Michele On-ja Choe
Partner, Diversity & Inclusion Chair
Bar and Court Admissions
Michele On-ja Choe defends healthcare entities and other sophisticated clients in lawsuits involving complex claims. She has particular experience handling employment, product liability, and professional liability claims in the healthcare space. Colorado Super Lawyers lists Michele for Employment Litigation Defense.
Michele's clients include healthcare entities and their affiliates, commercial entities, product manufacturers including pharmaceutical and medical device companies, and employers across a range of industries. Michele’s employment litigation includes a broad range of litigation matters such as the defense of wrongful termination claims, discrimination claims including those brought by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, noncompete and trade secret matters, and class actions involving employment claims and joint employment allegations.
Michele has tried cases in federal and state courts throughout the country and has handled multidistrict, pattern, and class action litigation. She has particular expertise in defending Rule 30(b)(6) corporate representative depositions and designing global defense strategies involving experts from multiple disciplines. Michele regularly handles Daubert and Frye briefing strategies and dispositive motions. Michele has also delivered winning appellate oral arguments in various settings, including a successful appeal before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit (3-0 decision) and the Illinois Court of Appeals (3-0 decision). Finally, Michele possesses e-discovery expertise, having managed multimillion-document productions and privilege reviews including productions to the U.S. Department of Justice and various attorneys general.
In addition to her usual practice, Michele conducts pre- and post-market investigations for pharmaceutical clients and general pre-suit investigations to minimize the possibility of liability exposure and adverse outcomes.
Prior to joining WTO, Michele clerked for the Honorable Donald P. Lay, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, 2004-2005.
- Defeated certification of a putative class of 20,000 California claimants alleging that WTO's client was a "joint employer" and was liable for unpaid overtime and other wage-and-hour violations.
- Obtained dismissal of all claims against University of Colorado Hospital Authority in a whistleblower case filed in district court in Colorado Springs.
- Won an extraordinary pretrial motion in a whistleblower case to preclude the plaintiff from seeking recovery for any future damages.
- Successfully defended a healthcare system and its affiliate against joint employment claims, and secured a favorable settlement.
- Represented an investment company in litigation against a former executive officer who alleged, inter alia, breach of contract and violations of the Colorado Wage Claim Act.
- Prevailed against allegations of racial discrimination against a tech industry employer in Nevada. Following a two-and-a-half-year investigation, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission concluded that no discriminatory conduct had occurred.
- Represented a leading telecommunications company as a third-party respondent in discovery relating to a lawsuit involving claims that an executive violated the terms of a noncompete agreement and misappropriated proprietary information from his prior employer. The case eventually settled, absolving WTO's client of its role in the litigation.
- Represented a security company against claims that two of its employees violated a former employer's noncompete agreement and misappropriated proprietary information from that prior employer.
- Represented a large resort chain against claims of disability discrimination. Following an extensive investigation by the Colorado Civil Rights Division ("CCRD") including briefs and evidence provided by WTO, the CCRD concluded that no unlawful discrimination had occurred.
- Won complete victory for Hillsdale College in a closely watched dispute against the University of Missouri over the misuse of a deceased alumnus's $5 million donation.
- Led the defense of an investment management company sued for unjust enrichment by an individual who claimed he conferred a material benefit upon the company but was never compensated.
- Led the defense of a national healthcare client sued for engaging in purportedly fraudulent conduct in marketing to patients.
- Won a defense jury verdict in a $31 million medical malpractice lawsuit in Illinois involving a newborn who developed sepsis, meningitis, and catastrophic brain damage. WTO then won the subsequent appeal (3-0 panel decision).
- Won a defense decision for a Philadelphia psychiatric hospital in a two-day medical malpractice arbitration involving the death of a patient killed in an auto accident hours after being discharged.
- Won a defense verdict for a Florida hospital in a three-week medical malpractice trial. The case involved a baby who suffered cerebral palsy after a rare delivery complication. The plaintiff sued the hospital for $7 million, claiming complications could have been avoided had a C-section been performed. The WTO team successfully argued the complication was unpredictable and unpreventable, and the doctors actually saved the mother and child.
Medical Devices & Pharmaceuticals
- Represented a device manufacturer in multiple cases in pelvic mesh MDL, including two that settled favorably.
- Represented a product manufacturer in claims relating to its healthcare product Omniscan, an imaging agent alleged to cause nephrogenic systemic fibrosis, a chronic debilitating disease, in some patients.
- Represented pharmaceutical manufacturers in multidistrict litigations involving Baycol, Seroquel, and various diet drugs.
- Represented a medical device manufacturer in litigation involving cold therapy devices.
- Represent one of the nation's largest providers of home respiratory therapy and devices in prelitigation evaluation involving ventilators and litigation involving home oxygen equipment.
Publications & Speaking Engagements
"Nuts and Bolts of Litigation: Effective Cross-Examinations." co-presented at the 2023 Employment Law Conference (April 28, 2023).
"TRO or Preliminary Injunction in Employment Cases: Strategize, Prepare and Execute in Court," presented to The Colorado Defense Lawyers Association, (November 10, 2020).
"Professionalism and Expert Witnesses — Best Practices for Keeping You and Your Expert on the Right Side of the Ethical Line, While Still Advancing Your Client's Very Best Case," presented at the Colorado Litigators Summit, (September 25, 2020).
"Power Plays in the Legal Profession," presented at the CDLA Annual Conference General Session, (July 28, 2018).
"Short Circuits: Brief Updates on Noteworthy Issues from the 12 Federal Circuits and their States," presented at the 10th Circuit Panelist in Trial Attorneys of America annual meeting, (May 11, 2018).
"Conducting an Early Case Assessment: How to Evaluate Liability Risk Exposure Before Litigation Begins," presented at Defense Research Institute Young Lawyer's Breakout Session, (May 2009).
"Preserving Attorney-Client Communications Involving PR Professionals," American Bar Association Section of Litigation: Second Chair, (July 2008).
"An Introduction to Predictive Coding," Co-Author, TortSource, (Spring 2017).
Sidley Austin LLP
Legal Memberships, Activities, and Honors
Colorado Super Lawyers
Super Lawyer, Employment Litigation Defense, 2019-2023
Rising Star, Personal Injury Defense: Products, 2013-2015
Top 50 Women, 2023
The Best Lawyers in America
Labor & Employment Litigation, 2022-2023
Labor/Employment: Defense, 2023
Colorado Defense Lawyers Association
Board Member, 2018-2023
Vice President, 2020-2021
Chair, Professional Liability Committee, 2017-2018
Vice-Chair, Professional Liability Committee, 2016-2017
Top Women Lawyers, Law Week Colorado 2020
Colorado Women's Bar Association, 2022-Current
General Counsel Mentorship Program, 2020
American Bar Association
Tort Trial & Insurance Practice Section Leadership Academy,
"The Brief" Editorial Board, 2015-2018
"Tort Source" Editorial Board, 2013-2018
Leadership Academy, 2012-2013
Community Memberships, Activities, and Honors
Colorado Attorney Mentoring Program