Michael C. Osborne

Principal | California


Michael Osborne is a trial lawyer who has handled and tried a wide variety of litigation, ranging from complex business disputes and class actions for national and local companies to injury and wrongful-death claims asserted against product manufacturers, trucking companies, fraternities and sororities, security companies and healthcare professionals.  Michael is recognized among fraternal organizations and their insurers and risk managers for his nationwide representation of Fraternities and Sororities in high-exposure and high-publicity litigation and in significant crisis-management situations.

In 2018, he opened the Cokinos | Young California office in San Francisco, where he heads his Greek Organization Litigation Practice Group, making Cokinos | Young “The Nation’s only Law Firm with a Litigation Practice Group Committed to Defending Fraternities and Sororities Throughout the Country.”  Michael has defended fraternity and sorority members of the National Panhellenic Council and of the National Asian Pacific Islander American Panhellenic Association on litigation involving hazing claims.  He has served on the NIC Presidential Commission on Hazing Awareness and Prevention.

Elected to The American Board of Trial Advocates (ABOTA) in 2000, Michael has been named a Northern California “Super Lawyer” for each of the years 2013-2022.  He has tried in excess of 125 jury trials to verdict in both federal and state courts. He is the only attorney in the United States within the past 25+ years who has tried a jury trial defending claims of hazing and sexual assault against a national fraternal organization, which was recently affirmed on appeal.

A 1977 graduate of Haverford College (Haverford, Pennsylvania), Michael received his law degree in 1980 from Golden Gate University School of Law in San Francisco.  He served as a criminal prosecutor with the El Dorado County (South Lake Tahoe) and San Francisco County District Attorneys’ Offices from 1981 to 1989. Since then, he has developed an extensive civil trial and litigation practice, serving the diverse litigation needs of national, regional, and local clients.


  • Golden Gate University School of Law (San Francisco) – J.D., 1980
  • Haverford College (Haverford, Pennsylvania) – B.A., 1977

Representative Experience

  • Smith v. Delta Tau Delta, 9 N.E.3rd154 (Ind. 2014).  Successful Amicus Brief for Theta Chi Fraternity.
  • Barenborg v. Sigma Alpha Epsilon Fraternity, 33 Cal.App.5th 70 (2019).  Successful granting of summary judgment in favor of national Fraternity, affirmed on appeal by the California Court of Appeal in a case of first impression in California on the issues of duty and vicarious liability involving a national Fraternity (with review denied by the California Supreme Court) (briefed and argued).
  • Tipton v. Delta Sigma Phi Fraternity, 826 S.E.2d 226 (N.C. App. 2019).  Successful granting of summary judgment in favor of national Fraternity, affirmed on appeal by the North Carolina Court of Appeals.
  • Morton v. Theta Chi Fraternity, 2019 WL 6173687 (Mich. App.). Successful granting of summary disposition in favor of national Fraternity and local Chapter, affirmed on appeal by the Michigan Court of Appeals (argued by Practice Group member Jaskiran K. Samra (Cokinos | Young – California)).
  • Clifford v. Alpha Epsilon Pi Fraternity, 2022 WL 830618 (Cal. App.).  Jury trial in Sacramento in 2018 – the only jury trial nationwide within the past 25+ years involving claims of hazing and sexual assault against a national fraternal organization, with a defense verdict on the hazing and sexual assault claims as to the Fraternity and a very favorable verdict on the negligence claim against the local chapter.  This was also the first and only civil trial involving hazing claims under “Matt’s Law,” California’s anti-hazing statute which was enacted in 2007.  Trial court verdict and judgment affirmed on appeal by the Court of Appeal, review denied by the California Supreme Court (briefed and argued).
  • Cornelius v. Alpha Kappa Lambda, 19 Wash.App.2d 862 (2021).  Washington Court of Appeal reversed the King County Superior Court’s denial of the Fraternity’s motion to compel arbitration, and remanded for an evidentiary hearing.  The opinion was ordered published as it included a holding, as a matter of first impression for a Washington state appellate court, that an arbitration agreement could be applied retroactively to claims arising from events that occurred before the execution of the agreement.  (Briefed and argued by Practice Group member Jaskiran K. Samra (Cokinos | Young – California).)
  • Hall v. Millersville University, 400 F.Supp.3d 252 (E.D. Pa. 2019), appeal dismissed.  Successful granting of summary judgment in favor of national Fraternity, applying Pennsylvania substantive law (briefed and argued).

Speaking Engagements & Fraternity Presentations

  • 2022 FRMT Risk Management College
  • 2021 Fraternal Law Conference, “Lessons Learned in Litigation”
  • 2021 Fraternal Law Conference, “Litigation Update”
  • Fraternal Law (July 2020), “California Court of Appeals Holds That Sorority Members Do Not Owe a Duty in a Negligence Case Based on Their Agreement to Abide by University Risk Management Policies and Protocols.”
  • 2018 Fraternal Law Conference, “Litigation Update”
  • 2018 Theta Chi Convention, “What do We do Now?Know Your Rights” and “Are You in Good Hands (Alumni)”
  • 2018, 2017, 2016 FRMT Annual Meetings, National Counsel Review and Litigation Updates
  • 2015 Fraternal Law Conference, “Litigation/Appellate Issues and Trends”
  • 2014 Fraternal Law Conference, “Litigation Defense:How to be Prepared and What to Expect”
  • 2013 FRMT Risk Management College, “Greek Organizations: An Industry Under Attack”
  • 2012 FRMT Risk Management College, “How to Prepare for the Inevitable”

Memberships & Affiliations

  • Elected to The American Board of Trial Advocates (ABOTA) in 2000
  • California State Bar
  • DRI, Former Member, Class Action Specialized Litigation Group
  • DRI, E-Discovery Task Force (2002-200)
  • DRI, Former President, DRI Trucking Law Committee
  • Initiated, Theta Chi Fraternity
  • Appointed, California State Bar and San Francisco County Superior Court, Special Master in Criminal Investigations and Search Warrants


  • State Bar of California (1980)
  • United States District Courts: Northern, Eastern, Central & Southern Districts of California
  • United States Court of Appeals for the Third & Ninth Circuits
  • United States District Court: Eastern District of Michigan
  • Pro Hac Vice Admissions Granted, 25 States and 5 U.S. District Courts

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