Chris is a litigator focused on understanding clients’ legal and business goals and  developing strategies and teams to achieve those goals. He is focused on resolving disputes before trial, if possible, through focused discovery and meticulous preparation for trial. 

Chris helps clients evaluate disputes and develop plans to address them according to their business needs. In addition to running case teams and trying cases, Chris has developed a focus on formulating and developing medical, scientific and statistical strategies for addressing large and small matters by developing efficient, highly qualified teams of professionals to protect clients’ rights.

For example, in the context of pharmaceutical cases, he has successfully resolved client matters before trial through targeted discovery of fact witnesses, prescribing physicians, other health care providers and experts. He has also created defense strategies for litigation and arbitration involving a broad range of exposures and products, including foods, alcohol, tobacco, automobiles, pharmaceuticals and medical devices in federal, state and international venues. Chris has extensive experience in product liability, business tort, environmental and mass tort litigation as well as commercial litigation and trade regulation. He has represented clients in governmental cost-recovery suits, class actions, multidistrict litigation and arbitration, as well as cases brought on behalf of individuals and business entities. He also counsels clients on strategies for reducing litigation and enforcement risk in the context of domestic and international clinical trials. He counsels clients on Proposition 65 regulatory actions and litigation. 

Along with being managing partner of the San Francisco office, Chris is a member of the firm's Pro Bono committee and the Knowledge Management Working Group, and is a past member of Shook’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee. He is involved in the firm’s mentoring and business development programs.

Before joining Shook in 1997, Chris’s practice focused on federal white-collar criminal trial and appellate law and unfair trade regulation and litigation. He completed an extern clerkship at the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit and served as a pro bono housing attorney for Mid-Minnesota Legal Assistance.


Representative Matters

John J. “Gus” Hoefling v. U.S. Smokeless Tobacco Co., LLC (excluded plaintiff’s experts’ opinions and prevailed on summary judgment)

Novoa v. California Department of Mental Health (favorable settlement and attorney fee award)

Hunter v. Philip Morris USA Inc. (Defense verdict)

Good v. Pfizer Inc. (In re: Diet Drug Litigation) (Favorable settlement after expert discovery and motion practice)

McMannis v. Philip Morris Inc. (Defense verdict)

IN RE: E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company C-8 Personal Injury Litigation (MDL settlement)

Lock v. Philip Morris USA Inc. (Favorable verdict)

Nichols v. Asbestos Corporation Ltd. (Dismissed on motion after expert discovery)

Szymanski v. R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Company (Defense verdict)

Willis v. R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Company (Willis I mistrial, Willis II defense verdict)

Pokarney v. Kraft Foods North America, Inc. (Settled on favorable terms after expert discovery)

Krigbaum v. American Tobacco Company (Dismissed after taking treater depositions)

Coolidge v. Philip Morris Incorporated (Defense verdict on medical issues)

Napoli v. E & T, LLC d.b.a. Emeril’s New Orleans Fish House (Settled on favorable terms after expert reports served)

Pro Bono 

Chris represented pro bono client KlaasKids Foundation in a suit against the California Department of State Hospitals (formerly Department of Mental Health) and its director for the agency's failure to comply with the Sexual Violent Predator Act as strengthened by Jessica’s Law, which mandates a full clinical evaluation of inmates identified as potential sexually violent predators before releasing them back into the community. Chris represented the family of a child who was molested and murdered by an inmate illegally released after being identified as a potential sexual violent predator. Prevailed in part before the California Supreme Court, settled the case on favorable terms and collected attorney fees as a private attorney general action. 

Chris Johnson and Alicia Donahue are leading a team representing a class of Black Lives Matter protestors, the NAACP-SJ and the San José Peace and Justice Center against the City of San José, the Mayor and Police Chief, among other individual defendants for excessive use of force and failure to protect peaceful demonstrators’ civil rights.  


Chris has authored articles for the American Bar Association Product Liability Section, including: "Inside the Learned Intermediary Doctrine" (Products Liability Litigation E-Newsletter, July 29, 2013); "'Exhaustion Doctrine' Doesn't Apply in Context of GM Seeds" (News and Developments, June 6, 2013); "Retroactive Elimination of Private Action Upheld" (News and Developments, February 28, 2013); and "Pay-to-Delay OK Says 11th Circuit" (News and Developments, June 1, 2012).
While in law school, Chris was a member of the law journal Transnational Law and Contemporary Problems and authored “Protectionism Toward Transplants and Obligations Under GATT, FCN Treaty and OECD Instruments: Trojan Horse or Engine for Growth?” TLCP (1994).


Chris presented on product liability to the Silicon Valley Association of General Counsel and litigation risk avoidance strategies at an American Conference Institute program on International Clinical Trials. He has also contributed a podcast, "U.S. v. Caronia: Off-Label Promotion Is Protected Speech," to the ABA Section of Litigation's "Sound Advice" feature.