Press Archive

Hoyland v. McMenomy: No Immunity for Civil Rights Claim

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Frederick Goetz successfully protects the right of citizens to verbally criticize the actions of a police officer without being subject to arrest. In the case of Hoyland v. McMenomy, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the order of United States District Court Judge Susan Richard Nelson denying the officers motion for dismissal on qualified immunity grounds. Hoyland, a decorated U.S. Army veteran, was at his front door some 30 to 40 feet away from officers who were threatening to shoot his wife for not complying with their orders. Hoyland was trying to tell the officers that his wife was handicapped and physically unable to comply with their demands and verbally criticizing the officers for their unreasonably aggressive actions. Almost as soon as Mr. Hoyland came outside and began speaking with the officers they ordered him to go back inside his home. When he did not immediately comply, the officers arrested him for obstruction of legal process. Hoyland later sued the responsible officers for false arrest in violation of the Fourth Amendment and retaliating against him for criticizing their conduct in violation of his First Amendment right to freedom of expression. The Eighth Circuit rejected the officers arguments that they had immunity for such conduct and held that Hoyland could sue them for violation of his civil rights.

The full opinion is available here

Trip and Fall Case Dismissed

Trip and fall claims are a common risk for property owners. In Minnesota, property owners have a duty to exercise reasonable care for all entrants, but that duty is limited when a potentially dangerous condition is open and obvious to a reasonable person.

In Homick v. Hellem, Deborah Eckland defended Defendant Bozena Hellem against such a trip-and-fall claim brought against her as the 30-year owner of an apartment building. The plaintiff tripped on a visibly uneven slab of concrete in broad daylight, and sued for his alleged injuries. Ms. Hellem moved for summary judgment to dismiss the plaintiff’s claims as a matter of law because the slab of concrete was so open and obvious that no warning was necessary. As the refrain goes, nobody needs warning of what they know or should reasonably be expected to know. The court agreed and granted summary judgment in Ms. Hellem’s favor, adding that plaintiff should have watched his step in order to prevent his injuries.

Unhappy with the result, plaintiff has filed the case with the Court of Appeals.

Insurer Has No Duty to Defend

In the case of Zurich v. Big D v. Schwieters and Westfield, involving 24 million dollars in claimed damages, Westfield Insurance Company’s insured subcontractor installed non-fire retardant lumber at four construction projects and was sued when the lumber had to be removed and replaced. The subcontractor tendered the cases to Westfield for defense and indemnity. Westfield declined the tender because its policy was not triggered because there was no “property damage.” The only damage was done intentionally as part of the repair and replacement of the incorrect lumber and insurance policies are not intended to provide coverage for such damages. Deborah Eckland and Elizabeth Taylor opposed the subcontractor’s Motion for Summary Judgment in which it sought a declaration that Westfield has a duty to defend the lawsuits. The Hennepin County District Court agreed that there is no “property damage” as defined by the policy and ruled that Westfield has no duty to defend the insured.

Bill Celebrezze joins Goetz & Eckland

We are proud to announce that Bill Celebrezze has joined the firm as a partner. Bill brings a wealth of litigation experience and expertise in the employment law field. We are looking forward to expanding this area of our practice. Welcome on board, Bill!

Mike Rowley joins Goetz & Eckland

Goetz & Eckland is delighted to announce that Mike Rowley has joined the firm as a partner. Mike has extensive experience handling construction law cases and is considered an authority in the field. He is a perfect addition to our thriving construction defense practice. Welcome, Mike!

Deborah Eckland provides Care for the Caregivers

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