• George M. Soneff

    Partner
    gsoneff@manatt.com
    Download Contact (.vcf)

    Los Angeles
    Direct: 310.312.4186
    General: 310.312.4000
    Fax: 310.312.4224

    Education

    University of Southern California, J.D., 1984.

    California State University at Los Angeles, B.S., Business Administration, 1981.

    Bar Admissions
    California
    • Profile
    • Representative Matters
    • Honors & Awards
    • Publications
    • Memberships & Activities
    • Speaking Engagements

    Profile

    George Soneff is a partner in the Los Angeles office.  He has nearly 30 years' experience in complex litigation in state and federal courts, and administrative tribunals.  He has an extensive background handling disputes related to all facets of real estate, including real estate development and valuation, land use restrictions and governmental regulation of property rights, eminent domain/inverse condemnation, ownership disputes, construction-related claims, water rights, and insurance.  His clients have included major real estate developers, utilities, energy companies, banks, and individuals from a variety of industries.  Mr. Soneff has:

    • Achieved large verdicts and settlements for property owners in eminent domain trials.  His verdicts include a $43.2 million award in Domenigoni v. Metropolitan Water District (at the time, the largest award in the history of Riverside County), a $21.9 million award in LAUSD v. 3434 So. Grand Ave., and the valuation phase of a $55.1 million verdict in People ex rel. Dept. of Transportation v. Southern California Edison Co.  He has obtained hundreds of millions of dollars in settlements in other cases over the years, as well as settlements which resulted in conveyance of property rights and alteration of development restrictions.
    • Represented utilities in municipalization litigation, including litigation involving the jurisdiction of Local Agency Formation Commissions and the California Public Utilities Commission, competing public use claims, and valuation of utility assets. Experience includes defense of efforts to municipalize operations owned by PG&E, Golden State Water Co., and California Water Service Co.
    • Served as lead counsel in the investigation and litigation of  widely-publicized cases involving performance of medium- and high-rise steel frame buildings in the 1994 Northridge earthquake, resulting in large settlements and impacting changes to building codes regarding seismic safety.  He has also achieved success in construction-related cases involving compliance with prevailing wage laws, state contractors licensing laws, and engineering malpractice actions.
    • Prosecuted and defended inverse condemnation for physical damage, and regulatory takings which impose development restrictions in violation of investment-backed expectations. Cases include challenges to slow growth ordinances and general plan and zoning provisions, damages involving earth movement and flood control, and impacts from highway and railroad operations.
    • Prosecuted and defended litigation involving California Coastal Commission action regulating development, as well as enforcement actions involving alleged Coastal Act violations.  Cases include actions against the California Coastal Commission establishing limits on the Commission's power over local government exercise of police powers, successful defense of approval for $600 million coastal project in Orange County, determination of environmentally sensitive habitat, and standards for approval of Local Coastal Programs.
    • Prosecuted and defended cases involving alleged fraudulent real estate transactions, violation of non-circumvention agreements, breach of covenants, overburdening of easements, rescission and reformation, valuation of mineral rights, and partnership disputes.
    • Obtained substantial recoveries for insurance proceeds due under commercial general liability and property insurance policies, including business interruption environmental liability claims.  Cases include litigation over damage to major industrial facilities and liabilities associated with catastrophic incidents  such as trail derailment and pipeline explosion.

    Clients he has represented include Pacific Gas & Electric Co., The Regents of the University of California, Bank of the West, AMB Property Corp., Headlands Reserve LLC, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, International Technology Corporation, Lehman Brothers, Legacy Partners, Caruso Affiliated, KB Home, Syncon Homes, Hearthside Homes, Rhodes Homes, Regency Outdoor Advertising, Southern California Edison, Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, California Water Service Co., Golden State Water Co., St. John's Hospital, Peabody Western Coal Company, and Northrop Grumman.

    Mr. Soneff frequently lectures on California Coastal Act litigation and a broad range of real property and insurance matters.

    Representative Matters

    Selected Trials 
    Mr. Soneff's trial experience includes:

    • Securing a $55.1 million verdict, including attorneys' fees, following a jury trial on behalf of a utility in an eminent domain case involving the taking of portions of right-of-way, electric transmission facilities, and severance damages   (People ex rel. Dept. of Transportation v. Southern California Edison Co).
    • Winning a jury award of  $43.2 million on behalf of property owners, the largest verdict  in Riverside County at the time, plus recovery of all attorneys' fees in an eminent domain case involving valuation of undeveloped property, water rights, and severance damages.  (Metropolitan Water Dist. v Domenigoni).
    • Obtaining a $21.9 million jury award on behalf of a commercial real estate owner, plus recovery of all attorneys' fees, in an eminent domain case involving valuation and severance damages for a former manufacturing facility in Los Angeles (LAUSD v 3434 So. Grand Ave.).
    • Winning a $4.3 million verdict on behalf of a real estate developer following a court trial (by judicial reference) arising from a  claim that general contractor was not properly licensed to perform aspects of project requiring a general engineering license, as well as claims related to the failure to pay prevailing wages for project subject to reimbursement pursuant to  Communities Facilities District bonds.  (Orange Coast Masonry Acquisition Corp. v. Headlands Reserve, LLC)
    • Winning a $3.3 million verdict, plus rescission of note, on behalf of a real estate purchaser following a jury trial for fraud by seller (Morton v. Larson, et. al.)
    • Winning a $1.1 million verdict on behalf of a property owner following a jury trial for proceeds due under a property insurance policy, including punitive damages for insurance bad faith  (Burnaby v. Standard Fire Ins. Co.)
    • Winning a verdict on behalf of a home builder invalidating a slow growth ordinance in Douglas County, Nevada that sought to place limits on the development of residential projects.  (Syncon Homes v. Douglas County)
    • Obtaining a dismissal following nonsuit on behalf of a transit agency of multiple cases brought on behalf of dozens of properties alleging inverse condemnation damages stemming from impacts of light rail project in Los Angeles County.  (Alvarado, et. al. v Metro. Blue Line Construction Auth.,;  Hamilton-Margrave v.  Metro. Blue Line Construction Auth.)

    Representative Matters 
    Mr. Soneff's experience includes:

    • Winning a writ of mandamus action on behalf of a Xerox subsidiary challenging an award of  a $70 million contract with the California Public Utilities Commission for services under California's  LifeLine program.  Issues involved compliance with Public Contracts Code requirements for responsiveness to bid procedures. (Solix, Inc. v Calif. Dept. of General Services, et. al)
    • Obtaining a $25 million settlement on behalf of environmental remediation company in action arising from derailment and pipeline explosion in San Bernardino, CA; issues involved claims for insurance coverage, indemnity for bodily injury and property damage, tort liability  (Southern Pacific Transportation Co. v. IT Corporation, et. al.)
    • Securing a judgment on behalf of a real estate developer invalidating, on constitutional grounds, a Nevada statute that limited the jurisdiction of Clark County to approve residential subdivisions.  (Gypsum Resources, LLC v. Kenny C. Guinn, et. al)
    • Winning a judgment on behalf of retail property owner invalidating effort by a redevelopment agency to take the business site by eminent domain (99¢ Only Stores v. Lancaster Redevelopment Agency)
    • Negotiating a settlement on behalf of real estate investors conveying property rights and amending master plan for commercial and residential development following prosecution of litigation challenging development agreement and master plan (FGFW IV, LLC v. City of Victoville, et. al.)
    • Obtaining victories on behalf of a utility in the trial and appellate courts requiring that a special district which seeks to expand it services must first obtain approvals under the Cortese-Knox Act, and that discovery of pertaining to the administrative decision may not delve into the deliberative processes of decision makers. (South San Joaquin Irr. Dist. v. Superior Court ; San Joaquin Local Agency Formation Com'n v. Superior Court )
    • Obtaining confidential multi-million settlements million on behalf of building owners following prosecution of litigation against contractors, engineers and material suppliers arising from seismic damage to steel moment frames in high and medium-rise buildings discovered following the 1994 Northridge earthquake (Saint John's Medical Plaza v. Dillingham Construction, et. al., Los Angeles County Sup. Ct. No. SC040256)
    • Obtaining a large confidential settlement on behalf of an environmental remediation company following week jury trial regarding insurance coverage for property damage and business interruption, and insurance bad faith (International Technology Corp. v. R.W. Sturge on Behalf of Underwriters at Lloyd's, London, et. al, Los Angeles County Sup. Ct. No. C754735)
    • Obtaining a dismissal on behalf of a real estate developer of an action challenging approvals under the California Coastal Act for a  seaside residential subdivision in Dana Point, CA  (Surfrider Foundation v. Headlands Reserve, et. al.)
    • Prosecuting and subsequently settling claims against the California Coastal Commission involving amendments to the Local Coastal Program applicable to  a development at Bolsa Chica Mesa in Huntington Beach, CA  (Signal Landmark, et. al. v. California Coastal Commission)
    • Winning a judgment in a writ action asserting Coastal Act challenges to the issuance of permits for infrastructure for a residential development (Coastal Law Enforcement Action Network  v. California Coastal Commission, et. al.)
    • Obtaining a dismissal on behalf of real estate developer of action alleging $20 million in damages for alleged violation of non circumvention agreements for acquisition and development of industrial brownfield properties (Landbank, et. al. v. Tamkin Investments, Inc.)
    • Obtaining a settlement on behalf of real estate investor conveying property rights and option to purchase development parcel following prosecution of action for violation of partnership agreement (Kennedy Wilson, Inc. v. SM Physicians Center, LLC,)
    • Obtaining a dismissal on behalf of a real estate developer following the defense of an action involving insurance coverage, property damage, and nuisance stemming from an alleged withdrawal of lateral support in the course of development activities  (Wilshire Sieroty, LLC v. Lennar Homes of California, et. al.)
    • Obtaining a settlement on behalf of a real estate developer imposing mitigation measures on a highway project to allow for the development of an office park  (San Diego Assn. of Governments v. Legacy Sabre Springs)
    • Obtaining a multi-million (confidential) settlement on behalf of a real estate investor following the prosecution of an action alleging securities violations, fraud, non-disclosure, and conversion of funds.
    • Obtaining a receivership order and judgment of foreclosure on behalf of a lender of $64 million in loans for development of a real estate project. (Bank of the West v. Riverwalk Vista LLC, et. al.,, and Bank of the West v. Riverwalk Vista LLC, et. al.)

     

    Honors & Awards

    The Best Lawyers in America, 2009-2015.

    Publications

    Memberships & Activities

    Admitted to practice in California.

    Admitted to practice, Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

    Speaking Engagements