George Soneff is a partner in the Los Angeles office and leads the real estate litigation practice. He has more than 30 years’ experience as a trial lawyer in complex litigation. He has an extensive background in real property litigation, including eminent domain, inverse condemnation, real estate development and valuation, land use restrictions and governmental regulation of property rights, construction-related claims, water rights, ownership disputes, and insurance. His clients have included major real estate developers, utilities, energy companies, banks and individuals from many industries. George has:
- Represented utilities in municipalization (eminent domain) litigation involving more than $2 billion in assets, 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 Pacific Gas & Electric, Golden State Water Co., Liberty Utilities, California-American Water Co., and California Water Service Co.
- Served as lead counsel in the investigation and litigation of widely publicized cases involving the 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 actions seeking compensation from government entities, either for physical damage or for regulatory takings. 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 actions regulating development, and enforcement actions involving alleged California Coastal Act violations. Cases include actions against the California Coastal Commission establishing limits on the commission’s power over local governments’ exercise of police powers, successful defense of approval for a $600 million coastal project in Orange County, determination of environmentally sensitive habitat, and standards for approval of Local Coastal Programs.
- Achieved hundreds of millions of dollars in verdicts and settlements for property owners over the years, as well as resolutions that resulted in conveyance of property rights and alteration of development restrictions. His verdicts include a $43.2 million award in Domenigoni v. Metropolitan Water Dist. (at the time, the largest award in the history of Riverside County), a $21.9 million award in LAUSD v. 3434 S. Grand Ave., and the valuation phase of a $55.1 million verdict in People ex rel. Dep’t of Transp. v. S. Cal. Edison Co.
- 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 train derailment and pipeline explosion.
- Prosecuted and defended cases involving alleged fraudulent real estate transactions, violation of noncircumvention agreements, breach of covenants, overburdening of easements, rescission and reformation, valuation of mineral rights, and partnership disputes.
Clients he has represented include Pacific Gas & Electric Co., The Regents of the University of California, Bank of the West, California Water Service Co., Golden State Water Co., Liberty Utilities, California-American Water, Northrop Grumman, AMB Property Corp., Headlands Reserve LLC, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, International Technology Corp., Lehman Brothers, Legacy Partners, Caruso Affiliated, KB Home, Syncon Homes, Hearthside Homes, Rhodes Homes, Regency Outdoor Advertising, Southern California Edison Co., Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, St. John’s Hospital, and Peabody Western Coal Co.
George frequently lectures on a broad range of real property and insurance matters.