rbennett@gaskinsbennett.com
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J.D., University of Minnesota, 1976
A.B., University of Notre Dame, 1973, cum laude

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robert-bennettRobert Bennett is a trial lawyer and has been one for more than 30 years. He has successfully tried to verdict scores of matters, including cases involving civil rights law and police misconduct, auto and truck accident cases, product liability cases, and commercial disputes of all types, more often on behalf of the plaintiff or claimant.

He is a perennial “Super Lawyer” and was selected by Minnesota Lawyer as one of their “Attorneys of the Year” for 2007, 2008, 2013, 2014 and 2016.

He has been the lead trial lawyer in a number of high profile cases in the last 20 years, including the Abbey Taylor kiddie pool, wrongful death case, the police shooting case involving Duy Ngo, the mechanical asphyxiation of David Cornelius Smith, the Rickia Russell “flash-bang” grenade case, and the recent Koochiching County jail suicide action.

Gaskins Bennett Birrell Schupp LLP was named as one of only six highly recommended Minnesota plaintiff firms in the 2012 edition of Benchmark Plaintiff.  That publication named Mr. Bennett a “Local Litigation Star,” and noted that “Robert Bennett has built his reputation as an exemplary trial lawyer on the back of the tens of millions of dollars he has recovered on behalf of his clients over the course of his 30-year career.”

Representative Experience

In re: Individual 35W Bridge Litigation
Hennepin County District Court, Minnesota (2010)
Total Settlement: $54.2 million

Key member of consortium that obtained settlement on behalf of victims from the Minneapolis 35 W bridge collapse.

Robinson et al. v. Ramsey County et al.
U.S. District Court, District of Minnesota (2010)
Total Settlement: $15+ million

Achieved landmark success in a class action on behalf of inmates, who contracted TB while at the Ramsey County Correctional Facility. One of the most successful prosecutions of a TB outbreak against a correctional facility in United States history.

Taylor v. Minneapolis Golf Club
Hennepin County District Court, Minnesota (2008)
Total Settlement: $8+ Million

Robert Bennett and Andrew Noel represented the parents of Abigail Taylor in a wrongful death lawsuit arising out of severe injuries Abigail sustained while in the kiddie pool at the Minneapolis Golf Club on June 29, 2007. This historic result included both monetary and non-monetary components. The primary defendant, Minneapolis Golf Club, paid $8,000,000 and admitted that it was one of the parties responsible for Abigail’s death. The club was also required to fire the two managers most responsible for this tragedy. The other defendant, Sta-Rite Industries, paid a confidential settlement amount to the Taylors.

Ngo v. Storlie
U.S. District Court, District of Minnesota (2007)
Total Settlement: $4.5 million

Police shooting case.

Dalglish v. Keener
Superior Court of Carroll County, Georgia (2003)
Total Verdict: $4.5 million

30-year old woman, catastrophic personal injury in multi-vehicle accident.

J.A. v. B.B.R.
Steele County District Court, Minnesota (1996)
Total Settlement: $3.45 million

Wrongful death/personal injury; commercial truck and automobile accident.

Smith v. Gorman et al.
U.S. District Court, District of Minnesota (2013)
Total Settlement: $3.075 Million

Federal civil rights wrongful death action on behalf of the next of kin of David Cornelius Smith, who died at the hands of two Minneapolis police officers.  Smith was a mentally ill man, who had committed no crime, but was acting bizarrely at the Minneapolis YMCA.  The officers arrived, a struggle ensued, and Smith was ultimately handcuffed and placed in the prone position with weight on his back for 4 1/2 minutes.  The officers failed to monitor his condition during the restraint, and Smith died from complications of mechanical asphyxiation.  This is the second highest payout for a police brutality case in Minneapolis history.

Balandin v. Eagle
U.S. District Court, District of Minnesota (2003)
Total Settlement: $3.05 million

18 year old on LSD improperly shot twice by Apple Valley police officer; excessive deadly force.

Anonymous v. Anonymous
Hennepin County District Court (2011)
Total Settlement: $3 million

Represented husband and wife after wife was severely injured in a crash caused by a commercial truck.Wife’s injuries included numerous cervical neck fractures that required two months in a HALO and a multi-level fusion.The commercial truck driver was using his cell phone at the time of the crash.Further details of the suit and settlement are confidential.

Yang v. Chadbourne
U.S. District Court, District of Minnesota (2015)
Total Settlement $2,850,000 million

Federal civil rights action stemming from the January 25, 2014 incident where Brooklyn Park probationary police officer Jason Chadbourne panicked and fired his service weapon six times into a snow-covered vehicle was it backed slowly out of its parking space, hitting Shoua Yang three times.  Yang, along with his cousin and friend, were at a banquet hall for a Valentine’s Day party and  decided to leave after a fight broke out.  Chadbourne arrived on the scene and followed the men to determine if they were involved in the fight – they were not.  Chadbourne did not issue any commands to Yang and had no information that Yang had committed any crime.  Yet, Chadbourne positioned himself behind the snow-covered vehicle and fired six times – later claiming the vehicle was speeding in reverse at him – a claim unsupported and refuted by the evidence.  Yang was hit in the back, neck and shoulder and one of the bullets severed his kidney and almost killed him.

Forster & D’Heilly v. S.O.D.
Hennepin County District Court, Minnesota (1990)
Total Settlement: $2.5 million

Two injured in outdoor advertising sign collapse accident.

Kucera v. Jespersen, et al.
U.S. District Court, District of Minnesota (2014)
Total Settlement $2 million

Federal civil rights wrongful death action regarding the suicide of Kathryn Marie Schneider, a 28-year-old mother, who hanged herself at the Koochiching County Jail.

Chromulak v. Anoka County, et al.
U.S. District Court, District of Minnesota (2005)
Total Settlement: $1.9 million

Prisoner injury.

Sanville v. Scapardine, Pareek and Fleck
U.S. District Court, Western District of Wisconsin (2002)
Damages: $1.825 million
Total Verdict: $2.1 million

§ 1983 violation by prison psychologist and malpractice by psychologist and psychiatrist caused suicide of prison inmate.

Posthumus v. Brey, et al.
Freeborn County District Court, Minnesota (2005)
Total Verdict: $1.68 million

Mother and 6-year old daughter seriously injured in motor vehicle collision.

Baxter-Knutson v. Stearns County & MEnD Correctional Care, et al.
U.S. District Court, District of Minnesota (2016)
Total Settlement $1.45 million

Federal civil rights action brought on behalf of the next of kin of Kyle Allan Baxter-Jensen, who committed suicide at the Stearns County Jail in December of 2010.  Kyle was a mentally ill man who was incarcerated at the Stearns County Jail for driving while intoxicated on November 13, 2010.  The following day, Kyle attempted suicide using a disassembled razor to slit his throat and both of his wrists.  He was found alive by jail personnel and was taken to St. Cloud Hospital for treatment of his physical injuries.  Kyle was returned to Stearns County Jail the same day.  Upon his return and over the next few weeks, Kyle was clearly a significant suicide risk.  He exhibited many red flags confirming he suffered from a significant and pervasive mental illness, in addition to the obvious and numerous staples, sutures and bandages over his recent self-inflicted wounds.  Nonetheless, Kyle did not receive the mental health treatment he required.  Instead, he was prematurely moved to general housing where access to razors could not be effectively prohibited.  Kyle obtained a razor on December 4, 2010 and used it to commit suicide by again slitting his own throat.  MEnD Correctional Care and Defendant Todd Leonard, MD held the contract with Stearns County to provide medical and mental health care to inmates.  The MEnD Defendants voluntarily paid $850,000 to settle this action and Stearns County paid $600,000.

Carlson v. Century Indemnity, et al.
Carver County District Court, Minnesota and U.S. District Court, District of Minnesota
see Century Indemnity Co. v. Carlson, 133 F.2d 591 (8th Cir. 1998)

Total Settlement: $1.2 million wrongful death caused by commercial truck and automobile collision found to be in interstate commerce.

Mische v. Sauro, et al.
U.S. District Court, District of Minnesota (1994)
Total Verdict: $1,050,000, including compensatory and punitive damages and attorney’s fees

Excessive force; Minnesota’s most famous police misconduct case.

Russell v. Taylor
United States District Court, District of Minnesota (2011)
Total Settlement:  $1,000,000

Russell v. Taylor, involved a botched search in 2010 in which a Minneapolis officer threw a “flash-bang” grenade while executing a warrant. The officers’ request for a “no-knock” warrant was denied, so the officers were required to knock and announce their presence prior to entering. Nevertheless, the officers improperly broke the door down without knocking or announcing their presence and immediately threw a flash-bang grenade. The grenade rolled between Russell’s leg, who, as a result, suffered third- and fourth-degree burns to her calves.  She underwent skin grafts from her scalp to treat the injuries.  Sadly, she was left with terrible scarring.

Polley v. City of Minneapolis
U.S. District Court, District of Minnesota (2004)
Total Settlement: $995,000

Excessive force.

McGerr v. Gordon S. and Pamela J. Jensen, Gordon R. Israelson, and Robert E. Cook
Hennepin County District Court (2011)
Total Settlement $918,000

On July 4, 2009, then 16-year-old Lisa McGerr was struck in the eye by a portion of an illegal and ultra-hazardous firework while she was spending the Fourth of July holiday weekend with her friend.  She was in the care, custody and control of her friend’s parents, Defendants Pamela and Gordon Jensen.  The Jensen family brought McGerr up to Defendant Gordon Israelson’s lake home where the illegal fireworks were ignited by Defendant Robert Cook.  Lisa McGerr suffered a damaging and disfiguring eye injury.  Liability was hotly contested by the Jensens and Gordon Israelson and all parties disputed Plaintiff’s damages.  Plaintiff settled with Cook and Israelson prior to trial
and then prevailed against Gordon Jensen.  Ultimately, Plaintiff recovered over $900,000.

Feist v. Simonson
U.S. District Court, District of Minnesota (2000)
Total Settlement: $900,000

§1983 high speed chase violation.

Buelow v. DiIoia, et al.
U.S. District Court, District of Minnesota (2000)
Total Settlement: $800,000 (involved two plaintiffs – father/victim and daughter/victim/witness)

Excessive force case against Washington County Sheriff.

Barsch v. Siera
U.S. District Court, District of Minnesota (2009)
Total Settlement: $695,000

Plaintiff, a young woman with a history of being victimized, was sexually assaulted by a Hubbard County Deputy. The Akeley Police Department failed to investigate the matter or even properly report the victim’s allegations. The City of Akeley settled early on in the case for $55,000 and Hubbard County, which was defending and indemnifying the deputy, settled for $640,000.

Martin v. Hennepin County Sheriff
U.S. District Court, District of Minnesota (2001)
Total Settlement: $552,315

Excessive force case against Hennepin County Sheriff’s deputy.

Olson v. Cottingham, et al.
U.S. District Court, District of Minnesota (1996)
Total Settlement: $500,000

Excessive force.

Gerdes v. Meyer
U.S. District Court, District of Minnesota (2009)
Total Settlement: $475,000

Plaintiff, a 41 year old man who was on social security disability, was in a Brainerd city park after hours in June 2007. A Brainerd Police Officer was called to the park to investigate a noise complaint. The officer found the plaintiff and some of his friends leaving the park on their bicycles and decided to use his to perform a custodial stop on plaintiff. The plaintiff was pedaling his bicycle out of the park when he was tased in the back and crashed his bicycle, injuring his shoulder and back, requiring multiple surgeries and hospitalizations. The defendants moved for summary judgment arguing that the officer acted as a reasonable officer would and was therefore protected by qualified immunity. The Court disagreed and the settlement followed shortly.

Warner v. Valleau
U.S. District Court, District of Minnesota (2011)
Total Settlement: $450,000

Plaintiff, a 60-year old, 100-pound grandmother who was on crutches, suffered multiple fractures to her wrist after an officer pushed her down. The defendant officer was one of four officers who responded to a call from the plaintiff to taker her grandson to detox. While the officers were placing the plaintiff’s grandson in a squad car, the plaintiff hobbled up to the officers and asked that they not hurt her grandson. The defendant officer responded by pushing plaintiff to the ground. The plaintiff was not accused of or charged with any crime. The Plaintiff underwent three surgical procedures but was still left with a weakened arm.

King v. Turner
U.S. District Court, District of Minnesota (2007)
Total Judgment: $447,000

Fifty-one year old woman suffered two wrist fractures and a dislocation when a sheriff’s deputy used excessive force on her in a bingo hall where he had come to arrest her daughter on a bench warrant.

Town v. Thelen
U.S. District Court, District of Minnesota (2007)
Total Settlement: $365,000

Plaintiff was a stroke victim with limited comprehension and very diminished speech capabilities. He was stopped for speeding and through a series of missteps by Waite Park Police Officers, ended up with a broken rib and a collapsed lung.

Meir v. McCormick
U.S. District Court, District of Minnesota (2007)

Five Day jury trial involving allegation of excessive force against the police chief for Chatfield, Minnesota. Plaintiff prevailed on his excessive force claim resulting in a total judgment (compensatory damages, punitive damages and attorneys’ fees and costs) of $364,308.09.

Enlund v. Reynolds & City of Minneapolis
U.S. District Court, District of Minnesota (2001)
Total Settlement: $330,000

Hagen v. Palmer, et al
U.S. District Court, District of Minnesota (2003)
Total Settlement: $327,000

Pierce v. Isaacson, Wayne and City of Minnetonka
U.S. District Court, District of Minnesota (2002)
Total Settlement: $320,000

Karim El-Ghazzawy v. Berthiaume et al.
U.S. District Court, District of Minnesota, 708 F. Supp. 2d 874
Eight Circuit Court of Appeals, 636 F.3d 452 (2011)
Total Settlement: $325,000+

Represented a local attorney against a Bloomington police officer, Pawn America, and a Pawn America employee for unlawful arrest and defamation. The District Court for the District of Minnesota (Kyle, J.) denied all defendants’ motions for summary judgment. The denial was preceded by the Court granting El-Ghazzawy’s motion to amend his complaint to seek punitive damages against the employee and vicariously the pawnshop on the defamation count. El-Ghazzawy and the pawnshop subsequently reached a confidential settlement. The defendant officer appealed, and the Eighth Circuit affirmed the denial of qualified immunity. Following the denial, a settlement was reached with the defendant officer in the amount of $325,000. This case was selected by Minnesota Law & Politics as a 2009 “Lawsuit of the Year.”

Kelly v. Dakota County
U.S. District Court, District of Minnesota (2011)
Total Settlement: $315,000

Dakota County Sheriff’s Deputy slammed Kelly into a wall, causing her to suffer a concussion, abrasions to her face, and a broken leg.  This is the first successful prosecution of a police brutality claim against Dakota County in over 20 years.

Stockton v. Auren and Siedschlag
U.S. District Court, District of Minnesota (2008)
Total Settlement: $280,000

Plaintiff, a 57-year old with a history of medical problems including seizures, became confused and disoriented while trying to pay his town home association dues. He ended up at the back door of the wrong unit of his town home association (in his slippers) and the woman inside called the police. The police arrived, and despite our client’s obvious disorientation, lack of aggressiveness, and frail appearance, the police threw him to the ground with so much force that he fractured his hip. The defendant officers moved for summary judgment, claiming their actions were reasonable and that they were protected by qualified immunity. The court disagreed and denied the motion. The case settled shortly thereafter.

Morris v. Saint Paul
U.S. District Court, District of Minnesota (2011)
Total Settlement: $270,000

Saint Paul police officer threw Morris, a woman, through her glass door.  As a result, she sustained a severe gash to her arm, which required hundreds of stitches and surgery to repair.  Settlement reached after Court denied the City’s Motion for Summary Judgment from the bench.  This settlement equals the highest amount Saint Paul has ever paid in a non-death, police brutality settlement.

Kearney v. Griffin, et al.
United States District Court, District of Minnesota (2004)
Total Settlement: $270,000
Police unreasonable seizure

Besser v. Owens
Carver County District Court, Minnesota (2008)
Total Settlement: $250,000

Besser v. Allstate
U. S. District Court, District of Minnesota (2009)
Total Settlement:$250,000

Plaintiff was a rear-seat passenger in an automobile that collided head-on with a school bus.Plaintiff lost several teeth, and suffered scarring on her arm, hip, and face. Plaintiff underwent three bone graftings and numerous dental procedures and oral surgeries. Plaintiff recovered the insurance limits from the driver’s insurance carrier and her underinsured motorist insurer.

Keller v. Olmsted County, et. al.
U.S. District Court, District of Minnesota (2008)
Total Settlement: $225,000 plus payment of over $112,000 in medical bills

Plaintiff was a pretrial detainee in the Olmsted County Adult Detention Center when he suffered an ascending aortic dissection, which has a very high mortality rate. Plaintiff had obvious heart-attack symptoms, including collapsing chest pain, shortness of breath, and left arm pain. Despite these symptoms, the detention center staff failed to provide him with medical attention for over 14 hours, greatly increasing plaintiff’s pain and risk of death. Ultimately, he received treatment and made a full recovery.

Plisner v. Sweeney, Fahey, Hanson and City of Little Canada
U.S. District Court, District of Minnesota (2007)
Total Settlement (after winning partial summary judgment): $90,000

Plaintiff homeowner’s Fourth Amendment rights were violated when the City fined him for not consenting to a warrantless search of his home to ensure his sump pump did not flow into the city’s sanitary sewer system.

Professional Recognition

Civil Trial Specialist, National Board of Trial Advocacy, 1989 – Present

Civil Trial Specialist, Minnesota State Bar Association, 1989 – Present

“Attorney of the Year,” Minnesota Lawyer, 2007, 2008, 2013 & 2014

Memberships

Minnesota Bar Association
American Bar Association
American Association for Justice
Minnesota Association for Justice
Wyoming Bar Association
Fellow, American College of Trial Lawyers, 2005 – Present
American Board of Trial Advocates, 2008 – Present

Court Admissions

Minnesota
Wyoming
U.S. District Court, District of Minnesota
U.S. Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit
U.S. District Court, District of North Dakota
U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Wisconsin
U.S. Court of Appeals, Federal Circuit
U.S. Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit
U.S. Supreme Court
U.S. Court of Appeals, Eleventh Circuit

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