Caroline Petro Gately

Gately Caroline

Caroline Petro Gately is a commercial trial lawyer with extensive experience in commercial real estate litigation. Caroline serves as the chair of Venable's Washington Litigation Group, encompassing the Washington and Tysons, VA offices. As a first-chair lawyer, 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

  • Premises lease and ground lease disputes, including consent to assignment of lease
  • Evictions
  • Foreclosures under loan documents
  • Guaranty collections
  • Real property tax sale foreclosures
  • Real property tax appeals
  • Disputes under real property purchase and sale agreements
  • 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 and quasi-easements
  • Adverse possession/prescriptive easement lawsuits

Representative clients include developers, high-net-worth individuals, developers, private equity investors, entrepreneurs, national asset and property management companies, pension funds, banks, institutional investment advisors, closely held companies and partnerships, franchisors, and retailers with real estate holdings.

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

  • After a 10-day remote bench trial during covid-19 pandemic, obtained mandatory injunction against District of Columbia compelling government to consent to assignment of ground leases for the Black Entertainment Television (BET) headquarters campus in Northeast D.C.  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.
  • Successfully represented numerous property owners, asset or portfolio managers, lenders, investors, developers, and commercial tenants in a broad range of real estate disputes, including lawsuits over title and easement issues, commercial landlord/tenant disputes and evictions, claims under purchase and sale agreements, landlords’ and creditors’ issues in bankruptcy court, real property tax sale foreclosures, commercial mortgage foreclosures, partition, and receivership actions in the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia
  • In a case of first impression in Maryland, obtained summary judgment in favor of purchaser of real property subject to lease against brokers that claimed commissions upon lease renewal.  Judgment affirmed by both appellate courts. Cushman & Wakefield of Maryland, Inc. v. DRV Greentec, LLC, 463 Md. 1, 203 A.3d 835 (2019)
  • Defended owner of property subject to ground lease in partition action in District of Columbia on the basis that plaintiff was trying to use partition for oppression and to profit ground lessee
  • Represented lender in foreclosure of mortgage on District of Columbia shopping mall securing over $74 million debt
  • Represented a high-net-worth individual in response to a neighboring property owner's claim of encroachment after client purchased $4+ million property in Maryland. The client ultimately was granted the right to continue to use the tract of land under a theory of quasi-easement
  • After a trial in a Virginia court over whether a commercial tenant’s attempt to exercise its option to renew was valid, obtained a verdict in favor of the landlord client, which was affirmed on appeal
  • Obtained summary judgment in the middle of trial in Virginia court in favor of lender suing guarantor to collect loan defaulted by borrowers
  • With a $2.6 million raw land sale pending in Maryland, a neighboring property owner asserted a claim of prescriptive easement over the land, threatening the timely closing of the sale. Obtained an eve-of-trial settlement withdrawing the easement claim and allowing the sale to close
  • Represented participant bank that had claim against lead bank under loan participation agreement for mismanagement of the asset, a District of Columbia construction project
  • In 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 apartment building against tenants' association that claimed opportunity to purchase under D.C. Rental Housing Conversion and Sale Act, which was affirmed on appeal. 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 District of Columbia real property tax sale purchaser, conveying title to real property, after three-year litigation against other stakeholders
  • Collected 100% of principal due and accrued interest on unsecured business loan (total recovery over $5 million), as a result of fraudulent transfer action for diversion of company assets to insider, after contentious litigation in Virginia court.
  • Represented public pension fund in highly profitable liquidation of $500,000,000 portfolio of distressed assets in the mid-Atlantic region, involving litigation of broad range of commercial real estate and bankruptcy issues, including bad faith bankruptcy filing

General Business-to-Business Disputes 

  • Obtained defense judgment in favor of 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)
  • Successfully defended seller of closely held business against fraud claims of purchaser in action in Virginia court
  • 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 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 

  • Co-counsel on team representing 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
  • Obtained jury verdict in favor of client corporation in its 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)
  • Won motion to dismiss complaint for 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 trademark infringement claim, which was affirmed on appeal. 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 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 company in Maryland lawsuit with former shareholders over disputes arising from company's buyout of shareholder interests
  • Obtained 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 diversity ombudsman, chair of Associate Litigation Trial Skills Training and Development Program, Hiring Committee member, Expansion Committee member, chair of 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 in the following positions: 

  • Chair, Partners Retreat Steering Committee 
  • Member, Women Attorneys at Venable (WAVe) Steering Committee

Caroline's professional activities outside the firm include:

  • Board member, The Fishing School, Inc., 2010 - 2015
  • President, Women's Bar Association Foundation, 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 - 2023
    • Future Star, Washington, DC, 2013
    • Rising Star, Washington, DC, 2012


Pro Bono

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