University of Detroit Mercy School of Law, J.D., 1969
Eastern Michigan University, B.S.
Thomas O’Brien is an experienced trial lawyer who has represented clients in major criminal and civil cases, including some that received national attention.
His criminal practice has involved murder trials, white-collar crime, fraud, federal grand jury investigations and internal investigations. O’Brien’s civil cases have encompassed catastrophic personal injuries, complex business disputes and representation of health care providers and universities.
He has also taught trial practice at the National Institute for Trial Advocacy, University of Michigan Law School, Institute of Continuing Legal Education and Federal Bar Association. He has received awards for professionalism, integrity and civility in the practice of law.
His criminal practice has involved murder trials, white-collar crime, fraud, federal grand jury investigations and internal investigations. Tom’s civil cases have encompassed catastrophic personal injuries, complex business disputes and representation of health care providers and universities.
Trial counsel for Valassis Communications, Inc. in its legal battle with News America, Inc., a part of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation. Obtained $300 million jury verdict after an eight-week trial in July 2009, the eighth-largest jury verdict in the United States in 2009. As part of a comprehensive settlement--reached three days before the parties were scheduled to begin a second jury trial in Federal Court in Detroit--News America agreed to pay Valassis $500 million and enter into a 10-year shared mail distribution agreement with Valassis. Valassis Communications, Inc. v News America Inc., Case No. 07-706645 (Wayne County Circuit Court 2007); Valassis Communications, Inc. v News America Inc., Case No. 2:06-cv-10240 (Eastern District of Michigan 2006); Valassis Communications, Inc. v News America Inc., Case No. BC367743, (Los Angeles County Superior Court, California 2007).
Represented a mother and daughter who were seriously injured in a plane crash.
Participated in representation of an intercollegiate athletic association in defense of claims challenging limits on scholarship payments.
Represented plaintiff class successfully challenging practices of large insurer regarding no-fault benefits
Successfully represented leading North American energy producer in defense of state criminal antitrust claims that were resolved without any criminal conviction.
Successfully represented a large public university in a federal investigation regarding the duty to report crime on campus. Charges were declined.
Conducted an internal investigation for a public university regarding its athletic department.
Represented a public university in an internal investigation about sexual assault.
Represented a state university medical school in developing a policy regarding the duty to report crime.
Represented an international auto supplier in a federal criminal antitrust case.
Represented a national insurance company in two separate investigations of insurance fraud involving hundreds of patients.
Conducted an internal investigation for a large domestic insurer regarding alleged kickbacks to procure municipal contracts. All criminal charges were declined by the federal government.
Successfully represented a domestic producer of materials used in the steel industry regarding an EPA investigation. All criminal charges were declined.
Successfully represented an individual charged with second degree murder and manslaughter with not guilty verdicts on both counts.
Successfully represented an individual charged with second degree murder with a not guilty verdict.
Successfully represented a medical health care provider charged with murdering and poisoning patients at a Veteran’s Hospital. After a six-month federal trial and extended litigation the case was dismissed.
Successfully represented a large European non-profit corporation sued in U.S. federal court for fraud, breach of contract and related claims.
Successfully represented a former spouse in receiving a substantial recovery against her former husband for allegedly hiding marital assets.
Obtained a verdict against a municipality that had refused to permit the mining of silica sand valued at half-a-billion dollars.
Successfully represented the estate of the department chair of a university killed in an automobile crash.
Represented the estate of a passenger killed in a head-on auto crash with a truck.
Defended a national rail carrier in a personal injury claim for traumatic brain injury.
Represented an international chemical manufacturer in a federal lawsuit alleging product liability for catastrophic injuries to a worker at a paper mill company. The case was dismissed with no settlement paid by the defendant.
Successfully tried and defended the City of Detroit against a potential class action lawsuit that drew international attention by challenging the City’s program of shutting off water to non-paying customers.
Best Lawyers in America 2005-present
2017 Ann Arbor Criminal Defense: General Practice Lawyer of the Year
2016 Ann Arbor Criminal Defense: White-Collar Lawyer of the Year
2015 Ann Arbor Bet-the-Company Litigation Lawyer of the Year
2015 Ann Arbor Personal Injury Litigation - Defendants Lawyer of the Year
2014 Ann Arbor Criminal Defense: White-Collar Lawyer of the Year
2013 Ann Arbor Bet-the-Company Litigation Lawyer of the Year
2011 Ann Arbor Criminal Defense: White-Collar Lawyer of the Year
Bet-the-Company Litigation, Commercial Litigation, Personal Injury Litigation 2005-present
Criminal Defense: Non-White Collar, Criminal Defense: White-Collar, Personal Injury Litigation-Defendants, Personal Injury Litigation-Plaintiffs 2012-present
Leading Lawyers, 2014, 2016
Washtenaw County Bar Association, 2012 Professionalism and Civility in the Practice of Law Award
Cooley Law School, 2012 Integrity in the Community Honoree
Michigan Super Lawyers, Criminal Defense 2006-present
DBusiness Magazine, Top Lawyers, White Collar Criminal Defense 2011-present
Who's Who in American Law
National Association of Distinguished Counsel
Washtenaw Land Trust, Distinguished Service Award, 2003
Michigan Centennial Farm Association, Outstanding Centennial Farm of the Year, 1996
Northfield Township Historical Society, Centennial Farm Award, 1996
Peace Neighborhood Center, Defense Lawyer of the Year, 1994
State Bar of Michigan, Circle of Excellence Award
National Association of Distinguished Counsel, Nation's Top One Percent, 2015-2016
American Bar Association
Section on Litigation; Trial Practice Committee, 1981-present
Sub-Committee on National CLE Programs
National Center for State Courts, Lawyers Committee 2012-present
State Bar of Michigan
Section on Negligence and Criminal Law; Task Force on Professionalism, 1989-1990
Criminal Jurisprudence Committee, 1993-1994
Criminal Jury Instructions Committee, 1993-1999
Michigan State Bar Foundation, Fellow
Washtenaw County Bar Association
Trial Practice Section, Chairman 1988-1990
Trial Court Case Evaluation Panel, 1983-present
Mediation Committee, Trial Court Chairman, 1991-1994
American Association for Justice
Michigan Association for Justice
Washtenaw County Trial Lawyers Association
National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers
Criminal Defense Lawyers of Michigan
Incorporated Society of Irish-American Lawyers
American Constitution Society for Law & Policy
Phi Alpha Delta
Civic, Cultural & Social Activities
State of Michigan, Agriculture Preservation Fund Board; Member, 2004-2014
Ann Arbor Bicentennial Commission, Chairman, 1975-1976
Washtenaw Land Trust, President 2001-2003; Board Member, 1998-2004
The Devine Foundation, Board Member, 1993-1996
Campus Ecumenical Center, Board Member, 1993-1996
NEW Center, Board Member, 1993-1996
COPE-O'Brien Center, Board Member, 1987-1992
Spaulding for Children, Board Member, 1980-1984
Parent/Infant Center, Board Member, 1971-1973
Michigan Prospect for Renewed Citizenship, Vice President, 1998-2002; Board Member, 1984-2010
Northfield Township Historical Society, Board Member, 1981-present; President, 1984-1988
Federal Bar Association; West Michigan Chapter
National Institute for Trial Advocacy
Faculty Member, 1980-present
Midwest Regional Program Section Leader, 1996
Distinguished Faculty Member, 1994
University of Michigan Law School, Trial Advocacy; Adjunct Faculty, 1985-1997; Guest Lecturer, 1971-present
Federal Bar Association, Eastern District of Michigan Chapter, Trial Advocacy Program 2010 and 2012 Team Leader
Institute of Continuing Legal Education, Trial Advocacy Workshop; Team Leader and Faculty Member, 1978-1994
Advanced Trial Advocacy Skills Workshop, Team Leader and Faculty Member, 1985; Lecturer, 1986-present
Michigan Trial Lawyers Association, Lecturer, April 1994
Criminal Defense Lawyers of Michigan, Faculty Member, 1983, 1987, 1993, 1994, 2007
State Farm Insurance In-House Advocacy Program, Faculty Member, 1992
Travelers Insurance Advocacy Program, Faculty Member, 1990
Creighton University, Trial Advocacy Skills Workshop, Faculty Member, 1976
"Health Care Related Reporting Obligations: 'Who ya gonna call?'", State Bar of Michigan Health Care Law Section, (Moderator) March 2013, (Presenter) April 2013
"Cross-examination of an Arson Expert," National Institute of Trial Advocacy, 40th Anniversary National Program, Boulder, Colo., 2011
"Presenting and Rebutting Evidence in Michigan Resentencing Hearings," (following the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Miller v. Alabama, striking down mandatory life sentencing for juveniles), University of Michigan Law School, July 27, 2012
"Presenting the Defense," Criminal Defense Lawyers of Michigan Seminar, Spring 1983, Spring/Fall 1987, Fall 1993, Spring 1994
"Examining Expert Witnesses," National Institute of Trial Advocacy (video), Spring 2003
"The V.A. Nurses Case: The Effects of Press Coverage on a High-Profile Criminal Trial," V.A. Nurses Symposium, Wayne State Law School, 2001, Wayne Law 2002
"The Defense Perspective," US v Narciso, Federal Bar Association, Rakow Scholarship Awards Luncheon, November 2001
"How to Develop a Winning Theory of the Case," Jackson County Bar Association, 1997
"Federal Grand Jury Practice," Federal Practice Section, Washtenaw County Bar Association, 1995
"Cross Examination of Expert Witness," Institute of Continuing Legal Education, 1993, 1996, 1999, 2003, 2007 and Criminal Defense Lawyers of Michigan, 1994
"What Every Lawyer Should Know About Cross Examining Expert Witnesses," ICLE - 2007 Wayne County Assigned Counsel Training-Juvenile, May 2007
"Advocacy in the 90's," Michigan Trial Lawyers Association, 1992
"How to Develop a Winning Theory of the Case," Michigan Trial Lawyers Association, October 1990
"Reliability of Child Witnesses," Institute of Continuing Legal Education, 1987
"How to Introduce Evidence in Court: Expert Witnesses," Institute of Continuing Legal Education, 1986
Symposium on Hypnosis, National Legal Aid and Defender Convocation, Albuquerque, N.M., November 1979
"Defining works: trial attorney's career includes series of headline-grabbing cases," Legal News, June 15, 2012
"Daubert, Crawford, the Rules of Evidence and Issues in Presentation of Expert Investigator Evidence," Criminal Defense Attorneys of Michigan (CDAM) Newsletter, June 2007
"The V.A. Murders," Litigation Magazine, November 1984; The Advocate, Idaho State Bar, April 1985