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.

John Dornik and team settle a medical malpractice case for a 92 year old woman.

The client was a 92 years “young” woman from rural Minnesota. This woman had a fabulous life story. She had lived on a farm for her whole life and was the mother of 6, grandmother of 19 and great grandmother to 35 children. She and her husband raised their family on the farm. Due to health issues her husband had recently moved into a nursing home, and when she decided that she didn’t want to have to plow her road in the winter, she moved into an assisted living facility located nearby.

When she first moved to assisted living the client needed very little help day to day. She was still going into town to attend church and get her hair done. In March of 2018 she came down with what she thought was a cold. When she went to see the doctor they thought she might have pneumonia so she was hospitalized in a facility that was attached to her assisted living building.

After being hospitalized her medical condition became much more serious and she became very ill. She was subsequently transported to a critical care facility. During her stay at the critical care facility she fell and suffered a badly broken ankle. The physicians put a boot on her ankle.

The client’s original condition of pneumonia did eventually resolve and that is when she was allowed to go back to her assisted living facility. When she returned, her primary care doctor took the boot off her injured ankle. He found that the ankle bone was exposed, that the tissue had become necrotic and she had a severe infection.

The photos of the ankle after the doctor removed the boot were quite shocking. When the doctor saw the extent of her injury she was immediately taken to see a specialist. The specialist suggested she go back to the same critical care facility that originally treated the ankle. Understandably, she refused to return there.  Instead she consulted with doctors at Hennepin Country Medical Center and they said that any surgery to salvage the leg would have only a 50% success rate. They also told her that the chance for a subsequent amputation was high. So she decided to let the doctors at HCMC amputate her leg just below the knee.

The resulting amputation surgery was very successful, and today she is doing remarkably well. However, the amputation still had a very negative affect on her life. She is now forced to stay in a nursing home vs. assisted living because she needs a higher level of care. She also has a much harder time being active and can’t make her regular trips to church and the hair salon. The ability to “get around” was one of the things that kept her feeling young.

She did make the decision to get a prosthetic leg in the near future and is going to physical therapy and is excited about the possibility of being more active again.

Immediately after meeting with the client and her family, John Dornik put together a demand letter so he could help the client get restitution as soon as possible. John and his team reviewed all her medical records and bills. They also got her an appointment with a prosthetist in order to determine the cost for a future prosthetic. The difference in the cost of living were calculated, comparing her previous situation in assisted living to what the future costs would be in a nursing home.

The demand letter also described the activities that the client did previously and compared them to what she is able to do now. The demand letter included photos from her friends and family as well. Because the hospital is self-insured, the demand letter was sent directly to the hospital representatives.

John and his team met with the client and the hospital representatives in early November. While they were all in the same room, the hospital representatives apologized to the client and assured her that steps had been taken to make sure that a situation like this one does not happen again.

The mediation went very well and the case resolved for close to $1 million. The client was happy with the settlement. Her injury happened in March of 2018 and the case was resolved by the end of November that same year. John Dornik and his team handled negotiating all liens and outstanding medical bills.

“It was an honor and pleasure to help this client,” says John Dornik. “She is an incredible woman who handled her situation with dignity. We were successful in establishing a good relationship and a level of trust with the other side so we could all work toward doing what was best for our client and try to help lessen her burden caused by this unfortunate incident. I’m glad we were able to get her such a significant settlement within a short timeframe.”  

Jim Yarosh Co-Authors AMICUS Brief to Minnesota Supreme Court

Jim Yarosh is a member of the Minnesota Eminent Doman Institute (MEDI), a non-profit organization that advocates for the interests of property owners affected by governmental takings. Jim and several of his MEDI colleagues recently submitted an amicus brief to the Minnesota Supreme Court in support of landowners whose significant compensation award for the temporary loss of access to their property was overturned by the courts. The district court’s decision had prohibited the landowner from introducing evidence regarding loss of access as a result of a temporary easement. The Minnesota Court of Appeals affirmed the lower court’s decision, and, in so doing, created a rule that prevents a landowner from claiming any loss of access damages resulting from a taking unless the government specifically asserts a taking of access rights in its condemnation petition.  

The facts of the case were straight forward. The Elberts family own property along the North Shore abutting Highway 61. MnDOT took temporary and permanent easements on the Elberts parcel for a four-year highway-improvement project. The temporary easement ran the whole length of the property and permitted MnDOT to operate equipment and reconstruct driveway aprons within the easement area. The landowners successfully argued before the condemnation commission that a potential buyer would not know whether it could access the property during the term of the temporary easement given its breadth and the permitted activities on the easement. If MnDOT fully-used its easement rights, it could completely block access to the property. The condemnation commission awarded the Elberts more than $300,000 because of the potential loss of access.

On appeal, MnDOT argued that because it did not state that it was taking access in the Petition, the landowner could not claim damages based on a taking of access. The Court of Appeals sided with MnDOT and the Minnesota Supreme Court granted the Elberts’ petition for review. The MEDI amicus brief, written in part by Jim Yarosh, argued that the Court of Appeals had changed the way damages have historically been determined in eminent domain cases. A landowner has the right to submit any relevant evidence that bears upon market value, including damage inflicted upon the remaining part of the property after the taking. A rule requiring MnDOT to first state an intent to take access in its petition prevents a landowner from proving its damages and, therefore, infringes upon its constitutional right to just compensation. “The rule created by the Court of Appeals allows a condemnor, the entity taking the property, to determine whether the landowner will suffer damages to their access as a result of a taking by how it drafts its petition” says Jim. “This, I believe, is a change in the law and unjust for landowners,” he said. Oral argument in the Elberts’ case is expected this fall or winter with an opinion likely to be delivered by the Supreme Court in the early part of 2020.

Spotlight on Beth Schroeder Harper

Beth Schroeder Harper grew up in Tomah, Wisconsin. “My parents are still in Tomah,” says Beth. “It’s not a big city, but almost everyone knows of Tomah as the “stop along the way” from Chicago to Minneapolis.”  

Beth’s father and mother are both orignianlly from farming communities. After her dad completed a stint in the airforce where he and Beth’s mother were stationed in England, her parents moved to West Bend, WI for a few years and then evetually settled in Tomah. Beth’s mom stayed at home and cared for her and her sister when they were young and her dad worked in management at an electric motor company.

Growing up, Beth’s parents always encouraged Beth and her sister to go to college. She knew she was meant for metropolitan life, and she decided to go to the University of Minnesota for her undergraduate degree in Political Science and Spanish.

Some people say that they experience a profound moment when they realize they want to be a lawyer. For Beth it was different, and the realization came more naturally. In high school she was enrolled in a business law class and she really enjoyed that the class required a great deal of critical thinking and problem-solving which are two of her strengths. She went to college with an open perspective, but she continued taking classes that had legal elements to them and participated in various student groups focused on using the law to advocate for change. These building blocks seemed to all fit together to lead her down the legal path.

Beth wanted to practice in the area of law before making the commitment to attend law school. As an undergraduate she accepted a job as a part time legal assistant to get hands-on experience. After graduation, her boss offered her a full-time position as a paralegal and she enjoyed working there for an additional two years.

She applied to law schools all over the U. S. but decided to enter the part time program at William Mitchell School of Law so she could continue to work full-time in the legal field while she attended classes. “The program I enrolled in was awesome,” says Beth. “It was a lot of work but well worth it. I have always worked; I’ve had a job since I first started high school. So even if I had the opportunity to go to law school full time without working, I wasn’t sure I would be a good ‘full time student’. I like having structure and having a lot of things to do.”

Beth joined Siegel Brill in February of 2018 and was recently licensed in Wisconsin. She is a good negotiator and her personality is a perfect fit for transactional law where everyone has the same goal; to close the deal. “In transactional law you are dealing with the law, and yes you’re being an attorney but you’re also being a consultant and an advocate for the client,” says Beth. “You get to wear a lot of hats. Clients come to us with a problem and we figure out how to fix it. We don’t just tell clients what they can’t do; we figure out the law and how to use it to their best advantage.”

Beth knows how important it is to clients to be a good communicator and a good responder. “I love to pick up the phone and have a real conversation with a client. Even if there isn’t something ‘breaking’ I understand the importance of keeping people in the loop,” says Beth. “I call to let them know what is going on behind the scenes. I never want the client to just ‘get the bill’ and have that be the only way they know that we are working on their issue.”

Beth met her husband while they were both attending William Mitchell College of Law. He worked in politics for a number of years and started in the part time program the same year as Beth. He is a currently a litigator with a firm in downtown Minneapolis and works a just a few blocks from Siegel Brill. “We’ve both have crazy schedules,” says Beth. “But occasionally we get together for lunch and sometimes we can work in a happy hour.”

Since graduating from law school Beth has enjoyed doing pro bono work in a variety of areas. She served on the board for YouthLink and discovered that some of the pro bono projects she accepted were great opportunities to learn about areas of law outside of her current practice.

CLICK HERE for Beth Schroeder Harper ’s profile page