Since 2007, Gary has been a full-time neutral and has successfully mediated over 4,000 civil matters.

During his more than 25 years as a trial lawyer, Mr. Donovan represented both defendants and plaintiffs in all types of civil matters. Since the early 1990s, he has served as a mediator, arbitrator, and Temporary Judge for both the Orange County Superior Court and Riverside County Superior Court. It was during that time he discovered his passion for meditating. Subsequently, to make a full-time ADR commitment, Mr. Donovan underwent intensive training from the Straus Institute for Dispute Resolution at Pepperdine University.

As a mediator, he is a very effective communicator and is resourceful and persistent in striving to resolve each case. Those qualities are the reasons why both plaintiff and defense attorneys often select him. One attorney commented, "Gary did a great job bringing many parties together on a mutually beneficial settlement. I look forward to working with him again in the future."

Practice Areas
  • Aviation
  • Business Contractual
  • Construction Defect
  • Employment
  • Homeowner’s Disputes
  • Premises Liability
  • Products Liability
  • Real Property
  • Vehicle Liability
Hobbies & Interests

Gary enjoys hockey, motorcycles, boats, skiing, drums, and airplanes.

Legal Career
  • Mediator, Judicate West (2007-Present)
  • Mediator, TLC Resolutions (2002-Present)
  • Mediator, Riverside County Bar Dispute Resolution Service (2001-2014)
  • Temporary Judge, Riverside County Superior Court (2001-2007)
  • Arbitrator and Temporary Judge, Orange County Superior Court (1992-2007)
  • Partner, Donovan & Draheim (1994-2007)
  • Partner, Donovan & Quilligan (1987-1994)
  • Associate, Wood, Ward & Garnett (1983-1987)
  • Associate, Thomas & Price (1981-1983)
  • Hill, Genson, Even, Crandall & Wade (1978-1981)
Education & Professional Affiliations
  • J. D., Southwestern University School of Law (1981)
  • B.A., Economics, Fordham University, Bronx, New York (1977)
  • Pepperdine University, School of Law - Straus Institute for Dispute Resolution, “Mediating the Litigated Case” (2001)
  • Orange County Trial Lawyers Association (OCTLA), Affiliate Member (2008-Present)
  • Consumer Attorneys of Los Angeles (CAALA) (2001-Present)
  • California Real Estate Broker (1998)
  • F.A.A. Licensed Private Pilot (1991)
  • Association of Southern California Defense Counsel (1988-Present)
  • Orange County and Riverside Bar Associations, Member
Achievements & Awards
  • Mr. Donovan has been an AV-rated attorney listed in the Martindale-Hubbell Bar Register since 1989.
Below is a sampling of the various matters Gary N. Donovan, Esq. handled as a practicing attorney or neutral.


  • The plaintiff aircraft rental company claimed the defendant pilot was liable for damages to a plane when the pilot was required to make an off-airport landing due to engine failure. The plaintiff argued that the plane’s engine failed due to insufficient fuel, which the defendant should have noted and been aware of at the pre-fight check. The plane sustained property damage and could not be rented out while down for repairs, resulting in damages to the plaintiff. A settlement at mediation was achieved.
  • Mediated various aviation matters, including a private jet crash, fuel exhaustion issue of a high-performance aviation aircraft, ground operations of commercial air carriers, and more.


  • A lawsuit against multiple parties regarding a recall of products made by the defendant manufacturer due to defective parts created from incorrect material raising safety concerns about the recalled products. The recalled products had not failed or caused any damages. The first mediation was over one year after the case was filed, with extensive discovery completed and additional parties added.
  • Plaintiff, a clothing manufacturer, claimed that the defendant, the clothing company, failed to pay for clothing items imported- Defendant claimed the clothes received were poorly made. Thus it should not have to pay the full documented invoice.
  • The plaintiff, a golf shaft manufacturer, claimed breach of contract, conversion, international interference with economic advantage, and unfair business practices arising from the defendant freight forwarding company’s failure to deliver imported goods. Plaintiff was under contract to sell the goods being shipped to it to a third-party client. Plaintiff claimed its business with the third party client declined.
  • The plaintiff was hired to find tenants to rent out commercial real property owned by the defendant. The plaintiff failed to do so. However, it still sought to recover the payment due per the contract. After long hours of mediation, the two parties settled.
  • Mediated a range of business disputes, including a notable case involving a contract dispute over WiFi services in a major sporting arena.

Constr. Defect/Real Property

  • An air condition hose installed by the defendant caused damages to the common areas maintained by a homeowner’s association. Many parties were involved due to damages to multiple residences and defendants cross-complaint against other trades. A global settlement was reached.

Construction Breach Of Contract

  • During the construction of a residential building, Plaintiff, a general contractor, subcontracted with the defendant to design and install a specific component. Plaintiff sued for breach of contract alleging that it had to hire another subcontractor to complete defendant’s work. Defendant filed a cross-complaint against the general contractor for material breaches of the change of work provision in the subcontract, unjust enrichment, and breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing. The case was settled despite very strongly held feelings on both sides.

Construction Defects

  • Plaintiff homeowner, came home to find her kitchen in flames. She claimed she had not used the kitchen oven or stove in three days and had yet to remodel the kitchen. Evidence suggested that the fire originated from the wall cavity in the area of the cooktop wall outlet and the wiring connected to this outlet. Damages totaled nearly seven figures. The defendant's home construction company, was primarily at fault for the damage created by the fire and had many opportunities to settle the case. After further evidence was found against the defendant, the case was mediated and settled for an undisclosed six figures.
  • A case arising out of a claim for water damage at a private residence undergoing an ongoing construction project. The defendant roofing company was hired to reroof the home. It was determined during the roofing project that extra work would have to be done on the trusses. Plaintiff contended roofing company was delayed in making the repairs. The roofing company claimed they had to have another contractor do the work for the trusses, and their subcontractor was delayed. During the delay, insufficient and inadequate protection of the partially constructed roof led to water damage during a rainy day. Damages to the home were alleged in excess of one million. The case was mediated between multiple parties, and a settlement was achieved at the second session.
  • The defendant cable company was subcontracted to install a fiber optics cable line. While tracking the line, employees sprayed compressed air into the conduit. The conduit accumulated water, which was forced into the electrical room of a local school, causing damage to the electrical room equipment and computers. The school spent well over $100,000 to replace damaged equipment and clean the electrical room.
  • Mediated construction defects and contract disputes ranging from minor fence boundary issues to multimillion-dollar defects in the homes of celebrities.

Wrongful Term & Discrimination

  • Plaintiff employee of a medical group claimed she was terminated due to her age. The defendant disputed the acquisition and alleged plaintiff was terminated as a result of many write-ups about protocol violations, bad attitude, and inappropriate conduct. The plaintiff then suggested the defendant-practiced medicine on patients without a license contrary to the medical group’s protocol.

Wrongful Termination

  • Plaintiff employee of a medical group sued his employer, claiming he was wrongfully discharged, discriminated against, and treated unfairly. A co-defendant coworker looked up his confidential medical records and found out about his medical condition. Plaintiff caught another coworker and co-defendant forging doctors’ signatures on prescription slips, and he notified the DEA, who investigated. The medical group then fired the plaintiff.

Bad Faith

  • Claims against an insurance provider were presented when a commercial property suffered fire damage. The Plaintiff accused the insurance company of scheming to avoid fully repaying costs. A settlement was achieved.
  • Plaintiff construction crewmember was injured while working on repairs to a home. He settled his damages with his employer for injuries workers' compensation carrier. The workers' compensation carrier insurance sought repayment from the general contractor and homeowner.


  • A fire arose at the plaintiff’s Senior Living complex originating from a tenant who left her groceries on the stove which was left on, igniting the groceries. There was no dispute as to the cause of the fire or the negligence of the tenant. The sole issue of the case involved the application of the implied co-insured doctrine defense to the case.

Property Damage

  • Plaintiff, a homeowner, claimed he was not paid enough by his insurance company, the defendant, to repair water damage in his home. The homeowner claimed a pipe suddenly burst, causing his house to flood. After further evidence was obtained, the insurer claimed the damage was a result of a long-term leak and not a sudden pipe burst.

Agent and Broker Malpractice

  • The Plaintiff lender alleged negligence against the property appraiser after the borrower defaulted on the loan and the property sold for significantly less, resulting in a substantial loss. The appraiser claimed adherence to industry standards while attributing the loss to the lender's underwriting negligence. This matter was settled after several mediation sessions.

Medical Malpractice

  • The plaintiff, a husband of an injured woman, claims he did not receive payments due to sick time because he was obligated to care for his recovering wife. His wife underwent knee replacement surgery, and when she was in rehabilitation, she fell on her knee, allegedly from the therapist not being where she should have been to help. As a result, his wife had to have more surgery requiring more help from the plaintiff and more time missed from work. Defendant denied all liability and damages.

Professional Malpractice Legal

  • Plaintiff, a party to a contentious divorce and custody battle, sued her counsel for legal malpractice, claiming counsel failed to obtain a final judgment on key issues, causing those issues to be re-litigated and a change in interim orders favorable to her to permanent orders not so favorable to her. Plaintiff claimed damages of significant six figures. Defendant denied all claims and any damages suffered by the plaintiff. The matter was settled after extensive mediation for a confidential amount.

Breach Of Contract

  • A commercial tenant claimed that the landlord breached its contract and made misrepresentations about repairs to the roof. The defendant landlord did not deny the terms of the lease agreement but denied liability. The case was settled at mediation for an undisclosed agreement and amount.

Real Property

  • Homeowners attempted to refinance their home loan with their lender. The lender repeatedly lost information, delayed, and ultimately foreclosed and then sold the property.


  • Claims arose when the buyer of a residence and horse property was to assume the seller’s loan and then refinance. However, the buyer could not refinance because the buildings located on the property were not permitted, and the property would not appraise to cover the loans.

Warranty of Habitability

  • Upon moving into the defendant’s property, plaintiffs began noticing several defects making the property uninhabitable, such as a leaking roof, rat/mice infestation, lack of hot water, and mold. Defendant collected rent payments from plaintiffs but failed to fix or repair damages caused by the defects.
  • The plaintiffs, composed of 21 tenants living in the same apartment complex, claimed the complex was uninhabitable due to filth in common areas, cockroach/rodent infestation, leaks, and inadequate plumbing and waste management. Evidence and inspection suggested that the defendant has failed to take a building-wide approach to eradicating the infestation. Settlement of a six-figure amount was achieved.
  • Plaintiff tenants of an apartment complex claimed that they suffered from unlivable conditions for many years, including lice, bed bugs, mice/ cockroach infestations, defective plumbing, inadequate waste management, electrical problems, and security issues. Many tenants suffered physical issues. The defendant owner argued that he had adequately repaired any purported deficiencies and acted like a reasonable landlord at all times.
  • Claims were made against the landlord defendant, who rented to monolingual Spanish-speaking tenants, that the landlord did not maintain the premises, which was overrun by rodents and cockroaches, was in significant disrepair, and only provided leases in English. The defendant stated he was not responsible for those conditions.

Business Torts

  • The defendant, a background check company, acknowledged its failure to verify accurate information about the plaintiff, who claimed to have missed out on an employment opportunity due to this misinformation. While the defendant did not dispute liability, it argued that the plaintiff suffered no damages as she alleged.

Catastrophic Injury

  • Plaintiff, a 5-year-old, was playing on a fountain outside of a commercial building when it collapsed on her foot and ankle, nearly severing her foot. The defendant commercial building owner disputed the child’s injuries and damages caused by the fountain, disputed liability, and the extent of damages.

General Negligence

  • An 8-year-old child was brutally attacked by a neighbor’s Pitbull dog on the arm and elbow. The plaintiff received staples in his arm and elbow and has three scars. The defendant accepted liability for the incident. The case was settled for an undisclosed six figures.
  • A homeowner’s adult child brought her dogs to visit a friend. One of the defendant’s dogs attacked the homeowner’s friend when she tried to stop the dog from attacking her dog. The Plaintiff was severely bitten on the left hand and underwent medical care for a month.
  • A homeowner’s adult child brought her dogs to visit a friend. One of the defendant’s dogs attacked the homeowner’s friend when she tried to stop the dog from attacking her dog. The Plaintiff was severely bitten on the left hand and underwent medical care for a month.
  • A leashed pit bull ran over to an unleashed terrier in a neighbor’s yard, and the dogs tussled. The owners of the dogs tried to break up the fight and were injured in the process. Defendant contended plaintiff was injured by his own dog. Plaintiff sustained significant medical damages and loss of earnings.

Personal Injury

  • A customer shopping at a department store slipped and fell, claiming injuries to her arm, back, and head. She sought immediate medical attention, including an MRI and CT scan. The defendant department store disputed liability, claiming no evidence of any actual notice of an alleged wet substance on the floor. Gary was able to negotiate the legal dynamics to help the parties to a full resolution.
  • An employee slipped and fell due to a build-up of water under a mat. The employer knew of the water build-up however, failed to place a warning cone.

Premises Liability

  • While attending a County Fair and walking through the parking lot, a metal wire strung between two parking bollards struck the plaintiff’s left knee. Plaintiff was severely injured, including a broken leg. The defendant, a parking lot manager, admits that it was an intentional decision not to put a parking bollard in the middle of the aisle where the incident occurred despite each other lane containing one.
  • Plaintiff, a customer, was shopping in defendant's department store when a rack dislodged and fell directly on her left foot, causing significant injury and scarring. Plaintiff contented, and closer examination of the racks revealed they were in a state of despair and were loosely held together. Defendant denied liability.
  • Fireworks misfired into a crowd of spectators, hitting the plaintiff and causing severe and permanent injuries, including permanent loss of hearing in the left ear, head trauma, headaches, vertigo, left shoulder contusion, and a torn rotator cuff.
  • A woman became stuck on a drain cover in the hotel pool/spa because the drain cover was not approved or the correct type of cover for the spa. The plaintiff discovered a large dark red circular contusion/ abrasion on her back in the shape of the drain. The defendants had actual notice of the incorrect cover from two other sources but failed to fix the problem.
  • Plaintiff fell while walking down the stairs of her apartment complex. Plaintiff claimed the fall was due to water leakage resulting in a slippery surface and small steps. Plaintiff injured her knee, which caused emotional and physical pain, and underwent treatment for several months. The defendant landlord denied liability and disputed the nature and extent of the claimed injuries.

Product Liability

  • Plaintiff, a vehicle manufacturer, claimed that the engines failed due to a defective part developed by the defendant. Plaintiff sought recovery based on theories of strict product liability and implied warranty.
  • The plaintiff homeowner claimed a water heater in the home failed and caused a water loss and significant property damage. An investigation by an expert consultant found that the water heater connector had a design defect made by the defendant.
  • Design defect claims against a bicycle manufacturer when the bicycle fell apart while the plaintiff was riding it, resulting in multiple fractures. Plaintiff sued for negligence, strict product liability, and fraud. Defendant denied liability.
  • Homeowners whose house caught on fire claimed the fire originated from the water dispenser due to water leaking inside and short-circuiting the dispenser. Claims against a refrigerator and water dispenser manufacturer were made. Defendant contended the evidence concluded that the cause of the fire was indeterminate.

Wrongful Death

  • The plaintiffs, survivors of the deceased, claimed that the tenant died due to mold growing in the home, causing a hazardous environment resulting in cancer and death of the tenant. The defendant landlord argued that the homeowners refused repairs and routine maintenance checks. After many hours of mediation between the parties, a solution was reached.
  • A wrongful death claim regarding a husband/father who, on his way to work died, of blunt force trauma at the scene as the result of a vehicle accident. The decedent driver rear-ended another vehicle when the front vehicle slowed and impeded traffic flow on the freeway after he missed his off-ramp. After long hours of mediation, a settlement was achieved.
  • A 68-year-old woman was killed after she borrowed a go-kart, drove it through a parking lot, over a curb, and into the fender of a passing car. The defendant owner of the go-kart argued that the woman was given accurate instructions to drive the go-kart. A settlement was achieved at an emotionally charged mediation.
  • A wrongful death claim regarding a husband/father’s death in an automobile accident. The defendant wife/mother was driving a rented car and lost control of the vehicle, which caused the vehicle to overturn. As a result, her husband died upon impact. The plaintiff, the son of the two parents in the accident, suggested the defendant was driving irresponsibly.
  • A 92-year-old man was using his walker to assist his walk up a ramp from a parking lot to the town center. He fell due to soft unstable asphalt in front of the ramp where trench work was being done. He sustained a broken leg and 10 days later, died. His wife and son sued the owner and property manager for damages well over six figures. The defendant claimed, with medical evidence indicated, that the plaintiff died of preexisting conditions and old age.
Mr. Donovan is a very good mediator and works very hard at trying to resolve disputes/matters. In the mediations I have had with him, I have always been satisfied with his services.
- Attorney on a Personal Injury Dangerous Conditions Catastrophic Case
We are very pleased with Mr. Donovan. He made the mediation process very manageable and was able to get us to resolve the matter for a satisfactory amount.
- Attorney on a Premises Liability Case
Various options in attempting to get the parties to talk numbers. Very creative.
- Attorney on a General Negligence Case
Gary worked hard at getting the case resolved after the mediation session.
- Attorney on a Negligent Supervision Case
Very effective mediator with a thorough understanding of our defenses and likely trial outcomes. He effectively communicated our points to the plaintiff's counsel despite the counsel's refusal to accept reality. The case was settled the following day.
- Senior Attorney at a Nationwide Law Firm
I wanted to express my gratitude to Gary Donovan for his smooth handling of the mediation.
- Attorney, Orange County, California
Gary did a great job in bringing so many parties together on a mutually beneficial settlement. I look forward to working with him again in the future.
- Attorney, San Diego, California
Gary Donovan is excellent.
- Attorney on a Premises Liability Case
Gary N. Donovan, Esq.
Based in Orange County | Available in All of California
Case Manager: Andy Chevalier