HAILEY, Idaho, Oct. 22, 2015 /PRNewswire/ — Terry O’Reilly, a San Mateo-based trial attorney who handled many high-profile aviation and product liability cases, died on October 16, 2015, at his home in Hailey, Idaho. He was 70. The cause was pancreatic cancer, his wife, Andrea Pierceall, said.
Mr. O’Reilly founded his own plaintiffs’ trial law firm in 1987 after practicing in San Francisco for 17 years with the renowned Bruce Walkup at Walkup, Melodia, Kelly, & Schoenberger. Founded with his long-time friend and business partner, James Collins, the law firm of O’Reilly Collins was a boutique personal injury firm with a specialty practice in aviation cases. The firm represented families of passengers and crew in all manner of small aircraft and helicopter cases, along with scores of high-profile large carrier crashes, including the Concorde disaster, TWA Flight 800, Egypt Airlines Flight 990, and Alaska Air Flight 261.
Terence John O’Reilly was born in Farnborough, Hampshire, England in 1945. He came to the United States with his family when he was 16. He graduated from Loyola University of Los Angeles with a degree in Mass Communications and considered an acting career in television. Yet despite being a Rhodes Scholarship finalist, he decided to pursue a calling in the law and later received his law degree from Boalt Hall at the University of California at Berkeley, where he was moot court champion.
He quickly rose to distinction in the San Francisco legal community for his keen knowledge of the law and natural courtroom charisma. As the number and magnitude of cases he won increased, he became one of the most distinguished and successful trial lawyers in the United States. He attained the distinction of becoming Board Certified by the National Board of Trial Advocacy from 1994 until his retirement. In 1997, he was elected to the Inner Circle of Advocates, an invitation-only association whose membership is limited to the top 100 trial lawyers in the United States. He was named a Super Lawyer in 2004 and every year afterwards until his retirement. He was elected president of the Trial Lawyers Association in 2008.
Not all of Mr. O’Reilly’s cases were related to aviation. In fact, it was a series of consumer product safety cases he brought in 2003 that were some of the most satisfying for him. At the time, a number of Taiwanese candy manufacturers were importing a gel candy made out of a substance called konjac. Design defects in the candies resulted in numerous choking incidents with children – where even the Heimlich maneuver would not dislodge the candy – and caused vegetative states or death. The manufacturers were aware of the problem but continued their practices nonetheless. Mr. O’Reilly’s call to action prompted the FDA to issue a national recall of the candies and forced the manufacturers to abandon their sale of the product. In 2003, the Consumer Attorneys of California named him Trial Lawyer of the Year for his spearheading efforts on behalf of public safety.
A big man – he stood 6’2″ and weighed 250 pounds – Mr. O’Reilly will also be remembered for his larger-than-life persona. He fully embraced the culture of his adopted country and he had a particular affinity for cowboy culture; when he wasn’t in a suit, he could often be found wearing a big cowboy hat and boots. He loved jazz music and served as a Trustee of the San Francisco Traditional Jazz organization. Mr. O’Reilly was also an avid vintage-car racing enthusiast, competing in classic car rallies around the world.
Mr. O’Reilly was a passionate rugby player and supporter throughout his life. He played for St. Anselm’s College in Birkenhead, England. In the United States he was a rugger for more than 25 years, first at Loyola and then at Cal; later, he played for several club teams, including the Bay Area Touring Side (“BATS”), the Old Blues of Berkeley, and the San Jose Silverhawks. He was active in supporting the Northern California Rugby Football Union and Cal rugby and, in 1993 he became a Trustee of the U.S. Rugby Foundation. He was dedicated to the mission of making rugby a popular sport in America.
He is survived by his wife, Andrea Pierceall, his two sons, Toby and Matthew, their mother, Katharine “Vandy” O’Reilly, his mother, Doris O’Reilly, his brother, Stephen O’Reilly, and his sister, Kathleen Owens.
The family would like to thank the Hospice of Wood River Valley for the loving care and kindness it provided Mr. O’Reilly. A memorial service will be held in San Francisco sometime in mid-November. A memorial service will be held in San Francisco at St. Dominic’s Church on Thursday, November 19, 2015 at 3:00 p.m.