Robert Chiles began his practice at the San Francisco law firm of Hall Henry Oliver and McReavy in 1974. There, he developed an expertise in maritime cases including cargo claims, collisions and general average matters. He also represented ships officers and pilots in licensing proceedings brought by the U.S. Coast Guard and before the State Pilot Commission. These were challenging cases and, for a trial lawyer, presented some interesting problems since the cases often went to trial within a few weeks of the incident. He has extensive experience in cargo losses, collisions, general average claims and maritime personal injury claims. In 1986, he represented the master of a tanker whose vessel ran down a fishing vessel off point Reyes with resulting loss of life. Although significant civil, administrative and even criminal charges were brought against the captain, all claims and charges were eventually withdrawn.
During the late 1970s and 1980s, Mr. Chiles developed extensive experience in handling damage claims including large commercial buildings. One of the first such large claims was the PCB contamination to 1 Market Plaza, a large commercial office complex in San Francisco. In May of 1983, a basement transformer caught fire and PCB-laden smoke from the fire contaminated much of the building. The insurers spent more than $11 million to clean the contamination and hired Mr. Chiles to recover those payments from P.G. & E. and other responsible entities. The case involved the architectural design, the functioning of the heating and ventilation of the building and the toxicology of PCBs. The case was successfully settled under a confidential settlement arrangement.
The next major case handled by Mr. Chiles was the First Interstate Bank building fire that occurred in Los Angeles in May 1988. In that case, five floors of a 62-story high-rise structure were heavily damaged by fire. Water and smoke damaged the rest of the building. The property loss was in excess of $100 million. Mr. Chiles led a team of investigators to determine the source, path and cause of the fire and used that information to proceed with a claim against the responsible parties. That case ended in substantial settlements.
Mr. Chiles also handled the loss of use claim for a microprocessor fabrication plant that arose when the power to the plant was cut by a negligent contractor. He has also successfully handled several cases involving co-generation plant cases, including several involving jet turbine failures.
In 1989, Mr. Chiles moved his practice from Hall Henry Oliver and McReavy to Long and Levit, a prominent San Francisco insurance law firm. There, Mr. Chiles continued his practice in maritime matters and large casualty claims.
In 2000, he moved his practice to Menlo Park where he became Of Counsel to the law firm of Cox Padmore Skolnik & Shakarchy. He assisted in insurance bad faith actions and a partnership dispute involving a leading real estate developer. Following Mr. Cox’s death in 2003 Mr. Chiles moved his practice to Palo Alto, and in 2006, joined with Kenneth Prochnow to form Chiles and Prochnow, LLP. Although Mr. Chiles continues to practice maritime and insurance-related law, he and Ken Prochnow have decided to direct their practice so as to emphasize contested probate matters.
Ken Prochnow has been handling cases of this type for many years, and Mr. Chiles had significant experience in the 1970s working on prominent probate estates. One such case involved the murder of a husband and wife who had no will and no instructions for the custody of their surviving children. The result was a contentious guardianship proceeding in which Mr. Chiles’ clients prevailed. He also managed to create trust funds for each of the children from funds awarded by the California Aid to Victims Act.
Mr. Chiles has also handled a number of products liability cases, including defective ladders and machine tools. He successfully prosecuted a number of building defects cases including both commercial and residential structures.
Mr. Chiles continues to look to challenging and interesting litigation cases. In 2009, he took on the defense of one of the baseball players named in a lawsuit that was profiled in the local press as the “DeAnza rape case”. After four weeks of trial, he was successful in extracting his client from the litigation.
In the 1980s, Mr. Chiles was first recognized as an AV-rated lawyer, Martindale-Hubbell’s highest peer review recognition for legal ability and ethical standards. In 2008, he was inducted as a fellow into the Litigation Counsel of America, an honorary trial lawyer society comprised of less than one-half of 1 percent of American lawyers. In 2008 and 2009, Mr. Chiles was recognized by Super Lawyers, a service that rates outstanding attorneys who have attained a high level of peer recognition and professional achievement. In 2010, he was again acknowledged by Super Lawyers in its listing of corporate counsel. In addition to being admitted to the California State Bar, Mr. Chiles is admitted to all the U.S. District Courts in California, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, and the U. S. Supreme Court. He is also a Proctor Admiralty with the Maritime Law Association of the United States and a member of the Association of Average Adjusters of the United States.
Mr. Chiles received a bachelor’s degree from the University of California at Berkeley in 1967 and his J.D from Santa Clara University in 1973. He served in the U.S. Army from 1967 to 1970 and was commissioned as an Armor officer. He served a tour in Vietnam in 1969 as advisor under the Phoenix Program and was awarded a bronze star.