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Aaron M. Phelps Partner

Office
Grand Rapids
Phone
616/336-6257
Fax
616/336-7000
Email
amphelps@varnumlaw.com
amphelps@varnumlaw.com
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Assistant
Diane Bruins, 616/336-6745

Litigation Experience

Aaron's practice is focused on complex commercial and environmental litigation - in Michigan and around the country, including mass actions.  Over the years, Aaron has represented clients in contract and corporate governance disputes, telecommunications and energy matters, health care litigation, and tort actions. Most recently, Aaron has represented over 200 companies in lawsuits against Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan for ERISA violations.  The first trial resulted in a $6 million judgment, and subsequent judgments ranged from $315,000 to over $8 million.

Aaron also has expertise in the environmental area, having represented clients in a variety of matters, including air permit disputes, civil enforcement proceedings, and contested case hearings.  Aaron has prosecuted appeals of permit denials and successfully challenged MDEQ rules as unconstitutional. 

One of Aaron's other passions is Michigan Agriculture Law, where he represents several Michigan farms and agri-businesses in a variety of matters from FDA and MDEQ enforcement actions to Michigan Right to Farm issues.

Recent Representative Matters

  • Representing 200 companies in lawsuits against Blue Cross and Blue Shield Michigan for charging hidden fees in violation of ERISA; obtained a $6 million judgment (plus attorneys' fees) following trial.
  • Representing a major metropolitan city in a federal court suit filed by it against  telecommunications giant Comcast, challenging the constitutionality of a Michigan statute.
  • Represented a leading beverage processor in federal court litigation brought by a Wall Street investment fund asserting preemptive rights to increase its equity stake.
  • Represented a furniture manufacturer in federal court litigation brought by it to recover damages arising from a national hockey team's breach of a construction contract for its sports arena.
  • Represented former owner and a board member of a Tier 1 automotive supplier in an $80 million insider preference and fraudulent conveyance claim filed against them in New York.
  • Represented a Michigan-based transportation company in a breach of supply contract case brought by a paper mill in federal court in Memphis, Tennessee.
  • Representing a food processor in federal court on its claim to recover environmental remediation costs from the seller of property in Ohio.
  • Represented a major energy company in declaratory judgment action challenging the constitutionality of a MDEQ rule, which would have interfered with its efforts to construct a $2 billion power plant.
  • Represented an agricultural trade association and other agricultural plaintiffs in a challenge to a MDEQ rule requiring all concentrated animal feeding operations ("CAFOs") to obtain pollutant discharge permits.
  • Represented a major Michigan dairy in federal court litigation brought against it by the Food and Drug Administration.
  • Represented a large Newaygo CAFO in a township zoning dispute, which raised Michigan Right to Farm Act issues.

Professional Affiliations

  • Federal Bar Association, Western District of Michigan
  • Grand Rapids Bar Association
  • State Bar of Michigan: Litigation Section; Environmental Section; Agriculture Law Section

Bar Admissions

  • All Michigan state courts
  • United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit
  • United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan
  • United States District Court for the Western District of Michigan
  • United States Supreme Court

Community Involvement

  • Blythefield Hills Baptist Church, member
  • Kent County Farm Bureau, vice president, 2015
  • Michigan Agri-business Association, member
  • United Growth for Kent County, member

Education

  • Wake Forest University School of Law
    Winston-Salem, North Carolina
    J.D., magna cum laude, 2002
    Order of the Coif
    Wake Forest Law Review
  • Ferris State University
    Big Rapids, Michigan
    B.S., Business Administration, summa cum laude, 1999
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