Michael L. Reitzell is a trial lawyer who practices in all aspects of civil litigation. He advises and represents business clients in a variety of areas, including commercial disputes, unfair competition, antitrust, fraud, products liability and toxic torts, California Proposition 65, breach of contract, and risk management. Mr. Reitzell is very involved with the sports and recreation and hospitality industries, defending manufacturers, retail businesses, ski areas and resort operators in civil matters, with a focus on cases involving catastrophic injuries and wrongful death. He practices at both the trial and appellate levels, serving as lead counsel at trial and at mediations for Duane Morris clients. In addition to his significant litigation experience, Mr. Reitzell works closely with clients on risk management and business operations issues to prevent litigation.
In 2010, Mr. Reitzell was the recipient of the Duane Morris Pro Bono Award, which recognizes commitment to pro bono service and honors those who work to achieve equal access to justice. He has twice been appointed by the Nevada Supreme Court to handle pro bono matters before the state's highest court. Every year since 2011, Mr. Reitzell has been named a "Rising Star" in Northern California Super Lawyers magazine, which is given to only 2.5% of attorneys in the state.
Mr. Reitzell is an active member of the Defense Research Institute (DRI), where he currently serves as Chair of the Recreational Products Specialized Litigation Group and Steering Committee Member of the Products Liability Committee. He previously held several Steering Committee positions for the Young Lawyers Committee from 2004-2011, including Chair of the Annual Meeting Subcommittee. Mr. Reitzell is also a long-time member of the Association of Ski Defense Attorneys where he currently serves on its Board of Directors, and was elected an officer in 2015.
Mr. Reitzell is a 2001 graduate of the University of California, Davis School of Law and a 1997 graduate of the University of Southern California with a B.A. in broadcast journalism.
- Obtained defense decision in favor of G4S Justice Services, LLC as lead trial counsel in a business litigation action brought by the losing bidder in connection with a public safety contract to provide electronic monitoring and case management for detainees of the San Francisco Sheriff's Department. Plaintiff had sought several million dollars in damages through claims of interference with contract and prospective economic advantage. G4S was awarded its costs of suit, including expert witness fees. Achieved dismissal of five additional causes of action before trial, including a claim for unfair competition.
- Obtained an order dismissing a putative products liability class action against a major Japanese retailer filed by plaintiffs who had sought refunds and medical monitoring for alleged lead poisoning.
- Zatarain v. Mammoth Mountain Ski Area, 2010 WL 3404760 (Cal.App. 3 Dist.). Plaintiff appealed from a judgment in favor of Mammoth Mountain Ski Area after the court sustained two demurrers and ultimately struck plaintiff's amended complaint without leave to amend. Plaintiff had sought damages for claims of negligence, gross negligence, and various forms of discrimination. Mr. Reitzell argued the case before the Third District Court of Appeal, which affirmed the judgment in Mammoth's favor. The Supreme Court denied appellant's petition for review.
- Willig v. Mammoth Mountain Ski Area, 2010 WL 302436 (Cal.App. 3 Dist.). Mr. Reitzell was part of the trial and appellate teams who achieved a defense verdict in favor of a ski area after a five-week jury trial. The case involved a snowboarder who sustained injuries resulting in paraplegia. Plaintiffs sought over $10 million in damages. The verdict was upheld in a unanimous decision on appeal, with the Supreme Court denying appellants' petition for review.
- Advised and represented manufacturers, importers, and distributors of apparel, toys, sporting goods, electronics and other consumer products in claims and litigation involving California Proposition 65, including settlements and consent decrees in private enforcement actions.
- Represented retailers in defending consumer class actions involving customer privacy, credit-card transactions, gift cards and various other consumer claims.
- After being appointed pro bono counsel by the Nevada Supreme Court, Mr. Reitzell assisted a veteran father in obtaining a revised parenting plan for custody of his eight-year-old daughter. By reaching a settlement, the father dismissed his appeal to the Nevada Supreme Court, avoiding a lengthy appeal process and further litigation at the district court level.
- Obtained summary judgment for Mammoth Mountain Ski Area in a case involving an injured snowboarder with medical expenses exceeding $500,000. Plaintiff had signed a release of liability that Mr. Reitzell effectively argued barred any claims against the ski area. The judgment included an order awarding costs to the client and discovery sanctions against plaintiff.
- Souza v. Squaw Valley Ski Corp. (2006) 138 Cal.App.4th 262. Mr. Reitzell handled the case through discovery, summary judgment and argued the appeal before the Third District Court of Appeal in California. The Court, in a published opinion, affirmed summary judgment.
- Vine v. Bear Valley Ski Co. (2004) 118 Cal.App.4th 577. Obtained reversal of a $9.7 million verdict in a snowboard injury case. The case was retried and resulted in a defense verdict.
- Represented large ski resort in settling an environmental claim brought by the State of California, which had alleged Cal. Business & Professions Code §§ 17200, et seq. and CEQA violations.
- Successfully defended a major toy manufacturer in a "nonprofit" organization's unfair competition suit. The plaintiff attempted to force toy makers to contribute toward a settlement or cease their Internet sales and marketing operations two days before Christmas under the guise of the California unfair competition and false advertising laws (Business & Professions Code §§ 17200, et seq.). The trial court denied the plaintiff's application for a temporary restraining order and it ordered total dismissal of the suit (and an award of attorneys' fees) through an anti-SLAPP motion.
- U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California
- U.S. District Court for the Central District of California
- U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California
- U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California
- U.S. District Court for the District of Nevada
- Supreme Court of the United States
- University of California, Davis School of Law, J.D., 2001
- University of Southern California, B.A., 1997
- Hancock Rothert & Bunshoft LLP
- Associate, 2001-2005
- Duane Morris LLP
- Special Counsel, 2011-present
- Associate, 2006-2010
- Association of Ski Defense Attorneys - Member, Board of Directors
-- Secretary, 2015-present
- Defense Research Institute
- Products Liability Committee
-- Chair, Recreational Products Specialized Litigation Group
-- Former Chair, Webcasts
-- Member, Steering Committee
- Former Steering Committee Member, Young Lawyers Committee
-- Former Chair, Annual Meeting, Activities, and Substantive Liaison Subcommittees
- Tahoe-Truckee Bar Association
- Former Vice-President and Treasurer, 2007-2010
Honors and Awards
- Recipient of the Duane Morris Pro Bono Award, 2010
- Outstanding Subcommittee Chair, DRI Young Lawyers Committee, 2007-2008
- Named a "Rising Star," Northern California Super Lawyers magazine, 2011-2014
- Daily Journal's Top Verdicts of 2006: Willig v. Mammoth Mountain Ski Area
Civic and Charitable Activities
- Volunteer, Habitat for Humanity, "Rebuild New Orleans, Build the Future" New Orleans, Louisiana, February 2007
- Volunteer, Ronald McDonald House, Las Vegas, Nevada, February 2006
- Volunteer, Arizona Food Bank, Phoenix, Arizona, February 2008
- Author, "Social Media in the Workplace: What’s Your Policy?," NSAA Journal, Winter 2015
- Co-author, "California Supreme Court Issues Key Ruling on Protection of Witness Statements," Duane Morris Alert, June 27, 2012
- Featured in "And the Defense Wins," DRI's The Voice, March 7, 2012
- Author, "'All We Want Are the (Material) Facts, Ma'am,' Focus on the Material Facts for a Successful Motion for Summary Judgment," For The Defense, August 2009
- Author, Punitive Damages: A State-by-State Compendium, Nevada Chapter, The DRI Defense Library Series, August 2009
- Author, Product Liability Compendium: Warnings, Instructions, and Recalls, Nevada Chapter, The DRI Defense Library Series, September 2012
- Author, Product Liability Cases and the Duty to Warn: A 50 State Compendium, Nevada Chapter, The DRI Defense Library Series, December 2007
- Co-Author, "Counseling Clients in Extreme Sports and High-Risk Activities," Entertainment and Media Law Client Strategies: Leading Lawyers on Case Strategies, Exceeding Client Expectations, and Negotiating Deals (Inside the Minds), Aspatore Books, October 2007
- Author, "How We Almost Lost Our Blackberries ... Well, Not Really," For The Defense, June 2006
- Author, Unfair Trade Practice Compendium, Nevada Chapter,The DRI Defense Library Series, December 2005
- Co-Author, Tort Reform and You - Perfect Together?, DRI Annual Meeting Course Materials, October 2004
Selected Speaking Engagements
- "Social Media 5.0 – Legal Ethics Pitfalls," Association of Ski Defense Attorneys Annual Seminar, Stowe, Vermont, March 10, 2015
- "NSAA Legal Update," Association of Ski Defense Attorneys Annual Seminar, Stowe, Vermont, March 8, 2015
- "Social Media and Risk Prevention," NSAA Winter Conference, Snowbird, Utah, February 11, 2015
- "Current Trends in Lift Litigation," Rocky Mountain Lift Association Spring Conference, Grand Junction, Colorado, May 6, 2014
- "Social Media 4.0—Subsequent Remedial Measures and Spoliation of Evidence," Association of Ski Defense Attorneys Annual Seminar, Crested Butte, Colorado, March 2, 2014
- "Social Media 3.0—The Certainties and Uncertainties in the Law," Association of Ski Defense Attorneys Annual Seminar, Deer Valley, Utah, February 24, 2013
- “Social Media 2.0—The Ever Changing Landscape in the Legal World,” Association of Ski Defense Attorneys Annual Seminar, Whistler, British Columbia, March 4, 2012
- “Using Social Media as a Litigation Tool,” Association of Ski Defense Attorneys Annual Seminar, Sun Valley, Idaho, March 8, 2011
- "Hot off the Presses: Product Liability Case Law Update," sponsored by the Defense Research Institute's Products Liability Seminar, Las Vegas, Nevada, April 8, 2010
- "Best Approaches To Advising Clients On How To Handle Electronically Stored Information Before Litigation," Association of Ski Defense Attorneys Annual Seminar, Beaver Creek, Colorado, March 1, 2009
- "The Dude Factor: Preparing the Unprepared Witness," sponsored by the Defense Research Institute's Young Lawyers Seminar, Orlando, Florida, June 6, 2008
- "Taking a Byte Out of E-Discovery: How to Advise Your Clients Before Problems Arise," sponsored by the Defense Research Institute's Products Liability Seminar, New Orleans, Louisiana, February 7, 2007
- "Getting the Judge to Toss Your Product - Winning Strategies & Arguments for Summary Judgment," sponsored by the Defense Research Institute's Products Liability Seminar, Las Vegas, Nevada, February 8, 2006
- "A Wild Ride in 2003: The Year in Review of Recreational Products Liability Cases and Reports," sponsored by the Defense Research Institute's Products Liability Seminar, Recreational Products Specialized Litigation Group Meeting, New Orleans, Louisiana, February 12, 2004