At Zausmer, Kaufman, August & Caldwell, P.C., our attorneys are recognized as leaders and experts in one or more of the following areas of the law:
GENERAL & CIVIL LITIGATION
The General & Civil Litigation Practice is the backbone of ZKAC and the umbrella under which almost all of our other practice areas operate. All of our attorneys are trained in the art and strategy of litigation. Whether it is in a letter, a brief, or a court hearing, our attorneys focus on the relevant issues and communicate effectively and persuasively.
ZKAC litigates matters in multiple forums throughout the State of Michigan. In each instance, we are prepared to achieve a victory for our clients through aggressive litigation or strategic negotiation. Sometimes it is in our clients' best interest to settle matters. Other times our clients can only prevail through a successful trial or arbitration. We achieve our clients' results by painstaking preparation that allows us to take every matter through trial so our clients can make the best business decisions possible without the fear that their attorneys are unprepared to try the case.
We litigate cases on behalf of some of the largest corporations in the world as well as small business owners and individuals. Each matter gets our full attention and creative approach. We view ourselves not only as attorneys, but as legal strategists. Whether our clients' objectives are grandiose or modest, litigation is often like war. Our approach is to thoroughly understand each matter at the outset to devise a strategy that will win the war without fighting unnecessary battles. Our clients return to us because we listen, understand, fight efficiently, and win.
ALTERNATIVE DISPUTE RESOLUTION
Mark Zausmer, the Firm's managing shareholder, boasts, "We know the value of cases because virtually every major case in the region comes to our offices for alternative dispute resolution."
The reputation of our Firm in the legal community results in attorneys and judges selecting us as arbitrators and mediators on their most problematic cases. There is probably no other individual more respected by attorneys in the State of Michigan for mediating disputes than our Shareholder Richard C. Kaufman. Mr. Kaufman refined his skills as a facilitator during his fifteen years as trial judge on the Wayne County Circuit Court. He has facilitated thousands of cases. A stop at our offices for a Richard Kaufman facilitation is frequently a prerequisite for major matters in the region.
Despite Mr. Kaufman's predominance in the alternative dispute resolution field, he is just one of ZKAC's attorneys who specialize in this area of practice. Mr. Zausmer frequently is appointed by judges to serve as a facilitator or discovery master, and is also appointed frequently by attorneys.
While ZKAC always stands ready to try cases to verdict, it also is prepared to defend those verdicts on appeal. Our group of appellate lawyers is well versed in the rules and strategy for practicing in the courts of appeal in the jurisdictions where we reside. Our Firm is frequently retained to prosecute or defend appeals on matters handled by other law firms at the trial court level. Other law firms recognize our expertise.
An appeal is more than simply reviewing the trial court record and writing a brief. An appeal is an opportunity to think creatively, write persuasively and change the law. We view the law as fluid, not set in stone. Sometimes the law prevents your client from succeeding at the trial court level. If so, we evaluate whether we can change the law. In many instances, we can and we do.
At ZKAC, we pride ourselves on our ability to convince appellate panels to go beyond a simple reading of the case law. In doing so, we have a track record of having appellate courts overturn years of established precedent. In two separate matters handled recently before the Michigan Supreme Court we not only convinced the Court to accept the applications for leave to appeal, but to ultimately overturn decades of countless Michigan Court of Appeals opinions and long established standard jury instructions. Our clients not only won the cases, but established new legal precedents saving them millions of future dollars.
In December 2006, Shareholder Mark Zausmer was named Conservator of 29 Michigan cemeteries that had been looted of millions of dollars in trust funds and stood on the brink of being forced to close their gates. This included some of Michigan's best-known historic cemeteries, such as Woodlawn Cemetery in Detroit. Mr. Zausmer assumed overall supervision of ongoing cemetery operations as well as the task of determining the best course for these cemeteries in the future. By May 2008, the Conservator was successful in selling the cemeteries - which had remained open and functioning during the entire period - in a multi-million dollar transaction that resulted in large infusions to the cemeteries' depleted trust funds. As a result of this experience, the Firm had an unprecedented opportunity to engage in every aspect of cemetery law from the perspective of the business owner and to develop constructive working relationships with state cemetery regulators and other industry stakeholders. We employ this experience and expertise for the benefit of our cemetery clients in areas including the following:
We have also provided input in the crafting of recent cemetery legislation and related administrative rules. As members of the Michigan Cemetery Association we maintain strong contacts within the industry.
- Perpetual and endowment care and merchandise/pre-need trust fund drafting, establishment and compliance.
- Cemetery real estate transactions including sale of cemeteries, change of control and related compliance issues.
- Representation in business disputes involving cemeteries and cemetery suppliers.
- Lawsuits involving alleged cemetery negligence.
You cannot pretend to practice class action law. Courts will not let you. Courts make sure you are qualified to practice in this complex area of the law before you are permitted to represent a class. Our Firm has a history of both prosecuting and defending class actions for our clients.
We have successfully defended clients in environmental class actions while also representing class members, including corporate class members, in the prosecution of their class claims. We have also joined forces with other local and national firms to litigate class actions in both state and federal courts. Whether defendant or plaintiff, the stakes are guaranteed to be high in these matters. The fact that we frequently litigate these matters is testament to our successes and abilities.
From the smallest contractor disputes to the largest development projects, ZKAC provides legal counsel and aggressive litigation services to our construction clients. Our experience in this area is beyond reproach. When Northwest Airlines needed legal counsel to litigate construction disputes arising during construction of the $1.2 billion Detroit Metropolitan Airport Midfield Terminal Project, the company hired us. The construction of the Edward H. McNamara Terminal was the largest construction project in Southeast Michigan in decades.
Our representation on the McNamara Terminal is just one example of the types of construction services we provide. We also represent developers, builders on all their legal construction needs. Whether the issues involve public projects, bonding, bidding, warranties, contract changes, contract termination, Michigan Builders Trust Fund, delay or acceleration claims, construction financing, architectural and engineering disputes, toxic tort, mold, construction defects, false claims, scheduling disputes, differing site conditions, or lien actions, we have the experience and knowledge to represent you.
ZKAC has attorneys that specialize in criminal defense work ranging from small misdemeanor cases to serious felony/capitol matters. ZKAC has experienced trial attorneys that have handled and/or tried cases in virtually every court in Oakland, Wayne, Macomb, and Washtenaw County. Whether the criminal case is suited for trial or best suited to plea bargain, ZKAC provides the best chance for their clients to successfully defend their criminal charges. Attorney, Mr. McDonald, is the former prosecutor for the City of Northville, and now specializes in criminal defense work for ZKAC.
We recognize that even the slightest factual discrepancy can be the difference in any criminal matter. Therefore, ZKAC engages in a thorough factual discovery of every criminal matter before ever attending a court appearance. The key to any criminal case is preparation, which is the specialty at ZKAC.
Shareholder Mark J. Zausmer heads our Firm's eminent domain and condemnation practice. The Firm has many years of experience in this complex area of law. We represented the City of Detroit in various high profile projects, including the Cobo Hall expansion, Jefferson Conner Industrial Revitalization Project, Veterans Administration Hospital, City Airport expansion, the Fox Theater District acquisitions, and Tiger Stadium matters. ZKAC represents Wayne County on the Metro Airport runway expansions and the Pinnacle Aeropark Project. We have litigated important issues of eminent domain on behalf of municipalities in forums ranging from trial courts all the way to the Michigan Supreme Court.
In the case of Wayne County v Britton Trust, we persuaded the Michigan Supreme Court that the law of personal property/fixtures should be clarified in a way that resulted in millions of dollars in savings to municipal organizations in eminent domain matters. The unanimous decision of the Michigan Supreme Court overruled decades of prior precedents and invalidated multiple standard jury instructions. In the Pinnacle Aeropark Project, we won the trial of the public purpose issue. This victory in the trial court was affirmed by the Michigan Court of Appeals, and argued all the way to the Michigan Supreme Court. Mr. Zausmer was also a principal draftsman of the amendments to the Michigan Uniform Condemnation Procedures Act, and has been selected as one the Best Lawyers in America in the field of eminent domain and condemnation law.
In addition to the Firm's experience on behalf of municipalities, we have successfully represented property owners. Our settlement of the case of United States v Commodity Export Company of $14.9 million was reported by Michigan Lawyer's Weekly as the largest settlement of a case in the State of Michigan in 2001.
Our Firm's reputation for excellence in the area of environmental law is well known and deserved.
Our attorneys bring a unique blend of experience and training to the table in a number of
environmental fields, including:
Our attorneys have successfully litigated some of the most significant environmental cases in the State. For over a decade,
the Firm has defended Gelman Sciences and its successor Pall Corporation in the State's most highly publicized environmental
enforcement action. The Firm obtained a landmark environmental insurance coverage decision from the Michigan Supreme Court
on the "trigger of coverage" issue. We have successfully litigated toxic tort and class action claims in both State and
Federal courts. Whether a Fortune 50 company or an individual, our clients benefit from the expertise, experience and
reputation the Firm's attorneys have gained from litigating these high-profile cases.
- Part 201 and Superfund Cost Recovery litigation
- Class Action and Toxic Tort litigation
- Contaminated Site Remediation
- Brownfields and Urban Redevelopment
- Wetland Permitting
- Environmental Insurance Coverage litigation
- Complex Real Estate and Business Transactions
Outside the courtroom, the Firm's attorneys employ a creative problem solving approach to environmental business transactions.
The Firm has helped developers and municipalities site electrical generating plants, bulk petroleum distribution facilities, and
residential developments on environmentally challenged properties. We employ a variety of methods to minimize environmental risks
for our clients. Our attorneys have successfully negotiated with the State and Federal agencies to obtain prospective purchase
agreements and covenants-not-to-sue to protect our clients. The Firm routinely uses insurance, indemnification agreements, and
Brownfield financing to turn environmental risks into business opportunities for our clients.
The Firm's excellence in environmental representation was recognized when it was asked to become a member of the Environmental Law Network, a network of more than 100 environmental attorneys across the country that share ideas, information, experiences,
and contacts to increase the value of legal representation for their respective clients.
LABOR AND EMPLOYMENT LAW
Heidi Hudson heads the Firm's labor law practice. Our Firm has extensive experience in representing both plaintiffs and defendants in all types of labor and employment litigation, the public and private sectors, in Federal and State courts and before administrative agencies and labor arbitrators. This includes matters before the Michigan Employment Relations Commission, the Michigan Employment Security Commission, the Michigan Department of Civil Rights, MIOSHA, and the Civil Service Commission, as well as corresponding federal agencies. Likewise, our attorneys have handled appeals of labor/employment issues in the Michigan Court of Appeals and Supreme Court, the United States Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, and the United States Supreme Court.
We represent our clients in cases involving wrongful discharge, age, sex, race, religion, national origin and disability discrimination, sexual harassment, whistleblower's protection, unemployment compensation, fair labor standards and deprivation of due process and equal protection. We also bring a special expertise in public sector labor law dating back to the 1965 passage of the Public Employment Relations Act. This is why we are retained by individuals, unions (the Michigan Education Association), and public entities including the Suburban Mobility Authority for Regional Transportation (SMART).
LIABILITY AND INSURANCE DEFENSE
Mark Zausmer heads our insurance defense practice which is a mainstay of our Firm. We represent many large nationally recognized insurance carriers, including Titan Insurance Company (an affiliate of Nationwide), Allstate Insurance Company, State Farm, Philadelphia Insurance Company, TIG and others. In our defense practice, we also represent many self-insureds, including the Metropolitan Detroit area's regional transportation provider, the Suburban Mobility Authority for Regional Transportation ("SMART"). As part of this practice area, we handle a wide range of cases, including automobile negligence, premises liability, sporting and recreational, and legal malpractice matters. In these contexts, we represent a wide variety of insureds, including attorneys, non-profit entities, mobile home parks and common carriers. We also represent insurance companies in first-party litigation. We handle coverage issues, declaratory judgment, and bad faith matters for our insurance company clients.
In our practice, we recognize the need to act as partners with our defense clients. We seek to achieve high quality results in a cost effective manner. When appropriate, we have worked with our defense clients to find creative ways to approach defense costs.
Our attorneys regularly speak to the insurance industry. We have been successful in taking issues of importance to the insurance community to the Michigan Supreme Court in order to change existing law. We are respected throughout the country in this practice field and insurers from outside Michigan retain our services in numerous areas of expertise. The extensive trial experience of our attorneys at ZKAC is what enables us to obtain the best possible results for our clients.
INSURANCE COVERAGE AND FRAUD
Some of the largest cases involving insurance arise in the coverage arena where the exposure becomes an "all or nothing" proposition. Our Firm is on the cutting edge of insurance coverage issues significantly impacting insurance companies and businesses. We have litigated numerous coverage issues to the Michigan Supreme Court and have played an instrumental role in setting the standards on coverage issues in the State of Michigan. We have litigated coverage issues on behalf of countless insurance companies and the largest corporations in the State of Michigan. With the stakes in the millions of dollars we have repeatedly obtained successful results for our clients.
We also are experienced in all issues related to voiding of insurance policies on the basis of fraud or misrepresentation. We have represented insurance carriers before the Michigan Insurance Bureau on the rights of carriers to rescind policies based on material misrepresentations.
INSURANCE INSOLVENCY AND LIQUIDATION
Our Firm specializes in insurance insolvency matters. We have served as counsel to the insurance commissioner on receivership matters through both democratic and republican administrations. Since 1989, we have acted as counsel for the Commissioner in the Cadillac Insurance Company Receivership, one of the most complex liquidations in the history of Michigan receivership law. In this capacity, we have litigated matters through the Michigan Supreme Court and in federal and state courts throughout the country. In our role as attorneys for the Commissioner, we have marshaled millions of dollars in assets for this estate. Shareholder Mark Zausmer also has been appointed to act as a supervisor for other troubled insurance companies.
Our Firm served as counsel for the Commissioner in the successful Rehabilitation of The Wellness Plan and currently serves as counsel to the Commissioner as Liquidator of Michigan HMO Plans, Inc. (formerly OmniCare Health Plan). In this role, we have assisted the Office of Financial and Insurance Regulation and the on-site staff of both entities with the full range of needed legal services, including establishing procedures for efficient and expeditious administration of the delinquency proceedings, litigation to marshal available assets, defense of claims against the estates, enforcement of protections for former HMO members, assistance with real estate transactions and future planning for ongoing entities.
The history of the Firm was built on the representation of municipalities, and that continues to this day.
Beginning with our representation of the City of Detroit at the time the Firm was founded, we continue to
represent municipalities on a variety of issues throughout Michigan. Our clients include the County of Wayne,
the City of Dearborn, the City of Hazel Park, Bay County, the City of Wyandotte, as well as public entities
such as the Suburban Mobility Authority for Regional Transportation.
The firm's probate practice includes representation of clients throughout Wayne, Oakland, and Macomb County. Our attorneys assist and counsel clients with administering their wills and estates, will preparation, guardianships, conservatorship and powers of attorneys.
In our defense of companies we are frequently asked to defend claims characterized as potential product liabilities. These include warranty, defective design, defective performance, defective or misleading packaging, use of marks on products, and deficient instructions or warnings. Our experience includes auto products, consumer products, asbestos, mass torts, and insurance coverage related to products claims. We also litigated products liability cases of behalf of plaintiffs.
The law of products liability in Michigan is regulated in many respects by statute, making experienced counsel a necessity. We pride ourselves on our knowledge of this area of the law.
Our Firm is well versed in the many aspects of representing clients on real estate matters. Our experience includes both transactional matters and litigation matters ranging from residential to industrial and commercial. This includes acquisitions, dispositions, development, environmental, construction, foreclosures, workouts, residential and commercial leases, mortgage lending, public and private ventures, shopping centers, and planned residential communities.
We represent and provide legal services to some of the most respected development companies in the State of Michigan on a variety of different matters. These include drafting form residential purchase and warranty agreements, drafting purchase and sales agreements, negotiating and drafting option agreements, negotiating leases, instituting and defending forfeiture, eviction and foreclosure proceedings, and researching the legality and feasibility of creative development opportunities. In addition, our environmental expertise is known throughout the state and is addressed under the environmental law practice area heading.
In addition to transactional matters involving real estate, we also litigate matters involving the many differing and complex issues that arise in the real estate context. Our clients turn to us because we have the ability to join our litigation skills with our in-depth knowledge of real property law.
We are experienced in the specialized area of securities litigation. The securities industry is complicated, and we are often called upon to both litigate and provide legal advise to individuals and brokerages regarding securities exposures. We litigate and arbitrate securities disputes in forums throughout Michigan. Our Firm has been at the lead of some of the largest customer securities claims in the State, including high-profile Ponzi Schemes, check kiting claims and forgery scams. We frequently litigate claims involving unauthorized trading, churning, ERISA, unsuitability, selling away, forgery, and many other claims that arise in the brokerage context.
Our attorneys are experienced in many substantive areas of the law. We are frequently called upon to bring this expertise to certain transactions our clients find themselves involved. Our clients frequently retain us to draft contracts and agreements significantly impacting them. We have handled multi-million dollar transactions involving real property, licenses, manufactured goods, services, construction, and numerous other areas.
As with our approach to litigation, we bring a creative and intellectual approach to our transactions. There are countless ways to consummate many transactions, and we pride ourselves on our ability to reach agreements that accomplish our clients' needs. Our "real world" perspective and experience allows us to get the deals done. When it comes to getting parties together and making transactions work, we are known in the profession as "deal makers" as opposed to "deal breakers."
The firmís attorneys successfully defend wrongful adoption cases in Michigan and beyond. In locales as diverse as Washington State and Iowa, our attorneys are frequently admitted pro hac vice and litigate cases throughout the country. With access to nationally recognized experts in numerous fields related to wrongful adoption, our firm is uniquely postured to evaluate and cost-effectively defend even the most complex of wrongful adoption cases, no matter where the adoption was finalized.