Robert Bennett, Andrew Noel and Katie Bennett recently settled a federal civil rights action brought on behalf of the next of kin of Dawn Marie Pfister, who was shot and killed by Defendant Brady Juell of the Chaska Police Department on Highway 212 in Eden Prairie, MN on February 7, 2014. Pfister was a passenger in a vehicle driven by Matthew Serbus, which was involved in a pursuit and eventually crashed on Highway 212. After the crash, Serbus held Pfister hostage and menaced her with a knife. These actions caused numerous officers to fire at Serbus, in attempts to save Pfister. After Serbus was shot, Serbus and Pfister fell to the ground. Pfister was able to pry the knife away from Serbus. Shortly thereafter, Juell shot Pfister four times, killing her, while she was surrounded by 11 armed officers and was partially on the ground, holding a folding knife with a 3 ¼ inch blade. The City of Chaska had coverage for $1.5 million, leaving $250,000 to come directly from the City. For more information, click here to review an article from Minnesota Lawyer.
Robert Bennett, Andrew Noel and Katie Bennett recently settled the federal civil rights action stemming from Frank Baker’s encounter with St. Paul Police officers on June 24, 2016. Video footage of the incident shows Baker being viciously attacked by St. Paul Police officer Ficcadenti’s police K9 and kicked three times in the ribs by officer Palkowitsch, while he was trying to comply with the officers’ orders. Baker sustained serious injuries and spent 14 days in the hospital as a result. He underwent skin grafts and other surgical procedures on his leg that was ripped apart by the K9. Further, Baker suffered broken ribs and collapsed lungs as a result of the kicks. On Wednesday, April 5, 2017, the St. Paul City Council unanimously approved a $2 million settlement for Baker. This settlement marks the largest police brutality settlement in the city’s history.
The Super Lawyers Business Edition features the nation’s top attorneys in business practice areas. To qualify for inclusion in this nationwide directory, the attorneys must have demonstrated excellence in practice areas useful to business, as well as having been selected to a 2016 or 2017 Super Lawyers list. Three of GBBS’s managing partners were included in the 2016 directory – Steve Gaskins for Business Litigation; Timothy Schupp for Civil Litigation Defense and Andrew Birrell for White Collar Criminal Defense. The entire directory can be viewed here.
Members of the Reid Sagehorn Litigation Team, including GBBS partners Robert Bennett and Paul Dworak, along with Joe Friedberg and Ron Rosenbaum, were chosen as 2016 Attorneys of the Year by Minnesota Lawyer. Sagehorn, a former honor student and two-sport varsity captain who was suspended, expelled, and forced to withdraw from Rogers High School because of a two-word, sarcastic tweet he posted outside of school hours, off school grounds, and without using any school property. The team sued the school district, superintendent, assistant superintendent, and the principal for violating Reid’s First Amendment right to free speech, and they also sued the Rogers Police Chief for defaming Reid by falsely and continuously reporting to the media that Reid, a minor at the time, committed a crime punishable by up to a felony.
The defendants each filed motions asking the Court to dismiss the lawsuit. In a 45-page opinion, U.S. District Chief Judge Tunheim rejected all of the school defendants’ arguments and held that Reid’s constitutional claims against the school defendants and his defamation claim against the police chief were supported by the law and were to proceed. Defendants subsequently settled the matter for a total of $425,000.
Click here to view the Attorneys of the Year 2016 digital edition.
Video footage that was recently released depicts Frank Baker’s disturbing June 24, 2016 encounter with St. Paul Police officers. In the video, Baker is viciously attacked by St. Paul Police officer Ficcadenti’s police K9 and kicked three times in the ribs by officer Palkowitsch, while he was trying to comply with the officers’ orders. Baker sustained serious injuries and spent 14 days in the hospital as a result. He underwent skin grafts and other surgical procedures on his leg that was ripped apart by the K9. Further, Baker suffered broken ribs and collapsed lungs as a result of the kicks.
On Friday, November 4, 2016, St. Paul Police Chief Todd Axtell released squad video of the incident and issued an apology to Baker. During his press conference, Chief Axtell declared the video “is not the Saint Paul way” and described why he was releasing the video, noting, in part:
“As St. Paul’s police chief, I’m disappointed and upset by what the video shows. As a person who deeply cares about this community and our department, I’m profoundly saddened…I am releasing this video today because it’s the right thing to do. Our community has a right to know what’s happening with their police department. For me, it’s about transparency. It’s about honoring the trust that our public has in its department, its officers and myself.”
Despite Chief Axtell’s words, the Union alleges the officers’ conduct was proper. This is belied by Ficcadenti’s acceptance of his discipline in which he admitted to the factual basis for the discipline. Click HERE to view the Settlement Letter that details the factual basis for Ficcadenti’s 30 day suspension and the numerous policy violations he committed during his encounter with Baker. Meanwhile, Palkowitsch was been placed on unpaid leave.
Baker’s story quickly gained media attention and has been widely reported in many news outlets including the New York Times and many others due to the video evidence depicting the violent encounter. More coverage of the incident and Chief Axtell’s apology can be found on the individual media websites (visit: the New York Times, StarTribune, Kare11, Fox 9, MPR, KSTP and WCCO). The video itself can be viewed HERE.
Washington, D.C.: On November 1, 2016, Robert Bennett of GBBS presented at a Congressional Briefing, where he discussed police brutality and excessive force. He noted the importance of video evidence in such instances, as it has helped increase public awareness on these topics. Further, video evidence has been beneficial in his federal civil rights practice – helping him to better assess and prove the violation of his clients’ rights. Bennett showed video footage and still images from squad videos and pen cameras as part of his presentation, which had a profound impact on the audience. C-SPAN covered the event and it can be viewed in full here. Bennett also participated in a Town Hall Session at the National Press Club on Policing and Training during his time in D.C., which can be viewed in full here.
The Minneapolis Police Department recently concluded its internal investigation into the November 15, 2015 shooting death of Jamar Clark by MPD officers Riggenberg and Schwarze. The result: neither officer will be disciplined. As Andrew Noel stated in an interview with KSTP, the conclusion is not that surprising given that a high percentage of such outcomes end favorably for the officers. Now, the family has plans to bring a federal civil rights case against the involved officers. As Noel noted, the determination not to discipline would not dissuade him from bringing a civil case. However, the evidence must be analyzed properly using the objective reasonableness test to determine if such a claim is justified. The KSTP news story can be viewed here.
If you feel you have been a victim of police brutality, excessive force or other police abuse, please contact Andrew Noel or any member of the GBBS civil rights team for a consultation.
GBBS is pleased to announce that the following attorneys have been selected as “Super Lawyers” for 2016: Steve Gaskins, Robert Bennett, Andrew Birrell, Timothy Schupp and Andrew Noel. Additionally, GBBS attorneys Ryan Vettleson and Katie Bennett have been listed as “Rising Stars” for 2016.
Super Lawyers, a Thompson Reuters business, selects a list of outstanding attorneys in over 70 practice areas in order to be used as a resource for attorneys and clients searching for legal counsel. The Super Lawyers list is comprised of those who have obtained a high degree of peer recognition and professional competence. The selections are made using a multi-phased process, which includes a statewide survey, an independent research evaluation by Super Lawyers and a peer evaluation by practice area. The final list represents no more than 5% of the lawyers in the state of Minnesota.
The Rising Star List is intended to identify the best lawyers 40 years old or younger or in practice for 10 years or less. No more than 2.5% of the lawyers in Minnesota are named to the Rising Star list.
Robert Bennett, Andrew Noel and Katie Bennett recently settled a 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.
GBBS partners Timothy Schupp, Robert Vaccaro, and Ryan Vettleson won a complete summary judgment victory for their commercial clients in a significant lawsuit alleging various tort claims arising out of the catastrophic failure of a coal-fired steam turbine known as “Unit 3” at the Sherburne County Generating Station in Becker, Minnesota. Plaintiffs filed their lawsuit in 2013. In two summary judgment rulings, the Sherburne County District Court held that all of plaintiffs’ claims were barred by Minnesota’s common law economic loss doctrine, which precludes recovery in tort for economic losses between sophisticated entities whose relationship is founded on contract.
The Court’s summary judgment rulings can be accessed through the links provided below: