"It's been very intense to listen to the stories."
The "war room" is a conference room at SiebenCarey. Susan Holden is the general - the head of a special master panel appointed to oversee the distribution of $37 million in compensation to survivors of Aug. 1, 2007, the day the I-35W bridge fell into the Mississippi River. It's been daunting task for Holden, joined with Steven Kirsch and Michael Tewsksbury, who made the awards after reviewing and holding hearings on 179 claims.
Many say the process has helped them heal.
Victims of the Interstate 35W bridge collapse finished telling their stories to a special panel this week. In the past three months, a panel of "special masters" - chairwoman Susan Holden, Steven Kirsch and Mike Tewksbury - have immersed themselves in the lives of people who were profoundly affected by the Aug. 1, 2007, bridge collapse. The three experienced personal injury lawyers were appointed to evaluate each victim's circumstances and divide $36.6 million among 179 claims.
William Bongard was nominated as Attorney of the Year (2008) by Minnesota Lawyer, a legal publication.
The recognition, he said, stems from a case in Anoka involving a group of teenagers whose vehicle was struck by a train. There was a dispute over whether the teens, all of whom died in the incident, had driven around the traffic arms that come down when a train approaches. Bongard called the court case a "tough battle."
Minnesota Lawyer 10th Annual "Attorneys of the Year" Award
The award is reserved for a select group of attorneys who distinguished themselves in 2008 with their exemplary work. The criteria for selection include leadership in the profession; involvement in major cases or other newsworthy events; excellence in corporate or transactional services; and public service.
For both brothers, the motivation to become lawyers stems from a desire to help people.
Jeff Sieben, a personal injury lawyer with SiebenCarey, and Tom Sieben, a criminal defense lawyer at Sieben Law Office, are third-generation attorneys, preceded by their grandfather Harry and their father Harry Jr. And there are even more lawyers in the Sieben family, too, including three uncles who practice personal injury law.
"We're asking Cargill to take responsibility for what they've done."
A Minnesota family has filed a federal lawsuit against Cargill, claiming their daughter got E.coli poisoning from one of the company's beef patties that were later recalled.
The Hemmingson family says their daughter spent a month at St. Paul Children's Hospital; their medical bills and future medical needs are expected to top $4 million dollars.
Exposing The Errors
Mistakes happen to each of us. But when they happen in a hospital, the consequences can be fatal. For many years, we had no idea how often medical mistakes happened. One study estimated that as many as one hundred thousand Americans die every year from them. In Minnesota, an effort is underway to prevent medical errors.
Civil lawsuits have been filed against Chisago County in connection with a crash that involved a county van transporting veterans from the VA Medical Center at Fort Snelling.
Motorist Bobby Tomlin was killed in the crash on Interstate 35W in New Brighton. Van driver Richard Carroll, who worked for Chisago County's Veterans Services program, lost consciousness at the wheel and also died.
Attorney Paul Downes, who is representing Jessica Tomlin, argues in court documents that Chisago County is responsible because of its "negligent hiring and retention" of Carroll, who had a documented history of heart trouble.
“Every family, every survivor was hardworking, strong. These are the kinds of people I like to represent.”
At first mention, $36.6 million sounds like a lot of money. But try dividing that sum among the 179 eligible victims of the 35W bridge collapse and the amount quickly starts to look much smaller. That was the daunting task that faced attorney Susan Holden, chair of the Special Master Panel appointed by the state legislature to administer compensation for survivors of the collapse.
179 Claims Filed For Bridge Collapse Victims
Stories of loss and trauma were arriving by the box load at attorney Susan Holden's Minneapolis office all day Wednesday, the deadline for people to apply for damages from a $36.64 million fund allocated by the Legislature last year for victims of the Interstate 35W bridge collapse.
Holden is the chairwoman of a panel of seasoned personal injury attorneys appointed last spring to distribute damages for claims ranging from property loss to personal injury to death.
"This is an important part of the process, to tell their story of what happened and how it's affected their lives."
At a time when most people's bookshelves are stacked with whodunits, Susan Holden is reading with What is Life Worth?, the memoir by the man who managed the Sept. 11 victims' fund.
The book, and the question, hold a particular interest for Holden, chairwoman of the special master panel to compensate victims of the 35W bridge collapse.
MSBA President Brian Melendez bestowed the prestigious President's Award on one of his predecessors, Minneapolis attorney Susan Holden. Ironically, given the honor's name, it's unprecedented for a former MSBA president to receive the award.
The families of four young adults killed in a horrific train-car accident nearly five years ago were awarded $24 million by an Anoka County District Court jury that rejected earlier suggestions the victims had tried to beat a train to the crossing.
In its ruling, the jury determined Burlington Northern Santa Fe was 90 percent responsible for the crash and the driver was 10 percent responsible, said Bill Bongard, who represented the Rhoades family of Blaine.
The Lakeville Police Department teamed with the SiebenCarey law office in Lakeville for a community service project called "Show You Care, Give A Bear."
It's an unfortunate reality that children are sometimes caught in the middle of difficult adult situations. Even worse still, sometimes those events require police intervention.Whenever possible, the Lakeville Police Department has tried to ease a child's mind with a simple but effective gift: a teddy bear.
A need for legislation requiring an insurance company to act in good faith
Danny Nelson and his lawyer, Jeffrey Sieben of Minneapolis, think Nelson got a raw deal from his insurance company. Nelson, a 44-year-old bricklayer, was seriously injured in a car accident. Having suffered injuries to his femur necessitating a future hip replacement and causing recurring health issues, Nelson asked his insurer to pay the $100,000 in underinsured motorist benefits provided for in his auto policy. The insurance company initially offered to pay half, ultimately upping its offer to $75,000 just before trial. Rather than settling the case for $25,000 less than he thought he was entitled to, Nelson opted to go to trial. After hearing the facts, the jury returned a verdict of $793,000.
Despite the highly favorable trial result, the insurer had to pay just $120,000 - the $100,000 policy limit, plus another $20,000 in taxable costs. Both Nelson and Sieben feel that the only reason that the insurance company offered less than it was liable for was that it knew there was little consequence for its conduct.
Minnesota Farmers Union (MFU) 67th annual state convention
One of the breakout sessions from this year's state convention, was presented by attorney Jeffrey Sieben of SiebenCarey. Jeff's presentation focused on ways to prevent farming injuries. Mr. Sieben is one of the Minneapolis-based firm's personal injury and wrongful death attorneys, and has helped many injured Minnesota residents get the compensation they deserve from those at fault.
Joe Harlow, who drowned with Dave Yasis in a downpour last July, was wrongly put in a dangerous situation.
The family of one of the two sewer workers who died in July after being swept from St. Paul's storm tunnels into the Mississippi River has filed a wrongful-death suit against the city and the firm hired to oversee work in the tunnels.
Joe Harlow and Dave Yasis were killed when a sudden downpour swept them away before they could climb up a sewer shaft in the Frogtown neighborhood.
"I was near dead and they had given me up for dead."
After a serious car crash, Elise Capp was left in a coma. Capp and her friend, Eugene Capp, the cousin of her deceased husband, were traveling to the airport on their way to Pasadena California, for the Tournament of Roses Parade. Capp saw a vehicle in the other lane start to slide toward them.
"I said to Gene, 'something's coming here,'" Capp said. "Those were the last words I said. I heard the crash. I don't remember too much after that."
A Hennepin County jury has awarded $1.57 million to a father who lost two sons in a car accident. Originally offered $5,000 by Progressive Insurance for the life of each son, Charles Dack took his case to a jury.
Charles Dack's story is just another example of why a good faith law is needed in Minnesota
The Minnesota Association for Justice is taking advantage of a recent jury verdict in Hennepin County to make its point regarding the need for a good faith law in Minnesota. The plaintiff in the case, Charles Dack, lost two young sons in a car accident. When Progressive Insurance offered only $5,000 for each son, Dack took the case to a jury, which awarded him $1.57 million.