Pierce O'Donnell

Of Counsel
Fax 310-201-1792


Auerbach Acquisition Associates v. Daily (Los Angeles County Superior Court; jury) (2009)

Pierce served as lead trial counsel for the plaintiff in a tortious interference with contract lawsuit against defendant who misappropriated an investment opportunity in a credit card processing company.  After a four-month trial, the jury returned a verdict of $350,000,000 for plaintiff ($300,000,000 in compensatory and $50,000,000 in punitive damages).  This was the largest jury verdict in California in 2009, and Pierce was named California Trial Lawyer of the Year.

In re California Natural Case Pipeline Antitrust Litigation (San Diego County Superior Court; jury) (2006)

Pierce served as lead trial counsel for a class of 12.5 million California natural gas and electricity ratepayers and several municipalities in an antitrust action against El Paso Natural Gas, Sempra Energy, SoCal Gas, and San Diego Gas & Electric for rigging natural gas prices that caused the California Energy Crisis.  Pierce secured a $3.5 billion recovery in settlement after three months of trial—the largest ever class action consumer antitrust recovery.

In re Katrina Canal Breaches Litigation (Eastern District of Louisiana; judge) (2009)

Pierce served as lead trial counsel for 300,000 Hurricane Katrina flood victims, State of Louisiana, City of New Orleans, and St. Bernard Parish in Federal Tort Claims Act lawsuit against the United States for the flooding of Greater New Orleans.  After a month-long trial, the federal judge, in an historic ruling, found the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers “grossly negligent” in the design, maintenance, and operation of the MR-GO navigation channel which caused numerous levees to fail, resulting in the catastrophic flooding.

Sterling v. Sterling (Los Angeles County Superior Court; judge) (2014)

Pierce led the Greenberg Glusker team representing Shelly Sterling whose husband Donald Sterling, a co-owner of the Los Angeles Clippers basketball team, was banned for life from the NBA and fined $2.5 million for his racist comments on an audiotape released by his mistress V Stiviano. The NBA set in motion the process for seizing the team from the Sterlings (who were the team’s co-owners through their family trust) and selling the franchise at an auction.  Battling both the NBA and Donald, Pierce and his team, representing Shelly as sole trustee of the family trust and after removing Donald as the other trustee, sold the Clippers to former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer for the record-shattering price of $2 billion—nearly four times the price ever paid for an NBA team.  Pierce then led the Greenberg Glusker team representing Shelly in a trial in the Probate Court against Donald who opposed the sale.  The court ruled in Shelly’s favor, finding that she had the legal authority to sell the team and instructed her to close the unprecedented sale.

Sterling v. Stiviano (Los Angeles County Superior Court; judge) (2015)

Shelly Sterling sued her husband Donald’s notorious mistress, V Stiviano, to recover several million dollars of gifts and money that Donald had bestowed on his paramour (including a $1.8 million house, two Bentleys, a Ferrari, Range Rover, clothing, jewelry, cash, and credit cards).  Relying on California Family Code Section 1100, Pierce and his Greenberg Glusker team advanced the novel legal theory that Shelly could sue the recipient of the gifts (instead of merely suing her husband) because she had not consented in writing to these transfers of community property.  After a trial, the court ruled in Shelly’s favor, ordering that title in the house be transferred to the community and Stiviano pay back over $800,000.

Dryer v. Labatt Brewing Co. (Central District of California; jury)  (1997)

Pierce represented NFL Hall of Famer and TV/Movie star Fred Dryer in a lawsuit against a Canadian conglomerate (owner of Labatt’s beer and Toronto Blue Jays) for breach of contract and fraud for failing to make a movie in which he was slated to star.  After a three-week trial, the jury returned a verdict of $2.5 million for Pierce’s client.

Contreras et al. v. Pfizer Inc. (Los Angeles Country Superior Court; jury) (2004)

Two wrongful death actions against manufacturer of anti-diabetes drug Rezulin which had admittedly caused liver failures, leading to death in some patients. Pierce defended Pfizer in a month-long jury trial, and he secured a total defense verdict against Thomas Girardi, one of the nations’ leading plaintiffs’ trial lawyers.

Barillas v. Pfizer Inc. (Orange County Superior Court; jury) (1992)

A woman sued the manufacturer of the Bjork-Shiley artificial heart valve, which had numerous reported cases of failure, leading to death.  Plaintiff claimed extreme emotional distress over her fear that her valve (“a ticking time bomb”) would fail without warning.  Pierce defended Pfizer in a two-month trial.  While the jury was deliberating, this case and another 450 similar ones were settled on highly favorable terms for Pfizer.  The jury reported that it had voted unanimously in favor of Pfizer.

Wakefield v. Pfizer Inc. (Tulsa County Oklahoma; jury) (2002)

A wrongful death action was filed Pfizer Inc. by the family of man who took the anti-diabetes drug Rezulin that admittedly had caused in some patients liver failure leading to death.  Pierce was hired by the drug manufacturer three weeks before trial in a classic “damage control” situation.  Plaintiff asked the jury to award $60 million in compensatory damages and $600 million in punitive damages.  The jury awarded only $1.55 in compensatory and $10 million in punitive damages.

Buchwald v. Paramount Pictures (Los Angeles County Superior Court; judge) (1989-92)

Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Art Buchwald sued movie studio for breach of contract in misappropriating his treatment to make the mega-hit movie Coming to America starring Eddie Murphy. Paramount claimed that the movie was based on Eddie Murphy’s original work.  There were three separate trials in the landmark case, and Pierce won all three.  The judge found that the movie was in fact based upon Buchwald’s treatment; the studio’s net profits accounting contract was unconscionable since a movie grossing over $300 million did not generate any net profits for the profit participants and had a $19 million deficit; and the court awarded Buchwald and his producer Alan Bernheim $1 million in damages.  Pierce and Los Angeles Times reporter Dennis McDougal co-authored a best-selling book about the case entitled Fatal Subtraction: The Inside Story of Buchwald v. Paramount (Doubleday 1992)

Flicker v. Arnold (Los Angeles County Superior Court; judge) (1980)

Pierce represented Danny Arnold, the co-creator, director, and producer of the hit TV series Barney Miller.  Pierce obtained a defense verdict in a lawsuit brought by the other co-creator claiming that he had been defrauded in accountings for profits.

Hamilton v. Ford Motor Co. (District of Columbia District Court; jury) (1978)

Pierce represented the widow of husband killed in car accident. The jury returned a verdict for plaintiff of $1,000,000—at the time (1978) the largest wrongful death jury verdict in the District of Columbia.

City of Newport Beach v. County of Orange (Orange County Superior Court; judge) (1982-86)

Pierce represented the City of Newport Beach in opposing the expansion of Orange County’s John Wayne Airport due to noise pollution.  Employing an innovative theory, Pierce filed a complaint alleging violation of the California Environmental Quality Act due to the County’s defective Environmental Impact Statement that failed to evaluate the tendency of airports to be used beyond their design capacity.  After a lengthy trial, the court agreed and enjoined the airport’s expansion.  Two more trials ensued, both of which resulted in favorable verdicts against the County.  Pierce also secured a federal court injunction and finding of contempt against the County Board of Supervisors.  Eventually, the County scaled back the airport’s expansion and agreed to strict controls on the number of flights and aircraft noise levels.

City of Anaheim v. County of Orange (Orange County Superior Court; judge)  (1989)

Using the California Environmental Quality Act, Pierce represented City of Anaheim in a lawsuit to prevent the construction of a County jail in the city.   After a trial, the court found that the Environmental Impact Statement was legally inadequate and enjoined the jail’s construction.

U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission v. Rogers (Central District of California; judge) (1982)

Pierce defended alleged gold mine tax shelter promoter in an enforcement action by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.  Pierce put on a defense that there were in fact operating gold mines in Panama and French Guiana.  After trial, Judge Mariana Pfaelzer ruled against the government.

Lockheed Martin v. United States (Central District of California; judge) (2000)

Pierce represented aircraft manufacturer in a lawsuit against the United States alleging that the government was responsible for sharing $500 million of costs of cleaning up polluted groundwater in Burbank.  Employing CERCLA, Pierce secured a ruling that the government was an operator of Lockheed Martin’s aircraft manufacturing plant and therefore a responsible party under the law.  The government paid $235 million to Lockheed Martin and agreed to be responsible for half of future remediation costs.

City of Los Angeles v. State of California (Los Angeles County Superior Court; judge)  (1998)

Pierce represented the City of Los Angeles in a lawsuit under the California Environmental Quality Act to stop construction of a state prison in East Los Angeles.   After a trial, the court found that the Environmental Impact Statement was legally inadequate and enjoined the prison’s construction.

Permut v. New Line Cinema (Los Angeles County Superior Court; jury) (1996)

Pierce defended movie studio in lawsuit by producer for breaching contract to make the movie Dumb and Dumber starring Jim Carey. Pierce was hired two weeks before trial.  After a four-week trial and during the fourth day of jury deliberations, the case settled favorably for Pierce’s client.

Masiello v. Warden (District of Connecticut; judge)  (1974)

Pierce represented federal prison inmate in a habeas corpus action alleging that he had been illegally denied parole because of guilt by association with his father “Gentleman Johnny” Masiello, a convicted Mafioso.  After a trial, the federal judge ruled that Pierce’s client’s constitutional rights had been violated and ordered his release.


The foregoing is a list of representative trials.  Pierce has also had more than a dozen other jury and judge trials in federal and state court, representing plaintiffs and defendants, in the intellectual property, entertainment, financial, real estate, environmental, technology, banking, white collar, and consumer rights sectors.  His clients have included the Republic of France, State of California, NBC, MGM Studios, ConocoPhillips, Texaco, W.R. Grace, Reebok, Adidas, and AIG.  Pierce has recovered over $5 billion for clients in verdicts and settlements.  Variety has hailed him as “The Billion Dollar Litigator.”

Pierce is one of the most respected and accomplished trial lawyers in the United States.  His trial successes have been groundbreaking in numerous fields.  Pierce has received numerous awards and honors over the 42 years of his distinguished career.  A former law clerk for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Byron R. White, he has been named one of “The 100 Most Influential Lawyers in America” by the National Law Journal.  For many years, he has been selected as one of the “Top 100 Lawyers in California” by the Los Angeles Daily Journal.  Recently, he was named “MVP of the Year” by Law360 and one of “California’s Top Entertainment Lawyers” by the Los Angeles Daily Journal.  California’s Trial Lawyer of the Year in 2009, Pierce is an elected member of the elite International Academy of Trial Lawyers (only 500 members), the American Law Institute, American Board of Trial Advocates, and American Trial Lawyers Association.  He has been recognized by such legal publications as Super Lawyers, Best Lawyers in America, and Chambers and Partners.  Forbes called him “the new Perry Mason in Hollywood.”