David S. McLeod

Of Counsel

515 South Figueroa Street
8th Floor
Los Angeles, California 90071
Phone: (213) 683-6526


University of Southern California
A.B., magna cum laude, 1972
  • Phi Beta Kappa
University of San Francisco School of Law
J.D., cum laude, 1975
  • Assistant Editor of the Law Review

Practice Areas


  • California
  • All U.S. District Courts in California
  • Ninth Circuit
  • U.S. Supreme Court
David is a veteran trial lawyer with extensive experience in state and federal courts, as well as arbitrations and other forms of alternative dispute resolution. He has tried a wide range of commercial and tort cases, including many that were high stakes and enterprise-threatening.

His diverse group of clients have included Texaco, Mobil, Global Marine, International Union of Operating Engineers Local 12, Operating Engineers Funds Inc., The Walt Disney Company, Directors Guild of America, Downey Regional Medical Center, numerous construction industry related entities, and several very substantial privately held businesses and their stakeholders. On behalf of his clients David has personally handled cases not only throughout California, but also Louisiana, Texas, New Mexico and Alaska. He has supervised litigation in many other jurisdictions, including New York, Delaware and the United Kingdom.

David has represented both plaintiffs and defendants, recovering more than $40 million for his clients on the plaintiff side commercial cases. He draws upon his broad trial and litigation experience to develop approaches to cases that are both efficient and strategic, always keeping in mind what will be of critical importance to the trier-of-fact. He is AV Peer Review rated by Martindale-Hubbell.
  • Health Care/Medical Institutions. Represented a regional medical center and its parent and subsidiary entities, senior officers and individual directors in a wide variety of litigation and government proceedings. For example, tried seven cases to verdict over two years that involved contractual interpretation, accounting and enforcement of various rights and duties. In another case, obtained a summary judgment for the corporate entity, officers and directors, while defending allegations that they breached the charitable trust in allegedly mismanaging and misappropriating assets. The case involved complex issues of corporate governance and business judgment involving a not-for-profit entity. Locally, the case received significant print media and political attention.
  • Government Investigations (Criminal, Civil and Administrative). Represented several companies and individual management employees defending government investigations ranging from unannounced "raids" pursuant to search warrant to self-reported matters. Our experience includes civil and criminal on both the state and federal levels. The results have been uniformly excellent.
  • Entertainment Industry. Represented the Walt Disney Company and certain production companies and have handled litigations ranging from intellectual property to wrongful death to shareholder actions. Also represented both the Directors Guild of America and the Writers Guild of America.
  • Taft-Hartley Trust Funds. Represented several large trusts and boards of trustees in Federal District Court litigation with third parties, conducting investigations and providing advice. The assignments have included breach of contract, professional liability, fiduciary liability and prohibited transaction issues.
  • Water Rights. Represented an institutional owner of water rights as the plaintiff in state court litigation over the nature and extent of its acquisition of water rights in a local basin.
  • Agriculture. Represented a Central Coast ranch owner in a breach of contract arbitration with a lessee that involved issues of hydrocarbon contamination to soil, availability of water and physical damages to grazing pasture, structures and appurtenances.
  • Semiconductor Industry. Provided advice to numerous companies on litigation related matters.
  • Texaco Inc. Handled hundreds of litigations of all types for various Texaco entities such as complex commercial disputes; antitrust; price fixing; unfair competition; environmental; employment; land subsidence due to oil field production; product liability and personal injury claims ranging from minor slip and falls to catastrophic injuries. These matters were often arbitrated and occasionally tried.
  • Texaco Wilmington Refinery Litigations (Long Beach Branch of the Los Angeles County Superior Court). Represented Texaco in three separate litigations arising from three separate explosions and fires at the Wilmington refinery. The most significant of these occurred in the hydrocracker unit. In excess of 140 separate complaints were filed naming approximately 14,000 plaintiffs. Allegations ranged from the usual exposure claims to psychiatric and orthopedic injuries. We defeated efforts to enjoin the operation of the refinery. We also defeated class certification efforts. Over 5,000 claims were dismissed without any payment by our client. Medical liens that originally exceeded $10 million were settled for cents on the dollar. We dealt with very substantial issues of case management, underlying liability facts and alleged damages. We brought order to a nearly unmanageable set of circumstances and disposed of the matter with virtually no imposition on refinery personnel or operations. We also defeated injunctive and class certification efforts in the latter two cases arising from an explosion and fire in the hydrotreater and a fire in the alkylation unit. These latter two cases also involved substantial issues of case management, liability and damages. The hydrotreater case was originally brought on behalf of approximately 27,500 named plaintiffs. Approximately 80% were dismissed without any settlement payments for failure to comply with ordered case management. The remaining claims were settled for nominal sums. The alkylation unit case was dismissed without any settlement payments as the nearly 1,000 plaintiffs could not comply with the ordered case management. Again, there was essentially no imposition on refinery personnel or operations.
  • Mobil Oil Corporation - Walcher vs. Mobil (C.D. Cal.). Defeated class certification in an action against Mobil arising from alleged acute and chronic exposure at the local Torrance refinery. Plaintiffs later dismissed their action with no settlement payment by Mobil. We also represented Mobil in Louisiana state court in connection with two mass tort actions involving a hydrocracker explosion and allegations of chronic exposure from Mobil's Chalmette refinery. We were substituted into these cases 90 days prior to trial, although they were approximately six years old. In one of the cases, Ford vs. Mobil, et al., a class had already been certified. We obtained certiorari from the Louisiana Supreme Court and convinced it to de-certify the class and dismiss the action in a landmark opinion -- the first class action opinion favorable to the industry in over 30 years. Ford vs. Murphy Oil, Mobil, et al., 703 So.2d 542 (1997). Lailhengue vs. Mobil was settled during trial for a fraction of the demand prior to our involvement.
  • Global Marine Inc., (C.D. Cal.). The client owned and operated a heavy weather semi-submersible oil drilling vessel working in the North Sea off the coast of Scotland. During a well test, a contractor caused an explosion on the vessel. The vessel was damaged necessitating approximately six months of repairs and there were several deaths. We recovered Global's lost revenue and repair damages, as well as defended the wrongful death actions. Additionally, we defended governmental investigations by the NTSB, Coast Guard and U. K. Department of Energy in Aberdeen, Scotland. We also supervised contractual indemnity litigation in London. The cases involved issues of oil drilling and testing, negligence, product liability, contractual indemnity, choice of law, jurisdiction and recoverable damages under the laws of the United States (in admiralty), England and Scotland.
  • Alyeska Pipeline Service Co. We obtained a verdict in Federal District Court in Alaska declaring unconstitutional a state oil pollution clean-up scheme which sought to impose substantial monetary charges on certain entities involved in the handling and transportation of crude oil from the North Slope.
  • A shopping center in a heavily populated area of Los Angeles ignited in fire due to migrating methane gas. Approximately, 30 lawsuits were filed for property damages, lost revenue and personal injury. We defended an oil company whose predecessor entities allegedly had at one time exploration, production and storage operations on the underlying property. Issues concerned governmental immunities, adjudications regarding underground water rights, geology, successor liability, and whether our settlement with plaintiffs was in good faith.
  • Commercial Cold Storage Facility Litigation, (Santa Barbara Superior Court). Our client owned and was lessor of a large food processing and storage facility. The two tenants filed suit alleging the plant did not have the processing and storage capabilities it was represented to possess. We defended the claims for breach of contract, fraud, construction defects, etc. We also prosecuted cross-complaints to recover rent owed. We obtained a recovery on the cross-complaint with one tenant and renegotiated the lease with the other tenant.
  • "Oil Company" v. "Doe" Materials Supplier, (Los Angeles Superior Court). We prosecuted a claim by an oil company seeking a recovery for lost revenue and property damage caused by defective equipment sold by the defendants which led to an explosion, fire and refinery shut down. The issues involved oil refining, metallurgy, negligence, product liability, fraud and recoverable damages. The case was settled just prior to trial with our client receiving a significant recovery.
  • Johnson v. Reserve Life Insurance Company, et al. (C.D. Cal.). We represented Reserve Life Insurance Company and its successor Midland National Life Insurance Company in this ERISA dispute, eventually obtaining summary judgment on all grounds. The plaintiff, who was rendered a quadriplegic in an accident during the term of the group insurance policy, sued for continuation benefits under California and federal law, after her employer later canceled the group policy. Initially, plaintiff contested application of ERISA, but we prevailed on a motion for summary adjudication that the group plan was covered by ERISA. See Johnson v. Reserve Life Ins. Co., 761 F. Supp 93 (C.D. Cal. 1991). Thereafter, we prevailed on a summary judgment motion in which the court held that: (1) California law was not applicable because the master group policy was issued and delivered in Alabama; and (2) plaintiff was not entitled to COBRA continuation benefits under ERISA because her employer, although a participant in a multiple employer trust, was deemed a single employer and thus fell within the small employer exemption. See Johnson v. Reserve Life Ins. Co., 765 Supp. 1478 (C.D. Cal. 1991). Ultimately, plaintiff dismissed her appeal without filing a brief.
  • Served on several boards and routinely provides advice and counseling to company boards and senior management.
  • Panelist at various industry seminars and continuing education programs.
  • McLeod & Witham LLP, 2008 — 2019
  • Dewey Ballantine LLP, 1986 — 2007 (While at Dewey Ballantine LLP management responsibilities included Co-Managing Partner of the Los Angeles Office, Chair of the Los Angeles Litigation Department and a member of the National Litigation Department Coordinating Committee.)
  • Lillick McHose & Charles, 1975 — 1986