Cunningham Swaim, LLP - Business

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DALLAS: 214-646-1495
PASADENA: 626-765-3000
DENVER: 303-309-8167
PAGOSA SPRINGS: 970-884-3511
HOUSTON: 713-668-0610
NEW YORK: 917-538-2774


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Michael Terhar
Michael Terhar
  • Partner


Pasadena, CA



Michael Terhar

Mike Terhar heads Cunningham Swaim’s California office located in Pasadena. With more than 30 years of litigation experience, his litigation work is as diverse as California itself — from aviation litigation, to product and premises liability cases, to accidents involving sports and recreation. Mike has handled numerous cases in the movie industry — most notably his defense of director John Landis in wrongful death lawsuits related to the filming of the “Twilight Zone” movie in 1983. And, at one point in his career, Mike even defended the King of Pop himself, Michael Jackson, in an auto accident case.

Mike’s aviation practice has included the defense of multiple airlines, both public entity and privately-owned airports, airport management companies, airport security companies and aircraft component makers, fixed base operators, A&P mechanics, Part 145 repair/overhaul facilities, and pilots. He has defended non-aviation manufacturers in all manner of product liability cases including ladders, scaffolds, fire suppression systems, alarms, automobile components, manufacturers and maintainers of pool and spa equipment and surgical equipment. In the course of doing so he has handled cases all over the western United States including not only California, but Oregon, Washington, Arizona and Utah.  He is the West Coast regional defense counsel for Werner Co., the largest ladder manufacturer in the United States.

In the field of sports and leisure accidents, he has defended the American Youth Soccer Organization, the American Softball Association, USA Hockey, USA Gymnastics, Boys and Girls Clubs and numerous other youth sports leagues, summer camps, martial arts and gymnastics academies, equestrian facilities and public entities operating sports fields and facilities in personal injury and wrongful death cases.  He has been a guest lecturer before some of these organizations on liability issues including primary assumption of risk and express waiver and release agreements.  He has held Red Cross certificates as a water safety instructor and lifeguard, P.A.D.I. scuba diving, and was an AYSO Advanced level soccer referee.


Areas Of Practice

  • Aviation-accident cases, representing airlines, aircraft manufacturers, airports and aviation-related businesses
  • Representation of major entertainment industry companies, producers and individuals in a variety of claims for wrongful death and personal injuries
  • Personal injury and wrongful death cases involving product and premises liability
  • General liability including discrimination
  • Complex civil litigation

Bar Admissions

  • California, 1979
  • U.S. District Court Central District of California, 1980
  • U.S. District Court Northern District of California, 1980
  • U.S. District Court Eastern District of California, 1980
  • U.S. District Court Southern District of California, 1980
  • U.S. Supreme Court, 1983
  • U.S. District Court Western District of Washington


  • Loyola Law School, Los Angeles, California
    • J.D. - 1979
  • University of Washington
    • B.S. - 1975

Published Works

  • Pesses v Superior Court (1980) 107 Cal.App.3rd 117, 165 Cal.Rptr. 680. Denial of remand/transfer to county of filing for damage trial following determination of liability in coordinated cases arising from PSA crash is not an abuse of discretion
  • PT Airfast Services, Indonesia v. Superior Court (1983) 139 Cal.App.3rd 162, 188 Cal.Rptr. 628. Employer-paid charter flight on foreign airline was not part of employee-paid round trip to/from United States sufficient to confer Warsaw jurisdiction at the US destination regarding crash of charter flight
  • Martin ex rel. Heckman v. Midwest Express Holdings, Inc. (2009) 555 F.3rd 806. Federal preemption does not apply to design of aircraft airstairs prohibiting application of state product liability law as there were no standards to be applied to the design of the airstairs when the type certificate for the original design was approved by the FAA

Honors and Awards

  • AV rating from Martindale-Hubbell, its highest rating in ethics and ability, for over 20 years
  • Named a Southern California Super Lawyer by Thomson Reuters from 2006-Present

Professional Associations and Memberships

  • State Bar of California
  • American Bar Association (Litigation, Law Practice Management, and Air and Space Law Divisions)
  • Defense Research Institute (Product Liability Committee and Sports Law Special Litigation Group)
  • Association of Southern California Defense Counsel
  • Litigation Counsel of America (Founding Fellow)

Pro Bono Activities

  • Metropolitan YMCA of Los Angeles Golden Book of Distinguished Service 2011
  • North Valley Family YMCA Lifetime Achievement Award 2011
  • North Valley Family YMCA Volunteer of the Year 2007
  • North Valley Family YMCA Board Chairman 2005-2008
  • AYSO Volunteer Soccer Referee


  • English