In This Issue:
  • Mark Thieroff co-editor of new book on real estate litigation
  • Victory for Elliot Olsen in the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania
  • Heidi Torvik performs in trio at Valentine’s Day celebration in Hennepin County Government Center

Music and Law;
A Great Combo

By Heidi Torvik

Before I graduated with my law degree from the University of Minnesota Law School and pursued my legal career, I had a much different life as a professional flutist in New York City. I am a graduate of The Julliard School, where people like Jessica Chastain and Adam Driver had class right down the hall from me. They were, of course, always much cooler in the drama department. After graduation, I made my living performing and teaching as a professional flutist in New York City, across the country, and internationally.

Recently, I have been fortunate to become acquainted with an established group of legal professionals primarily composed of attorneys and judges in the Twin Cities metro area. The group regularly performs together at musical events in their time away from the law and has put on annual chamber musical recitals for a number of years. The events are a great opportunity for fantastic music making, entertaining dialogue, and legal networking second to none. I have been delighted to be welcomed into the group as a flutist by night/litigator by day. Second flutist that is to the Honorable Elizabeth Cutter of Hennepin County.

As part of my prior musical career in New York City, I was often contracted to perform at hundreds of “gigs” which included corporate events, private parties, and — you guessed it — truly extravagant weddings. This February, however, I will be performing as a flutist at a very different kind of nuptial experience.

On Valentine’s Day, I will be performing background music with Judge Elizabeth Cutter, Kendra Brodin from Briggs and Morgan, P.A., and Suzanne Merideth for the free wedding ceremonies in the atrium at the Hennepin County Government Center from noon — 1 p.m. The event is open to the public, and everyone is welcome to attend. Love will, quite literally, be in the air.

Welcome to the Siegel Brill newsletter.

Knowing you and your businesses is our goal at Siegel Brill. There are always interesting things happening at our firm and people willing to share their knowledge; some of which just might benefit your business. We hope you enjoy our newsletter and getting to know us just a little better.

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.

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.)