Bar and Court Admissions
Theresa Wardon Benz represents clients such as Ford, Michelin, and Whirlpool in nationwide high-stakes product liability and class action trials, litigation, and appeals. She has particular experience defending product manufacturers in personal injury and design defect lawsuits. In 2017, the American Bar Association named Theresa one of the top 40 young lawyers in America in its annual "On the Rise" list.
Theresa has played significant roles in trial to help win verdicts in Arizona, Florida, and Ohio. She has also briefed and argued winning appeals in the Colorado Supreme Court and the Colorado Court of Appeals. Theresa recently authored her first amicus brief to the U.S. Supreme Court, at the request of Sidley Austin and the Northwestern Supreme Court Clinic.
Additionally, Theresa represents asylum seekers, pro bono, fleeing extreme violence in their home countries. She served on the governing board of The Gathering Place, Denver’s only daytime shelter for women, children, and transgender individuals experiencing poverty. Before joining WTO, Theresa clerked for The Honorable Neil M. Gorsuch, then of the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit.
Trials & Litigation
- Won dismissal for Skyjack in Pennsylvania District Court in a product liability matter involving alleged injury on a scissor lift. The case was dismissed on the basis of lack of personal jurisdiction.
- 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.
- 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.
- Glazer v. Whirlpool (N.D. Ohio 2014) - Won a complete defense jury verdict for Whirlpool as co-trial counsel in a $66 million certified class action trial in Ohio involving allegedly "moldy" washing machines.
- Defeated class certification for Nash Finch (now SpartanNash), a Fortune 500 food distribution company, in claims involving common law fraud, civil theft, and violations of the Colorado Consumer Protection Act stemming from complaints about a specific pricing program in various grocery stores. WTO then obtained summary judgment against the 55 named plaintiffs.
- Tietsworth v. Sears (N.D. Cal. 2013) - Defeated a motion to certify a nationwide breach of warranty class in a case alleging that certain Kenmore washing machines contained defective electronic control boards that caused the machines to malfunction.
- Led appellate strategy in post-trial motions in an oil and gas industry matter which resulted in settlement prior to appeal.
- Briefed the contested issue of what constitutes oil production in an oil and gas industry case before the Colorado Court of Appeals.
- Representing a medical facility in an appeal after an adverse verdict in post-trial motions. The case concerns the corporate practice of medicine doctrine and the constitutionality of damages caps. Briefed and argued the appeal, which has garnered attention from industry groups and amici.
- Representing a physician in an appeal after an adverse verdict in post-trial motions. The case involves challenges to collateral source rules and application to certain damages caps.
- Dukes v. Michelin (4th Dist. Ct. App. Fla. 2019) - Won affirmance for Michelin to preserve a defense verdict WTO won in a nine-week product liability trial in Florida with $80 million to $1.2 billion at stake.
- Fox v. Alfini et al., 2018 CO 94 (Colorado Supreme Court) - Drafted a winning amicus brief for the Colorado Defense Lawyers Association in an alleged medical malpractice case against a chiropractor that establishes, for the first time, that a third party's involvement in a conversation between an attorney and a client waives the attorney-client privilege, unless the third party's presence is reasonably necessary to facilitate the communication.
- Arjune v. State of New York (U.S. 17-8587) - Drafted and filed an amicus brief to the U.S. Supreme Court, at the request of Sidley Austin and the Northwestern Supreme Court Clinic, in a matter involving immigration issues with dire consequences for the petitioner.
- Engaged for amicus briefs by the Colorado Civil Justice League, the Colorado Defense Lawyers Association, and COPIC.
- Walker v. Ford Motor Co., 2017 CO 102 - Won a significant victory for Ford Motor Co. in the Colorado Supreme Court. The case reestablishes that the risk-benefit test is the appropriate test for juries to assess whether a product has been defectively designed. The Court also held that a manufacturer could not be negligent if it designed a "reasonably safe" product.
- Magill v. Ford Motor Co. (Colo. 2016) - Won a Rule 21 petition (an "extraordinary remedy") for Ford to the Colorado Supreme Court in a case involving general jurisdiction and venue claims. The opinion makes it harder for companies with no connection to Colorado to be sued in the state.
- Walker v. Ford Motor Co. (Colo. App. 2015) - Won reversal of a 2013 jury verdict against Ford Motor Co. in a case that alleged strict liability and negligence relating to a rear-end collision in a 1998 Ford Explorer. The Court of Appeals concluded that the application of consumer expectation as a standalone test in Colorado's pattern jury instructions does not comply with Colorado law as established by the Colorado Supreme Court in Camacho v. Honda Motor Co. (1987).
- Served as appellate monitoring counsel to a national food distributor in a tractor-trailer accident trial in South Carolina.
- Schanel v. Ford Motor Co. (Colo. Ct. App. 2012) - Defended the appeal to the Colorado Court of Appeals of a 2010 jury verdict that WTO won for Ford Motor Company in an electronic throttle product liability case.
- Successfully appealed a decision by the Office of the Inspector General, Department of Health and Human Services, to impose on WTO's pro bono client, a Navy nurse and corpsman, a mandatory five-year exclusion from working in any federally funded healthcare program, which jeopardized her Navy service. WTO showed why the decision was not warranted or authorized under current statutes. The Inspector General withdrew the exclusion, dropping the case and allowing our client to return to military service.
- Negotiated access rights as part of an entitlement claim in a pro bono effort for more than two dozen families and landowners in matters relating to a large tract of land originally administered under a land grant dating back to Spanish colonial rule in southern Colorado.
- Represent asylum seekers fleeing extreme domestic violence in their home countries.
Publications & Speaking Engagements
Co-authored, Colorado chapter of DRI's Compendium on Warnings, Instructions and Recalls (February 2019).
"Emerging Doctrines of Jurisdiction and Their Impact on Automotive Product Liability Litigation: The Aftermath of Bristol-Myers Squibb and BNSF Railway," presented at ACI's Automotive Product Liability Litigation Forum in Chicago (July 19, 2018).
- Co-author, "Reclaiming the Immigration Constitution of the Early Republic: Prospectivity, Uniformity, and Transparency," 96 Va. L. Rev. 359 (2010).
- Theresa Wardon Benz Honored With 2019 Davis Award
- Colorado Consumer Protection Act: WTO Helps Scuttle Effort to Allow Private Class Actions
- WTO Leads Top 100 in Colorado Super Lawyers
- Law Week Colorado, "Strictly About Risks and Benefits," November 20, 2017.
- Benchmark Litigation Names WTO Lawyers to Top 250 Women in Litigation and Under 40 Hotlist
- ABA Names Theresa Wardon to National Top 40 On the Rise
- 42 WTO Lawyers Named to the 2017 Colorado Super Lawyers List
- Michelin Wins Complete Defense Verdict in $80 Million Product Liability Jury Trial in Florida
- Above the Law, "Another Firm Raises Its Clerkship Bonus; Is This a Trend in the Making?," April 11, 2016.
- Denver Business Journal, "Theresa Wardon – 40 Under 40 Winner," March 18, 2016.
- Law Week Colorado, "Top Litigators 2016: Theresa Wardon," March 18, 2016.
- Law360, "Sears, Whirlpool Win OK for Washer Defect Settlement," February 18, 2016.
- Theresa Wardon Named a 2016 Denver Business Journal 40 Under 40 Winner
- Law Week Colorado, "Wheeler Trigg O'Donnell Elects Two New Partners," January 13, 2016.
- Wheeler Trigg O'Donnell Elects Two New Partners
- Law360, "Ford Wins New Trial In Colo. Over Seat Design Injuries," September 10, 2015.
- Law360, "Sears, Whirlpool Ink Deal to End Some Washer Defect Suits," July 27, 2015.
- Law360, "Ford Largely Defeats Class Action Over Fuel Economy Claims," May 30, 2014.
Legal Memberships, Activities, and Honors
Denver Bar Association
Richard Marden Davis Award, 2020
40 & Under National Star, 2019
Under 40 Hotlist, 2017-2018
American Bar Association's "On the Rise" 2017
Denver Business Journal
40 Under 40, 2016
Colorado Rising Stars
Civil Litigation Defense, 2012-2020
Law Week Colorado
Top Litigators, 2016
Up-and-Coming Lawyers, 2012
Judge William E. Doyle American Inn of Court
Wheeler Trigg O'Donnell Recruiting Committee
Defense Research Institute
Community Memberships, Activities, and Honors
The Gathering Place
Board of Directors, 2012-2018
Law School . . . Yes We Can
Running, hiking, skiing, dance, and international travel