Michelle Gearhart is a litigation attorney. Her practice focuses on the representation of public entities, tort defense, civil rights claims, contract disputes, business litigation and employment issues. Ms. Gearhart is rated AV® Preeminent by Martindale-Hubbell, the highest peer review rating given to attorneys based on legal ability and ethical standards, and was named a Southern California and San Diego Top Attorney in 2013 and 2014, before relocating to San Luis Obispo in 2015.
Ms. Gearhart has handled a myriad of complex litigation cases including serious personal injury, wrongful death, police liability, product liability, professional liability, as well as business litigation and wrongful termination claims. Ms. Gearhart has represented a number of law enforcement agencies including the California Highway Patrol, the San Diego Police Department and the Carlsbad Police Department. She practices in both State and Federal Courts and has successfully won two appeals in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal.
One of Ms. Gearhart’s most significant cases was a highly publicized civil suit involving a police officer who was convicted of bribery and assault involving multiple victims. Ms. Gearhart represented the City of San Diego, the San Diego Police Department and nine other individual officers. Ms. Gearhart’s summary judgment motion was granted, leading to the dismissal of all nine of the officer’s former supervisors and Chief of Police. Ms. Gearhart authored a motion to bifurcate the trial and several motions in limine, which were granted, and ultimately led to plaintiff’s counsel re-engaging in settlement negotiations on the eve of trial. The parties had prepared for and anticipated a two to three month long trial in Federal court involving hundreds of witnesses, most of whom were former and current police officers.
Ms. Gearhart has negotiated numerous settlements on behalf of her clients. Several of note include obtaining payment for Upwind Solutions, Inc. from a German company that refused to pay the $1 million owed on its contract, negotiating a settlement on behalf of a bus company for $700,000 where the plaintiff claimed a traumatic brain injury and sought $8 million in damages, and negotiating a dismissal then obtaining an award of costs for a cross-defendant sued for indemnity by a subcontractor.
Ms. Gearhart has also successfully authored numerous demurrers, motions to dismiss and summary judgment motions obtaining dismissals on behalf of her clients.
PRIOR WORK HISTORY
Prior to joining AMMCG, Ms. Gearhart worked for Daley & Heft in Solana Beach, California. She served as outside counsel for various Southern California cities and public entities, including the cities of San Diego, Carlsbad, Vista, Newport Beach and Riverside, and also represented officers in the California Highway Patrol. She handled cases involving claims of Civil Rights violations and related offenses. Ms. Gearhart was responsible for all aspects of litigation including preparation of dispositive motions, discovery, and trial preparation.
Ms. Gearhart worked at Liedle, Lounsbery, Larson & Lidl for nearly four years where she obtained broad case handling experience spanning complex tort claims, government tort liability, product liability, professional liability, breach of contract claims, complex commercial litigation and construction defect.
While attending law school, Ms. Gearhart worked as a paralegal and legal assistant at the League of Minnesota Cities and the firm of Moss & Barnett in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Before attending law school, Ms. Gearhart worked as a legal assistant and paralegal at the firms of Cappello & Noel and Hager & Dowling, both in Santa Barbara, California.
PROFESSIONAL ASSOCIATIONS, ADMISSIONS, STANDING
Ms. Gearhart is admitted to practice in all Superior Courts in the State of California and in the United States District Court for the Eastern, Central and Southern Districts. Ms. Gearhart is also admitted to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal. She is a member of the San Luis Obispo County Bar Association and the Women Lawyers Association of San Luis Obispo. She has received an AV® Preeminent rating from Martindale-Hubbell, the highest peer review rating given to attorneys based on legal ability and ethical standards, since 2012. She was named a “Top Attorney” in San Diego Magazine in 2013 and 2014, as well as a Southern California Top Attorney in 2013 and 2014.
Bachelor of Arts (Political Science), Westmont College
Juris Doctor (with Honors), Hamline University College of the Law
Les Cours Francais, Le Sorbonne University, Paris, France
Ms. Gearhart lives in San Luis Obispo with her husband and her very active and energetic three sons.