A team-oriented trial attorney, Steve Kelso's extensive trial experience enables him to develop litigation matters with an eye toward effective trial presentation. Steve focuses his practice on defending complex commercial disputes, particularly involving unique franchise matters and independent contractor classification issues.
Steve's franchisor experience includes clients in the automotive, consumer services, and health industries. He has successfully represented franchisors in various state and federal courts, before administrative agencies, and on appeal. He also has defended national companies in class action, commercial, labor and employment, and insurance disputes before federal and state trial and appellate courts. His appellate experience includes a Colorado Supreme Court reinstatement of one of his early trial court victories, which involved a matter of first impression.
With exceptional experience building litigation strategies, Steve has delivered precedent-setting arguments that have shaped franchise and related commercial law throughout the country. In cases involving classification, Steve's background allows him to go beyond traditional employment law formulations and build commercial concepts into arguments that inform judges and juries how innovative businesses work effectively with independent contractors, without reclassifying them as employees. As a result, he has safely led companies and franchisors through assaults on their business models.
Following Chrysler LLC's bankruptcy in 2009, WTO and one other law firm co-managed the litigation of 418 arbitration demands by dealers that had been rejected under the terms of the bankruptcy. The statutory deadline to complete the arbitrations was just seven months. As a supervisory member of WTO's franchise team, Steve was lead counsel in 10 matters in Arizona, Colorado, and Nevada, and personally conducted four arbitrations. He also was a key member of the strategic development, national coordinating, and witness preparation teams. In addition to training dozens of local trial counsel and overseeing their workup and arbitration of assigned matters, Steve prepared scores of company and expert witnesses, and developed many of the key themes, theories, and strategies used in all matters.
Before joining WTO, Steve served in the U.S. Air Force Judge Advocate General's Corps. While in the Air Force, he tried over 30 jury trials and served as lead trial counsel and supervising attorney on the Air Force's most complex jury trials.