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MDLA 2019 Mid-Winter Conference
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1/25/2019 to 1/27/2019
When: January 25-27, 2019
Where: Grand View Lodge
23521 Nokomis Avenue
Nisswa, Minnesota  56468
United States
Contact: Amanda Beneke

Online registration is closed.
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Online Registration is open.

The Minnesota Defense Lawyers Association (MDLA) is pleased to announce registration is open for the Mid-Winter Conference on January 25-27, 2019 at Grand View Lodge in Nisswa, MN. This year’s theme is “Creative Approaches.”

Hear how our presenters have used a unique or interesting angle/approach to a trial or area of practice, and how you can apply them to your own practice!

Now is the time to sign up for a great opportunity to connect and learn from defense lawyers throughout the State of Minnesota. We look forward to seeing you in Nisswa!

Register online above or download this form to pay by check.


MDLA Member $295 ( $345 after Jan. 1)
Judges, Law Clerks, Students $75 ($125 after Jan. 1)
Non-Member $345 ($395 after Jan. 1)

Additional Pricing

Saturday Family Dinner (this dinner is not included with registration)
Adults (13+) - $30 ea.
Children (8-12) - $16 ea.
Children (7 & under) - FREE


Grand View Lodge

Visit the Grand View Lodge Website

  • IMPORTANT: Attendees must fill out this form to make reservations.
  • Reservations must be made before December 26, 2018.

Grand View Lodge Information:

  • Prices: Single Occupancy $149+/Night
  • Cancelled Reservations received by 12/26/2018 will receive a full refund.
  • NO REFUNDS will be issued (attendee is responsible) if cancellation is received after 12/26/2018.

Interested in Sponsoring or Exhibiting?

Sponsorship and exhibitor options are now available for the 2019 Mid-Winter Conference.

View sponsorship and exhibitor details

Thank you Sponsors

Diversity Sponsor

Larson King LLP

Annual Partner Sponsor

Minnesota Lawyers Mutual


Saturday Dinner Sponsor

Bassford Remele PA

Saturday Continental Breakfast Sponsor

Robson Forensic

Lanyard Sponsor


Social Sponsor

Quinlivan & Hughes, P.A.

Friday Welcome Reception Sponsors

Tomsche, Sonnesyn & Tomsche, P.A.
Kennedy & Graven, Chartered

Break Sponsors

Blethen Berens
Foley & Mansfield PLLP
Jardine, Logan & O'Brien P.L.L.P.

Law Firm Sponsors

Goetz & Eckland, P.A.
Larson King LLP
Quinlivan & Hughes, P.A.


Crane Engineering
Digistream Investigations
Lind Jensen Sullivan & Peterson
Minnesota Lawyers Mutual
Robson Forensic


Friday, January 25, 2019



(Norway Lobby, Norway Center)


Welcome & Introduction 

(Norway Room, Norway Center)


Session 1: Strategic Use of 3D Laser Scans and Modeling In Litigation

(Norway Room, Norway Center)

Kevin McCarthy, Larson King, LLP; Sarah Sherman, Exponent, Christopher Espinosa, Exponent

The panel will be discussing unique and successful uses of 3D laser scans and modeling technologies in litigation to support the defense of claims. The discussion will be interactive, focusing on how 3D laser scans and modeling has been used in past litigation and how it can be used in the future to prove disputed facts and support the defense of legal issues. 

Learning Objectives

  1. Discuss 3D laser scans and modeling, how it works, and how it can be a useful aid in litigation, focusing on unique scenarios not frequently encountered by lawyers.
  2. Discuss how the evidence gained from 3D laser scans and modeling have been and can be used to support the defense in litigating disputed legal issues.
  3. Discuss how new technology can be used to benefit lawyers, and why lawyers should explore new modes of investigating accidents and incidents which are the subjects of litigation.

Speaker Bios

Sarah Sherman is a senior associate at Exponent practicing in the area of biomechanics. She graduated from Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan with a master’s degree in biomedical engineering and continued on to earn her doctorate in the same field. Sarah has extensive experience providing expert research and testimony regarding impact biomechanics in a variety of personal injury cases.

Kevin McCarthy is an associate at Larson King, LLP. He graduated from the Michigan State University College of Law. Kevin focuses his practice in the areas of products and professional liability defense.

Mr. Espinosa is responsible for Exponent’s graphics, video, animation, and multimedia efforts. In addition, he supports the scientific, engineering, and marketing staff in the production and presentation of technical information and demonstrative evidence. He leads a team of highly talented animators, multimedia artists, and graphics designers into new technological realms of visual communication with options such as 3D printing, 3D scanning, interactive designs, and virtual reality initiatives.



(Norway Lobby, Norway Center)


Session 2: Forget Plausibility – Three Tools to Help Your Motion to Dismiss Sing in Minnesota State Court, Even After Walsh

(Norway Room, Norway Center)

Jeff Markowitz, Arthur, Chapman, Kettering, Smetak, & Pikala, P.A.

Mark Twain once wrote—in response to a reporter who thought he was on his deathbed—“The report of my death was an exaggeration.” The same can be said of the Rule 12 motion in Minnesota state court. It is no secret that Rule 12 motions to dismiss and for judgment on the pleadings are harder to win in Minnesota state court, as compared to federal court. That was the result of the Minnesota Supreme Court’s 2014 decision in Walsh not to follow the U.S. Supreme Court’s requirement from Twombly (2007) and Iqbal (2009) that claims must be pled “plausibly.”  But the death of the “plausibility” standard was not the death of the Rule 12 motion. Even after Walsh, there remain at least three powerful tools in the Minnesota litigator’s Rule 12 tool belt (which are equally available in state and federal court): the incorporation-by-reference doctrine, the authority of the district court to take judicial notice, and the requirement that the court disregard labels and conclusions in the complaint. This presentation will cover creative ways you can leverage those tools for your next Rule 12 motion.

Learning Objectives

  1. Overview: Similarities and differences of the Rule 12 pleading standards in federal and Minnesota state court
  2. Ways in which the complaint’s incorporation by reference of documents not attached to the complaint but referenced therein (e.g., contracts, other governing documents, and written communications) can help your Rule 12 motion.
  3. Scope of the court’s power to judicially notice sources (e.g., court records, government websites, and Google maps), and how that can help your Rule 12 motion.
  4. Ways in which the rule requiring a plaintiff to plead “more than labels and conclusions” can help your Rule 12 motion.

Speaker Bio

Jeff Markowitz is an associate at Arthur, Chapman, Kettering, Smetak, & Pikala, P.A. Jeff graduated from the University of Minnesota Law School. He then spent a year prosecuting human-trafficking crimes in India, followed by two and a half years clerking for the Minnesota Court of Appeals. After a brief stint at a plaintiffs’ side employment firm, he joined Arthur Chapman. He co-chairs the firm’s appellate-practice group, and practices in the areas of appeals, employment litigation, business litigation, construction litigation, and class-action defense.


Board of Directors Meeting

(Lake Itasca Room, Gull Lake Center)


New Lawyers Dinner

(Northwoods Pub Foyer, Main Lodge)


Welcome Reception

(Heritage Room, Main Lodge)

Saturday, January 26, 2019



(GLC Lobby, Gull Lake Center)



(Heritage Room, Main Lodge)


Welcome and Announcements

(Grand Ballroom A, Gull Lake Center)



Session 3: Can an In-House Witness Help in the Face of Death or Catastrophic Injury?

(Grand Ballroom A, Gull Lake Center)

JP Gatto, HKM

Emotion is never higher than when an accident results in a life altering injury or death.  Responding to this raw emotion - or not responding - is tricky business, and is fraught with pitfalls.  This session will address one way to approach the issue, specifically in the context of product liability; use of an in-house witness.  Is it possible that an in-house witness can combat some of the emotion with his/her own emotion surrounding the product development and production?  Can the in-house witness present a face for the company that sheds some of the corporate coolness?  How can the witness present him/herself in a way that isn’t offensive to a jury?  All of these issues will be discussed, along with the legal implications of presenting an in-house witness who may offer hybrid fact/expert opinion;  What are the disclosure requirements?  Does privilege attach to discussion with the in-house witness?  How is the deposition of the witness handled? And more.

Speaker Bio

JP Gatto is a litigation partner at HKM in St. Paul (formerly Murnane Brandt).  He focuses his practice on complex, large loss, products liability matters, with an emphasis on aviation and agricultural products, and construction defects.  JP has tried numerous cases involving catastrophic injury and death in both state and federal courts, and has also handled cases on behalf of accident victims and their families. 


Session 4: Doing Great Work Isn’t Enough to Attract Clients - Creative Strategies for Building a Practice

(Grand Ballroom A, Gull Lake Center)

Angela Beranek Brandt, Larson King, LLP

Law school teaches us how to think like lawyers.  The early years of practice teach us how to act like lawyers.  But how do we learn to build a practice?  This session will focus on creative strategies for designing the kind of career you want to have.  Because there is no one size fits all for legal practices or marketing efforts, this session will include discussion of various types of practices; how to move into new areas; and business development efforts to attract the kinds of clients for which you want to work. 

Learning Objectives

  1. Learning strategies for taking control of your practice, your career, and your life. 
  2. Identifying ways to reinvent yourself.
  3. Shifting focus from the what of business development to the who.          
  4. Understanding how to identify strategies that fit your interests and style.       

Speaker Bio

Angela Beranek Brandt is an accomplished trial lawyer at Larson King, LLP.  She focuses her practice in the areas of commercial, employment, and products liability litigation. Angela regularly serves as lead counsel in cases in Minnesota, North Dakota, Wisconsin, and South Dakota for Fortune 500 companies. She develops corporate and expert witnesses for mass tort cases around the country.  Angela has experience working with clients as an in-house attorney and as outside general counsel.  Angela is known for her ability to develop high level strategy for efficient and effective solutions to difficult problems.  Angela is active in a number of local and national organizations. She is the Immediate President of the National Association of Women Lawyers ("NAWL"). She is a former President of the Ramsey County Bar Association in St. Paul, Minnesota.  She has been elected to membership in the American Board of Trial Advocates (ABOTA) and the Federation of Defense and Corporate Counsel (FDCC). She is also a member of the Campaign for Legal Aid, a committee that raises money for Southern Minnesota Regional Legal Services ("SMRLS") which provides access to justice for low income members of the community. Angela was named a 2017 Attorney of the Year by Minnesota Lawyer.



(GLC Lobby, Gull Lake Center)


Session 5: Unique Legal Maneuvers

(Grand Ballroom A, Gull Lake Center)

Panel: João (John) C. Medeiros, Lind Jensen Sullivan and Peterson; Timothy J. O’Connor, Lind Jensen Sullivan and Peterson; Kevin F. Gray, Rajkowski Hansmeier, Ltd.; Molly H. de la Vega, Lind Jensen Sullivan and Peterson (moderator)

The panel will be discussing successful unique legal maneuvers they have used in their careers, such as interpleaders and judgment on the pleadings.  The panel will explore how they found and analyzed whether to use the maneuver (a refresher on how you can research or find possible unique options), how they used the maneuver, and what the result was.

Learning Objectives

  1. Discuss legal options that attorney’s may not recall exist either due to the archaic nature of the maneuver, or the infrequent use of the maneuver.
  2. Discuss how these specific maneuvers, and other creative or unique maneuvers, can be applied successfully to modern and common legal issues of today.
  3. A refresher on how thinking out of the box can lead to positive results, even in our day to day work and our typical cases.




(Grand Ballroom B, Gull Lake Center)


On Your Own

9:00am - 9:00pm
Ice Rinks (Tennis Courts)

Enjoy figure skating, a friendly game of hockey, and broomball.


9:00am - 4:00pm
Pines Winter Recreation (Pines Clubhouse)

Enjoy skiing and snowshoeing and explore over 20 kilometers of

groomed cross-country ski trails through The Pines Golf Course.


3:00 - 4:00pm
Beer Tastings* (Northwoods Pub)

Experience some of Minnesota’s best craft beers! We will try a

variety of styles and breweries—with information and tasting notes

on each unique flavor.


*Sign Ups Encouraged



Cocktail Reception

(GLC Lobby, Gull Lake Center)



(Grand Ballroom B, Gull Lake Center


Movie Night

(Lake Itasca A/B, Gull Lake Center)

Sunday, January 27, 2019



(GLC Lobby, Gull Lake Center)



(Heritage Room, Main Lodge)


Welcome and Announcements

(Grand Ballroom A, Gull Lake Center)


Session 6: It Was the Best of Times (Or Maybe It Was the Worst of Times) – Storytelling in Litigation

(Grand Ballroom A, Gull Lake Center)

Amie E. Penny Sayler, Bassford Remele, PA

The Epic of Gilgamesh, A Tale of Two Cities, To Kill a Mockingbird – these stories enthrall us and invoke powerful feelings, ideas, and convictions.  Stories are how we learn and interpret the world.  Litigation is no different.  Judges and juries are moved by stories.  It is our job (as attorneys) to tie the facts and law of our case to a compelling story.  Learn how to develop this story throughout litigation – during discovery, motion practice, mediation, and trial.

Speaker Bio

Amie E. Penny Sayler is an attorney at Bassford Remele, PA.  Her practice is focused on appeals, product liability, and healthcare.  Amie clerked for Justice Christopher Dietzen at the Minnesota Supreme Court.

9:40–10:30 a.m.

Session 7: Retail and Hospitality Defense for the 21st Century

(Grand Ballroom A, Gull Lake Center)

Steven Bader, Rajkowski Hansmeier Ltd.

Trip and falls. Falling merchandise. Icy parking lots. And alcohol. Retail and hospitality clients invite the public to visit their business and spend money. But accidents happen. Injured customers can be compelling plaintiffs, and jurors may have unrealistic expectations of retailers. This session will focus on the defense of retail and hospitality clients in the 21st-century. Topics will include discovery of electronic data, such as social media postings and online advertisements, negating typical plaintiff's tactics against retail and hospitality clients, and a discussion of recent case law in Minnesota.

Learning Objectives

  1. Overturning every stone in discovery. Tips to make sure social media postings, online advertising, video footage, and electronic data is uncovered.
  2. Responding to common plaintiff's strategies, such as reptilian tactics, "customer is always right" suggestions, and individual versus corporation perception.
  3. Recent updates in Minnesota law, including Buskey v American Legion, Henson v Uptown Drink and other appellate and supreme court opinions that impact the defense of retail and hospitality clients.

Speaker Bio

Steven Bader is an attorney at Rajkowski Hansmeier where his practice is focused on the defense of personal injury suits, liquor liability claims, and construction defect cases. He has won verdicts for his clients in numerous jury trials, court trials, and arbitrations. His practice also includes appellate advocacy and insurance coverage disputes.  Steve is the chair of the MDLA Retail and Hospitality committee and is the DRI Legislative Liaison for Minnesota, and a member of the DRI Retail and Hospitality liquor liability subcommittee.

10:30–10:45 a.m.


(GLC Lobby, Gull Lake Center)

10:45–11:30 a.m.

Session 8: Ethical Considerations in Employment Investigation

(Grand Ballroom A, Gull Lake Center)

Jessica E. Schwie, Kennedy & Graven, Chartered

This session will go over several items to consider when faced with employment and employee investigation and how to hire the right people. Jessica will go into how to start the process, what questions to ask, and how to implement proper procedures in the future.

Speaker Bio

Jessica E. Schwie is a shareholder with Kennedy & Graven, Chartered. Representing private and government employers in civil litigation, Jessica has developed a solid reputation amongst her clients and in the community as a detailed, thorough and assertive trial lawyer, investigator, and pre-litigation advisor that is able to manage difficult situations, and, oftentimes, public matters. She has been named to the lists of Top Attorney, Super Lawyer, Up & Coming Attorney, and Rising Star.  Prior to entering law school, Jessica studied and worked in the areas of sales, management, and economic/financial forecasting. While in law school, she gained valuable experience working for three years as a law clerk at the League of Minnesota Cities and as an extern for Hennepin County Judge Allen Oleisky. Thereafter, she clerked for Minnesota Court of Appeals Chief Judge Edward Toussaint, Jr. In 2001, she joined the firm of Jardine, Logan & O'Brien, P.L.L.P., rose to partner, and chaired the firm's Appellate, Government, and Employment Law groups before joining K&G to further focus her practice.  Jessica is married to a member of law enforcement, has two children, serves as a Picture Person with the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, and is active in autism and special needs advocacy. Together with her family, she is an outdoor enthusiast and enjoys good food, drinks, and reading.

Cancellation Policy: Cancellation must be made by January 7 for a complete refund, less a $75 cancellation fee. Cancellations after January 7 will not be refunded. Substitutions of attendees may be made at any time without incurring a fee. No-shows will not be refunded.


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