Caroline Petro Gately

Gately Caroline

Caroline Petro Gately is a first-chair trial lawyer with extensive experience in commercial real estate litigation. Caroline has served since 2017 as the chair of Venable’s Washington Litigation Group, encompassing the Washington and Tysons, Virginia offices. She has tried scores of cases to verdict or judgment in the District of Columbia, Virginia, and Maryland courts and in arbitration, including breach of contract claims; fraud, breach of fiduciary duty, and other business torts; intellectual property and unfair competition claims; and a full range of commercial real estate disputes.

Caroline’s commercial real estate litigation experience includes

  • Ground lease disputes, including consent to assignment of lease
  • Disputes under real property purchase and sale agreements, including exercise of rights of first refusal and options
  • Development agreement disputes
  • Commercial landlord/tenant disputes and evictions
  • Foreclosures under loan documents
  • Guaranty collections
  • Real property tax sale foreclosures
  • Real property tax appeals
  • D.C. Tenant Opportunity to Purchase (TOPA) litigation
  • Partition action
  • Petition to appoint receiver
  • Landlord’s and creditors’ rights in bankruptcy cases, including adversary proceedings
  • Easements, quasi-easements, and real property boundary disputes
  • Adverse possession/prescriptive easement lawsuits
  • Slander of title and other quiet title matters

Caroline’s principal clients consist of property owners, developers, national asset or portfolio managers, private equity investors, high-net-worth individuals, pension funds, banks, institutional investment advisors, and commercial tenants with real property interests and investments in the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia.

Before joining the firm, Caroline was a litigation partner at DLA Piper US LLP (formerly Piper Marbury Rudnick & Wolfe) and a litigation associate at Swidler & Berlin.

Related Industries


Representative Matters

Commercial Real Estate and Lending Litigation

  • Served as lead trial counsel for Black Entertainment Television in 10-day remote trial during the COVID-19 pandemic, resulting in a mandatory injunction against the District of Columbia, compelling the government to consent to assignment of ground leases for BET’s headquarters campus in Northeast DC. Also obtained $19.45 million damages award for government’s tortious interference with purchase and sale agreement and breach of ground leases’ requirement not to unreasonably withhold consent, which includes damages for diminution in value of BET’s real property interests due to adverse market conditions. BET Acquisition Corp. and Black Entertainment Television, LLC v. District of Columbia, D.C. Super. Ct. Nos. 2018-CA-2023-B and 2018-CA-6351-B
  • Served as lead counsel defending a high-profile professional athlete in response to neighboring property owner’s encroachment lawsuit after client purchased a multi-million-dollar Potomac, Maryland property. The client ultimately was granted the right to continue to use the tract of land under a theory of quasi-easement
  • In a case of first impression in Maryland over brokers’ claim for commissions upon lease renewal against purchaser of real property, obtained summary judgment in Montgomery County Circuit Court, which both appellate courts affirmed. Cushman & Wakefield of Maryland, Inc. v. DRV Greentec, LLC, 463 Md. 1, 203 A.3d 835 (2019)
  • Served as lead counsel defending owner of $20+ million commercial office building in DC central business district subject to ground lease in partition action on the basis that developer-plaintiff was attempting to use partition for oppression and to force distressed sale to affiliate. Action was successfully resolved by sale of property at fair market value
  • Served as lead counsel for a real estate investment trust company in lawsuits against a tenant association at a DC apartment building under Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act (TOPA)
  • Served as lead litigation counsel for a multinational company that operates food and beverage concessions in its disputes with lessors under leases and with licensors under licensing agreements
  • Represented lender in foreclosure of mortgage on District of Columbia shopping mall, securing over $74 million in debt
  • Obtained dismissal with prejudice in favor of contract seller against purchaser’s claim for refund of deposit under a commercial real property purchase agreement after purchaser repudiated. After court ruling, purchaser proceeded with closing of $20+ million commercial property in District of Columbia. Served as lead counsel
  • Served as lead trial counsel for commercial landlord seeking to invalidate tenant’s untimely attempt to exercise its option to renew, resulting in verdict in client’s favor in Virginia circuit court, which was affirmed on appeal
  • Served as lead trial counsel for high-net-worth individual lender suing guarantor to collect loan defaulted by borrowers. Obtained summary judgment in client’s favor in the middle of trial in Virginia circuit court, which judgment ultimately was paid in full from appeal bond
  • Served as lead trial counsel for commercial property owner attempting to close sale of raw land in Maryland, which was threatened by neighboring property owner’s assertion of a claim of prescriptive easement over the land. Obtained an eve-of-trial settlement withdrawing the easement claim and allowing the sale to close
  • Represented as lead counsel a participant bank that had a claim against lead bank under a loan participation agreement for mismanagement of the asset, a District of Columbia construction project
  • Served as lead counsel in a dispute in Virginia federal court over whether commercial tenant had right to early terminate. Obtained voluntary dismissal of case after defeating plaintiff’s request for expedited relief. Schafer Corp. v. Virginia Sq. Office Corp., No. 1:12CV1204 (JCC/IDD), 2013 WL 237754 (E.D. Va., Jan. 22, 2013)
  • Obtained summary judgment in favor of seller of interest in an apartment building against tenants’ association that claimed opportunity to purchase under D.C. Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act (TOPA), which was affirmed on appeal. Served as co-counsel on briefs. Twin Towers Plaza Tenants Ass’n, Inc. v. Capitol Park Associates, L.P., 894 A.2d 1113 (D.C. 2006)
  • Obtained judgment in favor of a District of Columbia real property tax sale purchaser, conveying title to real property, after three-year litigation against other stakeholders. Served as lead counsel
  • Served as lead counsel for a high-net-worth individual as plaintiff in a fraudulent transfer action for diversion of company assets to insider, after contentious litigation in Virginia circuit court. Collected 100% of principal due and accrued interest on unsecured business loan (total recovery over $5 million), as a result of action
  • Represented a public pension fund in the highly profitable liquidation of a $500,000,000 portfolio of distressed assets in the mid-Atlantic region, involving litigation of a broad range of commercial real estate and bankruptcy issues, including bad faith bankruptcy filing

General Business-to-Business Disputes 

  • Obtained defense judgment as lead counsel representing a trade association, in action by former member alleging defamation and malicious civil prosecution and money judgment on counterclaim for sanctions for frivolous pleading. Affirmed on appeal in Thrifty Propane, Inc. v. National Propane Gas Assn., No. 11CA0086–M, 2012 WL 6697554 (Ohio Ct. App., Dec. 26, 2012)
  • Served as lead counsel in the representation of an international manufacturing company in D.C. arbitration arising from product development agreement, which was resolved consensually
  • Successfully defended seller of a closely held business against purchaser’s fraud claims, in Virginia Circuit Court action
  • Successfully resolved claim of international manufacturer of generic pharmaceuticals in breach of contract action against international branded manufacturer
  • Obtained dismissal of substantially all claims in a complaint in connection with wholesale purchase and sale of coal. A.T. Massey Coal Co., Inc. v. Rudimex GmbH, 2006 WL 44278 (E.D. Va. 2006)

Intellectual Property and Unfair Competition Claims 

  • Served as lead trial counsel, obtaining jury verdict in favor of client in Maryland circuit court, in corporation’s defense against former owners’ suit for unpaid purchase price, on the ground that former owners engaged in unfair competition and breached purchase agreement. Judgment affirmed on appeal by Maryland Court of Special Appeals (unpublished)
  • Served as co-counsel on team representing a major American retailer, defending and prosecuting claims between client and its competitor under Lanham Act and other unfair competition laws, for which client was awarded summary judgment in its favor on substantially all claims it was defending and summary judgment on liability in its affirmative claims against competitor
  • Defended a major American online retailer against class action complaints for alleged violations of the Florida Telephone Solicitation Act, which were consensually resolved
  • Won motion to dismiss complaint in favor of a hospitality client, defeating claim of patent infringement of method patent known as “JPEG-on-a-Website,” which was affirmed on appeal. Global Patent Holdings, LLC v. Panthers BRHC LLC d/b/a The Boca Raton Resort & Club, 586 F. Supp. 2d 1331 (S.D. Fla. 2008), aff’d, No. 2008-1588, 318 Fed. Appx. 908, 2009 WL 886300 (Fed. Cir. 2009)
  • Obtained summary judgment on a trademark infringement claim, which was affirmed on appeal. Served as counsel on the briefs. Dick’s Sporting Goods, Inc. v. Dick’s Clothing and Sporting Goods, Inc., 188 F.3d 501, 1999 WL 639165 (4th Cir. 1999)

Owner-to-Owner Disputes within Privately Held Entities 

  • Obtained a jury verdict in favor of client after 5-week trial finding existence of partnership arising from partners' conduct in associating with each other to carry on summer camps business as co-owners. Headfirst Baseball LLC v. Elwood, D.D.C. No. 13-536 (RBW)
  • Represented a company in a Maryland lawsuit with former shareholders over disputes arising from company's buyout of shareholder interests
  • Obtained and arbitration award granting restitution and transferring control of partnership to minority partners in $80 million energy cogeneration project in arbitration against managing partner for breach of fiduciary duty and partnership agreement claims arising from diversion of company assets. Arbitration and numerous related court proceedings took place in District of Columbia, Florida, Oklahoma, and New York courts




  • J.D. University of Michigan Law School 1989
  • A.B. cum laude Princeton University 1986

Bar Admissions

  • District of Columbia
  • Virginia
  • Maryland

Court Admissions

  • U.S. Supreme Court
  • U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit
  • U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit
  • U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit
  • U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia
  • U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia
  • U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia
  • U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland
  • U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Columbia
  • U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of Virginia
  • U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Western District of Virginia
  • U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Maryland

Professional Memberships and Activities

Throughout her career, Caroline has been active in firm and community leadership. She has held various positions, including chair of the Partners Retreat Steering Committee, diversity ombudsman, chair of the Associate Litigation Trial Skills Training and Development Program, Hiring Committee member, Expansion Committee member, chair of the Venable Academy Steering Committee, Partnership Selection Committee member, Commercial Litigation Associate Professional Development partner, Office Pro Bono Attorney coordinator, Pro Bono Committee member, and Summer Program coordinating attorney. In addition to chair of the Washington Litigation Group, she currently serves as a Steering Committee member for Women Attorneys at Venable (WAVe).

Caroline’s professional activities outside the firm include:

  • Board member, The Fishing School, Inc., 2010 – 2015
  • Women’s Bar Association Foundation
    • President, 2001 – 2002
    • Vice president, 2000 – 2001
    • Member, Board of Directors, 1999 – 2002
  • Training instructor on sexual harassment and retaliation pursuant to consent decree entered by U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, Office of the Inspector General for the D.C. Department of Corrections


  • Benchmark Litigation
    • Local Litigation Star, 2022 – 2024
    • Future Star, Washington, DC, 2013
    • Rising Star, Washington, DC, 2012


Pro Bono

  • Supervises various pro bono real estate and commercial litigation matters
  • Provided pro bono representation as guardian ad litem in child abuse and neglect proceedings before the District of Columbia Superior Court