Individual and Small Business Defense

Kevin K. Cholakian

Kevin K. Cholakian



Kevin K. Cholakian was born and raised on his family’s farm in Central San Joaquin Valley, attending public schools in the Tulare and Fresno counties until his senior year in high school when he was awarded a full scholarship for Music Performance (French Horn) to North Carolina School of the Arts (a prestigious boarding school for the performing arts), in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.  Mr. Cholakian then attended San Francisco Conservatory of Music on a Ford Foundation Scholarship from 1972-1973. After deciding on changing his career objectives, he graduated magna-cum laude with a B.A. in Philosophy in 1977 from CSUF (Fresno).  From 1976 to 1978, he served as Chief Administrative Assistant to California State Senator Rose Ann Vuich (the first woman ever elected to the California State Senate) where he was responsible for the Central California field offices (covering Modesto to Bakersfield) and Fresno Field office and Sacramento legislative office.


He received his law degree from the University of California, Hastings College of the Law in 1981.  At Hastings, he was Executive Editor of the Hastings Communications and Entertainment Law Journal and was a Law Review Scholarship recipient.


Mr. Cholakian began his legal career as an employment and product liability defense lawyer practicing with the litigation sections of the management employment law firm of Littler, Mendelson, Fastiff & Tichy (1981-1983) and the product liability section of McCutchen, Doyle, Brown & Enersen (now McCutchen Bingham) both in San Francisco (1983-1985), Clapp Moroney (1985-1988), and subsequently managed the defense practice at Kinder, Wuerfel & Cholakian (1988 through 1999) 25 attorney insurance defense firm in San Francisco.


Mr. Cholakian has successfully defended approximately 55 major jury trials, the majority of which had exposures in excess of $1,000,000.00 and is regularly asked to defend cases that have exposures in excess of $1,000,000.00. His record is 54-1 in disputed liability/disputed causation jury trials. He has “defended” cases in 16 Northern and Central California counties. His first trial as an attorney in 1989, venued in Santa Clara County, in the case of LSI Logic v Ultratch Stepper, resulted in a collected $1.1 million dollar verdict in favor of his client LSI and its carrier AIG (product liability theory).


Mr. Cholakian’s practice specializes primarily in high exposure personal injury/truck defense, uninsured/underinsured motorist product liability/fire subrogation matters, construction defect, insurance coverage and employment/housing discrimination matters. Mr. Cholakian has tried 8 major wrongful death cases to defense verdict. He defended major TBI claimed lawsuits where 8-figure damages were sought. Mr. Cholakian also specializes in the defense of environmental, governmental entity defense and ADA litigation.  He has successfully defended Clint Eastwood the Mission Ranch, the San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara and Marin Housing Authorities, and other well-established restaurants and businesses in the San Francisco Bay Area against ADA accessibility claims.  He regularly defends and has successfully defended at trial 6 habitability/mold cases brought against small building owners, (4 in San Francisco Superior Court) recovering in 4 instances large fee awards back to his clients.


Although almost exclusively representing defendants in civil litigation over the years, he tried, at the request of a colleague in 1994, Crow v. State of California, a 9 week Alameda Superior Court trial in which the jury awarded his client, Mr. Crow, a $9.5 million dollar verdict, thought at that time to be the largest personal injury verdict in Alameda County by a non plaintiff attorney in the last 20 years.


Cholakian and Associates also serves as lead defense trial counsel for San Francisco, San Mateo, Oakland, and Santa Clara Housing Authorities and also through their National carrier HAI, defending these governmental entities in their catastrophic premises, employment and ADA cases.


Mr. Cholakian also regularly defends high exposure UM/UIM matters with a 90% success rate at binding Arbitration, including defense of a $5,000,000 excess UM claim for State Farm that resulted in a reconstruction of the accident 4 hours outside of Calcutta that he personally supervised, on what was then known as the “Highway of Death” and which included depositions in India’s High Court in Calcutta, India.


Mr. Cholakian has also defended major construction site accident cases, has defended Great America Amusement Park in a highly publicized wrongful death case, and has taken expert and lay witness depositions in Europe, Asia, and South America. These include high exposure UM motor vehicle case (Prince Diana’s former surgeon was video deposed in London); 8 witness depositions in Calcutta, India; (catastrophic San Francisco Superior Court construction site accident trial) 3 medical expert depositions in Cork, Ireland; (Military accident case) 2 witnesses Hamburg, Germany; and (major San Francisco cable car catastrophic injury case) Schweinfurt, Germany (2 separate occasions 5 witnesses); (defended French wine cork manufacturer, litigation involving 7 major wineries) in U.S and Canada; and (5 fatality case) took 8 depositions San Salvador, Dominican Republic, and more recently defended a landlord client in Schaffhausen, Switzerland.


In 2006, Mr. Cholakian was the recipient of Farmers/Zurich Commercial Claims “Gladiator of the Year” award.  The Gladiator of the Year award is presented annually by Farmers/Zurich in recognition of outstanding trial results in defense of individuals and small businesses. For the 2ndtime, he received the 2009 Farmers/Zurich Gladiator of the Year Award for trial work in 2009. In 2008, Mr. Cholakian received from Farmer/Zurich, Director of Commercial Claims, the Zurich Values and Visions Medallion for epitomizing core values of Respect, Integrity, Achievement and Social Responsibility.


He has twice been a panelist speaker at the NASP National Subrogation Convention, speaking on product and fire liability issues affecting subrogation recoveries in significant cases.  He also has been designated by his peers 14 consecutive years as a Northern California “Super Lawyer”, a designation received by only 5% of 10,000 Bay Area Lawyers. He was asked to be on a Blue Ribbon Panel by Super Lawyers providing input on potential nominees. Only 13 lawyers in Northern and Central California were designated in the “Personal Injury Defense” category. He has also been selected by Martindale-Hubbard as part of a Blue Ribbon panel that assists in the A.V. rating process.  He has been A.V. rated for more than 20 years.


Mr. Cholakian is a member of the following organizations:  Defense Research Institute (DRI) 1988 – Present,  the International Association of Defense Counsel (IADC) 1990 – 2003, the Northern California Association of Defense Counsel, the American Bar Association, the San Mateo Bar Association, the Bar Association of San Francisco, the San Francisco Trial Lawyers Association, the California Trial Lawyers Association, Co-Chair of the Northern California Chapter of National Association of Subrogation Professionals 2004-2006 (NASP), and Trucking Industry Defense Association (TIDA) 1998 – Present, Armenian-American and Italian American Bar Associations.


Mr. Cholakian is in his 15th term as President of the San Francisco Defense Association, San Francisco oldest Bay Area civil defense attorney organization comprised of civil defense litigators.  Eight State Supreme Court Justices have been guest speakers in the past two years.  Mr. Cholakian also sits on the Executive Committee of the Board of Governors of the City Club of San Francisco and previously on the Parish Counsel of St. John’s Armenian Orthodox Church in San Francisco. Mr. Cholakian also serves on the Hastings College of Law (UCSF) Foundation Board of Trustees.