Michael Bonasso, Flaherty Sensabaugh Bonasso PLLC Photo

Michael Bonasso



  • J.D. West Virginia University College of Law (1978)
    • Order of the Coif
  • B.S. West Virginia University College of Business and Economics
    • Business Administration - (Accounting) (1975)
    • Magna Cum Laude
    • Outstanding Business School Graduate (1975)


  • United States Supreme Court
  • West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals
  • United States Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals
  • United States District Court for Southern District of West Virginia
  • United States District Court for Northern District of West Virginia


Michael Bonasso, one of the firm’s founding members, has tried scores of cases to verdict in the Federal and State Courts in West Virginia and has appeared dozens of times before the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals and the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. He has defended companies in the areas of complex, mass and class action litigation and product litigation for more than 40 years. That means experience, a broad knowledge base, excellent relationships and vision.

What makes him excel in defense work? “Understanding the client, the case and the client’s needs. Thorough case investigation and preparation. Extensive experience. And bringing a credible trial threat to the opposition.”

With respect to complex civil litigation, he has also handled numerous commercial litigation matters involving coal royalties, oil and gas supply contracts, business interruption claims, business interference claims and equipment leasing claims, among others.

In cases involving mass/class litigation, Mike has represented various industrial equipment and automotive manufacturers, commercial entities, and plant owners. As to product litigation, he has extensive experience in defending American, European and Asian manufacturers of automobiles, industrial equipment, agricultural machinery, recreational equipment, and consumer and commercial tools and equipment.

A born leader, Mike served as our Managing Member for 27 years. His leadership, work ethic and desire to serve are perhaps the greatest assets he provides to clients.


Professional Involvement

  • Federation of Defense and Corporate Counsel (FDCC)
    • Corporate Counsel Committee - Vice-Chair
    • Corporate Counsel Symposium - Co-Chair
    • Law Firm Management Conference - Vice-Chair
    • Substantive Law Sections
      • Product Liability Section
      • Commercial Litigation Section
  •  Defense Trial Counsel of West Virginia (DTCWV)
    • President (1997-1998)
    • Vice-President, Secretary, Treasurer (1994-1997)
    • Board of Governors - two terms (1989-1994)
    • Substantive Law Sections
      • Product Liability Section
      • Commercial Litigation Section
  • Product Liability Advisory Council (PLAC)
  • Defense Research Institute (DRI)
  • Eastern Mineral Law Foundation (EMLF)
  • USLAW Network

Community Involvement

  • Civil Justice Committee of DTCWV (2002-2006)
  • Commission on the Future of the Judiciary in West Virginia (1997-1998)
    • Appointed by Chief Justice of West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals
  • Charleston, West Virginia Police Civil Service Commission (1981-1984)
  • Soccer Coach in Kanawha Valley (18 years)
    • Middle Schools and recreational leagues


Reported Cases

  • Harrison v. Porsche Cars North America, Inc., No. 15-0381 (W. Va. Supreme Court, April 12, 2016)(memorandum decision)
  • Josephine Morgan v. Ford Motor Company, 680 S.E.2d 77 (W.Va. 2009)
  • Teresa Estep v. Ford Motor Company, 672 S.E.2d 345 (W.Va. 2008)
  • Arroyo v. Ford Motor Company, 59 Fed.Appx. 524 (4th Cir. (W.Va.) 2003)
  • In re Hearing Losses I, 212 W.Va. 471, 574 S.E.2d 803 (W.Va. 2002)
  • Hawkins v. Ford Motor Co., 211 W.Va. 487, 566 S.E.2d 624 (W.Va. 2002)
  • Moser v. Ford Motor Company, 28 Fed.Appx. 168 (4th Cir. (W. Va.) 2001)
  • In re Hearing Losses I, 208 W.Va. 169, 539 S.E.2d 112 (W.Va. 2000)
  • Gamblin v. Ford Motor Company, 204 W.Va. 419, 513 S.E.2d 467 (W.Va. 1998)
  • Helmick v. Jones, 192 W.Va. 317, 452 S.E.2d 408 (W.Va. 1994)
  • Riffe v. Magushi, 859 F.Supp. 220 (S.D.W.Va. 1994)
  • Taylor v. Ford Motor Company, 185 W.Va. 518, 408 S.E.2d 270 (W.Va. 1991)
  • Farley v. Meadows, 185 W.Va. 48, 404 S.E.2d 537 (W.Va. 1991)
  • Melbourne Bros. Const. Co. v. Pioneer Co., 181 W.Va. 816, 384 S.E.2d 857 (W.Va. 1989)
  • Transamerica Ins. Co. v. Arbogast, 662 F.Supp. 164 (N.D.W.Va. 1987)
  • Crane & Equipment Rental Company, Inc. v. Park Corp., 177 W.Va. 65, 350 S.E.2d 692 (W.Va. 1986)
  • Burks v. Wymer, 172 W.Va. 478, 307 S.E.2d 647 (W.Va. 1983)
  • State ex rel. Yanero v. Fox, 163 W.Va. 222, 256 S.E.2d 751 (W.Va. 1979)

Representative Legal Work

  • Represented U.S. automobile manufacturer in federal court trial alleging handling and stability defect and resultant permanent insanity of plaintiff
  • Represented automobile manufacturer against multiple fire claims arising out of alleged defects in electrical system
  • Represented U.S. automobile manufacturer in trial alleging defect in mini-van rollover case
  • Obtained dismissal based on federal preemption in case for automobile manufacturer alleging defective vehicle restraint system
  • Obtained dismissal of claims against automobile manufacturer arising out of alleged defect in axle on sports utility vehicle
  • Represented manufacturer of large electrical motors in business interruption claim involving operation of steel rolling mill
  • Represented manufacturer of German industrial machine against claim alleging defect in silica-bagging machine
  • Represented manufacturer of sports utility vehicles in cases alleging defects in handling and stability, glass, roof and tires
  • Managed national litigation for manufacturer of engine components both in claims by end-user customers and claims against sub-component supplier
  • Represented Japanese sports utility vehicle manufacturer in defense of claim alleging failure of airbag to deploy
  • Represented Japanese motorcycle manufacturer in defense of warning claim involving minor operators
  • Represented manufacturer of heavy construction equipment in hearing loss mass litigation
  • Represented corporate plaintiff in coal royalty contract dispute
  • Represented oil and gas producer in claim arising out of natural gas supply contract
  • Represented manufacturer of heavy trucks in defense of claim alleging defective fire suppression system on mine construction site
  • Represented Japanese tractor manufacturer in wrongful death case involving brakes and lever design
  • Represented German manufacturer of long-wall coal mining machine in defense of wrongful death case alleging defective design of conveyor system
  • Represented mining equipment manufacturer in business interruption case involving alleged defective electrical and mechanical systems
  • Handled numerous claims and suits involving injuries on amusement park rides
  • Handled hundreds of hearing loss lawsuits against major railroad
  • Represented clients in multiple railroad crossing, premises liability and automobile consumer warranty cases

Slip Opinions/Unpublished Cases

  • Bailey v. Ford Motor Company, 2006 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 86795 (S.D.W.Va. 2006)
  • Johnson v. Ford Motor Company, 2006 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 10148 (S.D.W.Va., 2006)
  • Dravo Basic Materials Co., Inc. v. Cherry-Stone & Const., 47 F.3d 1164 (4th Cir. 1995)
  • Miller v. Pacific Employers Ins. Co., 875 F.2d 315 (4th Cir. 1989)
  • Transamerica Ins. Co. v. Arbogast, 835 F.2d 875 (4th Cir. 1987)

Other Legal Experience 

  • 1978-1991 - Kay, Casto & Chaney



Speaking Engagements

Mike has participated in numerous seminars and presentations to state and national lawyer groups on issues related to corporate risk and litigation, law firm economics and law firm management, as well as seminars on pretrial and trial tactics/strategies.

  • Data Privacy in the US, Europe and Asia: Where are We and Where are We Headed? –  Federation of Defense & Corporate Counsel’s Corporate Counsel Symposium (2020)
  • Blockchain 101: How “Internet 2.0” is Disrupting the Internet – Federation of Defense & Corporate Counsel’s Corporate Counsel Symposium (2019)
  • Bridging the Generation Gaps for Law Firm Leadership: Baby Boomers to Millennials – USLAW Managing Partners’ Forum (2019)
  • General Counsel for Law Firms: Does a Law Firm Really Need a Lawyer? – USLAW Managing Partners’ Forum (2018)
  • Law Firm Compensation Systems: Open Vs. Closed – USLAW Managing Partners’ Forum (2017)
  • Succession Planning for Law Firm Leadership and Transitioning Clients to the Next Generation – USLAW Managing Partners’ Forum (2017)

Honors & Awards

  • AV Preeminent® Peer-Review Rated by Martindale-Hubble®
  • Listed, The Best Lawyers in America© since 2003
    • Bet-the-Company Litigation (2015-2024)
    • Commercial Litigation (2006-2024)
    • Product Liability Litigation – Defendants (2012 - 2024)
    • 2012 - Lawyer of the Year - Charleston, WV - Product Liability Litigation - Defendants
    • 2017 - Lawyer of the Year - Charleston, WV - Product Liability Litigation - Defendants
    • 2018 - Lawyer of the Year - Charleston, WV - Bet-the-Company Litigation
  • Listed, West Virginia Super Lawyers
    • Top Ten Attorneys in West Virginia (2016 - 2018, 2020 - 2024)
    • Personal Injury Defense: Products (2007 - 2024)
  • Listed, Chambers USA, Litigation:  General Commercial (2009 - 2023)
  • Listed, International Who’s Who of Product Liability Defense Lawyers 
  • Litigation Star, Benchmark Litigation (2016 - 2020)
  • Distinguished Service Award - DTCWV
  • The State Journal's Who's Who in West Virginia Business (2014)
  • WVU College of Law Lawyers & Leaders (2020)

Practice Concentrations

  • Commercial Litigation
  • Mass/Class Litigation
  • Automotive Product Liability
  • General Product Liability
  • Commercial and Business Counsel
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