Detroit College of Law
Law Review, Note & Comment Editor
University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, Michigan
Bachelor of General Studies, 1983
Four-year Varsity letter winner, Football, 1979 – 1983
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
Rich is a first-chair litigator and partner in Varnum’s Litigation and Trial Team. He is the head of our Construction Law Practice and the co-chair of the firm’s Name, Image and Likeness (NIL) Practice.
Rich is a versatile litigator who has achieved favorable results for his clients in construction, commercial and shareholder disputes, both in court and before arbitral bodies. He is a sought-after counselor by Boards of Directors and C-Suite executives in connection with sensitive matters, including internal investigations and compliance matters. As the co-chair of the firm’s NIL team, Rich leverages his background advising higher education institutions on regulatory matters, as well as his experience as a four-year letter winner on the University of Michigan’s football team.
In the construction realm, Rich has successfully represented owners, construction managers, subcontractors/suppliers and design professionals in a wide range of matters, including claims related to delays, extra work, productivity impact, defects, liens and bond claims.
Following the June 2021 Supreme Court decision that allowed student-athletes to monetize their name, image and likeness, Rich has represented collectives (including on behalf of the football and basketball programs at a Big Ten University) and brands in connection with NCAA compliance and related business counseling matters pertaining to NIL. He is a former NFLPA-certified agent who has represented athletes and coaches in contract negotiations, business ventures and intellectual property law.
Construction Litigation and Contracts
Successfully defended construction defect claims in excess of $15 million in litigation resulting in zero dollar awards.
Obtained significant arbitration award in construction dispute involving breach of contract claims relating to extra work and early termination issues.
Successfully pursued claims for delays and impact costs for multiple mechanical contractors on major airport new construction project.
Successfully pursued claims for general contractor against public transportation entity involving renovation of international bridge and related cost overruns, extra work and impact claims.
Successfully defended and pursued claims in large arbitration for major public universities relating to design issues and claims for additional costs related to design defects.
Successfully defended and pursued claims for subcontractors for extra work, delays and labor productivity impacts on wastewater and water treatment plants, educational facilities, hospitals, commercial and industrial facilities (including OEM automotive plant) and bridges and tunnels.
Drafted suites of contract documents for several large public universities and a large hospital organization, and contract documents for numerous owners, general contractors/construction managers, subcontractors and design professionals.
Successfully defended design professionals in a variety of claims, including for design defect and error and omission claims.
Business and Commercial Litigation
Obtained federal court jury verdict in favor of client in breach of contract and tortious interference claims and no cause of opponents’ claims.
Successfully obtained consent decree defending individual from claims by public pension funds in excess of $35 million and resolved for several hundred thousand dollars.
Successfully defended copyright infringement claims and obtained rights to iconic photo on behalf of former Heisman trophy winner and Super Bowl MVP winner.
Successfully defended and/or pursued numerous shareholder and partnership disputes relating to minority interests and shareholder oppression claims and contract and business tort cases.
Obtained jury verdict in state court breach of contract matter and no cause of opponent’s claims.
Represented large public university involving allegations of cover-up and failure to comply with the federal Clery Act involving the death of a student. Performed extensive investigation, developed significant report and handled disclosure of findings to trustees, public and Department of Education. The investigation was the largest of its kind at that time.
Represented national professional services firm in internal investigation following alleged fraud by an executive. Provided the client with an immediate investigation protocol and strategy focused on asset recovery and preservation of insurance claims. Worked with forensic accounting team, conducted witness interviews, terminated the employee and counseled the client on crisis communications and law enforcement reporting matters.
Represented multi-billion dollar international tier one supplier in international investigation, which resulted in significant company changes and policy enforcement.
Represented religious institutions in allegations of child sexual assault after church was accused of responsibility for sexual assault of a minor child during a Sunday school program. Worked with the client on a strategy and performed an exhaustive investigation including witness interviews and policy analysis. Successfully resolved subsequent litigation.
Represented major city school district in an internal investigation and defended subsequent litigation.
Represented large metropolitan airport in an internal investigation involving alleged misuse of public funds on billion dollar construction program.
Represented national publicly-traded waste disposal company in internal investigation following charges of alleged toxic chemical dumping.
Honors and Recognitions
Michigan Lawyers Weekly, Michigan’s Go To Lawyer for Construction Law, 2023
Best Lawyers in America®, Lawyer of the Year, Construction Law, 2022
Best Lawyers in America®, Commercial Litigation, Construction Law, since 2014
Best Lawyers in America®, Lawyer of the Year, Litigation – Construction (Novi), 2018, 2020
DBusiness© magazine, Top Lawyers, Litigation – Construction, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021, 2023
Leading Lawyers: Commercial Litigation; Construction Law
Martindale-Hubbell® AV Preeminent™ Peer Review Rated
Michigan Lawyers Weekly, Leaders in the Law, 2017
Michigan Super Lawyers®, 2014 – 2020
American Bar Association, Construction Law Forum
Association of General Contractors, Legal Relations Committee
Federal Bar Association
Oakland County Bar Association
State Bar of Michigan, Litigation Section
Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation: Southeast Michigan, former Board president, 2017 – 2019; Board member, 2010 – present
Swing to Cure Diabetes Golf Outing, founder, 2008 – present
Teaching and Presentations
Lectures and teaching experiences include numerous construction law courses to various construction industry groups, contractors and clients, including the Construction Association of Michigan, the Metropolitan Detroit Plumbing and Heating Contractors Association and the Mid-Michigan Mechanical Contractors Association. Subjects taught include: Construction liens and performance and payment bonds; Project administration techniques and handling contract changes; Pursuing and defending construction claims; Contract drafting and dealing with problem contract terms; and analysis of the revised 1997 AIA A201 General Conditions and other 1997 AIA contracts. Served as instructor to large international general contractor on wide range of construction related issues.
Presentations also involve the Consensus Documents and AIA documents and other construction contract related issues. Presented seminars to design professionals involving claim situations and to accounting professionals on accounting and audit obligations. Presented on Sports law issues and coaching contract matters. Regular speaker at the Federal Bar Association’s New Lawyer Seminar on state and federal court practice and procedure.
Numerous lectures and presentations to College and University associations across the country on Clery Act and campus safety and security matters, including compliance with the Clery Act and FERPA regulations. National speaker for Security on Campus, Inc. organization and federal government organizations on preventing violence against women on college campuses and universities. Presented on panels relating to internal investigation techniques and strategies.