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McAninch Secures Favorable Jury Verdict at Trial

Mar. 22, 2019

On behalf of a local Co-op, Ben McAninch successfully sued a trucking company and its driver to recover more than $225,000, the cost to repair a Terragator involved in a collision with a semi. Following the third day of trial, a Sibley County jury returned a verdict finding that the semi driver was at fault for the collision and awarding the full cost of repair of the Terragator.

DEPARTMENT OF LABOR PROPOSES NEW OVERTIME RULE

Mar. 08, 2019

Under the current federal  Fair Labor Standards Act, employees with a salary below $455 per week ($23,660 annually) must be paid overtime if they work more than 40 hours per week.  Workers making at least this salary level and whose job duties fit within an exemption are ineligible for overtime.  This salary level was set in 2004. 

Previously, under the Obama administration, the rule was changed to increase the salary level to $922 per week (about $47,000 annually).  This new rule was met with a lot of concern by employers due to the significant increase in the salary level, and additional increases thereafter.  That rule was enjoined by a U.S. District Court in November, 2016 and the appeal has not moved forward, with the expectation that the Department would propose a new rule with a revised salary threshold. 

Yesterday, the U.S. Department of Labor  (“DOL”) announced a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking regarding this much-anticipated issue.  This new proposed rule would update the salary threshold from $455 to $679 per week (equivalent to $35,308 per year).   Under the proposed rule, employers are allowed to use nondiscretionary bonuses and incentive payments (including commissions) that are paid annually or more frequently to satisfy up to 10 percent of the salary level. For the highly compensated employee exemption, the annual salary increases from $100,000 to $147,414 per year.  The new rule does not provide for automatic adjustments to the salary threshold, as the 2016 rule did, but does indicate a commitment to  periodically review the salary threshold.  The new rule also does not make any changes to the job duties test.

So, what is next?

The proposed rule is only a proposal.  The rule will be published in the Federal Register and then will be open for public comment for 60 days . Comments can be submitted here once the rule is published:  www.regulations.gov (rulemaking docket RIN 1235-AA20). The rule will likely face further review and legal challenges.  If you are concerned about the proposed rule, you are encouraged to submit your comments.

The DOL will receive and review the comments and then a Final Rule will be issued. The DOL will likely give employers plenty of lead time to prepare for the changes.  It is likely that it will be at least a year before changes need to be implemented.  However, those employers with employees who are currently classified as exempt, but earning less than $35,308 per year, should begin to review those positions to determine how they might respond to these proposed changes.

If you have questions about this or any employment law issue, or would like assistance in analyzing the application of this proposed rule to your business, please contact any of the Blethen Berens employment-law attorneys.

 

Legal Necessities for Startups and Small Businesses

Mar. 01, 2019

Written by Jared Koch

When entrepreneurs start a new business, money is tight. Precious funds need to be spent on technology, designing logos and websites, insurance, marketing, and much more. With little cash to spare, new business owners often put off discussions with a lawyer about how to protect their new company.

That’s when things can go wrong. For example, maybe Sarah and Brittany thought they had the time to invest in a new daycare, but now Brittany wants out. Without entity documents in place, there are no clear rules about whether Sarah can (or has to) buy out Brittany and at what price.

Or perhaps Ashley put in a lot of capital for a restaurant and Michael runs the day-to-day operations, but Ashley is upset about some decisions that Michael is making. Without an operating agreement, it might not be clear who has to sign off on which decisions and lead to further problems down the road.

Or imagine that Jacob invented a great new workout app but some of its users got injured while exercising and now they are suing Jacob. If Jacob doesn’t have a business entity and his insurance won’t pay enough to cover the lawsuit, Jacob could be held personally responsible to pay damages to his customers.

All of these headaches can be avoided with a few conversations with an attorney. Proactive legal planning is relatively inexpensive and can protect business owners when problems arise in a startup or small business.

The most popular way to achieve this is through a limited liability company (an “LLC”). An LLC has many advantages for a business. The first is the most important—an LLC protects the business owners from personal responsibility for business debts and other liabilities. This means that if the LLC is struggling financially or an accident leads to a lawsuit against the company, the owners’ homes, retirement funds, and other assets are not at risk. Entrepreneurs don’t get any of these protections when they operate a business without a formal business structure like an LLC or corporation.

LLCs are also simple to maintain. They allow business owners to take advantage of “pass through” taxation, so they are taxed in the same way as without an entity in place. LLCs also don’t require much formality to maintain and are very flexible in how the business can be structured. After an LLC is formed in Minnesota, maintaining the LLC is free and only requires a single renewal filing every year.

In addition, at some point in businesses with multiple owners, one owner is going to want to leave the business. Whether that is because the business is doing poorly or extremely well, the LLC structure lays out the path to buy out a co-owner in advance so that someone leaving the business doesn’t lead to costly legal battles.

Having an LLC or other entity in place can also signal to investors that you are serious about the new business. Having an LLC or corporation structure already established shows that you believe in this business and are taking steps to get up and running. This may convince potential investors that this is more than just a hobby that you are interested in but rather that you truly want to make this business a success and are willing to do the work to get there.

All-in-all, legal planning is much more important than you might think when operating a startup or small business. When it’s time to start your next business, don’t wait until it’s too late to create a business entity. An LLC or another type of entity might be the right fit to protect you and your company. Contact Blethen Berens at 507-345-1166 to schedule a consultation.

Name Change for Merged Firms

Jul. 12, 2018

Blethen, Gage & Krause and Berens, Rodenberg & O’Connor merged effective July 1, 2018. The new firm name is Blethen Berens. 

This is a merger of two highly compatible, well-respected law firms.  Both firms have a significant historical footprint in the region.  Blethen, Gage & Krause has been providing high quality legal services in the Greater Mankato area for over 120 years while Berens, Rodenberg & O’Connor has provided equally valuable services in the New Ulm area for over 90 years.  We hold similar values and philosophies on doing business: providing excellent service to clients with an emphasis on quality and integrity while supporting the community. 

Our respective addresses have not changed.  You may call us at 507-345-1166 for both locations.

As always, we will continue to serve our clients with the same dedication and quality which they have come to expect from us.  

2018 Super Lawyers & Rising Stars

Jul. 09, 2018

Blethen Berens is pleased to announce that seven attorneys have been selected to the 2018 Minnesota Super Lawyers and 2018 Minnesota Rising Stars lists.

The following attorneys were selected as Super Lawyers:  Julia Ketcham CorbettBen McAninch, Christopher Roe and James Turk.

The following attorneys were selected as Rising Stars:  Beth Serrill, Jeremy Berg, and Jeffrey Grace.

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!

Be sure to contact our attorneys at 507-345-1166.

Best of Mankato – 4 Years in a Row!

Jul. 05, 2018

Blethen, Gage & Krause is excited to announce that for the fouth year in a row, we have been selected by Mankato 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!

Get to Know Kim Literovich – Attorney of the Month

May. 14, 2018

Kimberly Literovich, a current partner of the firm, started with Blethen, Gage and Krause in May 2015.  She BGK Law Mankato Associatespreviously served with the firm of Shermoen & Jaksa in International Falls for eight years.  Kim focuses her practice in the areas of real estate, estate planning, probate, and small business.  A large segment of Kim’s practice is devoted to drafting individually-tailored estate plans which benefit her clients and their families for years to come.  Whether it’s a simple will, power of attorney or health care directive, or a more complicated trust or cumbersome probate matter, Kim eagerly and efficiently serves her clients.  Kim’s familiarity and background in working with medical assistance planning has also proven to be a valuable asset to her clients.  She also provides experienced legal advice in the areas of title insurance, title searches, and real estate closings. 

Her warm personality puts clients at ease and helps them navigate through an array of complex legal matters.  Kim performs her legal responsibilities with integrity and timeliness and strives to efficiently and successfully resolve any unexpected issues which may arise. 

“I was in search of a business attorney to assist me in organizing my legal business entity and corporate documents. Kim Literovich was exceptionally friendly and knowledgeable. I immediately felt that I could rely on Kim to guide my business decisions.”                       

                                                           Hannah Bretz, HB Digital Marketing

You may contact Kim at 507-345-1166 or at kliterovich@blethenlaw.com.

Long Standing Firms Merge

Apr. 23, 2018

Blethen, Gage & Krause and Berens Rodenberg & O’Connor, two of the region’s oldest and most well-respected law firms are pleased to announce their merger.

Both firms have a significant historical footprint in their respective areas.  Blethen, Gage & Krause has been providing high quality legal services in the Mankato area for over 120 years while Berens, Rodenberg & O’Connor has provided equally valuable services in the New Ulm area for over 90 years.

“Although there is a lot of history represented in the new firm, this merger is about looking forward” notes Berens Partner Jeremy Berg.  “Each firm brings complimentary talents and a combination of veteran and rising attorneys to the merger. Combining the strengths of the Blethen and Berens firms will provide our clients with a broad range of legal talents to meet the needs and challenges of our clients across the region while still providing the “Main Street” service that our communities expect.” 

This is a merger of two highly compatible firms which hold similar values and philosophies in doing business – providing excellent service to clients with an emphasis on quality and integrity while supporting the community.  Both firms represent clients in a wide range of business and personal matters.   The combined firm will employ 19 attorneys and 24 employees.

Silas Danielson, Blethen Partner, says, “We are excited about the addition of such a high quality firm.  We look forward to expanding our market and capitalizing on the abilities of all of our lawyers and staff.  This merger is a great opportunity for the Blethen and Berens groups.”

The merger will be effective July 1, 2018.  The merged firm will retain the use of their current names for the immediate future and their respective locations in Mankato and New Ulm.

Minnesota Personal Injury & Wrongful Death – Did You Know

Apr. 19, 2018

A personal injury or wrongful death claim can arise in Minnesota under a number of different scenarios.  Often times these types of claim are intimidating and confusing.

Did you know…

Dog Bites – Minnesota law imposes strict liability on a dog owner for dog bites.  This means that no knowledge or negligence is required for a dog owner to be held liable for injuries caused by his or her dog.   Minn. Stat. § 347.22; Engquist v. Loyas, 803 N.W.2d 400 (Minn. 2011).  In fact, claims have been brought against a dog owner even in situations where the dog did not directly bite anyone, but still caused injury.  Liability as a dog owner can also extend to a person who harbors or keeps a dog.  A person “harboring” a dog is generally someone who feeds and cares for a dog.

Car Accidents – A pedestrian or bicyclist traveling across a street and struck by a vehicle may find coverage for injuries with his or her own car insurance.  The pedestrian/bicyclist’s insurance in this example is called no-fault (PIP) insurance and is required on all “motor vehicles” in Minnesota.  That pedestrian/bicyclist may also be able to file a claim for bodily injury against the at-fault driver.  A person injured in a car accident must, however, satisfy a certain threshold before bringing a case in court for bodily injury against the at-fault driver.  Those thresholds include:

  • Permanent injury or disfigurement;
  • Disability lasting more than 60 days;
  • More than $4,000 in medical expenses (excluding diagnostics like x-rays); and

But what if the at-fault driver in the example above does not have insurance?  In that scenario, a claim could again be filed against the pedestrian/bicyclist’s own policy for uninsured coverage.

Motorcycles – Minnesota does not require the same type of insurance on a motorcycle as is required on a car or truck.  A motorcycle owner need only carry liability coverage – no-fault (PIP) and underinsured/uninsured coverages are not required.  Minn. Stat. § 65B.48, Subd. 5.  This can have a dramatic effect on the amount of recovery available in an accident involving a motorcycle, and the source of recovery. 

Wrongful Death – The time limit within which a claim for wrongful death can be brought is generally 3 years.  Minn. Stat. § 573.02.  In addition, a claim for wrongful death must be brought by a trustee for the surviving spouse and next of kin.  Minn. Stat. § 573.02, Subd. 2, 3.  To complicate matters, the recovery in a wrongful death case is limited to “pecuniary loss.”  Pecuniary loss includes the reasonable value of counsel, guidance, advice and assistance, among other things. Pain and suffering, as is often claimed in car accident cases, is not available in a wrongful death case however.

Our law firm has successfully litigated a wide range of personal injury and wrongful death matters.  Contact us at 507-345-1166 to schedule an appointment and discuss your case today.

 

Jeff Grace – Attorney of the Month

Apr. 16, 2018

Jeff joined Blethen, Gage and Krause in 2014 after working as an in-house trial attorney for a national insurance company. Jeff’s practice involved insurance defense, representing both individuals and the company in all phases of litigation. He gained significant trial experience, successfully litigating both bench and jury trials.Jeffrey Grace - Mankato Law Firm

Jeff’s current practice is focused on general litigation and insurance law.  He graduated from William Mitchell College of Law (J.D.) and St. Olaf College (B.A.).  Jeff was named as a “Rising Star” in the Minnesota legal community in 2016 and 2017.  Jeff is a member of the Minnesota State Bar Association, Minnesota Defense Lawyers Association and Greater Mankato Growth Young Professionals.

Outside of work, Jeff enjoys playing and coaching several sports, camping fishing, skiing and spending time with his family.

If you need legal help in the areas of litigation, contact Jeff at jgrace@blethenlaw.com or at 507-345-1166.