my cases and enjoying our time together.”

1» EDUCATION

  • University of California at Davis School of Law, Davis, California J.D. - 1979 Honors: With Honors Law Review: University of California Law Review, Editor
  • Western Illinois University, Macomb, Illinois B.A. (Magna Cum Laude) - 1976

» HONORS AND AWARDS

  • Received Commendation Resolution from California Legislature Assembly, 2014
  • Received Commendation Resolution from United States Senate - 2000, 2004, 2014
  • Presented Angelo Palmeri Award by the Robert A. Banyard Inns of Court, 2010
  • 2010 Visionary Award presented by Orange Coast College
  • Winner of the Prestigious OCTLA Trial Lawyer of the Year Award - 2000, 2004 and 2012
  • One of the Top 10 Attorneys in the United States by the National Law Journal
  • Lawyer of the Year for litigation, California Lawyer Magazine
  • Best Lawyers in America, 2005 - 2014
  • Super Lawyers, Named One of The Top 10 Lawyers in Southern California
  • Super Lawyers, Named One of The Top 100 Lawyers in Southern California - 2011 to Present
  • Super Lawyers, Named One of The Top 50 Lawyers in Orange County - Since inception
  • Outstanding Lawyers of America
  • Million Dollar Club

» PROFESSIONAL ASSOCIATIONS AND MEMBERSHIPS

  • Orange County Bar Association
  • Orange County Bar Association, Business Litigation Section, Chair, 1996
  • Orange County Bar Association, Law Practice Management Section, Chair, 1993 - 1995
  • Consumer Attorneys of California
  • Orange County Trial Lawyers
  • Association of Business Trial Lawyers, Founding Member
  • Celtic Bar Association
  • Robert A. Banyard Inns of Court
  • Fellow of the Litigation Counsel of America, a Trial Lawyer Honorary Society

» ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

  • Won the Largest Jury Verdict in Orange County History - $934 Million
  • Obtained the Highest Personal Injury Settlement in United States History - $50 Million
  • Obtained the highest Insurance Bad Faith Judgment in Orange County History - $58 Million
  • Obtained the Largest Employment Settlement in Orange County History - $38 Million
  • Named One of the Top 10 Attorneys in the United States by National Law Journal
  • Voted California Business Trial Lawyer of the Year by California Lawyer Magazine
  • Named One of Top 10 Lawyers in Southern California by Super Lawyers
  • Featured in Best Lawyers in America for Eight Consecutive Years (2005 through 2014)

 


Contact:
Daniel J. Callahan
Callahan & Blaine
3 Hutton Centre Drive, Ninth Floor
Santa Ana, CA 92707
(714) 241-4444
www.callahan-law.com
dan@callahan-law.com

Jennifer Hadley

Jennifer Hadley is a Staff Writer for Attorney Journal

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About the Author: Jennifer Hadley is a Staff Writer for Attorney Journal

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