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.

Jim Yarosh settles case for clients facing condemnation for storm water project

Two brothers, their spouses, and their elderly mother own an approximately 400-acre active farm in the southeast suburbs of the Twin Cities that is adjacent to development.

For many years, the local Watershed District notified the brothers that it intended to place a storm sewer pipe that would cut through the middle of their farmland. Finally, after years of talk, last spring, the Watershed District obtained appraisals for the purchase of the necessary easements for the pipe and made an offer to the family. Because they needed the land to complete an ongoing project, it had authorized eminent domain, i.e. the forced taking of the needed property if the parties could not agree on a price for its acquisition. The landowners hired Jim Yarosh after the Watershed District made its offer of a little more than one million dollars. Following fifth months of negotiations, Jim obtained an agreement to pay his clients over two million dollars.

The storm sewer pipes affected the future development of the family’s property. The actual land area desired by the Watershed District was 12 acres. They offered a relatively reasonable price per acre for the land, but it ignored the impact of the project on the future residential development of the land. It offered very little compensation for the impacts on the land remaining after the purchase or taking of the easements — what is referred to as “severance damages.”

Jim hired experts who showed that the property could have been developed had the Watershed District not needed the property and that their preferred location for the easements made the property worth less, too. The impact of the easements caused much more damage to the remaining property than had been recognized by the Watershed District. “We determined that the inefficiencies created by locating the storm sewer pipe through the middle of the property would cause the loss of many developable lots,” says Jim. “The damage to the remaining property was significant and had not been recognized by the Watershed District.”

Given Jim and his experts’ thorough analysis of the impacts upon the property, the Watershed District accepted the counteroffer made by Jim on behalf of his clients in total and the parties entered into an agreement to sell the desired easements, thereby avoiding litigation.

Because the amount of damages accepted by the Watershed District were so much greater than the amount initially offered, they agreed to pay all of the family’s costs in preparing their damage analysis, including legal fees incurred to the point of settlement.

“I was pleased we were able to convince the Watershed District of the strength of our position,” says Jim. “I believe both of the parties appreciated how the matter was handled and how quickly it was resolved.”

Elliot Olsen secures six figure settlements in a Legionnaires’ disease death case and injury case

Elliot Olsen represented one man from Edina and the surviving family members of a man from New Hope in a suit against the owner of a hotel in New Orleans. Both men contracted Legionnaires’ disease from a hot tub at the hotel; one became seriously ill and the other man subsequently died.

The settlement was concluded 14 months later. “I was very pleased to have meaningful settlements in both cases,” says Elliot Olsen. “It was enough money to make a positive difference in these people’s lives and the lives of their family members.”

The facts of the case:

  • Two men in their 50s from the Twin Cities went down to New Orleans on a vacation to meet up with a group of about 30 friends. The men were good friends and stayed in the same hotel room.
  • The source of the Legionnaires’ disease was determined to be the hotel hot tub. There had been a water main break before the men’s arrival. Often a water main break will stir up sludge in the pipes, which releases the Legionella bacteria.
  • The state of Louisiana checked the hot tub water. They refused to share their results, which is very unusual. Elliot made the assumption that the water was positive for Legionella bacteria because that is the only possible explanation for the hotel chain’s decision to settle, which occurred before substantial discovery was done.
  • The man who became seriously ill never used the hot tub. The closest he came to it was when he was standing near the hot tub talking to his friend. He started to get sick about seven days after his trip, when he was back in Minneapolis. He was in Fairview Southdale Hospital for two weeks and eventually made a full recovery.
  • The man who died had used the hot tub. He became ill at his home about a week after being exposed. His sister became worried about him and called 911, but he died within hours of arriving at Methodist Hospital. During an autopsy, Legionella bacteria was identified in his blood. Finding the bacteria in an autopsy is very unusual.
  • The client who survived recovered a six-figure settlement for his pain and suffering, lost wages, medical bills and loss of enjoyment of life.
  • The six-figure settlement for the man who died was for the family’s loss of companionship.

“Here in Minnesota we have probably the best health department in the United States,” says Elliot Olsen. “They did a fantastic job investigating the details of both of these cases, including isolating the Legionella bacteria from the deceased person’s blood, which is highly unusual. They were very dogged and determined in their pursuit of the case. Without their work we would not have had a case or been able to achieve these significant settlements.”