Chris Messerly



Chris Messerly began his career at Robins Kaplan LLP in 1981 as a part-time messenger, weekend receptionist, and clerical aid. He then committed 35 years of his life to represent families and individuals who were injured in cases involving medical malpractice, personal injury, products liability and harm caused by wrongdoers. Aside from attending college for four years in Maine, Chris has lived his entire life in Minnesota. He and his wife of 41 years have three children (a physical therapist working as a medical-legal analyst, a graduate Ph.D. physicist, and son who works in outdoor education) and three grandchildren.

Chris retired from the active practice of law in 2022 and now consults with his Robins Kaplan colleagues on legal matters.

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The following are examples of cases in which Chris has helped individuals and families*:

  • Pro Bono Legal Services for the Survivors and Those Who Lost Loved Ones in the I-35W Bridge Collapse.  Chris Messerly was the spokesperson and a leader of a 17 law firm consortium providing legal services to the over 100 survivors and  those who lost loved ones on August 1, 2007 when the I-35W Bridge in downtown Minneapolis collapsed into the Mississippi River.  Our firm provided free legal services to its clients.  In 2008, we helped secure a legislatively created $37 million compensation fund for survivors and those who lost loved ones.  In 2009, we recovered additional compensation from PCI Corporation, the construction company which placed thousands of pounds of construction material on the bridge the day it collapsed.  In August 2010, URS Corporation, the company hired by the State to provide engineering services on the bridge, agreed to pay more than $40 million to settle the Consortium clients' claims.  An additional $1.5 million was recovered from URS which all attorneys representing those on the bridge donated for the construction of a memorial.  In total, more than $77 million was recovered for survivors and those who lost loved ones. Robins Kaplan LLP attorneys and staff devoted more than 20,000 pro bono hours to the case.  For his efforts, Chris was featured in "After the Collapse: Personal injury lawyer Chris Messerly tackles the 35W bridge collapse," Minnesota Super Lawyers magazine(June 2011). 

  • Chris and Elizabeth Fors represented the family of a 30-year-old woman who went to an emergency room with a fever and nausea three days after giving birth to her first child. The nurse practitioner defendant ignored lab tests showing that the woman had sepsis (a severe systemic infection) and sent her home. Twelve hours later, the woman was rushed back to the same emergency room, where she died. A jury returned a verdict in the amount of $20.6 million, which is the largest wrongful death verdict of any kind in state history.**  Bermingham v. Emergency Care Consultants, P.A. (Hennepin County 2017). 

  • Phil Sieff and Chris completed a settlement for a 32-year-old male who suffered an industrial accident that left him with third-degree burns over 70 percent of his body. The injured man settled with defendants for $15.4 million.

  • For a young mother and wife who suffered severe brain damage due to paramedics' negligence, Chris obtained an $11.1 million verdict that allowed the family to modify their house so that the mother/wife could move from a nursing home to her own home to live with her family. The verdict also allowed the family to obtain around-the-clock care for their mother/wife, to repay past medical costs, and to provide a safe and secure future for the family. 

  • Chris represented a teenage boy who suffered a severe brain injury when the car in which he was riding collided head-on with a truck. The $10.3 million verdict allowed his parents to buy an accessible home and pay for a care provider for their son. The recovery paid back all past medical costs and provided for all future care, rehabilitation, and security. 

  • A girl suffered brain damage at birth due to medical malpractice. As a result, she suffered permanent injuries that would require care and treatment for the rest of her life. Chris obtained a $4.4 million verdict to provide for all of the young girl's needs so that neither she nor her parents would have to worry about being able to pay for her future care.  The recovery also paid back the taxpayers of the State of Minnesota who had been paying the girl's significant medical expenses. 

  • Chris obtained a $2.5 million verdict on behalf of a Wisconsin farmer and his wife.  Due to the failure of a neurosurgical team to promptly diagnose and perform surgery on a severe back condition called cauda equina syndrome, the farmer can no longer work on his farm and has lost significant function of his bowel and bladder and much of the use and feeling of both of his legs.  The money recovered provided the funds to allow the family to keep their farm and provide for future medical expenses and loss of income. 

  • Chris represented a woman who suffered facial scars and depression when she requested a light chemical peel by dermatologist, Dr. Patrick Carney of Skin Speaks Spa, M.D., who then proceeded to perform a deeper acid peel.  Although our client asked for the procedure to stop when she was in pain, the doctor continued.  After seven days of trial, the jury unanimously awarded our client $986,639.  

  • A troubled teen was going through some difficult adolescent times, which led to his being hospitalized and placed on a suicide watch. Unfortunately, he was not watched very carefully and to make things worse, he was given the things he needed to harm himself. He was found hanging in his bathroom. He survived, but suffered serious and permanent brain damage. Chris obtained a settlement for the boy to provide for his future needs.

  • Chris prevailed in the Supreme Court of Wisconsin to help a young mother and her son. Chris provided free legal services in a case in which it was discovered several years later that paternity blood tests had been wrongly interpreted to exclude the man who had actually fathered the child. As a result, a young mother struggled to raise her son without support of the father. Chris convinced the Supreme Court to allow an exception to the law requiring the case to be reopened within a very short time period. As a result, the mother was allowed, on behalf of her son, to obtain support from the father who had wished to avoid responsibility. Cynthia M.S. v. Michael F.C., 511 N.W.2d 868 (Wis. 1994)

  • Chris helped make new law in Minnesota to help children who are victims of child abuse. In Becker v. Mayo, Chris represented a catastrophically brain injured child who had been beaten repeatedly by her birth father. She was taken more than once to the same hospital emergency room. The trial court and court of appeals ruled that physicians could not be held responsible for their refusal to report suspected child abuse. Chris challenged those rulings in the Supreme Court and prevailed for the child so that doctors who choose not to report child abuse can be held accountable.

*Past results are reported to provide the reader with an indication of the type of litigation we practice. They do not and should not be construed to create an expectation of result in any other case, as all cases are dependent upon their own unique fact situation and applicable law. 

** 9/25/17 affidavit from Meagher & Geer law firm.

Benchmark Litigation Star 2022
America's Top 100
Super Lawyers 2020
Best Law Firms 2015
Rated by Super Lawyers Top 100, Minnesota
Chris Messerly - Attorney of the Year 2000 2008
  • Named to POWER 30 List, Minnesota Lawyer (2021)
  • International Barristers Cup Hall of Fame, Inductee (2019)
  • Named a "Lawyer of the Year," The Best Lawyers in America (2018, 2020)
  • Named one of "America's Top 100 High Stakes Litigators" by America's Top 100 Attorneys (2017-2018)
  • Listed in “The Top 100 Verdicts of 2017,” The National Law Journal
  • Named to the "Circle of Excellence" by Minnesota Lawyer, honoring the multiple years the publication has named Chris an “Attorney of the Year” (2017)
  • "Attorney of the Year," Minnesota Lawyer (2017, 2008, 2000)
  • Named a "Top Rated Lawyer in Mass Torts," American Lawyer Media (2013)
  • Listed in The Best Lawyers in America (2012-2022 editions) 
  • Named "Litigator of the Week," by The AmLaw Litigation Daily (August 26, 2010)
  • Recipient of the National Law Journal "Pro Bono Award" (2010)
  • First recipient of the "Chris Messerly Community Service Award" from the Magnuson Chapter of the National Legal Fraternity, Phi Alpha Delta (2010)
  • Recipient of the "Arthur von Briesen Award," National Legal Aid & Defender Association (2010)
  • Law360 "Pro Bono Firm of 2010" for representing clients in the I-35W bridge collapse case (2010)
  • "Everyday Hero Award," Prevent Child Abuse Minnesota (2008)
  • Named a "Minnesota Super Lawyer" Super Lawyers (2000-2021)
  • Named a "Top 100 Minnesota Super Lawyer," Super Lawyers (2003-2004, 2007, 2010-2021)
  • "Professional Excellence Award," from the Minnesota State Bar Association (2009)
  • Named a "Litigation Star," Benchmark Litigation (2011-2022 editions)
  • Recipient of the "Pro Bono Award" from the American Association for Justice for securing a bridge fund for the victims, as well as assisting the investigation into the cause of the I-35W Bridge Collapse (2009)
  • "Excellence Award," Minnesota Trial Lawyers Association (1998-1999)
  • "Member of the Year," Minnesota Association for Justice (2008-2009, 2000-2001)
  • Recognized as one of "One Hundred and Fifty Lives That Make a Difference," Hamline University Press (2005)
  • "Distinguished Alumni Award," Hamline University School of Law (2000)
  • Hamline University School of Law Alumni Association, Past President
  • Ramsey County Bar Association hockey team, Captain
  • Southern Minnesota Regional Legal Services, Captain of hockey team in "Lawyers on Ice" to help raise money for legal aid
  • Hamline University School of Law Advisory Committee, Former Board Member
  • Hamline University School of Law, Health Law Advisory Committee, Former Board Member 
  • National Institute of Trial Advocacy, William Mitchell College of Law, Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi L.L.P., Past Instructor
  • Snail Lake Elementary School Mock Trial Program, Former Instructor
  • Mounds View School District Advisory Committee, Former Chair
  • Mounds View Youth Hockey Association, Former Coach
  • Mounds View High School Varsity and Junior Varsity Girls Hockey Teams,  Coach (2001-2002)
  • Shoreview Youth Baseball Association, Former Coach
  • North Metro Junior Football Association, Former Coach
  • USA Hockey Coaching Education Program, Certified Coach (Advanced: Level 3)
  • Minnesota Wild Senior Hockey League, Captain
  • Minnesota Street Rod Association
  • Incarnation Lutheran Church, Shoreview, Minnesota
  • Ironman Triathlete (Ironman 140.6 St. George 2010; Great Floridian 140.6 Triathlon 2008)
  • Twin Cities Marathon (1984-present)
  • USA Hockey, Member
  • USA Triathlon, Member

May 3, 2016, Feed My Starving Children. Chris, his wife, Joanne, daughter Anna Sawatzke (Robins Kaplan Medical Analyst), and son-in-law, Clay Sawatzke, helped prepare 6896 meals; enough to feed 210 children meals every day for a full year. 
Chris Messerly receiving the 2010 Arthur von Briesen Award along with his law partners Philip Sieff and James Chin, Gary Windom (far left), NLADA Board Chairperson, and Jo-Ann Wallace (far right), President and CEO of NLADA.  (Photo courtesy of NLADA)
Minneapolis attorney Chris Messerly, Past President of the Minnesota Association for Justice, posed with some children and two employees from the Sabathani Community Center who displayed helmets donated by the trial lawyers’ group. The program — called “Lids for Kids” — gave away about 50 helmets. (Minnesota Lawyer, June 25, 2007)
Chris, Captain of the Ramsey County Bar Association Hockey Team, helped collect 200 pounds of food which was donated to Second Harvest food shelf. The food (and checks to buy many more hundreds of pounds of food) was collected at the 21st Annual International Barristers' Cup Hockey Tournament held at the Vadnais Heights Sports Center on April 9, 2011. The contributions came from the members of the bar association hockey teams from Ramsey and Hennepin Counties, Duluth/Iron Range, and Thunder Bay, Ontario.
Chris, his wife, Joanne, and other Robins Kaplan employees prepared and served meals to families at the Ronald McDonald House in Children’s’ Hospital in Minneapolis on February 22, 2016. The event was organized by Chris’ partner, Brandon Thompson.


Chris has made several media appearances including appearances on:

  • The Today Show (NBC)
  • Good Morning America (ABC)
  • Dateline NBC
  • NBC Nightly News
  • CBS Early Show
  • New York Times
  • Court TV
  • Fox News Channel
  • American Morning With Paula Zahn (CNN)
  • Connie Chung Tonight (CNN)
  • GMTV  (England)
  • ADR TV (Germany)
  • VIVA! Magazine (Brazil)
  • And many other television shows and newspapers nationwide.
  • Medical Malpractice 2001 – The Good, The Bad and The Truly Frightening:  Overview of (a) The Status of CIVJIG 91.40 after Blatz v. Allina and Orbeck v. Larsen (b) Current Status of Affidavit of Expert Review Statute (c) Current Status of Retroactivity of 1999 Change to Medical Malpractice Statute of Limitations
    Minnesota Trial Lawyers Association (September 21, 2001)
  • Expert Witnesses – Particular Issues in Medical Negligence
    Minnesota Institute of Legal Education (June 21, 2001)
  • Handling the Automobile Accident Case – Legislative Update - Auto Law Issues
    Minnesota Trial Lawyers Association (April 12, 2001)
  • Legal Issues And Concerns Related To AEDs In The Workplace. Automated External Defibrillation for the Workplace
    American Heart Association (March 15, 2001)
  • Don’t Blow Your Last Chance
    Continuing Legal Education Day, Hamline University School of Law (October 6, 2000)
  • Birth Injury and the Law
    Trinity Health Symposium on Perinatal Medicine & Women’s Health Care (September 23, 1999)
  • Confidentiality of Medical Records – How to Avoid Getting Sued
    Minnesota Institute of Legal Education (May 6, 1999)
  • Improper Disclosure (Or Failure to Disclose) Medical Records- A Statutory Right to Recover Attorney’s Fees and Costs
    Minnesota Institute for Legal Education (May 6, 1999)
  • Preparing and Presenting the Child Witness: The Trials and Tribulations of Representing Children
    American Association for Justice Winter Convention (January 23-27, 1999)
  • Experts: Do You Really Need Them?  If So, How to You Find Them and What Do You Do with Them?
    Hamline University School of Law Alumni Day (March 6, 1998)
  • Expert Witnesses, The Real Story – Practice Tips for Cross Examination of Experts
    Minnesota State Bar Association (February 13, 1998)
  • Children in Civil Cases – The Trials And Tribulations of Representing Children: Who Is Your Client?  Children in Civil Cases
    All District Legal Education (May 9, 1997)
  • Medical Negligence – Direct Hospital Liability – The Newest Development in Negligent Credentialing
    Minnesota Trial Lawyers Association (February 7, 1997)
  • The Fine Art of Representing Children – The Trials and Tribulations of Representing Children
    Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi L.L.P. Eighth Trial Advocacy Seminar (October 18, 1996)
  • Insurance Coverage for the 21st Century – Sexual Misconduct: How Far Does the Clinic’s Coverage Extend?
    Professional Legal Education Resource Center (June 11, 1996)
  • What Are Medical Records? The Legal And Practical Aspects Of Obtaining And Using Medical Records
    Minnesota State Bar Association (October 19, 1995)
  • Unraveling the Mystery of Medical Records – What are Medical Records? 
    Minnesota State Bar Association (April 21, 1994)
  • Maximizing Damages in Personal Injury Cases
    Minnesota Continuing Legal Education (January 27, 1993)

  • The Right Emotions in a Wrongful Death Case
    Minnesota Association for Justice, Minneapolis, Minnesota (January 24, 2019)
  • Enhancing Damages in Wrongful Death Case
    Minnesota Association for Justice, Minneapolis, Minnesota (September 18, 2018)
  • Enhancing Damages in Wrongful Death Cases
    Minnesota Association for Justice, Duluth, Minnesota (February 23, 2018)
  • Annual Lecturer to Second-Year Medical Students on Law and Medicine
    University of Minnesota Medical School (May 10, 2017)
  • Subrogations Largest Property Cases Lessons for All
    National Association of Subrogation Professionals, Scottsdale, Arizona (April 27, 2017)
  • How Trial Lawyers Turned Deadly Man Made Catastrophe
    Ontario Trial Lawyers Association, Toronto, Canada (October 27, 2016)
  • Access to Justice for People with Disabilities
    Minnesota CLE, Webcast (August 1, 2012)
  • I-35W Bridge Collapse Litigation and Special Fund
    ABOTA Minnesota Chapter Meeting, Duluth, Minnesota (September 25, 2009)
  • Trying the Wrongful Death Case with Little Pecuniary Loss
    Minnesota Association for Justice, Minneapolis, Minnesota (March 31, 2009)
  • Trial Practice & Procedure in Minnesota State Court: How to Litigate the Civil Case
    Minnesota CLE, Minneapolis, Minnesota (November 7, 2007)
  • Electronic Medical Records Liability
    Minnesota Association for Justice, Minneapolis, Minnesota (April 19, 2007)
  • Passion in Advocacy
    Minnesota Association for Justice, Minneapolis, Minnesota (April 13, 2007)
  • How to Avoid Medical Malpractice
    University of Minnesota Medical School (March 6, 2007)
  • Passion in Advocacy
    Minnesota Trial Lawyers Association, Duluth, Minnesota (March 3, 2007)
  • Experts/Evidence Issues
    Minnesota Judicial College (May 3, 2006)
  • New Thoughts on Child Death Cases
    Wrongful Death Seminar, Minnesota Trial Lawyers Association (January 27, 2006)
  • New Thoughts on Child Death Cases
    ATLA Student Chapter (January 25, 2006)
  • New Thoughts on Child Death Cases
    Minnesota Trial Lawyers Association (January 14, 2005)
  • Issues in Wrongful Death Cases Maximizing Damages in a Child Death Case
    Wrongful Death Seminar, Minnesota Trial Lawyers Association (November 4, 2004)
  • Issues in Wrongful Death Cases Maximizing Damages in a Child Death Case
    Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi L.L.P. (November 4, 2004)
  • Issues in Wrongful Death Cases Maximizing Damages in a Child Death Case
    Midwest Regional Conference for Women in the Law (April 22, 2004)
  • The Tort “Deform/Reform" Debate
    Hamline University School of Law (April 21, 2004)
  • Defining Success: All Ages, All Stages – Minnesota Regional Conference for Women in the Law
    Minnesota Women Lawyers, Inc. (April 21, 2004)
  • 911 Dispatch and Response Time
    ATLA’s Emergency Transportation Services Negligence, National College of Advocacy (July 31, 2003)
  • 911 Dispatch and Response Time
    Minnesota Institute of Legal Education (July 31, 2003)
  • 911 Dispatch and Response Time
    Minnesota Trial Lawyers Association (February 14, 2003)
  • Using Technology to Prove Your Case to the Jury. The Trial Lawyers Toolbox – Building The Winning Case
    Iowa Trial Lawyers Association Annual Convention, Des Moines, Iowa (November 7, 2002)
  • Lawyers and Paramedics – Mini MBA® In Emergency Medical Services
    University of St. Thomas (October 9, 2002)
  • Witness Choices. The Toolbox – the Mechanics of Trying the Case
    Minnesota Trial Lawyers Association (October 4, 2002)
  • Expert Witnesses – Effective Use Of Medical Experts
    Minnesota Institute of Legal Education (June 5, 2002)

Chris was involved in the following professional associations until his retirement in March 2022:

  • America's Top 100 Attorneys, Minnesota
  • American Bar Association
  • American Board of Trial Advocates, National Board Representative, Past President, Minnesota Chapter
  • American College of Trial Lawyers, Fellow
  • Hennepin County Bar Association
  • International Society of Barristers
  • Million Dollar Advocates Forum
  • Minnesota Association for Justice, Past President
  • Minnesota State Bar Association
  • Minnesota Million Dollar Roundtable
  • Ramsey County Bar Association
  • State Bar of Wisconsin
  • Wisconsin Association for Justice


Links to full publications and news releases.
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