At Siegel Brill we work with privately-held businesses and the people who own them. Knowing you and your business is our goal. When achieved, we earn your trust.

We also represent people injured by the negligence of others and the loved ones of those injured.

Our law firm has been around since 1948. Our practices have changed over the years, but the relationships we forge are very much the same. We work with people we like. And that will never change. We work with people we respect. And that will never change. We work with people who we learn from. And that will never change.

After sixty-five years, here is what we know…every day there is something new to learn about business—your business and ours. And every day, we strive to be better—better people, better parents, better lawyers—and as a result, we become better business owners.

Some things never change. But other things have to change. We’re happy to share—and our age allows us to confidently admit—we continue to change, and we’re growing stronger every day. We provide legal services in all aspects of business, real estate, tax, estate planning, commercial law, financing, litigation and all types of catastrophic personal injury including wrongful death, medical malpractice and aviation. And we are grateful for the business.

News

Steve Weintraut’s client Robert Stafsholt prevails against Bank of America at the Wisconsin Supreme Court.

Robert Stafsholt was elected to represent the 29th Assembly District in the Wisconsin State Assembly in November, 2016, and since then he has been involved in developing Wisconsin state law in the legislative branch of state government. In March of this year, Stafsholt also helped develop state law in the judicial branch, when he obtained a favorable ruling from the Wisconsin Supreme Court in a mortgage foreclosure action that Bank of America (“BoA”) brought against him and his ex-wife Colleen more than seven years earlier.

Stafsholt hired Steve Weintraut to represent him against BoA at trial.

After BoA sued Stafsholt and was demanding that Stafsholt pay what he thought were improper charges or else lose his home, Stafsholt sought an experienced and aggressive trial attorney to represent him.

“When I asked a local banker if he knew an attorney referral for this case, he gave me Steve's name and contact information,” says Robert. “The banker told me that Steve represented a party that had counter-sued his bank and in his opinion, bested the bank’s attorney. He also told me that he rarely loses and was impressed with Steve’s ability.”

After a trial in 2014 and a Court of Appeals decision two years later, in March of 2018, the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled in Stafsholt’s favor in two important ways.

  1. The Court decided for the first time that under Wisconsin law, attorney’s fees may be awarded as an equitable remedy, and that BoA’s successor, Nationstar Mortgage, had to pay Stafsholt’s attorney’s fees and costs that he had incurred in the foreclosure action.

  2. The Court ruled that the case should be remanded to the Circuit Court for calculation of the correct amount owed by Nationstar after accounting for Nationstar’s payment of Stafsholt’s attorney’s fees, with “all orders necessary to terminate the mortgage.”

Stafsholt did not prevail on the less important issue of whether Nationstar could collect interest during the lawsuit. But he is still very pleased with the end result, and with Steve Weintraut’s representation of him.

“Working with Steve has been a rock solid and steady team effort the entire time,” says Robert Stafsholt. “Steve explained things very well so I could make appropriate decisions. He had me come into the office and go over everything and we agreed to work together. I never looked back or questioned that decision once over the years it has taken to reach this point in the case.”

Stafsholt’s dispute and saga with BoA started in August 2010, when for the third straight year, BoA unnecessarily purchased and charged Stafsholt for overpriced lender-placed homeowners’ insurance (“LPI”). The LPI was unnecessary because Stafsholt had already purchased homeowners’ insurance through another insurance carrier at a lower cost, as he always had.

Stafsholt called BoA in September, 2010, to attempt to have the LPI charge removed from his account (as he did in the two previous years). The BoA representative on the phone told Stafsholt that she could not remove the charge, but that if Stafsholt defaulted on his mortgage, BoA would then give his case the “next level of customer service” and that the improper charge for LPI would be removed. In reliance on this misrepresentation, Stafsholt quit making his mortgage payment in September, 2010.

But instead of giving Stafsholt the “next level of customer service,” BoA declared Stafsholt in default under the Mortgage, and brought a foreclosure action in February, 2011. Throughout the lawsuit, BoA demanded that in order to avoid foreclosure on his home, Stafsholt needed to pay for the improper LPI charges and other costs BoA claimed that it incurred in the lawsuit. Stafsholt refused to pay the improper charges, and hired Steve Weintraut to represent him at trial and on appeal.

CLICK HERE to read an article published on October 20, 2017, before the Oral Argument in front of the Wisconsin Supreme Court on October 23, 2017.

CLICK HERE to read an article from the Wisconsin State Bar Association that discusses the Wisconsin Supreme Court Opinion.

CLICK HERE to read the Wisconsin Supreme Court Opinion.

Blake Shepard, Jr. has joined Siegel Brill, PA as a shareholder

Blake Shepard focuses his practice on complex litigation matters, and has extensive experience in the areas of commercial litigation, product liability and personal injury litigation, and trust and estate litigation. Before joining Siegel Brill, Blake practiced for nearly 30 years as a partner in a large Minneapolis law firm, where he successfully represented Fortune 500 companies, privately held entities and individuals in a wide variety of product liability, trust, tort and commercial cases in state and federal courts throughout the country.

Blake has served as national, regional and Minnesota counsel in individual, coordinated and class action product liability cases. His product liability experience includes representation of manufacturers in mass tort, wrongful death, catastrophic injury and commercial warranty cases; FDA and CPSC recall proceedings and post-recall litigation; workplace injury and construction accident cases; toxic exposure cases; and fraud, consumer protection and false advertising claims. He has successfully tried cases in Minnesota and the Upper Midwest and has obtained dismissals for clients through summary judgment and motions to dismiss in jurisdictions throughout the country. Blake has successfully argued cases in state and federal appellate courts and participated in the successful defense of a client in a case argued before the United States Supreme Court.

Blake’s broad commercial litigation experience includes a wide range of engagements involving claims for breach of fiduciary duty and conflict of interest; breach of contract and warranty; bankruptcy clawback actions; fraud, racketeering and consumer protection claims; and government regulatory actions and investigations.

"We are very excited to have Blake Shepard join Siegel Brill," says shareholder John Dornik. "Blake brings extensive experience in commercial litigation, trust and estate litigation, product liability and personal injury litigation. He will also be a great asset in handling litigation for personal injury.”

Victory for Elliot Olsen in the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania

When a litigation attorney succeeds in attaining a monetary settlement for a client, it’s an obvious victory for both parties. There are, however, other types of legal victories, some not so obvious.

The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania provided Siegel Brill shareholder Elliot Olsen with that type of victory earlier this year. By simply refusing to review an appeal by his opponents in a civil lawsuit venued in Bedford, Pennsylvania, the Supreme Court ensured that Pennsylvania’s residential renters will be safer for decades to come.

Elliot represents surviving family members who brought suit against three landlords after a fire in rural Bedford County caused the deaths of three people. The facts of the case:

  • In October 2010, a fire at a two-unit residential property killed three people: Donna Day, Tara D. Vineyard, and Andre Ramirez. Ms. Day was a tenant in the back unit of the property and lived there with her grandson, Andre. The night of the fire, Ms. Vineyard was visiting Ms. Day and was an overnight guest.
  • The property was owned by Toby Holley, who purchased the multi-family structure in July 2010 from William and Kimberly Mearkle, who had owned it since 2003. None of the owners made extensive changes to the property, performing only minor repairs.
  • The cause of the fire was not determined.
  • There were no smoke alarms on the premises.

Elliot began building his case by bringing in experts to investigate the aftermath. Attorneys for the defense did the same. “Everybody literally combed through the wreckage of this home after the fire marshal and law enforcement were done with it,” Elliot said. No one was able to determine what caused the fire.

“We could tell the fire started in a back-porch area, a three-season porch, where they had a refrigerator and washer/dryer,” he said. “But we weren’t able to tie the fire to anything specific, like faulty wiring or a faulty appliance. So the only theory that we could proceed on was the negligent failure of the landlords to install smoke alarms.”

Elliot has retained an expert who will testify that the installation of smoke alarms would have prevented the deaths. “Our expert can show that the levels of carbon monoxide in the decedents’ blood were high, meaning that they were alive for a while, breathing in smoke,” Elliot said. “All three people were out of bed when they died. If smoke alarms had been installed, they would have been awakened earlier and could have escaped the building safely.”

In 2015, however, Elliot’s case was dismissed by the Bedford County Court in a two-part ruling:

  1. The court stated that the plaintiffs had no claim based on a common law assertion that the owners were negligent in failing to install smoke alarms. (Common law being the part of state law that is derived from custom and judicial precedent rather than statutes.)
  2. The two-year statute of limitations had passed in regard to a filing of negligence per se on the part of the owners. (Negligence per se is a doctrine within U.S. law under which an act is considered negligent because it violates a statute or regulation.)

It was a setback for Elliot and the plaintiffs but later in 2015, Elliot appealed to the state’s intermediate appellate court, the Pennsylvania Superior Court, which ruled that the plaintiffs could indeed proceed with their assertion that the owners had a responsibility to provide smoke alarms. “The court basically said that there is a common law duty on the part of landlords to install smoke alarms,” Elliot said.

Not surprisingly, the defendants appealed the decision to the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania. The Supreme Court “denied review,” however, returning the case back to trial court for further proceedings.

“It was a big win because there were three deaths in a fire, and the case had been dismissed, so we’d lost at the trial-court level,” Elliot said. The decisions by the Superior and Supreme Courts will surely help Elliot’s case. A trial date has now been set for 2018, and that may provide the impetus for a settlement.

Further – and just as important – the decision provides a touchstone for both residential renters and future fire victims in Pennsylvania. “We do not yet have final victory,” Elliot said. “But it is rewarding to know that the onus is now on Pennsylvania landlords to ensure that their rental properties have the proper number of smoke alarms.”

Mark Thieroff is co-editor of new book on real estate litigation

Mark Thieroff and his co-editor Tim Sullivan have a new book that has just been published titled: “LexisNexis Practice Guide: Minnesota Real Estate Litigation”.

“When the publisher approached me about this project I was immediately interested in pursuing it because the practice materials available at the time did not really focus on the aspects of real estate litigation that set it apart from other types of litigation. Real-estate litigation often involves administrative rules and statutory provisions that can create a trap for the unwary,” Mark said.

The guide presents an easily-navigated outline of the most prevalent real estate litigation topics. The book includes chapters on the following topics, among others:

  • Zoning and land use
  • Landlord/tenant
  • Eminent domain
  • Liens and foreclosures
  • Quieting title
  • Partition actions

Common legal forms and sample pleadings are included at the end of each chapter. Mark and Tim approached this project with an eye towards creating something they would use themselves.

The publication is available as a soft-bound print volume, an e-Book, and on the internet as part of Lexis Advance.

Beth A. Schroeder has joined Siegel Brill, PA as an associate

Beth A. Schroeder recently joined Siegel Brill as an associate attorney with an emphasis on corporate matters and real estate transactions. She works primarily in the practice areas of Closely Held Businesses and Commercial Real Estate.

After graduating with honors from William Mitchell College of Law, Beth worked as an associate attorney at a Minneapolis-based firm focusing on mergers and acquisitions, business succession planning, asset protection, and commercial and residential real estate transactions.

“I’m excited to be joining the team of talented attorneys at Siegel Brill,” says Beth. “I look forward to being able to serve a broader range of client needs with the help of Siegel Brill’s skilled Real Estate and Business attorneys and to serving Siegel Brill’s exceptional client base.”

Elliot Olsen asked to speak at Food and Beverage Litigation Conference

Elliot Olsen recently spoke at a national gathering of food and beverage industry insiders entitled "Food and Beverage Litigation Conference: A Look at Hospitality, Liquor, & Food Liability" at the James Hotel in Chicago, Illinois. He was one of a three-person panel that outlined current FDA policy and proposed federal legislation and its effect on the food industry. Elliot gave the perspective from the consumer side and the industry perspective was addressed by John Hugo and Diane Roma-Kutz, two nationally known attorneys that routinely represent the food industry.

The conference was attended by a combination of attorneys, food industry executives, advisors, and food safety professionals.

Elliot has spoken to audiences on foodborne illness in Minnesota, Washington, New York, Texas, Arizona, Illinois, California, and Puerto Rico.

John Dornik presented Professional Excellence Award from the MSBA

The Professional Excellence Award from the Minnesota State Bar Association was presented to John Dornik on Friday June 16th at a regularly scheduled meeting of the MSBA Assembly, at the Radisson Blu Mall of America.

The Professional Excellence Award is presented to commend one or more attorneys who are actively involved in the legal profession and who combine excellence in professional service with outstanding service to and on behalf of the Minnesota State Bar, the legal profession, or the public. This award recognizes attorneys who strive to meet the many responsibilities of a lawyer, including efforts to improve the administration of justice and practice of law, efforts to promote access to justice, efforts to serve and govern the profession, and service of benefit to the community. The award may be given annually provided that the nominations adequately meet the award criteria.

The meeting was held at the end of the 2017 MSBA Convention.

Wood R. Foster, Jr. presented Lifetime Achievement Award from MSBA

The Lifetime Achievement Award from the Minnesota State Bar Association was presented to Wood R. Foster, Jr. on Friday June 16th at a regularly scheduled meeting of the MSBA Assembly, at the Radisson Blu Mall of America.

This award is presented to an experienced member of the State Bar who has continually displayed commitment and contributions to the Bar, the legal profession, and/or the public throughout their career. A nominee must be well respected in the legal community for integrity, competence, career achievement, and service to the bar and/or community. It is preferred that the nominee has demonstrated an ongoing commitment to service which goes beyond the ordinary expectations of his/her employment.

John Dornik quoted in article about Neil Gorsuch's opinion on medical device pre-emption

Click here to read the full article.

John Dornik named as Minnesota Lawyer Attorney of the Year

John Dornik was recently selected as one of Minnesota Lawyer’s Attorneys of the Year for 2016. This is the 17th year that this award was given to celebrate accomplished attorneys from around Minnesota. An outside panel of judges selected 13 individual attorneys and a total of 30 honorees based on the following criteria: leadership in the profession, involvement in major cases, other newsworthy events, excellence in corporate or transactional services, and public service. The nominations were submitted by judges, bar groups, clients, and attorneys. This is the second time John has been named a Minnesota Lawyer Attorney of the Year.

Everyone at Siegel Brill congratulates John on this achievement.