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.
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.
- 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.
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
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