Bar and Court Admissions
Michael O'Donnell has taken more than 75 trials to verdict and appeared as lead defense counsel in 40 states for class and mass actions, product liability, professional liability, and complex commercial matters for many of the nation's leading companies. Alongside his tremendous trial record, Mike is nationally recognized for his strength in settling complex litigation. Mike is the President Elect of the American College of Trial Lawyers. He is nationally ranked in Chambers USA, and his colleagues and peers have voted him the #1 lawyer in Colorado Super Lawyers for nine consecutive years.
Mike has served as national trial and resolution counsel for numerous highly visible companies, including General Electric, Michelin North America, Advanced Bionics, McKesson, Boston Scientific, Guidant, Skyjack, and Pfizer. He is a Fellow of the International Academy of Trial Lawyers and member of the American Board of Trial Advocates. Mike is a former chairman of The Network of Trial Law Firms, a 5,000-member lawyer organization that offers continuing legal education programs on litigation topics.
Chambers USA ranks Mike nationwide for product liability and mass torts defense. Colorado Super Lawyers has ranked Mike the number-one lawyer in Colorado for nine years in a row (2013-2021) based on independent research and a survey of his peers--a feat no other Colorado lawyer has accomplished--and he has been named to its top 10 list every year since 2009. Best Lawyers lists Mike in seven litigation practice areas and named him "Denver Legal Malpractice Lawyer of the Year" for 2017 and 2011, and "Denver Product Liability Litigation Lawyer of the Year" for 2013 and 2012. In 2011, Law Week Colorado selected Mike as one of 10 "Lawyers of the Decade" and "Lawyer of the Year" in Colorado. In a survey conducted by Law Week Colorado in 2010, Mike was selected by his peers as the "Best Trial Lawyer" in Colorado.
In 2012, Mike was honored with the University of Denver Law Outstanding Alumni Award which is presented each year to one DU Law graduate who has demonstrated professional achievement and humanitarian service to the community. In 2008, he became only the seventh defense lawyer to receive an award from the Colorado Trial Lawyers Association for the highest standards of competency, ethics, and professionalism.
Trials & Oral Arguments
- United Power, Inc. et al. v. Tri-State Generation & Transmission Ass'n. Inc., No. 19F-0521E (Colo. Public Utilities Commission) - Won a $1.25 billion exit fee dispute for an electric distributor against its generation and transmission provider. The groundbreaking decision followed one of the first remote trials in the nation in the COVID-19 era.
- In re Gadolinium-Based Products Liability Litigation, MDL No. 2868 (J.P.M.L. 2018) - As lead national trial counsel to GE Healthcare, successfully argued before the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation to defeat plaintiffs' attempt create an MDL involving gadolinium-based contrast agents.
- Dukes v. Michelin (Nineteenth Jud. Cir. St. Lucie Cnty. FL 2016) - Won a complete defense jury verdict for Michelin following a nine-week product liability trial in Florida in which the plaintiffs requested damages between $80 million and $1.2 billion following a rollover accident involving Michelin tires. WTO also won the appeal.
- Auto-Owners v. Summit Park, 2016 WL 1321507 (D. Colo.) - Won order vacating a $10.87 million property insurance award and disqualifying a national property appraiser, and subsequently won sanctions against the policyholder and its lawyers, and won 99.7% of attorneys' fees and costs.
- Allen v. Michelin (Ariz. Sup. Ct. Mohave Cnty. 2015) - Won a unanimous defense verdict for Michelin following a three-week trial in Arizona state court in which the plaintiff demanded $20 million in actual and punitive damages.
- Won a complete defense jury verdict in federal court for a large international law firm accused of malpractice. The plaintiff hired WTO's client to handle a complex patent infringement matter, then sued the firm for negligence and breach of fiduciary duty.
- Represented a Fortune 500 company as national trial counsel for hundreds of product liability claims and lawsuits involving a Class III medical device used to treat abdominal aortic aneurysms.
- Facilitated a rural electric cooperative's withdrawal from membership in a wholesale cooperative. WTO's client achieved settlement for hundreds of millions of dollars below the wholesaler's demand and can now acquire substantially cheaper and renewable green energy sources for its members.
- Represented Denver International Airport in high-profile claims involving alleged bid rigging and unfair competition relating to a $50 million terminal concessions contract.
- Represented Denver International Airport against the Regional Transportation District in a dispute over cost-sharing agreements involving a new rail line serving the airport.
- Served as national counsel to a global healthcare company in multidistrict litigation involving over 12,000 claims relating to dialysis products. WTO helped develop national resolution strategy, identified bellwether cases, and negotiated settlement of all claims.
- Represented a food distributor in allegations of Listeria contamination resulting in 33 deaths and 146 confirmed cases in one of the largest and deadliest food-borne illness outbreaks in the United States.
- Represent a Fortune 50 company as national resolution counsel in hundreds of cases involving a medical imaging contrast agent alleged to induce a rare disease.
- Represented NBCUniversal and Universal Studios in a negligence and breach of contract action brought by Universal Music Group following a 2008 fire at Universal Studios. The dispute involved nuanced, complex issues including insurance subrogation and collateral source rule questions.
- Obtained partial summary judgment in federal court for a large national law firm that had been sued for malpractice, aiding and abetting, conspiracy, and violations of RICO. The ruling reduced the damage claim from over $150 million to less than $2 million and paved the way for a favorable settlement of the case.
Other Representative Experience
- Won three critical summary judgment and Daubert rulings for a major law firm and three lawyers in a legal malpractice case, precluding damages claims in excess of $10M from proceeding to trial and materially lowering the clients' risk going forward.
- In re Juul Labs Inc. Marketing, Sales Practices, and Products Liability Litigation (19-md-02193-WHO, N.D. Cal.) - Selected as liaison counsel to all distributor defendants in federal multidistrict litigation in California involving vaping products.
- Representing multiple public utility companies in contentious commercial litigation against an energy association with hundreds of millions of dollars at stake.
- Won a landmark federal case in Illinois defining the obligations of lead and liaison counsel in multidistrict litigation.
- Auto-Owners v. Summit Park, 886 F.3d 852 and 886 F.3d 863 (10th Cir. 2018) - Won complete affirmance in the Tenth Circuit of landmark rulings governing insurance appraisals. In two published opinions, the Tenth Circuit affirmed trial court rulings vacating an eight-figure appraisal award against the client, disqualifying for bias a national policyholder appraiser, and sanctioning the policyholder and its lawyers for misconduct in connection with the appraisal.
- Represent Skyjack Inc. as national trial counsel in product liability cases involving aerial lift and boom equipment.
- Serving as national coordinating and trial counsel to a cochlear implant manufacturer for the defense of product liability lawsuits involving a Class III medical device used to treat hearing loss.
- Obtained summary judgment from a Texas district court in a case alleging WTO's client, a life insurance company, committed fraud and violated consumer protection laws.
- Obtained a Rule 12(b) dismissal of a complaint filed in federal court in Missouri against a large international law firm. The plaintiffs ultimately obtained an eight-figure jury verdict against the remaining defendants in the case.
- Secured a ruling from a California appeals court affirming the preemption of claims brought against WTO's client for its abdominal stent medical device.
- Obtained a Rule 12(b) dismissal of a malpractice case against five lawyers. The opposing party appealed the dismissal and, while the appeal was pending, the case settled with no payments being made by WTO's clients.
- Obtained summary judgment for a law firm client and an award of attorneys' fees in a legal malpractice case in which the plaintiff sought $7 million in damages. The plaintiff appealed the award of attorneys' fees, and the parties settled the appeal with payments being made to the client.
- Moore v. Bertuzzi - Successfully defended the Vancouver Canucks NHL organization in a lawsuit brought by Colorado Avalanche player Steven Moore as a result of severe injuries he sustained during a hockey game. WTO obtained dismissal of the lawsuit on the grounds of lack of personal jurisdiction and forum non conveniens, and also obtained a six-figure award of attorney's fees and costs in favor of the Canucks organization and against Mr. Moore.
- Awarded complete summary judgment in a legal malpractice case one week before a multi-week trial was scheduled to begin. The plaintiff had sought over $5 million in damages.
- Vastano et al. v. AT&T Wireless - Defended AT&T Wireless in a nationwide class action in Colorado state court involving the billing of wireless air time.
- Represent General Electric as national counsel in personal injury matters involving trucks that move oversized loads, including wind turbines.
Publications & Speaking Engagements
"What the Hail? Exposing Biased Insurance Appraisers," presented at the 28th Annual ACIC General Counsel Seminar Survey (July 28, 2017).
- "Dealing with Collusion and Fraud in Property Loss Litigation," Litigation Management in a New York Minute - 2016 Edition, presented by The Network of Trial Law Firms, New York, NY (August 5, 2016).
"Dollars and $ense Negotiating the Pay Raise - Practical Advice from the Decision-Makers" presented at the Association of Corporate Counsel Colorado Chapter CLE and reception (May 12, 2016).
- Association of Corporate Counsel: Negotiating the Pay Raise, May 12, 2016.
"Settling Strategies for MDLs: Getting Started, Setting Values, and Overcoming Obstacles," presented at the Mass Torts Judicial Forum in New York City (April 15, 2016).
"The Defense Perspective: How Loss Prevention and Firm Management Practices Can Impact Malpractice Claims," presented at an Ethics CLE at Wheeler Trigg O'Donnell (November 19, 2014).
- "Managing a Large Casualty Claim," presented at the Advisen Casualty Insights Conference in New York City (March 27, 2014).
- "Avoiding Missteps in Handling Litigation and Other Disputes," presented to the Association of Corporate Counsel Colorado Chapter (December 5, 2012).
- "The Trial of a Legal Malpractice Case," presented at the Aon Law Firm Symposium (October 12, 2012).
"Unique Issues in Mass Torts," presented at University of Denver Sturm College of Law (November 7, 2011).
"Negotiation," presented to MBA students at McGill University (October 12, 2011).
"The Nuts and Bolts of Successor Liability," presented to CNA (February 10, 2011).
"Ethics CLE: Avoiding Malpractice," University of Denver Alumni Weekend (October 14, 2010).
"Settlement Negotiation Strategies," Continuing Legal Education Seminar (May 2010).
"Strategic Management," University of Colorado at Denver MBA Program (February 2010).
"Deposition Strategy 101," Colorado Defense Lawyers Association CLE Seminar (December 4, 2009).
"Leadership," University of Colorado at Denver MBA Program (December 1, 2009).
"Leadership and Strategic Management," presented to University of Colorado MBA Students (December 1, 2009).
"Preventing Legal Malpractice, Potential Pitfalls and How to Avoid Them," Colorado Bar Association Continuing Legal Education Seminar (2009-2013).
"Alternative Dispute Resolution," presented to CNA (March 2008).
"Appellate Update on Colorado Law," presented to All Colorado State Court Trial and Appellate Judges (September 2007).
"What In-House Counsel Want and How to Give It to Them," presented at The Network of Trial Law Firms (April 20, 2007).
"Selecting Outside Trial Counsel," presented to Association of Corporate Counsel Colorado Chapter (March 21, 2007).
"Selection of Outside Counsel," presented at The Network of Trial Law Firms (April 29, 2006).
"Pharmaceutical Torts Cases in Colorado," presented at Colorado Bar Association and Denver Bar Association CLE Ethical Consideration for Practitioners (November 3, 2005).
"Punitive Damages," presented at The Network of Trial Law Firms (October 23, 2004).
"Punitive Damages," presented at 27th Annual Conference of Colorado Defense Lawyers Association (August 20, 2004).
"Campbell v. State Farm," presented at The Network of Trial Law Firms' Meeting (Apr. 2003).
- "Colorado Civil Justice League Legislative Panel," presented in conjunction with the American Tort Reform Association Annual Legislative Conference for State Coalition Leaders and Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse (November 14, 2002).
- "Non-Liability to Non-Participants: A Manufacturer's Duty Should End at the Playing Field, and Not Extend to Criminal Acts," Mealey's Prod. Liab. & Risk (August 29, 2002).
"Behold the Future: Emerging Areas Including Mold, Cellular Phones, MTBE, Chromium 6, and More," presented at The Future of Mass Tort Litigation in America (March 23, 2002).
"Ethics and Professionalism in Client Relations," presented at University of Denver Law School (November 12, 2001).
"Challenging the Admissibility of Medical Causation Opinion Derived From 'Differential Diagnosis - Application of Daubert and Amended FRE 702'," presented at The Network of Trial Law Firms (October 26, 2001).
"Winning by Disqualifying Plaintiff's Experts," presented at The Network of Trial Law Firms (October 25, 2001).
"Preventing Legal Malpractice," presented at Colorado Bar Association CLE Seminar and Torts Update (October 9, 1998).
"Colorado Legal Malpractice," presented to the Colorado Bar Association Tort Law Update (1998).
"Winning the Battle of the Experts," presented at Professional Education Systems Inc. (December 16, 1996).
"Discovery," presented at Colorado Defense Lawyers Association (August 27, 1994).
"Depositions: Strategies, Tactics and Mechanics," presented at Professional Education Systems Inc. (November 11, 1992).
- "Trial by Webcam: Tips From a Firsthand Experience," Law360 (May 28, 2020)
Co-authored "New Strategies for Defending Professional Liability and Malpractice Cases," Best Practices for Addressing Professional Liability Claims (2015).
- "Managing Product Liability in the Americas," quoted in Financier Worldwide (September 2009).
- "Witness Preparation Primer: Inviting a Witness to Provide Truthful and Favorable Testimony," Mastering the Art of Preparing Witnesses (2017).
"Deconstructing the Key Liability Expert: Strategy and Secrets for Successful Cross-Examination," From the Trenches: Strategies and Tips From 21 of the Nation's Top Trial Lawyers (2015).
- Chambers USA: WTO "Acts Totally with the Client's Interest at Heart."
- Four WTO Lawyers Named BTI Client Service All-Stars 2020
- Benchmark Litigation 2021 Includes 23 WTO Lawyers
- Lessons Learned From One of Nation's First Virtual Trials
- Chambers USA 2020: WTO Leads Nationwide, Colorado
- Cover Story: Mike O'Donnell #1 in Colorado Super Lawyers
- Six WTO Partners Named 5280 Top Lawyers For 2020
- Law Week Colorado Names Four WTO Partners to 2019 Barrister's Best List
- BTI Names Two WTO Leaders Client Service All-Stars
- Michael O'Donnell Elected Officer of the American College of Trial Lawyers
- Denver Business Journal, "Leaping Lawyers! Why Attorneys are Outpacing Colorado's General Population Growth," August 16, 2018.
- 27 WTO Lawyers Recognized in The Best Lawyers in America 2019
- WTO Leads Top 100 in Colorado Super Lawyers
- WTO Leads Barrister's Best People's Choice Awards
- 26 WTO Lawyers ranked in the 24th Edition of The Best Lawyers in America
- Who's Who Legal Names Seven from WTO for Product Liability Defense
- Chambers USA 2017 recognizes Wheeler Trigg O'Donnell among the top litigation firms nationwide and in Colorado
- 42 WTO Lawyers Named to the 2017 Colorado Super Lawyers List
- Colorado Super Lawyers: Michael O'Donnell #1 for Fifth Straight Year
- Michael O'Donnell Named 2016 Lawyer of the Year
- Michelin Wins Complete Defense Verdict in $80 Million Product Liability Jury Trial in Florida
- 20 WTO Lawyers ranked in the 23rd Edition of The Best Lawyers in America®
- Chambers USA 2016 Ranks WTO Among Top Firms Nationwide and in Colorado
- DRI The Voice, March 30, 2016.
- The Network of Trial Law Firms blog, "Super Lawyers Ranks Michael O'Donnell the #1 Lawyer in Colorado for Fourth consecutive year," March 15, 2016.
- WTO Management Team Wins Three of Three
- Law Week Colorado, "WTO Partners Rack Up Defense Wins," November 30, 2015.
- 20 WTO Lawyers ranked in the 22nd Edition of The Best Lawyers in America®
- Denver Business Journal, "Search Committee Formed to Find Federal Judge in Colorado," August 13, 2015.
- WTO Leads the Nation for Ranked Lawyers in Product Liability & Mass Torts Defense in Chambers USA 2015
- University of Denver Magazine, "Practice-Ready DU Law Grads are Building Colorado's Legal Community," December 15, 2014.
- Best Lawyers® 2015 Ranks 20 WTO Attorneys
- Best Lawyers® Names Two WTO Partners Denver Lawyers of the Year
- Denver Business Journal, "Challenged Golf Fan Walks Tall for Kids," February 21, 2014.
- Denver Business Journal, "Overcoming Obstacles: Golf ‘Legend' Brings His Story, and a Check, to Denver," February 12, 2014.
- Mike O'Donnell Elected Regent of American College of Trial Lawyers
- Law Week Colorado, "Denver Attorney Elected Regent of American College of Trial Lawyers," November 2, 2012.
- Benchmark Litigation 2013 Ranks Seven WTO Partners Among 33 Colorado Litigation Stars
- Denver University Law School, "DU Law Star Mike O'Donnell, JD '79," September 17, 2012.
- Law Week Colorado's 2012 Barrister's Best Recognizes Two WTO Lawyers
- Law Week Colorado, "DU Law Selects Wheeler Trigg Chairman for Alumni Award," July 10, 2012.
- Michael O'Donnell Recognized with DU Sturm College of Law's 2012 Outstanding Alumni Award
- Denver Business Journal, "Wheeler Trigg O'Donnell is Rising to New Heights," June 8, 2012.
- Benchmark Litigation Ranks Six WTO Partners Among 30 Colorado Litigation Stars
- Best Lawyers® Names Michael O'Donnell and Malcolm Wheeler 2012 Denver Lawyers of the Year
- Denver Business Journal, "Early Communication Negates Surprises for Law Firm," July 22, 2011.
- Law Week Colorado, "Lawyers of the Decade: Michael O'Donnell," March 14, 2011.
- Best Lawyers® Names Michael O'Donnell 2011 Denver Legal Malpractice Lawyer of the Year
- Law Week Colorado, "Wheeler Trigg O'Donnell's Michael O'Donnell to Chair College Again," November 25, 2009.
- Denver Business Journal, "Firm Knows Happy Employees Mean Happy Clients," November 22, 2009.
- WTO's Mike O'Donnell Named Colorado Chair of American College of Trial Lawyers
- Denver Business Journal, "Wheeler Trigg Adding O'Donnell to Law Firm Name," May 31, 2009.
- Denver Business Journal, "Law Firm Wheeler Trigg Adds Chairman O'Donnell to Name," May 26, 2009.
- Denver Business Journal, "Law Firm Focuses on ‘The Right Thing,'" November 23, 2008.
- SJ for WTO Medical Device Manufacturer Client Based on Federal Preemption Law
- Mike O'Donnell Colorado Chair of American College of Trial Lawyers
- Denver Business Journal, "O'Donnell Honored," July 20, 2008.
- Colorado Plaintiffs' Lawyers Honor Defense Lawyer Michael O'Donnell
- O'Donnell Chair of Network of Trial Law Firms
- Mike O'Donnell 2004-05 Chair-Elect of Network of Trial Law Firms
- Three WTO Lawyers Nominated for Best of the Bar; Trigg Wins Lifetime Achievement Award
Legal Memberships, Activities, and Honors
Fellow, American College of Trial Lawyers
President Elect, 2020-2021
Regent Liaison for ACTL Task Force on Discovery and Civil Justice,
Sandra Day O'Connor Award Committee, 2013-2015
Federal Rules of Civil Procedure Committee, 2013-2015
Regent's Nominating Committee
Special Problems in the Administration of Justice Committee, Vice
Adjunct State Committee, 2011-2012
Colorado State Committee, Chairman, 2008-2010
Chairman-Elect, 2007-2008, Vice Chairman, 2006-2007
Code of Conduct Committee, 2007-2008
Complex Litigation Committee 2004-2005
Fellow, International Academy of Trial Lawyers
American Board of Trial Advocates
Fellow, Litigation Counsel of America, The Trial Lawyer Honorary Society
Member, Diversity Law Institute
Member, Trial Law Institute
International Association of Defense Counsel
Product Liability - Nationwide, 2015-2021
Commercial Litigation - Colorado, 2009-2021
Client Service All-Star MVP, 2020
Client Service All-Star, 2019
The Best Lawyers in America
Denver Legal Malpractice Law - Defendants Lawyer of the Year, 2011, 2014, 2017, 2020
Denver Personal Injury Litigation Lawyer of the Year, 2015, 2018
Denver Product Liability Litigation Lawyer of the Year, 2012-2013, 2019
Denver Mass Tort Litigation/Class Actions - Defendants Lawyer of the Year, 2021
Bet-the-Company Litigation, 2005-2021
Commercial Litigation, 2005-2021
Legal Malpractice Law, 2005-2021
Mass Tort Litigation / Class Actions - Defendants, 2017-2021
Personal Injury Litigation - Defendants, 2005-2021
Product Liability Litigation - Defendants, 2005-2021
Professional Malpractice Law - Defendants, 2017-2021
The Legal 500 United States
Litigation: Product Liability and Mass Tort Defense, 2007, 2009-2011,
Local Litigation Star, 2020
Commercial Litigation - Colorado, 2011-2018
Product Liability - Colorado, 2013-2018
Professional Liability - Colorado, 2013-2018
Colorado Super Lawyers
Ranked #1 in Colorado, 2013-2021
Top 10, 2007, 2009-2012
Personal Injury Defense: Products, 2009-2021
Class Action/Mass Torts, 2006-2008
Civil Litigation, 2020-2021
Commercial Litigation, 2020-2021
Personal Injury: Defense, 2020-2021
Law Week Colorado
Lawyer of the Year, 2016
"People's Choice" Best Overall Litigator, 2017
"People's Choice" Civil Litigator, 2016
"Barrister's Best" Best Overall Litigator, 2015, 2019
"People's Choice" Class Action Defense Lawyer, 2014
"Barrister's Best" Best Class Action/Mass Tort Defense Lawyer, 2012
Lawyers of the Decade, 2011
"Barrister's Best" Best Trial Lawyer, 2010 5280 Magazine
Personal Injury Defense, 2015-2019
Civil Litigation, 2015-2019
Commercial Litigation, 2017-2019
University of Denver Sturm College of Law
Outstanding Alumni Award, 2012
Euromoney's Expert Guides - Litigation and Product Liability
Martindale-Hubbell AV® Peer Review Rated
The International Who's Who of Product Liability Defense Lawyers, 2011, 2014-2017, 2019
The International Who's Who of Life Sciences Lawyers, 2014, 2017
Institute for the Advancement of the American Legal System (IAALS)
ACTL Task Force on Discovery and Civil Justice, member
2015 Rebuilding Justice Award
Colorado Trial Lawyers Association
Award for Competency, Ethics, and Professionalism, 2008
The American Lawyer
Top Commercial Litigation Lawyers, 2006
2014 Lawyer of the Year - Litigation & Dispute Resolution (Denver)
Best of the Bar, Denver Business Journal
Colorado Bar Foundation
The Network of Trial Law Firms
Denver Bar Association
Vice President, Board of Trustees
Colorado Bar Association
Member, Board of Governors
American Bar Association
Chairman, Issues Affecting the Legal Profession
Young Lawyers Section Liaison to Standing Committee on
American Bar Foundation
Judge William E. Doyle American Inn of Court, Master
Denver Law Club
Faculty of Federal Advocates
Board of Directors, 2004-2005
Defense Research Institute
Member, Professional Liability Committee
Colorado Defense Lawyers Association
USDC Colorado Committee on Conduct, 2012
Who's Who in Law, Denver Business Journal
University of Denver Sturm College of Law
Co-Chair of Reunion Committee, 2004
Colorado Judicial Institute
Board of Directors, 2004-present
Judicial Awards Committee, 2006-present
IAALS Law Firm Council
National Center for State Courts
Lawyers Committee Member
Community Memberships, Activities, and Honors
Wheeler Trigg O'Donnell Foundation
Founder and President, 2005-present
University of Notre Dame Law School Council, 2019
Archdiocese of Denver
Finance Council, 2008-2013
Catholic Charities Archdiocese of Denver
Board Member, 2010-present
Denver Police Foundation
Board of Directors, 2004-present
Walking for Kids
Founding Member, Board of Directors, 2009-present
Trial.com Foundation, Inc.
The Catholic Foundation
Board of Directors, Advancement Committee, 2004-2005
American Heart Association of Colorado and Wyoming
Chairman of the Board
American Heart Association of Colorado
Denver Metro Division, Chairman of the Board
Denver Tennis Club
Board of Directors
The Village Club
Hundred Club of Denver
BAR-BRI Course on Professional Responsibility
National Institute for Trial Advocacy
University of Denver Sturm College of Law
University of Colorado at Denver, MBA Program
Numerous CLE Presentations
Family, golf, reading, travel