Kevin K. Cholakian was a director/shareholder at a well known, AV rated, 25 attorney San Francisco insurance bad faith and liability defense firm, which he left in December 1999 after 12 years as managing partner of the firm’s liability defense practice, bringing his practice to Cholakian & Associates, which he began in January 2000.
Cholakian & Associates, a 10 attorney civil defense firm, is listed in Best’s Insurance Directory, has been AV rated by Martindale-Hubbell since inception, and is retained to represent small businesses and individuals named as defendants in claims of serious exposure to those businesses and individuals, as well as providing governmental defense to Bay Area municipalities and counties. This practice primarily involves the representation of clients regarding commercial and personal lines claims as well as the defense of insureds involved in serious catastrophic injury litigation, complex commercial/environmental litigation, product liability/fire liability and subrogation matters, ADA litigation, employment, governmental defense and coverage litigation. This also includes defense of matters involving allegations of construction defect, mold related claims, inter and intrastate trucking, commercial landlord/tenant, environmental liability, professional liability, including insurance agents, labor and employment law, first party coverage and claims matters. The attorneys in this practice group have significant litigation experience, with emphasis on high exposure cases.
Cholakian & Associates’ principal office is in San Francisco. The firm also has offices in Sacramento and Fresno.
The following is a brief summary of the careers of the firm's attorneys.
Brian J. Finn
Colin H. Jewell
Kevin K. Cholakian attended North Carolina School of the Arts in Winston-Salem, North Carolina his senior year of high school 1971-72 on a full scholarship. Mr. Cholakian then attended San Francisco Conservatory of Music on a Ford Foundation Scholarship from 1972-1973. He graduated magna cum laude with a B.A. in Philosophy; in 1977. From 1976 to 1978, he served as Chief Administrative Assistant to California State Senator Rose Ann Vuich (the first woman elected to the California State Senate), wherein he was responsible for the Central California field offices 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 (1983-1987), 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 40 major jury trials, the majority of which having exposures in excess of $100,000, and is regularly asked to defend cases that have exposures in excess of $1,000,000.00. His first trial as an attorney was venued in Santa Clara County LSI Logic v. Ultratech Stepper that resulted in a $1.1 million dollar verdict in favor of his client LSI and its carrier AIG (product liability theory).
Mr. Cholakian 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 10 major wrongful death cases to defense verdict. 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 5 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 $6.5 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, Santa Clara Housing Authorities and also through their National carrier HAARG, defending these governmental entities in their catastrophic premises, employment and ADA cases.
Mr. Cholakian also regularly defends high exposure UM/UIM matters, having successfully defended 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 supervised on what was known as the “Highway of Death” and 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 in 1989, has taken expert and lay witness depositions in Europe, Asia, and South America including another high exposure motor vehicle case (Prince Diana’s former surgeon was video deposed in London); 8 witness depositions in Calcutta, India; (catastrophic San Francisco construction site accident trial) 3 medical expert depositions in Cork, Ireland; (Military accident case) Hamburg, Germany; and (major San Francisco cable car catastrophic injury case) Schweinfurt, Germany (2 occasions); (defended major wine cork manufacturer, litigation involving 6 major wineries) U.S and Canada; and (5 fatality case) 8 depositions San Salvador, Dominican Republic.
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 2nd time, 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 repeatedly been designated by his peers as a Northern California “Super Lawyer”, a designation received by only 5% of 10,000 Bay Area Lawyers. Only 13 lawyers in Northern and Central California were designated in the “Personal Injury Defense” category.
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 10th term as President of the San Francisco Defense Association, a 40 year old Bay Area defense attorney organization comprised of civil defense litigators. Six 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.
Jeremy M. Jessup graduated from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo with a B.S. in Social Science in 1997. He received his J.D. from University of Pacific McGeorge School of Law in 2000. Mr. Jessup is an experienced trial attorney who has experience handling all aspects of civil litigation in the areas of personal injury, premises liability, contract dispute and creditor rights. He has been a member of the California State Bar Association since 2000. He is also admitted to practice before U.S. District Court, Central District of California, Northern District of California and Eastern District of California.
Brian J. Finn received his B.A. in Political Science from the University of Nevada, Reno in 1985 and his J.D. from the University of California, Hastings College of the Law in 1989. Mr. Finn is an experienced trial attorney and civil litigator and specializes in personal injury, premises liability, product liability, governmental defense, business litigation, and prosecuting insurance fraud in Qui Tam actions under Insurance Code Section 1871.7.
Mr. Finn is admitted to practice in the U.S. District Court, Northern District of California and Eastern District of California. He has volunteered as mediator with San Francisco Bar Association Early Settlement Program and as a private mediator. Mr. Finn is a member of the Northern California Fraud Investigators Association. He volunteers as a member of the Board of Directors of the Boys & Girls Clubs of North San Mateo County.
Colin H. Jewell received his B.A. in History from the University of California, Berkeley in 1980 and his J.D. from the University of San Francisco in 1985. Mr. Jewell is an experienced trial attorney and civil litigator and specializes in personal injury, premises liability, truck litigation, product liability, governmental defense, business litigation, construction defect, subrogation, and insurance coverage. He is admitted to practice in the U.S. District Court, Northern District of California and Central District of California.
Laurie Elza has represented insurance companies, businesses and individuals in construction, commercial and personal injury matters. The primary focus of her practice has been litigation, including personal injury and wrongful death, contract disputes, product liability claims, and construction defect claims. She has represented insurance carriers in firstparty and third-party litigation and has provided coverage opinions to insurance companies regarding policy interpretation and application and has advised clients on additional insured and indemnity issues. Laurie represents contractors, subcontractors and owners in construction matters, including contract formation, interpretation and enforcement, delay claims and filing/preservation and collections of liens.
David W. Tate received his B.S. in Finance from San Francisco State University in 1981, his M.S. in Taxation from Golden Gate University in 1982, and his J.D. from the University of San Francisco School of Law in 1987. Mr. Tate is an experienced trial attorney and specializes in personal injury, premises liability, truck litigation, product liability, real estate litigation, business litigation, trust and estate litigation, subrogation, and professional liability. Mr. Tate is also a certified public accountant. He is admitted to practice in California and the U.S. District Court, Northern District of California.
David L. Barch was born and educated in Los Gatos, California. He attended the University of California at Berkeley, where he studied Political Science, International Relations, and Japanese Studies. After graduation, Mr. Barch spent time in Japan and South Korea, first at Doshisha University in Kyoto studying Japanese, and then at Yonsei University in Seoul, where he studied Korean and earned his Master’s degree in International Relations from the Graduate School of International Studies. After returning to the Bay Area, Mr. Barch attended the University of San Francisco School of Law, where he served as editor of the Intellectual Property Law Review and earned a Certificate in Intellectual Property & Technology Law, in addition to receiving a summer externship in environmental law in Cambodia with the Center for Law and Global Justice.
Mr. Barch has worked as an attorney both in the Bay Area and in South Korea, practicing law in the areas of civil litigation, insurance defense, commercial and business litigation, mediation and arbitration, environmental law, personal injury, toxic torts, construction and construction defect litigation, and appellate practice. He is a member of the State Bar of California and the San Mateo County Bar Association, and is admitted to practice in U.S. District Court for the Northern, Central, Southern, and Eastern Districts of California. He enjoys skiing and sailing on the Bay at every opportunity.
Arsen Sarapinian received his Juris Doctor degree from the University of California, Hastings College of the Law. At Hastings, he served as Senior Notes Editor of the law school’s flagship law review, the Hastings Law Journal. His article, “Fighting Foreclosure: Using Contract Law to Enforce the Home Affordable Modification Program” was published in the Hastings Law Journal (64 Hastings L.J. 905 (2013)) and was awarded UC Hastings’ Albert G. Evans Scholarship in Private Enterprise. He was also the President of the Armenian Law Students’ Association (ALSA) and President of the Hastings Real Estate Society (HRELS).
Mr. Sarapinian earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science from the University of San Francisco, graduating Magna Cum Laude. At USF, he was inducted into Alpha Sigma Nu: Jesuit Honor Society (USF’s Highest Honor) and Pi Sigma Alpha (Political Science Honor Society).
Prior to law school, Mr. Sarapinian was active in Bay Area politics and performed legislative work for the California Senate. He was also active in a number of community-based organizations and worked on several political and public outreach campaigns.
Before joining Cholakian & Associates, Mr. Sarapinian was a Law Clerk at the San Francisco City Attorney’s Office (Litigation Team) and at Cotchett, Pitre & McCarthy, where he worked in the areas of antitrust, commercial litigation, catastrophic personal injury, constitutional law, and civil rights (42 U.S.C. § 1983). He was also a Judicial Extern for United States District Court Judge Elizabeth D. Laporte at the Northern District of California, as well as for Justice Marvin R. Baxter at the California Supreme Court, where he analyzed cases and wrote preliminary decisions.
James Baker graduated from California State East Bay with a B.A. in history in 2005. Mr. Baker is an experienced paralegal who has worked at both large and small firms. He has extensive litigation experience and has prepared multiple cases for trial.
Amber Perry completed her B.A. in Communication Studies in 1996 and then went on to obtain her Paralegal Certificate from University of San Diego in 1997. Ms. Perry is an experienced civil litigation paralegal in the areas of personal injury and insurance defense. Prior to moving to Northern California, Ms. Perry worked for several reputable firms in Riverside and San Bernardino Counties, including in-house counsel for Farmers Insurance.