Blackwell Burke secures dismissal of Oklahoma state court case

Blackwell Burke P.A. Attorney Charmaine K. Harris represented 3M in the federal Bair HuggerTM Multidistrict Litigation (MDL) where she secured dismissal of a case removed from Oklahoma state court. The case was originally filed in the District Court Comanche County, Oklahoma in 2018 and was successfully removed to the federal District Court of Minnesota as part of the Bair Hugger MDL. Blackwell Burke defeated the MDL in July 2019 with more than 5,000 cases dismissed.
Even though the MDL cases had been dismissed, the court requested additional briefing on subject-matter jurisdiction on the Oklahoma matter. Ms. Harris, along with Blackwell Burke partners Deborah Lewis and Benjamin Hulse, successfully argued that federal jurisdiction existed based on diversity, discrediting Plaintiff’s contention to the contrary. The court granted dismissal of the Oklahoma case in mid-June 2020.
“Our team used creative problem solving and a well-defined strategy to get this result for the client,” said Harris. “It’s an important case, removing another lawsuit that could have taken up significant resources for the client.”

Read about the federal Bair HuggerTM Multidistrict Litigation.
About Charmaine K. Harris

Charmaine K. Harris’s practice focuses on medical device, products liability defense and other complex litigation. She is a lead associate for a Fortune 500 Company defending its product liability and premises liability claims arising in state and federal courts nationwide. In that role, Ms. Harris conducts discovery depositions, represents the client at mediations and negotiates settlements. Ms. Harris is also experienced in defending asbestos and employment-related disputes.

About Benjamin W. Hulse

Benjamin W. Hulse focuses his national practice on class action defense, mass tort defense and commercial litigation. Mr. Hulse is an accomplished class action defense lawyer and has helped build Blackwell Burke P.A. into one of Minnesota’s go-to class action defense firms. His class action and mass tort clients have included leading companies from several different sectors of the economy, including medical devices, food, health and fitness, oil and gas and banking and insurance.
About Deborah E. Lewis

Deborah E. Lewis is an experienced trial attorney focusing on the defense of corporations and health care providers in product liability actions, including MDL and mass tort actions, in industries including pharmaceutical and medical device manufacturers, automobile/component part manufacturers, food manufacturers, retailers and physicians. A former registered nurse, Ms. Lewis’ unique perspectives on product liability and health care matters gains the trust of medical experts and industry leaders as she helps clients develop successful defense strategies. She has been the “go to” counsel for a major medical device and pharmaceutical manufacturer for its product liability lawsuits, defending its matters nationally and internationally.

About Blackwell Burke P.A.
Blackwell Burke is a certified minority-owned trial firm that represents corporate clients in high stakes class actions, mass torts, MDLs and commercial litigation, both at trial and on appeal. The firm has been repeatedly recognized as one of the top litigation defense firms in the country by BTI, Chambers, Best Lawyers and others. Benchmark Litigation named Blackwell Burke the Minnesota Firm of the Year in each of the last three years.

Eighth Circuit Appeal Victory Leads to New Action for Pro Bono Client

After winning an appeal before the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals, Blackwell Burke P.A. is now challenging a 125-year-old statute that requires a unanimous vote of the Board of Pardons to effectuate a pardon in Minnesota. The Firm charges that that statute unconstitutionally restricts the Governor’s exercise of executive function and violates Minnesota’s demand for separation of governmental power.

In June 2020, Amreya Shefa—a U.S. permanent resident and Ethiopian citizen—sought a pardon from the Governor and the Minnesota Board of Pardons. The Governor voted to grant Ms. Shefa’s pardon, as did the Attorney General, but the Chief Justice voted to deny Ms. Shefa’s application. Because a pardon is only valid if secured through a unanimous vote of the Board of Pardons, the Chief Justice’s vote precluded the Governor from granting the requested relief. That prompted the Blackwell Burke team to file a constitutional challenge on Ms. Shefa’s behalf, contesting the constitutionality of the unanimity requirement to grant a pardon in Minnesota.

Earlier this year, Blackwell Burke P.A. Attorney Andrew “Andy” Crowder partnered with the University of Minnesota Law School’s James H. Binger Center for New Americans and Robins Kaplan LLP to represent Ms. Shefa in her case before the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals. Ms. Shefa was convicted of first-degree manslaughter after killing her abusive husband and served five years in prison, as the crime exceeded the scope of self-defense in Minnesota. In 2017, Ms. Shefa was ordered to be deported from the United States after serving her time. 

Leading Ms. Shefa’s legal team before the Eighth Circuit, Crowder argued that Ms. Shefa has a constitutional right to a hearing to contest that her offense is serious enough to merit deportation. The Eighth Circuit Court panel agreed and directed the Immigration Court to hold a hearing on whether Ms. Shefa’s manslaughter conviction is a “particularly serious crime” as defined under federal immigration law. The judges also held that the Board of Immigration Appeals violated Shefa’s right to procedural due process. Crowder and team received the order in mid-May.

The government filed a motion for rehearing, which was denied, cementing the Eighth Circuit’s decision to preserve Ms. Shefa’s rights. “The Eighth Circuit has made clear that Ms. Shefa—a non-citizen in immigration proceedings—is entitled to due process like everyone else,” said Crowder. “The court rejected the clear violation of due process and recognized that Ms. Shefa is entitled to a fair and full hearing to adjudicate her immigration proceedings.”

The hearing offers Ms. Shefa and her legal team time to pursue other avenues to keep her safely in Minnesota as she fears for her life upon return to Ethiopia. This includes potential deportation relief that is available to those who would likely be persecuted in their home countries if returned to them. 

In addition to high stakes commercial litigation work, Blackwell Burke attorneys take on pro bono cases and nonprofit activities that positively impact the community.

The legal team consists of Andrew Crowder of Blackwell Burke P.A., Michael D. Reif, and Jennifer K. Lee of Robins Kaplan LLP, Benjamin Casper Sanchez and Linus Chan of the University of Minnesota Law School as well as University of Minnesota Law School Students Gina Tonn and Eduardo Castro.

The University of Minnesota Law School’s James H. Binger Center for New Americans expands urgently needed legal services for noncitizens, pursues litigation to improve our nation’s immigration laws, and supports noncitizens in the region through education and community outreach. Designed in partnership with leading area law firms and non-profit immigration legal services, the Center is the only program of its kind in the U.S. 

The case received broad media attention.

 About Andrew “Andy” Crowder

While Andy Crowder focuses his national practice on product liability defense and commercial litigation, he maintains an active pro bono practice. Andy has represented pro bono litigants in state and federal courts across the country, including before the Eighth and Ninth Circuit Courts of Appeals. Andy’s passion for serving the underprivileged began prior to law school—he was an elementary school teacher with Teach for America in Chicago; he has served as a tutor for elementary, middle-school, and high school students; and recently worked as a history and social studies mentor for students from Cristo Rey High School in Minneapolis.

About Blackwell Burke P.A.

Blackwell Burke is a certified minority-owned trial firm that represents corporate clients in high stakes class actions, mass torts, MDLs and commercial litigation, both at trial and on appeal. The firm has been repeatedly recognized as one of the top litigation defense firms in the country by BTI, Chambers, Best Lawyers and others. Benchmark Litigation named Blackwell Burke the Minnesota Firm of the Year for the past four consecutive years.

 

Blackwell Burke Attorneys Score Victory for ConAgra

Blackwell Burke P.A. Partner Mary S. Young and Attorney Emily A. Ambrose represented ConAgra Foods Inc. in a lawsuit where claims were recently thrown out by a New York federal judge. Lucita Urena, in the suit filed in 2016, alleged that a can of PAM cooking spray exploded and injured her while cooking due to a defect in the can’s design. U.S. District Judge Pamela K. Chen granted summary judgment to ConAgra and another defendant, can manufacturer DS Containers Inc., after the plaintiff failed to prove that the can’s design caused her injuries. Judge Chen also threw out the failure to warn claims brought by Urena.

Young and Ambrose partnered with Todd R. Michaelis of Carmody Torrance Sandak & Hennessey LLP to represent ConAgra.

This case was covered by Law360.

About Emily A. Ambrose

Emily Ambrose practices primarily in the areas of class action defense, food industry defense, products liability, and other complex litigation. Ms. Ambrose was recognized as an “Up & Coming Attorney” by Minnesota Lawyer in 2015. Before joining the firm, Ms. Ambrose served as a judicial law clerk for the Honorable Kevin G. Ross, Minnesota Court of Appeals, and the Honorable Jill Flaskamp Halbrooks, Minnesota Court of Appeals. She was also an Adjunct Professor at William Mitchell College of Law.

Ms. Ambrose is an active member of the ABA Section of Litigation and the LGBT Litigator Committee.

About Mary S. Young

Mary S. Young is an experienced litigator whose practice is focused on defending complex matters across a broad range of substantive legal areas, including products liability, consumer fraud class actions, wage and hour class actions, and commercial disputes. Ms. Young has nearly a decade of experience serving as national coordinating counsel for Fortune 500 companies.  She has been recognized as a Benchmark Litigation Minnesota Litigation Star and a Minnesota Super Lawyer®. 

 

About Blackwell Burke P.A.

Blackwell Burke is a certified minority-owned trial firm that represents corporate clients in high stakes class actions, mass torts, MDLs and commercial litigation, both at trial and on appeal. The firm has been repeatedly recognized as one of the top litigation defense firms in the country by BTI, Chambers, Best Lawyers and others. Benchmark Litigation named Blackwell Burke the Minnesota Firm of the Year in each of the last four years.