Carlson (retired), Donald W.

Donald W. Carlson
Phone: 415-391-8141
Fax: 415-391-3898
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Donald W. Carlson, the Senior Founding Partner of Carlson, Calladine & Peterson LLP, is a nationally renowned trial lawyer with an esteemed reputation. Mr. Carlson has spent the last 40 years trying a wide variety of complex cases for both plaintiffs and defendants, including catastrophic injury, legal malpractice and property insurance and bad faith. Because of his experience and expertise, clients and other lawyers often call upon him to take over as lead counsel on the eve of trial. Mr. Carlson has tried over 35 cases to verdict, most lasting over a month, including a seven-month class action suit.Some of Mr. Carlson’s jury trial experience includes:

  • Obtained defense verdict for large intellectual property law firm for admittedly failing to renew foreign patent. Despite plaintiff’s claim of $80 million damage, successfully proved the patent had no value.
  • Hired to retry insurance bad faith case in downtown Los Angeles after first trial with different counsel resulted in $7 million punitive damage judgment against insurance client. After six-week trial, jury found that the plaintiff lied on the application, rescinded the policy and awarded plaintiff nothing.
  • Successfully defended lawyer for alleged breach of fiduciary duty and also recovered over $1 million in fees and costs for lawyer client in six-week trial in San Francisco.
  • Obtained defense verdict in product liability case on behalf of national herbal product manufacturer by proving that the death of 35-year old mother of three was not caused by the product.

Mr. Carlson is a Fellow in the American College of Trial Lawyers, a Fellow in the International Academy of Trial Lawyers, a Fellow in the International Society of Barristers and is also a member of the American Board of Trial Advocates (ABOTA), the four most prestigious invitation only organizations which recognize plaintiff and defense attorneys who have successfully tried numerous jury cases while demonstrating excellence and professionalism. As well as authoring numerous articles on trial procedure and trial tactics, Mr. Carlson is often asked to teach trial skills to the legal community and civility classes to law students. He has appeared on Larry King Live, CBS Morning News and The Phil Donohue Show to discuss some of his more notable cases. He has been a Northern California Super Lawyer every year since it began in San Francisco in 2004.

Mr. Carlson is admitted to all California State Courts, the U.S. District Court (Northern, Eastern, and Central Districts) and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Mr. Carlson enjoys golf, swimming and travelling to Mendoza, Argentina with family and friends to blend his “Dos Abogados” wine. He is in the Founding Circle of the B612 Foundation.

Mr. Carlson has retired effective 12/31/2022 and now enjoys splitting his time between Maui and San Francisco.

Areas of Practice

  • Catastrophic Injury Defense
  • Legal Malpractice
  • Insurance Coverage and Bad Faith
  • Property Insurance
  • Products Liability


  • University of California, Hastings College of the Law, San Francisco, California
    • J.D. – 1977
  • University of California, Santa Barbara, California
    • B.A.magna cum laude – 1974

Published Works

  • Using Depositions at Trial (Co-Author), Effective Depositions 2nd Edition (Henry L. Hecht), Ch. 25, pages 703-723, ABA Section of Litigation, 2010


  • ABOTA Masters in Trial, Chair – 2012, Presenter – 2013
  • Civility Matters – Winning Through Civility, Western States Bar Association – 2012, Federation of Defense and Corporate Counsel – 2012
  • Practising Law Institute® – California Trial Advocacy , Direct Examination – Moderator – 2013, 2015, 2016
  • San Francisco Trial Lawyers Association – Evidence Masters – And the Scars It Took To Get Us There – Panel -2018
  • Association of Defense Council – I Feel Your Pain (and Suffering) – Panel -2019

Honors and Awards

  • Northern California Super Lawyer, 2004 – 2021
  • AV rated by Martindale Hubbell

Professional Associations and Memberships

  • American Board of Trial Advocates (ABOTA), President – San Francisco Chapter 2015, Current President of Cal-ABOTA
  • Fellow in the International Academy of Trial Lawyers, Past Chair of the State, County, Province Committee
  • Fellow in the American College of Trial Lawyers
  • Fellow in the International Society of Barristers
  • Fellow of the American Bar Foundation
  • Member of Top 100 High Stakes Litigators in California