H. Michael O'Brien Senior Counsel




Michael O’Brien is a co-chair of the firm’s Product Liability, Prevention & Government Compliance practice and leads the Internet of Things (IoT) aspects of Information Governance. He is also a member of the Information Governance Leadership Committee. With more than 30 years of experience in product liability defense, Michael focuses on representing U.S.- and Asia-based manufacturers and distributors as national counsel in litigation, pre-suit investigations and class actions. He also advises clients on reporting obligations to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and counsels them on voluntary recall issues.

From 1989 through 1992, Michael lived in Japan, managing the firm’s Tokyo office and providing counsel to Japanese, Korean and Chinese clients. While in Asia, he saw first-hand the vast differences between the U.S. and Asian legal systems and recognized the importance of educating foreign clients on the complexities and requirements of U.S. civil practice and procedures. Prior to joining Wilson Elser in 1983, he spent three years as a staff counsel with the New York City office of The Hartford.

Areas of Focus

Information Governance
Michael has a keen interest in developing technologies and their implications for product liability exposures as well as their security vulnerabilities. This includes the rapidly developing Internet of Things (IoT), 3D manufacturing, drones, artificial intelligence and robotics, and nanotechnology. He has been monitoring the IoT’s growing application and uses in the marketplace and is at forefront of predicting its potential long-term consequences for product manufacturers, software companies and their distributors. Michael has authored articles and lectured interested parties on the product liability exposures posed by the IoT and has consulted with interested stakeholders.

As a result of his reporting and forecasting on the impact of developing and potentially disruptive technologies such as the IoT, Michael has been appointed to serve on the 2016 Law360 Product Liability Editorial Advisory Board, and was recognized as a Top Author in JD Supra’s inaugural Readers’ Choice Awards. Michael has been interviewed by prominent legal publications on IoT, including Bloomberg BNA Product Liability, Leaders’ Edge magazine and JD Supra. He also is a member of the newly formed American Bar Association IoT subcommittee, which is part of the ABA's Science and Technology Division. In addition, his articles have been published in The Licensing Journal.

Product Liability
Michael’s clients include manufacturers and distributors of consumer appliances, consumer electronics, component parts and fuel delivery systems for gas-fired appliances. He has led investigations and defended thousands of claims and lawsuits in which it was alleged that his clients’ products were responsible for causing fires that resulted in property damage, personal injuries or death. In addition, Michael defends and investigates claims and lawsuits against his clients’ products in which water damage to property and personal injuries from electric shock or death from electrocution are alleged. Michael is a member of the firm’s national fire and casualty response team, and can quickly mobilize attorneys and retain consultants to be on-site at fire scenes anywhere in the country.

In his role as national counsel, Michael is responsible for coordinating the product liability defense for his clients in the United States and Canada. In this capacity, he works closely with his clients’ in-house legal departments and their technical and engineering staffs, as well as their insurers, to develop and execute efficient, comprehensive defense strategies to achieve optimal results in litigation or pre-suit investigations.