Irene Takahashi, Esq.


Irene Takahashi is widely recognized as one of the Bay Area’s leading mediators. Building on a solid foundation of trial experience, she adds the insights gained while serving as a trial judge. She has tried scores of criminal and civil cases both bench and jury. She has wide experience in a range of civil disputes, involving, among others, personal injury, landlord-tenant, and public and private entity liability.

Beyond her widely acknowledged legal acumen, she has a deserved reputation for being able to identify and facilitate the resolution of the complex personal concerns that often form the most formidable barriers to settlements. Rather than practicing a set pattern of mediation, she has a style that allows her to ‘shift gears’ as conditions develop and as unforeseen difficulties arise. Her adaptability gives the parties the maximum opportunity for resolution. As one attorney put it, “Irene’s perceptive instincts made the difference.”

Mediations can be costly and stressful, Ms. Takahashi is known to work to minimize both those issues. She knows most cases resolve. She is persistent and works with the parties before, during and with follow-up to provide a successful resolution tailored to the individual case.

Ms. Takahashi, as reported by many attorneys, is a wise, empathetic, approachable and hard-working mediator. Both litigants and litigators agree that she listens carefully, demonstrates human concern with a dignity that inspires confidence, and provides legal and practical guidance of substantial value. As a result, many counsel have sought her help on multiple cases. Consistently she facilitates prompt, fair and lasting resolutions in the most difficult mediations.

Areas of Expertise

  • Personal Injury: slip and fall, auto, motorcycle, pedestrian, skateboard accidents, wrongful death, sexual assault
  • Employment/ Title IX
  • Landlord-Tenant: commercial and residential
  • Property Liability and Damages: fires, floods, crimes committed on property
  • Eminent Domain
  • Professional Liability/ Errors & Omissions
  • Public and Private Entity Liability: school districts, churches, private and public organizations, and government institutions
  • Business Litigation/ Breach of Contract
  • Sexual Misconduct


  • University of California at Davis, School of Law: Juris Doctor (1976)
  • University of California at Berkeley: Bachelor of Arts (1973)
  • Straus Institute for Dispute Resolution (2015)
  • Mediation Training, Mediation Offices of Steve Rosenberg (2017)

Career History

  • 2001 – 2016    Lewis Brisbois Bisgaard & Smith – Partner
  • 1998 – 2000    Santochi Gable Dwyer & Takahashi – Managing Partner
  • 1996 – 1998    McLemore Collins & Toschi – Partner
  • 1991 – 1996    Kincaid Gianunzio Caudle & Hubert – Senior Associate
  • 1989 – 1991    Contra Costa County Superior Court – Judge
    Presided over civil and criminal cases, Law & Motion, settlement conferences, case management, community forums, and educational outreach to youth, women, and people of color
  • 1982 – 1989    County of Contra Costa – Deputy District Attorney
  • 1980 – 1982    Alameda County court-appointed criminal representation of juveniles
  • 1978 – 1980    United States Department of Justice – Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of California – prosecution of federal criminal offenses, and argued appeals before the United States Court Of Appeals, Ninth Circuit
  • 1976 – 1978     County of Alameda – Deputy District Attorney

Recent Speaking Engagements/Activities

  • “Negotiation Techniques for Women,” Bay Area Women Lawyers (2021)
  • “Tell Me Something I Don’t Know About Elimination of Bias,” ADR Services, Inc. MCLE Day (2021)
  • “Young Women in Excellence,” Speaker for young women’s community group (2017)
  • Judge, Assistant Coach, and Scorer for Contra Costa County Mock Trial Competition (2017-2020)
  • Contra Costa Civic Theatre, Board of Directors (2018-Present)
  • “Does Gender Matter in Civil Litigation Mediations?” Alameda County Bar Association (2018)
  • Mentor/Mentee Program, Asian American Bar Association (2018-Present)
  • Judge, ABA Section, Dispute Resolution and Representation, Mediation Competition, Berkeley Law (2019)

Representative Cases

Landlord Tenant

  • Plaintiff and her family (husband and 3 children) rented a 2 bedroom apt. in San Leandro and claimed habitability problems (including mold, asbestos in ceiling material, plumbing, and cracks in wall joints and ceiling.
  • Plaintiff alleged causes of action for negligence, negligent inflation. Emotional distress, breach of contract, invasion of privacy, breach of covenant of quiet environment, breach of warranty, habitability, retaliatory eviction, breach of covenant of good faith and fair dealings and sexual harassment by the property manager of a rental home in the East Bay. Plaintiff alleged various habitability deflects as well as unwanted sexual overtones that resulted in severe anxiety, fear and a belief that the defendant was spying on her and that his "work" on the home to address defects was a pretense to have contact with her.
  • Plaintiffs made written and verbal complaints concerning habitability defects over almost 2 years of occupancy. Parties pursued mediation prior to litigation pursuant to the rental contract, where a settlement was reached.
  • Plaintiff discovers that her "landlord" is the beneficiary of Section 8 housing which is paid for by another individual, and has been pocketing her rent for over a year. Actual Section 8 tenant and property manager boarded up the apartments to bar her from entry. Plaintiff suffered conversion, illegal lock-out and emotional distress.
  • Woman with seven (7) children sues owner of building for habitability and discrimination claims
  • Tenant claims racially-motivated physical and verbal assault and eviction

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Personal Injury

  • An elderly quadriplegic gentleman confined to a wheelchair for the previous 23 years sustained a fracture to the lower extremity when he fell forward from his specially designed wheelchair as the sling from the Hoyer lift was being removed by an in-home medical aid. Conservative treatment on the form of splinting failed, after ORIF surgery was performed with fair results.
  • Underinsured motorist. Mother (Driver) rear-ended by motorist and sustained moderate damage to the rear of their vehicle. Underlying case settled with a third party. Mother had pre-existing neck and back chronic condition and the daughter had recently undergone hand surgery. Daughter claimed a second surgery was necessitated by trauma sustained in the car accident. She complained of the scar on hand and residuals.
  • Young Adult male and his friends have been drinking and approached the family dog despite the dog growling and parking near the mother of one of the young men. The mother tells plaintiff to leave the dog alone as the backs up and continue to cark and appears to bark and appears to want to protect its owner. Plaintiff is told to stop approaching the dog but plaintiff ignores the warnings and is injured with bills total approximately $11,000.
  • Plaintiff claimed wage loss after sustaining injuries in an auto accident, but medical records and social media data did not support and even contradicted her claims.
  • Plaintiff steps off a 10-inch curb outside a bank at a strip mall and falls, resulting in permanent knee and ankle injuries requiring multiple surgeries. Plaintiff had undergone an ACL reconstruction repair with a graft approximately one year prior to the subject incident.
  • Asian family in automobile is rear-ended by an alcohol impaired driver
  • Woman driver, unfamiliar with the changing lane markings as a freeway onramp lies ahead, collides with a motorcycle, sending its rider airborne and resulting in injury and damages
  • Elderly woman shopping at outdoor market in Oakland sustains injury when an employee accidentally rolls a dolly loaded with boxes of crabs over her foot
  • Woman waiting in line at major retail store is injured when lumber leaning against a nearby counter falls on her
  • Female tenant is scalded by hot water coming from bathtub fixture in low income residential facility and sues the building’s owner and manager
  • Young man driving his parents’ vehicle rear-ends a woman’s vehicle. Plaintiff sustains soft tissue injury as a result of the three-car chain reaction accident on the freeway. Defense alleged that plaintiff’s complaints and claimed damages are pre-existing and stem from four (4) prior motor vehicle accidents, and as such, plaintiff’s claimed medical treatment is excessive and unrelated to the subject accident
  • Young woman is jumping on a trampoline and, after she does a drop-seat maneuver, suffered vaginal lacerations after a metal T ball stand located under the trampoline pierced through the trampoline’s surface
  • Slip and fall accident on artificial butter in a movie theater results in plaintiff’s fractured knee, bruised hip, and sprained ankle. She sustained substantial medical and chiropractic treatment and attendant wage loss to the woman who owned her business
  • Wrongful Death- Elderly man living in a low-income apartment is severely burned over 1/3 of his body and, after three agonizing weeks in the intensive care unit, dies. Plaintiffs were his two adult sons who had not seen their father for more than a year before his death. Plaintiffs believed that the fire started from a gas leak from the living room furnace and that there were no working smoke/fire alarms in the apartment. The defense was convinced that the decedent was drunk and had fallen asleep while smoking in bed and had, essentially, set himself on fire. The defense argued that the smoke alarms in the apartment could not be heard because decedent had taken them down in order to smoke in his apartment. Facts, liability and damages were hotly contested. Opening plaintiffs' demand- $1 million; Opening defense Offer - $0.

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Real Estate/HOA

  • Elderly tenant with dementia moved into a senior living condo in SF and was required by the CC&Rs to obtain insurance for his unit. Part of his homeowners’ dues went towards insurance to cover the HOA. One night, the tenant’s toilet malfunctioned and water flooded his unit as well as units 10 floors below, resulting in more than $230,000 in property damage. The insurance company for the HOA sued the tenant in subrogation after he moved to an assisted living facility.
  • Defendants purchased a 2-story, 4 -unit building built in the 1920s. Plaintiffs lived in apartments above and below one another. The upstairs tenant’s toilet broke while she was away, resulting in massive flooding that forced her to vacate her apartment to permit repairs. The downstairs tenant also sustained substantial water damage /property damage. Defendants' insurance company paid for the damage and their loss of rent. The lawsuit arose as a result of the plaintiffs (tenants) complaint that they were severely inconvenienced and personal suffered economic loss during the 11 months they were displaced from their apartments.
  • Commercial real estate dispute following a sale of commercial real estate for use as a beer garden/restaurant in downtown Oakland. Disputes initially arose over a third party’s claim that they had an established right to enter the land to maintain their utility box. Once litigation was contemplated, numerous and mutual allegations of breach of contract arose. This began as a scheduled Arbitration. Following discovery disputes and filing of a MSJ, the case settled after it was submitted for decision, but prior to the decision being served on the parties.
  • Elderly woman filed suit against HOA for its alleged failure to warn pedestrians of a electrical utility box mounted on a concrete slab that was in plain view of plaintiff. Plaintiff suffered broken front tooth and fractured pinky finger as a result of a fall and claimed that defendants should have built a fence around the concrete base and/or painted the concrete base bright yellow.
  • Eminent Domain involving dispute over the value of undeveloped property that owner claimed he had not yet developed for use as a hotel following the economic downturn of 2008 and resultant depressed economy.
  • HOA brought suit following unsuccessful attempts to obtain permission to enter the unit to inspect and make necessary repairs after the downstairs tenant complained of a water leak coming from the upstairs tenant’s unit. Permission had been denied for months because the upstairs tenant wanted the HOA to agree in writing and in advance to pay for any damage to her property during the course of repairs, including tearing out partial walls and ceramic tile flooring. She was concerned when she learned that the slow leak had from her unit caused extensive dry rot and that the tenant below was prohibited from using their own bathroom for fear that their bathroom ceiling might cave in from above. The HOA had already spent $100,000 on a LA attorney and wanted to resolve the issues cost-effectively.

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Property Damage

  • A mysterious fire of uncertain origin rages through a business and spreads to the restaurant next door, resulting in devastating property damage and rendering stored food ruined

Sexual Misconduct

  • High school freshman is assaulted by an upper classman at school. She continued to experience harassment. When she reported the incidents to school officials, they failed to immediately contact child protective services or the police. Plaintiff alleged that the school district failed to protect her from continued harassment, which left her with anxiety and depression.
  • Young woman demands compensation for parental acts and omissions against her mother and alleged sexual misconduct by her stepfather


  • Plaintiffs alleged that they were defrauded by false representations made by defendants and were thereby induced into contracting for the construction of commercial buildings. Within months of the start of construction, serious construction problems arose and other material misrepresentations were discovered. Plaintiffs ultimately cancelled the contract with defendants and proceeded to hire new contractors at a substantially higher contract price. Plaintiffs filed suit and cross complaints followed. At mediation, plaintiffs' demand was $855,000. Case settled for a confidential sum. Defendants were not covered by insurance.

Articles / Publications