Matt has focused his practice on matters that he personally cares about, and he and his colleagues have strived to make their communities safer, and prevent future injuries, deaths and tragedies. As an example, Matt is a lifelong recreational bicyclist and it breaks his heart every time he hears about a bike rider getting hurt or killed. He has helped numerous injured cyclists achieve civil justice. He has also spearheaded the firm’s efforts to distribute tens of thousands of safety lights to bike riders every year for the past eight years.

Similarly, in 2020, Matt and partners Michael Kelly and Richard Schoenberger helped prosecute a groundbreaking case on behalf of their alma mater UC Hastings and residents and businesses in the San Francisco’s Tenderloin district that resulted in a swift settlement whereby the city agreed to clear tents and encampments from the sidewalks and streets of that embattled neighborhood {read article here}. The firm’s work on that case was done pro bono.

Articles

  • Court Approves Multi-Million Dollar Settlement In Landmark Consumer Privacy Case And Appoints Matt Davis As Class Counsel
  • Lawyers say city, zoo on shaky legal ground if tiger victims sue
  • San Francisco Chronicle Consults Walkup Firm About the Tiger Attack
  • Zoo experts don’t see how cat could escape on its own

Litigation Percentage

  • 90% of Practice Devoted to Litigation

Recent Verdicts and Settlements

House Cleaners v. Homeowners and Gas Supply Company

(Negligence; Premises Liability; Burn Injury) Matt Davis, Spencer Pahlke and Valerie Rose represented a couple who were cleaning a vacation rental home when leaking gas vapors ignited. Both clients suffered severe burn injuries in the ensuing explosion and fire. Matt, Spencer and Valerie established that the homeowners and supply company had violated safety laws relating to supply piping, inspections and maintenance, and that these violations were a cause of the gas leak. The team developed evidence showing that the company had a history of violating these safety laws, that there had been prior home explosions, and that the company had been warned future explosions were likely to occur if violations continued. Matt, Spencer and Valerie argued that this history demonstrated a conscious disregard of the safety of the public justifying an award of punitive damages. The plaintiffs were non-English speaking legal residents who were rendered totally disabled by virtue of full thickness burns, residual cosmetic disfigurement and functional limitations. The case settled at a judicially mandated settlement conference less than a week before trial for $45,000,000.

Library Gardens Balcony Collapse Victims v. Construction Companies, Property Owners and Property Managers

(Wrongful Death; Personal Injury; Premises Liability) On June 16, 2015, shortly after midnight, twelve Irish and one Irish-American college students stood chatting on a balcony when it collapsed without warning. They fell 40 feet to the sidewalk below. Five of the Irish and the one American died almost immediately. The seven survivors suffered major injuries. The incident occurred during the 21st birthday celebration for one of the injured victims. Matt and his partners Mike Kelly, Rich Schoenberger and Conor Kelly, represented all seven injured victims and the families of the five deceased Irish students. The balcony was on an apartment building in Berkeley, then called Library Gardens. It collapsed because the cantilevered wooden joists that supported the balcony had completely rotted away, even though the building was just eight years old. The decayed joists were not visible before the collapse because there were enclosed in a decorative stucco soffit. The Walkup team filed lawsuits against the companies involved in the construction of the apartment building as well as its corporate owner and property manager. In the case against the construction defendants, the Walkup team conducted an extensive investigation that showed numerous errors, mistakes and shortcuts during the building’s design and construction process that allowed water to seep into and become trapped in the soffit. That warm and moist environment provided the perfect medium for fungi that digest the parts of the wood that give strength and stiffness, a well-known phenomenon called “dry rot.” The Walkup team first reached settlements with these defendants. A key event in the case against the apartment complex’s corporate owner and manager occurred when the Walkup team’s investigator tracked down a former tenant of the apartment and obtained from her photographs, taken three years before the collapse, of large fungal growths – sprouting off the edge of the balcony. This former tenant testified under oath that she had reported to the property management company for the apartment complex that “mushrooms” were growing off the side of the balcony. The Walkup team then scoured the management company’s records, deposed key staff and confirmed that the company indeed had received notice of the mushrooms, but took no action in response, even though the fungal growths were an unmistakable red flag warning of dry rot occurring within the soffit. Settlements with the owner-manager defendants were achieved during a weeklong mediation that took place in Dublin, Ireland. The amounts of the settlements are confidential. The Walkup team also supported the passage of state inspection laws intended to prevent the recurrence of such a tragedy.

Verderber v. Reno Hilton Hotel

Matt, as co-counsel, tried a class action lawsuit to verdict on behalf of about 1,000 guests of the Reno Hilton Hotel who contracted the Norwalk gastrointestinal virus during their stay at that facility. The suit alleged that the casino violated state sanitation laws and acted in conscious disregard of its guests’ safety. Matt, through the testimony of the county epidemiologist, established that the outbreak started among hotel staff, who were forced to work while sick because the hotel was fully booked, and then spread the virus to the guest population. He also presented evidence that impeached the testimony of hotel management that they did not require employees to work while sick. The jury awarded compensatory and punitive damages in excess of $25,000,000.

Paralyzed Bicyclist vs. Road Contractors

(Bicycle Injury; Negligence; Roadway Conditions) On a spring morning in 2016, a semi-retired surgeon and experienced bicyclist was starting a recreational ride near his East Bay home.  He was on a designated bicycle route and pedaling through a road construction project when his front wheel went into a trench in the roadway, causing him to be thrown over his handlebars and land headfirst on the asphalt. The impact broke his neck and rendered him a quadriplegic.  Police officers investigated the crash and issued a report that concluded that the injured doctor was solely at fault because he had steered his bicycle inside of the safety cones at the construction site, in violation of the California Vehicle Code.  Rich Schoenberger and Matt nevertheless took on and aggressively prosecuted a case on the doctor’s behalf. Through precise questioning at deposition, they established that members of the construction crew had moved the safety cones after the incident but before the police photographed the scene. They also obtained admissions from construction company officials that the construction site did not meet minimum safety requirements. Rich and Matt also were able to show that had the companies put up a simple warning sign and barricade—as mandated by safety standards—then their client’s injury would have never occurred. Rich and Matt obtained $12 million in settlements on behalf of the doctor and his wife.

Widower and Son v. Tree Company and Public Entity

(Wrongful Death; Dangerous Condition of Public Property) Matt and Rich Schoenberger represented the husband and adult son of a woman who died when a diseased tree fell onto the road and hit her moving car. The suit was brought against the governmental entity that owned road and the tree and the company that had been hired to maintain the tree. Rich and Matt discovered evidence that the governmental entity had repeatedly asked the tree company to remove the tree because it presented a danger to road users. The decedent was a professional high-income earner and had a very close relationship with her husband and son. Rich and Matt settled the case for $12 million following several mediation sessions.

Injured Cyclist v. Driver, Public Entities and Design Firm

(Personal Injury; Negligence; Dangerous Condition of Public Property) Matt, Michael Kelly and Andrew McDevitt represented a man who was riding his bicycle in a designated bicycle lane when a car heading in the opposite direction turned left and did not heed the right of way. The cyclist collided with the side of the car and suffered severe spinal cord injuries and paralysis. While the fault of the left-turning driver was clear, she did not have sufficient insurance to compensate the injured client. The Walkup team investigated the crash site and learned that there had been a number of prior left-turning car versus bicyclist collisions at this exact same location. They also learned that the governmental entities that owned the roadway had been specifically warned that left-turning drivers were not able to see oncoming cyclists during certain times of day, and that a company had been hired to re-design the roadway to make it safer, but had in fact not effected any meaningful changes. The matter settled a month before trial for $7,749,000.

Walker V. County of Santa Clara

(Civil Rights/Wrongful Conviction) Matt and Rich Schoenberger negotiated a $2.75 million settlement on behalf of Ricky Walker, a man who spent 12 years in prison after being wrongfully convicted in 1991 of being an accomplice to a gruesome murder. Depositions and discovery showed that the sheriff deputies who investigated the murder did not turn over important evidence that tended to show Walker’s innocence. In 2003, a court found Walker to be factually innocent. The true accomplice to the murder was then identified and he eventually pled guilty. (United States District Court, Northern California)

Valencia v. Monterey Salinas Transit

(Motor Vehicle Negligence; Brain Injury) Matt obtained $3 million settlement on behalf of woman who was a pedestrian in a crosswalk when she was struck by a left-turning bus. She sustained a serious brain injury. The transit agency initially claimed the woman carelessly ran in front of the bus. Experts retained by the Walkup firm, however, reconstructed the accident and proved that she was walking with the green light when the bus hit her. (Monterey County)

Grotenhuis V Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District

(Wrongful Death; Motor Vehicle Negligence) Matt and Michael Kelly obtained a $4 million verdict on behalf of the adult son of a woman who was jogging one morning when a left-turning bus ran her over. She suffered fatal injuries. The defendant bus owner, a public entity, contended that the deceased pedestrian bore some or all of the fault because she was not paying attention and ran into the path of the bus. The jury, however, agreed with Mike and Matt and assigned all fault to the bus driver.

Fat Lee V. Hemsley Corporation

(Premises Liability/Negligence/Punitive Damages/Hazardous Tree/Wrongful Death) Matt and Rich Schoenberger obtained a settlement of $2.7 million for husband and two adult daughters of a 54-year-old woman who was killed when a dead tree fell into a public roadway and struck her car. The tree stood on land that was part of a large apartment complex. Matt located the former property manager who testified that about three years before the accident she warned the complex owners that the trees next to the road were dying and in danger of falling and killing someone. (San Francisco County)

Pedestrian V. Silicon Valley Company

(Motor Vehicle Negligence/Brain Injury) Together with Rich Schoenberger, Matt obtained a $4,050,000 settlement on behalf of a recent business school graduate who suffered a brain injury after being hit by a car while in a crosswalk. The driver had a limited personal insurance policy (only $50,000). She was employed by a large Silicon Valley Company and she gave conflicting accounts as to what she was doing when the accident occurred. She told police that she was heading from one company campus to another. She later said she was going home. Matt and Rich named the company as a defendant. The company agreed to contribute $4 million toward the settlement after Matt and Rich established that the driver was still on the clock when the accident occurred and that she sometimes used her car to run company errands. (Santa Clara County)

Minor Pedestrian V. Truck Company

(Motor Vehicle Negligence; Personal Injuries) Matt represented a minor child and her grandmother who both suffered injuries while pedestrians in a crosswalk and hit by a right-turning truck. The minor child’s younger brother and grandfather witnessed the incident but did not suffer physical injuries. Matt obtains a total of $6,500,000 in settlement for the family.

Burn Injury Victim vs. Venue and Fire Pit Maker

(Burn Injury; Defective Product Liability; Premises Liability) On St. Patrick’s Day 2018, a surgical nurse and her friend visited a local venue for a daytime event. Afterward, they sat at an outdoor table and waited for their rideshare to arrive and take them home. It was getting cool and they asked a venue staff member to light the propane-fueled fire pit in the center of the table, which he did. Moments later, a slight gust of wind blew and flames escaped from the base of the table and ignited the nurse’s dress. The friend smothered her with a coat and extinguished the fire, but the nurse suffered blistering burns on her legs and one hand. She spent several weeks in the burn unit. She did not have to undergo grafts, but the injured skin was permanently discolored and sensitive. Before the incident, the nurse loved to surf and work out, but she could no longer expose the affected skin to the sun. She also lost the ability to sweat from the injured skin, which affected her ability to cool off during exercise. Matt and his partner Spencer Pahlke launched an investigation that established that a small rupture in the hose connected to the propane tank in the base of the table had leaked gas. Matt and Spencer also showed that the design and manufacture of the fire pit table violated safety standards by subjecting the supply hose to being scraped and stressed every time the tank was changed. They brought suit against the fire pit maker. That company settled by paying the nurse its insurance policy limits. Matt and Spencer also sued the venue owner, based on the legal concept that a property owner has a non-delegable duty to take reasonable measures to keep its premises safe. The venue owner also paid its insurance policy limits. The total recovery for the nurse was $3 million.

Past Employment Positions

  • San Francisco City Attorney’s Office, Deputy City Attorney, 1992 – 2001