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Ben McAninch – August Attorney of the Month

Aug. 04, 2017

Ben McAninch joined Blethen, Gage and Krause in 2010 after practicing for more than seven years at a litigation firm ben-d-mcaninchin Birmingham, Alabama.  Ben’s practice was devoted primarily to the defense of physicianshospitals and other health care providers in medical malpractice cases.

He gained significant trial experience while in Alabama and was named a partner at that firm in February of 2009. Since his return to Minnesota, Ben’s practice has been focused on general civil litigationinsurance defenseagricultural litigation and probate litigation.

Ben has proven his great litigation skills as indicated below for some of his most notable cases:

  • Obtained a favorable opinion from the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit while representing two landowners against Grinnell Mutual Insurance Company in an insurance coverage dispute.  Grinnell declined to provide coverage pursuant to its farm liability policy when an ATV injury occurred on their property.  The Federal District Court Judge and Eighth Circuit agreed with our interpretation of the relevant policy language and ordered Grinnell to provide coverage.
  • Defended insured driver and owner of vehicle to jury verdict in Brown County, Minnesota.  The jury awarded damages near our previous offer but significantly lower than plaintiff’s demand.
  • Defended insured driver to jury verdict in Martin County, Minnesota.  The jury assessed damages against our client in an amount less than our previous offer.
  • Defended underinsured motorist claim on behalf of a national insurance company before a jury in Olmsted County.  The jury returned a verdict which reflected that there was no claim for underinsured motorist benefits.
  • Successful representation of a sanitary district in a three-day contested case hearing which resulted in the Administrative Law Judge and MPCA finding in favor of the district.
  • Successful representation of farming heirs in a trial involving a probate dispute/will contest which resulted in nearly all claims being denied.  The Court returned a verdict far below our clients’ previous offer of settlement.
  • Defended a bus company and its driver from injury claims following an accident in McLeod County. The jury returned a verdict below the offer of settlement made by the defense.

If you’d like to contact Ben, give him a call at 507-345-1166.

Overtime Rule Back on the Table – DOL Requests Feedback

Aug. 03, 2017

Under the Obama Administration, new rules regarding overtime were set to go into effect December 1, 2016.  However, a federal judge in Texas but the brakes on the Department of Labor’s (DOL’s) new overtime rule which would have doubled the FLSA’s salary threshold for the “White Collar” exemptions from overtime pay and would have automatically adjusted the threshold every three years beginning in 2020.

This topic is now being readdressed.  If you are interested in providing feedback regarding defining and delimiting the exemptions for executive, administrative, professional, outside sales and computer employees, the DOL is asking for your help.

DOL has issued a Request for Information (RFI) offering the public the opportunity to provide information that will aid the Department in formulating a proposal to revise these regulations.

The RFI solicits feedback on questions related to the salary level test, the duties test, inclusion of non-discretionary bonuses and incentive payments to satisfy a portion of the salary level, the salary test for highly compensated employees, and automatic updating of the salary tests.

The 60 day comment period for all issues raised in the RFI ends on September 25, 2017.  For more information, go here .

If you have any questions regarding employment law issues, contact our employment law attorneys at 504-345-1166.

 

Divorce – I Don’t Know Where to Start

Jul. 27, 2017

Written by Beth Serrill

Meeting with a divorce attorney can be stressful.  Spending some time reflecting and gathering information before your meeting can insure that the meeting meets your needs.

Knowledge is power and the fear of the unknown can be paralyzing.  Sometimes understanding the process…and getting reassurance that there is a light at the end of the tunnel…is helpful in analyzing options and deciding next steps.  Not everyone who meets with a divorce attorney gets a divorce and setting up an appointment doesn’t mean you’re giving up on the marriage.  Some people are ready for an action plan and hearing an attorney’s specific thoughts on strategy and steps to take can help you decide if the attorney is a good fit for you.

Below are some topics that you should think about in preparation of a meeting:

  • Kids (if you have them)

What schedule are you following now?  Is it a good fit?

What schedule do you think would be best for your kids long term?

  • Finances

You don’t have to have any financial information to have a productive initial consultation, but some pieces of information can be helpful in tailoring the conversation.  At the same time, don’t stress if you don’t handle the finances and don’t know much about your financial position.  If you can, consider reviewing the following:  mortgage statement, tax assessed value of the house, checking/savings account statements, credit cards, vehicles, and retirement/investment accounts.

  • Nonmarital claims

Did you own anything prior to the marriage?

Did you sell a house and use the proceeds to buy a marital home?

Did you have a retirement account prior to the marriage?

Have you inherited anything since you got married?

Have you been involved in any lawsuits that resulted in payments?

Did you have any debt coming into the marriage?

Were you in college?  Did you have any student loans?

You should also consider what type of an attorney you want.  An initial consultation is an opportunity to interview an attorney and to decide if they seem like a good fit.  Be sure to ask the following questions:

What’s their personality like? 

Are you comfortable talking to them and asking questions? 

Do they explain things in a way that’s easy for you to understand?

What’s their approach to family law?  Does that fit with what you want?

What ideas do they have to try to solve problems and reach agreements?

How long have they been practicing?

How big is their firm? What staff will be working with you? Are there other attorneys with helpful practice areas such as Business and Real Estate?

What do they think is a reasonable amount of time to return phone calls?  Emails?  Do they respond to emails after hours or on weekends?  What is their anticipated timeline?

Choosing an attorney is a big decision and just because someone says they practice in family law doesn’t mean they should.  Trust your instincts and if you don’t feel like the attorney is a good fit, schedule a consultation with another attorney.  Considering some of these items may make your initial consultation more productive and helpful to you. 

Beth Serrill is a Family Law attorney with Blethen, Gage and Krause.  If you are considering a divorce and would like a consultation, you may contact her at 507-345-1166 or at bserrill@blethenlaw.com.

Beth Serrill – Attorney of the Month

Jul. 10, 2017

Beth Serrill joined the firm in August 2005 and focuses her practice in the areas of Employment Law and Family Law.  She represents companies in all areas of employment law including unemployment, discrimination and general liability issues.  Beth works closely with human resource professionals to create policies and anticipate and handle employee issues and employment law litigation.   She also helps educate managers and staff about employment law issues through presentations and written materials.  Beth also handles complex business litigation as well as appeals.

Beth earned her Bachelor of Arts degree and her J.D. degree from the University of Iowa.  For the last four years, she has earned the distinguished award as a “Rising Star” in the Minnesota legal community from Minnesota Law and Politics.

Outside of work, Beth has been involved with various community boards including YMCA, SMILES, and the Children’s Museum of Southern Minnesota.  She also enjoys spending time with her husband and daughter.

If you’d like to talk to Beth about your employment or family law needs, you can call 507-345-1166 or send an email to bserrill@blethenlaw.com

Best of Mankato – 3 Years in a Row

Jul. 10, 2017

Blethen, Gage & Krause is excited to announce that for the third year in a row, we have been selected by Best of 2017 MankatoMankato Magazine as Mankato’s #1 law firm.  The people of Mankato and surrounding communities vote to determine who will be selected for this prestigious recognition.  We are truly honored to receive this award and wish to thank our clients and business partners for this acknowledgment.  We are proud to be a part of this vibrant community!

 

2017 Super Lawyers & Rising Stars Selected

Jul. 06, 2017

Blethen, Gage and Krause is pleased to announce that seven Blethen attorneys have been selected to the 2017 Minnesota Super Lawyers and 2017 Minnesota Rising Stars lists.

The following Blethen attorneys were selected as Super Lawyers:  Julia Ketcham Corbett (Employment & Labor), Ben McAninch (PI General: Defense), Christopher Roe (Estate & Probate) and James Turk (Alternative Dispute Resolution).

The following Blethen attorneys were selected as Rising Stars:  Beth Serrill (Employment & Labor), Kevin Velasquez (General Litigation), and Jeffrey Grace (Civil Litigation: Defense).

Super Lawyers is a rating service of outstanding lawyers from more than 70 practice areas who have attained a high-degree of peer recognition and professional development.  The selection process is multi-phased and includes independent research, peer nominations, and peer evaluations.  Congratulations to each of the attorneys selected for this honor!

 

Summons and Complaints – What Does it Mean?

Jun. 16, 2017

Written by Jacob Sherlock

There are few more stressful situations than having a process server hand you a Summons and Complaint.  This signals the start of dreaded “L” word – litigation.  While the term litigation may bring to mind multimillion dollar lawsuits between large corporations, it can encompass matters from the largest corporate lawsuit to a boundary line dispute between two neighbors.  Whether you are involved in a traffic accident, a business dispute, or are served with divorce papers, it is important to know what to do next after you are served with a Summons and Complaint.

In most cases in Minnesota, it is the service of the Summons and Complaint that begins a legal action, not the filing of a Complaint with the Court.  As a result, if you are served with a Summons and Complaint and you do not find your name in the Minnesota Court Public Access system, it does not mean that you are in the clear.  In most cases, the Plaintiff has one year from the date you are served with the Summons and Complaint to actually file the case with the District Court.

The most important thing you can do after being served is to not ignore the Summons and Complaint.  The first reaction of many people after being confronted with bad news is to pretend the bad news doesn’t exist.  In the litigation context however, this is one of the worst things you can do.  When served with a Summons and Complaint you must act quickly to protect your rights.  You must serve your Answer to the Complaint upon the Plaintiff within 20 days after you are served with the Summons and Complaint.  If the Answer is not served in time (or at all), you run the risk of waiving your rights in the lawsuit, and of the Plaintiff obtaining a default judgment against you.  A default judgment is exactly as it sounds – the Plaintiff wins its case against you by default.  A default judgment can be overturned in certain circumstances, however it is an uphill battle that can be avoided by submitting the Answer in a timely fashion.

The second most important thing you can do after being served is to take immediate action.  If you intend to seek legal counsel to assist you in your matter (and whether it is with our firm or another attorney, it is highly recommended that you retain counsel), it is important that you do so as soon as possible after receiving the Summons and Complaint.  The longer you wait, the harder it will be to find someone who will be able to take your case on a short notice.

Depending on your circumstances, you may feel that you cannot afford an attorney and must go it alone, or you may feel that you can provide yourself with adequate representation and do not need an attorney.  Proceeding on your own in a lawsuit is called proceeding pro se.  Every defendant has a legal right to proceed pro se, but be advised that the law requires the court to hold a pro se defendant to the same level as a seasoned attorney.  While some pro se litigants are able to reach a favorable result in their case by representing themselves, most often it is a better idea to hire knowledgeable legal counsel to navigate the legal waters for you.

The third most important thing you can do after being served is to avoid posting anything on social media about your case.  You may be tempted to take to your social media platform of choice to vent, to seek advice, or for other reasons, but keep in mind, you must treat everything that is posted on social media as public information.  If you post on social media about your case, there is no guarantee that the other side won’t see it, and won’t try to find a way to use your post against you.  However, if you do post social media about your case, whether before service of the Summons and Complaint or after, it is important that you do not delete any posts or other information already in the ether.  If you do, the other side may attempt bring a destruction of evidence (or “spoliation” for the complex legal term) claim against you, which may result in sanctions, and may have an adverse impact on your case.

Ultimately, in the event you are served with a Summons and Complaint, it is important to keep a level head, and to address the matter promptly, rather than becoming the proverbial ostrich and burying your head in the sand.  Blethen, Gage & Krause has a wealth of experience in litigation defense matters, and we would be happy to discuss your situation with you to make sure your rights are protected.  Contact attorney Jake Sherlock, or any of our other attorneys specializing in litigation defense, at 507-345-1166.

Velasquez and New ADA Law

Jun. 08, 2017

Kevin Velasquez, attorney at Blethen, Gage and Krause, recently provided a guest column to Greater Mankato Growth regarding a new ADA law regarding a new mandatory notice requirement.

In 2015, the number of lawsuits in state and federal courts in Minnesota asserting accessibility violations in public accommodations began to spike.  In 2014, there were 19 cases brought in federal court (including Minnesota Human Rights Act claims).  In 2015, the number of federal claims increased to 118, with many more claims commenced in state court.  The lawsuits generally sought a judicial order requiring removal of an architectural barrier to access, such as the addition of an access aisle in a parking lot, or that a service counter be lowered to an accessible height, as well as the plaintiff’s attorney’s fees.

In 2016, the legislature changed the Minnesota Human Rights Act by creating a short, clear form letter that a person could fill out and provide to a business to notify it of an accessibility barrier.  The goal was to make it easy for a person to make a business aware of the existence of the barrier and encourage its prompt removal without the need for a lawsuit.  In order to advance this goal, under the 2016 amendment, if a person utilized the written notice, they could not commence a lawsuit for an MHRA violation until after the expiration of 30 days. The notice was voluntary, however, and if a person chose to forego the notice, he or she could begin a lawsuit immediately, with no notice.

The voluntary notice provision in the 2016 amendment did not have the desired effect, and lawsuits have continued at the 2015 pace.

Read More About 2017 Changes

For more information regarding how this law may impact you, contact Kevin Velasquez at 507-345-1166 or kvelasquez@blethenlaw.com.

Jake Sherlock – Blethen’s Attorney of the Month

Jun. 07, 2017

Jacob (Jake) Sherlock brings a unique judicial perspective to Blethen, Gage & Krause, PLLP, having served as the Jacob (Jake) Sherlock BGK LawJudicial Law Clerk to the Honorable Larry M. Collins in the Waseca County District Court, Waseca, Minnesota for over a year.  Jake joined the firm’s general litigation department in 2016, and represents clients in a wide array of litigation-related matters, including personal injury, product liability, family law, criminal defense, and insurance law.  Jacob also includes estate planning and probate as part of his practice.

Jake’s experience in the court system is a valuable asset, used to help clients navigate through the ins and outs of the legal process.  Jake’s calm and easy-going personality helps put clients at ease during potentially difficult situations.  Jake strives to advocate for his clients both effectively and efficiently.

Jake is a 2014 cum laude graduate of William Mitchell College of Law.  While attending law school, Jake worked as a law clerk for a well-known civil litigation firm in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  Jake also served as the research assistant for Professors Kenneth Port and Anthony Winer, and served as a staff member for Cybaris®, William Mitchell’s Intellectual Property Law Review.

In his free time, Jake enjoys exploring Mankato with family and friends, jogging and biking through the local trails, and spending time with his dog, Chance.

Need help, contact Jake at 507-345-1166 or at jsherlock@blethenlaw.com!

Blethen Sponsor of City Art Sculpture Tour

May. 26, 2017

Blethen, Gage and Krause is proud to be a sponsor of the City Art Walking Sculpture Tour.  Our sponsored sculpture is called Oak Leaf Arch II.

This exciting exhibit of outdoor sculptures is displayed year-round in the City Center of Mankato and North Mankato, Minnesota. Artists place their sculptures in the program for one year. The sculptures are promoted to the public for sale. Artists are eligible to win cash awards, as well as the possibility of having their piece voted The People’s Choice and purchased by CityArt for permanent installation.

The artist of the Oak Leaf Arch II is Jim Gallucci.  Jim has been a sculptor for 40 years and works full time designing and creating/fabricating sculptures in his Greensboro studio, assisted by a staff of 5 people. His commissions can be found in public, corporate, and residential spaces throughout the country. Jim is currently showing his work in 24 sculpture shows across the nation.

Learn more here.