Patrick J. Kearns Partner




Patrick Kearns is a civil trial lawyer whose practice focuses on aviation defense and the defense of professional liability and health care related matters. Patrick represents major commercial airlines, helicopter operators, Air Ambulance operators and related entities in a variety of claims; some involving high-profile aviation disasters in which hundreds of millions of dollars were at stake. Patrick also has significant experience defending Ambulatory Surgery Centers, and medical, dental and legal professionals in malpractice suits. Patrick’s experience also includes defending health care providers in administrative law matters, including the medical, dental and pharmaceutical licensing boards of California.

Patrick has successfully tried multiple cases to jury verdict. In addition, he has substantial experience defending appeals. Patrick has successfully handled appeals in the California State Courts of Appeal, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals and the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.  An active member of the legal community, Patrick served as the 2018 President of the San Diego Defense Lawyers Association, one of the largest local defense organizations in the country. Patrick currently serves on the Board of Directors for the Association of Southern California Defense Counsel and is a former Program Chair (2014) for DRI’s Medical Liability and Health Care Law Seminar. Patrick served on the San Diego County Bar Association’s Legal Ethics Committee for 10 years and was chair of that committee in 2015. He speaks frequently to various professional groups on important and emerging issues and legal ethics.  Patrick is the Regional Managing Partner for the San Diego office of Wilson Elser.

Patrick is an experienced litigator known for his thoughtful yet aggressive advocacy on behalf of those he represents. His careful analysis of every case coupled with his natural abilities in the courtroom has resulted in consistent successes for his clients.

Areas of Focus

Patrick defends complex aviation matters, including litigation arising from product issues and aviation-related injuries, to cases involving aircraft crashes and wrongful death. Patrick is a co-chair of the firm’s Aviation practice and a member of its Helicopter Defense team. This dedicated team with national reach immediately provides what is needed for a successful representation of Patrick’s clients, including guidance through the NTSB investigation, identification and preservation of relevant documents and electronic information, counsel on remedial measures, retention of relevant outside forensic experts, and preparation for litigation and trial.

With a practice covering all areas of professional liability including medical, dental, legal, and other professionals in malpractice cases and licensing board matters. Patrick handles matters involving medical and health care professionals, ambulatory surgical centers, lawyers and various other professionals. Drawing on the resources of a national law firm, Patrick maintains a clear advantage in handling individual cases as well as high-volume programs in a comprehensive, purposeful and timely manner.

Defending businesses and corporations in contract, warranty and product liability actions, Patrick also provides clients with innovative and timely strategic counsel to help them make better-informed decisions, resolve complex legal challenges and achieve specific business goals.

Patrick has significant appellate experience and successfully defends individuals and corporations in a variety of appeals before state and federal courts. He has briefed and argued before multiple California state courts of appeal; the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit; and the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. Among his many appellate victories, he has secured three published decisions, reported at Sukumar v. Nautilus, et al., 785 F. 3d 1396 (Fed. Cir. 2015); Contreras v. Dowling, et al. (2016) 4 Cal. App. 5th 774; and Riggs v Airbus Helicopters, Inc., 939 F.3d 981 (9th Cir. 2019).

Representative Matters

Reported Decisions

Riggs v Airbus Helicopters, Inc., 939 F.3d 981 (9th Cir. 2019).

Contreras v. Dowling, et al. (2016) 4 Cal. App. 5th 774.

Sukumar v. Nautilus, et al. 785 F. 3d 1396 (Fed. Cir. 2015.) 

Obtained summary judgment on behalf of an endodontist in a malpractice case in the San Diego Superior Court. A month prior to trial, the court determined the plaintiff could not meet her burden as a matter of law and granted summary judgment.

Obtained a defense verdict following a three-and-a-half-week jury trial in a multimillion-dollar product liability action. The case was a multi-defendant action brought by the plaintiff who was severely injured when thrown from the seat of a tractor and subsequently run over. Wilson Elser’s client manufactured the seat on the tractor, which was equipped with a safety mechanism that was alleged to have failed, therefore failing to stop the tractor once the operator was lifted off the seat. Plaintiff alleged both a manufacturing and design defect under product liability principles. All parties had settled prior to trial with the exception of Wilson Elser’s client. At the conclusion of the lengthy trial, the plaintiff’s counsel asked the jury for approximately $40 million in damages. The jury returned a defense verdict on all counts.

Obtained defense verdict at trial in a breach of contract action where the plaintiff brought an action against two Wilson Elser clients in connection with the sale of a large number of exercise machines. The plaintiff included causes of action for breach of contract, intent to induce breach of contract and intentional interference with contract. Ultimately, the case included two jury verdicts in favor of the defense as well as two separate appeals.

Obtained summary judgment in a federal “false patent marking” lawsuit on behalf of a major manufacturer of exercise and fitness equipment. After more than three years of litigation in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia, the court granted summary judgment in favor of Wilson Elser’s client in one of the first cases to directly address the “competitive injury” requirement of the 2011 “American Invents Act.” The case was one of several lawsuits brought against the client by a stroke rehabilitation corporation over the past 13 years.

Obtained summary judgment for a law firm and related attorneys in a legal malpractice case based on the defendants’ alleged negligent representation of the plaintiffs in an underlying medical malpractice matter. The complaint alleged that the defendants negligently prosecuted the underlying medical malpractice arbitration, resulting in the loss of the ability to recover damages. The complaint also alleged ordinary negligence, breach of fiduciary duty, fraud and intentional/negligent infliction of emotional distress.

Obtained Judgment as a Matter of Law following jury trial in a federal court warranty action. The plaintiff brought a breach of warranty action under California law that was removed to federal court. Wilson Elser’s client contended that the plaintiff had failed to provide adequate notice of the breach of warranty before suit. After the plaintiff rested at trial, the defense moved for Judgment as a Matter of Law. The court decided to allow the defense to present their case, after which the motion was renewed. The court granted the Judgment as a matter of law finding that no evidence was offered that could reasonably allow a jury to rule for the plaintiff.

Successfully defended major corporations on appeal in breach of contract and breach of warranty matters before the California Courts of Appeal and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.