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Firm History

In 1978 our firm was founded by Michael T. Thorsnes and Vincent J. Bartolotta Jr. when both left the law firm of Higgs, Fletcher & Mack. Less than a year later we added a third partner, John F. "Mickey" McGuire. In 1984, we moved to our present location comprising the 11th floor of the Fifth Avenue Financial Building at 2550 5th Avenue, San Diego.

Presently there are five partners including Kevin F. Quinn, and our newest partner, Brett Schreiber. Mike Thorsnes retired in 2002, but continues to be involved with the firm in an Of Counsel capacity.

Our firm has earned numerous commendations, among them designation in 1982 by American Lawyer Magazine as one of 20 outstanding new firms in the nation (less than 6 years old) and one of four from California. In 1983, TBM was selected as one of the seven leading firms in San Diego by San Diego Magazine. In 2014 the firm was recognized as a Best Law Firm by US News and Best Lawyers and received the prestigious Tier One ranking for San Diego in the categories of Commercial Litigation; Litigation - Construction; Litigation - Real Estate; Mass Torts Litigation/Class Actions; Personal Injury Litigation - Plaintiffs and Product Liability Litigation - Plaintiffs.

Since that time, all three partners, as well as our 5 associates, have had favorite success stories, none sweeter than those for which they have been recognized by peers in diverse legal fields ranging from construction defects to personal injury to medical malpractice to business litigation. A chronology of the firm includes such awards conferred with astonishing regularity upon TBM partners as "Outstanding Trial Lawyer," "Trial Lawyer of the Year," and "Best Lawyers in America".

TBM partners will tell you that every case they handle is important, but some of their cases have received more public attention than others. These include those which established important legal precedents, pioneered the use of technology, or, in terms of San Diego history, were defined by extraordinary public interest.

In chronological order, here are some of the precedent-setting cases litigated by our partners:

Baldwin et al v. Carlton Santee Corp. (1982) helped to establish legal standards in cases involving landslide subsidence.

DeBolt v. Shell Oil (1989) held that a seller of gasoline has the duty to refuse to sell it to an obviously intoxicated motorist.

County of San Diego v. Rancho Vista Del Mar (De La Fuente) (1991) secured the largest condemnation verdict in California.

Holmes v. General Dynamics (1993) established tort liability for persons discharged for protesting wrongful conduct by an employer whether or not they blew the whistle on such conduct.

Shepard v. Cal Farmers Insurance (1993) established the requirement that a health insurer advise a policy holder that a disability leading to Medicare coverage would result in restricted private coverage.

Davis v. USAA (1995) established that an insurance company must notify a policy holder if a renewal results in a reduction in benefits.

Matsumoto v. Matsumoto (1995) was the first trial in California, and one of the first in the country, where a woman sued her husband for spousal abuse.

Roman Catholic Bishop of San Diego v. Readers Digest (1996) secured $40,000,000 settlement on behalf of nationwide class of schools and school districts for improper monopolistic conduct relating to school fundraising programs.

Costarakis v. Nurshare (1997) was one of the first cases in California in which a substantial penalty was leveled against a health care provider whose employee abused an elderly patient.

Foodmaker v. Vons (1998) helped to create tougher food industry standards to protect the public against tainted meat.

Colunga v. Hercules (1998) secured largest settlement ever in qui tam action where manufacturer of solid fuel nuclear tipped rockets falsified manufacturing and inspection records.

Because of our pioneering use of laser disks and bar-coded evidence for the instantaneous retrieval and presentation of evidence to a jury, the firm's successful handling of Del Coronado Santee Townhomes Assoc. v. LAR Development/ D.G. & Associates (1993) helped to revolutionize procedures for litigation of complex cases, and won the applause of judges ever anxious to reduce unnecessary court time.

A few of the cases that were the subject of extraordinary public interest while being litigated include: Peake v. City of San Diego/U.S. Government (1988), filed after two boys were killed when buried ordnance exploded in Tierrasanta, resulted in stringent standards being imposed on the military for clean-up of its old sites. Steven Andrew Olsen, by and through his guardian ad litem, Kathy Olsen, Plaintiff, v. Regents of University of California (1996) resulted in one of California's largest awards in a medical malpractice case. The Olsen case plays an important role in the ongoing campaign by consumer attorneys to overturn the state limits on compensating victims. Catholic Diocese of San Diego v. Readers Digest (1996) resulted in private and public schools throughout the United States receiving a greater share of the profits from door-to-door magazine subscriptions sold on their behalf.

Border Business Park v. The City of San Diego (2001) was one of the largest awards ($136,000,000.00) ever won against a local government in a condemnation case.

A smaller triumph, which ultimately reaped unexpectedly large results, came in Riviera v. Ronaghy (1989). The client was so gratified by the award won in a burn and injury case that he asked our partners to donate $10,000 of it to charity. We happily complied, deciding to use the money to repair Primo Tapia, an orphanage in Tijuana, Mexico. After learning of the donation, a second orphanage, La Gloria, asked us for help with similar repairs. We agreed, and also sponsored a Christmas party for children in the area. At the party, our partners learned about the work of Clinica del Niños (Children's Clinic) in treating children of impoverished families for routine ailments and referring them to hospitals for more serious problems.

There was a chemistry between Clinica del Ninos and the TBM firm, with attorneys, paralegals, secretaries, law clerks and data processors elected to participate in a payroll deduction and matching grant program to underwrite the year-round costs of keeping the clinic open. TBM-sponsored Christmas parties have become an annual tradition at the clinic, located in Rosarita Beach. For more detailed information see Commitment to the Community Beyond the Courtroom.

All the partners of Thorsnes Bartolotta McGuire are involved in San Diego area charitable or civic work, at one level or another. This commitment made it easy for us recently to distribute $290,000 in funds to charities as part of a $7.5 million settlement in a class action suit against U.S. West on behalf of 90,000 customers. Because not all customers entitled to refunds could be located, U.S. West made charitable payments to recipients designated by the law firm.

The diversity of the recipients reflected the wide-ranging charitable commitments of the partners: Torrey Pines High School Foundation, San Diego State University; Roman Catholic Bishops of San Diego; American Ireland Fund; Beth Israel Day School; Friends of the Hall of Justice; University of San Diego where Mr. Thorsnes serves as a Trustee; St. Vincent de Paul (where Bartolotta has served as chairman of the board); San Diego Zoological Society and the United Jewish Federation.