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Litigation and ADR

Our trial lawyers have the skill and experience to provide clients with effective, high-quality, cost-conscious representation

Experience. Client-focused results. Trusted advice. For years, these have been the keys to success for Varnum’s Litigation Team.

Commercial lawsuits make up a large part of our litigation practice. We handle cases involving contract disputes, environmental claims, securities, antitrust, construction, corporate takeovers, product liability and real estate issues. We also represent clients in personal injury cases; patent, trademark and copyright suits; arbitration; tax proceedings; labor and employment mattersERISA casesbankruptcy proceedings; and a range of administrative tribunal work.

Our trial attorneys regularly appear in state, federal trial and appellate courts throughout the United States.

Manage the Case

Our approach to every case is straightforward:

  • Analyze the case and develop options.
  • Strive for superior results.
  • Keep clients informed and involved throughout the proceedings.
  • Give primary responsibility to a trial law partner.
  • Use associates and paralegals to provide efficiency.
  • Make smart use of technology.
  • Call on attorneys from other Varnum practice areas – corporateenvironmentallabortax – to strengthen a case or suggest innovative ways to resolve a dispute.

Diverse Client Base

Who are our clients? They include public and private corporations, nonprofits, professional corporations, municipalities, general and limited partnerships, sole proprietorships, and individuals. Much of our litigation is on behalf of companies for whom we are general counsel. We also represent out-of-state entities involved in adversary proceedings in Michigan and companies seeking specific litigation experience.

No matter what the case, we seek the best possible outcome for our clients by putting our experience, knowledge and innovation to work for them.


Represented former shareholders of independent bottling network against a beverage company in a post-closing contract claim arising under asset purchase agreement. Obtained $8.5 million for former shareholders in settlement.

Represented plaintiff corporation in trial and obtained a multi-million dollar jury verdict against the United States on an income tax refund claim. The government offered nothing to plaintiff before the trial. The verdict was one of the top ten verdicts of 2008 in Michigan Lawyer’s Weekly.

Represented defendant corporation in trial based in Richmond, Kentucky where the plaintiff claimed over $4.8 million in damages from serious injuries resulting from an accident involving the defendant’s tractor trailer. We obtained a complete defense verdict on liability from the jury after a one-week trial.

Defended largest orthopedic physicians’ group in West Michigan, its corporate management company and several corporate officers in a multi-million dollar litigation. We obtained a full dismissal of all claims brought against all defendants in a motion for summary disposition.

Represented court appointed receiver in an investment fraud case involving many victims, including a former NHL hockey player. We successfully brought a contempt action against the defendants. The contempt action was tried over several days in the Wayne County Circuit Court. Rather than allow the case to reach verdict, the defendant settled the contempt charges by paying penalties of approximately $500,000.

Obtained summary judgment on patent infringement claims relating to liquid-filled chewing gum in a lawsuit in which plaintiff sought several million dollars in damages. After victory on appeal to the Federal Circuit, we obtained dismissal of a second related lawsuit in exchange for forgiveness of costs from the first lawsuit.

Defended a national provider of health care software systems in connection with a computer copyright infringement claim in which the plaintiff sought $92 million in damages. Following substantial limitation of the plaintiff’s potential damages during the summary judgment process, the case was resolved through a settlement favorable to the client.

Obtained an arbitration award of $2,375,000 for investors against a national securities firm in a case involving inappropriate investments and failure of securities firm to properly supervise its representatives.

Defended an author and his literary agents in an action by a producer of books on tape. Brilliance Corporation asserted a breach of contract against the author and sought lost profits for producing the tape version of the novel. We received a no cause of action jury verdict.

Defended steel supplier in $3.1 million preferential transfer claim brought by trustee on behalf of specialty manufacturer. We obtained summary judgment following successful deposition of the plaintiff’s expert.

Represented defendant in contract/commercial litigation tried to a jury. We obtained a $3.6 million judgment.

Defended the designer/distributor of a high-end custom-built sports car in a breach contract action in Los Angeles, California. Although the plaintiff claimed over $2 million dollars in damages, they dismissed all claims in return for a nominal settlement on the heels of the plaintiff’s deposition and a day-long mediation.

Represented intervenor in a case brought by an environmental group seeking to force Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (now Environment, Great Lakes & Energy (EGLE)) to issue rules regulating emission of CO2, which could have placed Mid-Michigan Energy’s permit application to build a coal-fired power plant in jeopardy. The court dismissed the environmental group’s complaint, and the ruling was upheld on appeal.

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan Hidden Access Fee Recovery

When the U.S. Supreme Court announced in 2014 that it would not review a $6 million federal court judgment obtained by Varnum against Michigan’s largest health insurer, it opened the door for hundreds of other Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan customers to recoup millions of dollars in hidden fees that were secretly added to their health care claims.

Varnum has now represented more than 100 Michigan companies in BCBSM matters. The claims are significant. Although each claim varies depending on the number of employees covered by the health plan and the length of time using BCBSM for claims administration, the average claim is over $1 million. Even small companies can have hidden fee claims worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.

If your company was a self-funded customer of BCBSM at any time since 1994, it is very likely that you also have a hidden access fee claim.

Why Choose Varnum?

No other law firm comes close to matching Varnum’s experience in this area. Varnum filed the original case, won at trial and sustained that win through an exhaustive appellate process. The original case is the precedent for every claim that has followed. Since 2011, we have filed over 100 cases, and every case has been successfully resolved or otherwise remains pending.

We have won at trial, attained more than a dozen summary judgments and defeated every motion to dismiss. We have argued these cases in front of 20 of the 24 judges in the Eastern District of Michigan – the jurisdiction for BCBSM matters – and we are known among the judiciary as the firm that handles these cases.

Because of the sheer volume of cases we have handled, we also know the value of each case and, unlike smaller firms, we can not be “slow played” and forced to settle for less than fair value.

Varnum has represented companies ranging from 50 employees to more than a thousand employees in these hidden fees matters. Our clients represent a variety of industries, from food processing and hospitality to Tier 1 automotive suppliers and furniture manufacturers. We have also represented colleges, retailers, professional services organizations and others.

We can easily help you determine if you have a claim and the potential value of that claim. We also offer a free initial consultation and your company pays no legal fees unless there is a recovery.

Alternative Dispute Resolution

Varnum resolution facilitators have the experience, training and certification to be qualified mediators and arbitrators. We are active participants in the resolution process and guide disputing parties through discussions and brainstorming sessions to help them find the best results. We challenge parties to look beyond their own positions on the disputed issues and toward their individual desired outcomes. Where those outcomes meet, there is room for successful negotiation and compromise. Varnum resolution facilitators are veteran attorneys with years of experience in various areas of law, primarily for corporate clients. Several Varnum attorneys are certified mediators and others are available to act as arbitrators. They all bring a high level of understanding of business disputes and a wealth of  resources about applicable laws and legal precedent.
Over the years, our resolution facilitators have handled mediations, appeared on arbitration panels and acted as sole arbitrators for disputes across the country. They have coached numerous clients through the mediation process and have seen from all sides what makes mediation successful or unsuccessful. Each neutral has a different way of approaching the mediation process while retaining the basic theories of successful negotiation. Varnum’s dispute resolution offers you, your clients, your company and your employees access to thoughtful, confidential, expedient, fair and cost-effective alternatives to litigation.


What is arbitration?

Arbitration is a process in which a third party, called an arbitrator or neutral (or an arbitration panel), renders a binding decision based on the merits of each case as presented. The arbitrator, or arbitration panel, acts as a judge to serve a verdict that normally cannot be appealed.

Prior to arbitration, parties usually have some input on the designing of the process. For example, parties may decide to limit opening statements or forego discovery. It is important that the rules of arbitration are well thought out or many of the cost advantages of arbitration can be lost. Once the ground rules are established, the arbitrator takes control of the proceedings. The arbitration process is not public, so the proceedings can be completely confidential.

Why should I use arbitration?

There are several aspects that make arbitration a process preferable to litigation. Arbitration results in a binding decision without the time, expense and publicity that can accompany litigation. Arbitration can be a very efficient process compared to traditional litigation. This makes it less costly and leads to quicker resolutions rather than lawsuits that can continue for years.

What is the value of an experienced arbitrator?

Disputing parties select their own arbitrator, allowing them to choose someone with a relevant body of knowledge. For example, an attorney with experience in construction law would have a high level of understanding in a dispute over construction contracts. This previous knowledge means the arbitrator can spend less time learning about the basics of a situation and more time understanding the dispute.

What happens behind closed doors?

Because arbitration is essentially a private meeting, it retains a high amount of confidentiality. The public and media are not entitled to attend arbitrations and, in fact, rarely know that they are scheduled to occur. Arbitration decisions and proceedings are not public information.

When should I use arbitration?

Arbitration can be used to effectively resolve disputes in a variety of situations including: business-to-business, business-to-consumer and employer-to-employee. Arbitration works best in situations where otherwise a trial is the likely result. Like litigation, arbitration ends in a ‘win/lose’ situation, but in a more manageable, flexible way.

Facilitative Mediation

Whether you are an attorney talking with your client or corporation about entering into alternate dispute resolution (ADR), an administrator looking to create a mediation clause, or someone involved in a current dispute, the following information will help you understand and discuss the benefits of facilitative mediation.

What is facilitative mediation?

Facilitative mediation is a non-binding process in which a third party, called a mediator or neutral, facilitates the negotiation process between two or more parties. The mediator works with the disputants to establish ground rules and helps maintain those ground rules throughout the process. The mediator may work with each side individually to uncover issues and potential opportunities for consensus. Individuals maintain control over the outcome and are personally involved in the result. Mediation agreements are enforced as contracts.

Mediation is more confidential than a public court proceeding. Varnum mediators are required to maintain confidentiality and, by contract, cannot be called to testify about any statement made by either party during the mediation process.

Why should I use mediation?

The process of litigation is a pricey one. Beyond the cost of quality attorney representation and trial preparation, litigation often costs opposing parties their business and personal relationships and even their public reputation. Mediation costs little compared to litigation. It preserves relationships, finds mutually acceptable solutions, offers confidentiality and allows for flexibility and creativity in the dispute resolution process.

What is the value of an experienced mediator?

Since you choose your mediator, it is possible to select a neutral with special knowledge in an area. This limits the amount of background education required for the mediator to effectively facilitate discussions. For example, an environmental attorney understands the laws, processes and business decisions surrounding the sale of contaminated land and can offer insightful, cooperative options beyond what the parties may have discussed.

How does a less formal setting promote communication?

Sometimes the impetus for litigation is a plaintiff’s wanting their “day in court.” Facilitative mediation provides the opportunity for both parties to present their sides of the dispute in a less intimidating environment. Facilitative mediation can provide an open atmosphere for individuals to talk face-to-face about how an incident or the dispute has affected them individually, professionally and personally. Open communication often leads to an understanding of another party’s actions and ultimately preserves relationships. Mediation is not about attorneys winning cases for clients or juries deciding on financial compensation, it is about parties working through differences and miscommunication toward a common goal.

Personal Injury

At Varnum, our primary focus is to get you well – physically, emotionally and financially. As your advisors, we counsel you throughout the legal process while providing effective, experienced representation and the resources of one of the largest law firms in Michigan.

We help obtain healing, fair compensation and a just resolution for traumatically injured people by passionately believing in their causes and standing with courage on that belief.

What Makes Us Different

Helping a traumatically injured person requires more than generalized legal knowledge. Along with a focus in personal injury law, our attorneys have also acquired extensive medical knowledge. We have an in-depth understanding of how the body functions and how that function is altered by injury.

We also have a thorough understanding of medical concepts and terminology, which is essential in order to effectively explain to juries the relationship of physical trauma to a patient’s life and entire sense of well-being.

Free Consultation

Varnum attorneys are called upon in some of the most difficult times in people’s lives, when the future is uncertain and the concerns are many. We understand that you have questions and are happy to talk to you at no cost.

We accept cases on a contingency basis, meaning we receive a percentage of the money we recover for you. If we are not successful, you will owe us nothing for the time we have invested in your case.

Qualified Attorneys

Varnum’s Personal Injury Team is made up of nationally respected attorneys who genuinely care about helping you through one of the most difficult challenges you may ever face.

All of Varnum’s senior personal injury attorneys are rated AV® Preeminent – the highest rating possible – by Martindale-Hubbell, the nationally renowned lawyer grading system. Varnum’s personal injury group is recognized by U.S. News & World Report – Best Lawyers®, and all of our senior attorneys are listed in Best Lawyers in America®.

Power of a Law Firm

When you retain a Varnum attorney, you have access to the full resources of the firm. If your matter requires establishing a trust, or you must deal with probate or Social Security issues, our attorneys experienced in those areas are ready to help.

What to Expect

Varnum attorneys investigate and research each case thoroughly. Comprehensive materials are meticulously prepared, outlining the legal liability of the defendant and the substantive damages suffered by our client. We clearly explain your options, such as if the case can be settled more quickly out of court or whether litigation and a jury verdict may be required.

Many lawyers forget that they work for the client. We pride ourselves on keeping our clients fully informed, returning phone calls and responding promptly. At least two attorneys are committed to each client we represent, and our entire practice team is actively involved when needed during the trial.

Riparian Rights

If you own land that touches or is bounded by a natural body of water, you are entitled to riparian rights. This very specialized aspect of real estate law presents unique challenges which require the assistance of counsel experienced in handling such matters.

Our riparian rights team includes attorneys with experience in cottage lawenvironmentalland use and zoning law, which allow us to draw from a range of perspectives in resolving riparian rights and related matters.


We have experience solving the following problems:

  • Access rights
  • Dock disputes
  • Inland lake level proceedings
  • Plat vacations and similar issues involving dedicated areas in recorded plats
  • Road-end disputes
  • Boundary disputes, involving both uplands and riparian bottomlands
  • Municipal regulations of riparian uses
  • Restrictive covenants and deed restrictions
  • Issues concerning public access or other public rights
  • Hunting and fishing rights
  • Document review prior to property purchase
  • Easements
  • Litigation of riparian rights issues
  • Quiet title actions
  • Land use issues
Riparian Rights Disputes

Our experience has shown that far too many cases wind up in the courts because property owners have taken matters into their own hands without understanding their legal rights or the potential rights of the perceived transgressor. Seek legal advice before you resort to any “self-help” remedies.

Adjacent owners have been known to remove or destroy docks, tear down fences or erect obstructions to prevent access. In addition to the potential for hostility, such actions increase the likelihood of an expensive lawsuit, which may have been avoided if legal advice was sought in the first instance. If someone is using a portion of your land or interfering with the use and enjoyment of your property, seek appropriate counsel to understand your rights and how to protect them.

Uniform Commercial Code

Varnum attorneys serve our business clients’ needs in complex transactions governed by the Uniform Commercial Code. Although we have broad experience in all aspects of the UCC, our work tends to focus primarily on Article 2 (Sales of Goods) and Article 9 (Secure Transactions).

As to Article 2, we have experience in all facets of commercial sales, including drafting of purchase orders, quotes and acknowledgments to protect the rights of buyers and sellers respectively. We also have an extensive practice in the secure transactions area governed by Article 9.

Commercial and UCC Litigation

The lawyers in the commercial section of the trial team at Varnum have litigated a broad spectrum of commercial disputes. The firm has a high degree of specialized knowledge and experience in all of the traditional areas of commercial litigation, as well as in many unique areas of commercial law. Examples include:

  • Breach of warranty cases between commercial parties, including cases involving automotive parts suppliers at all levels (from the Big Three to Tier 1 and below), top-tier furniture manufacturers and hundreds of other companies
  • Commercial contract litigation matters (including sales-of-goods cases) involving issues such as contract formation, the enforceability of “output” and “requirements” obligations, “just-in-time” components and nearly every other issue that can arise under the Uniform Commercial Code sections governing sales
  • Adversary proceedings in bankruptcy, including preference cases, non-dischargeability cases and cases involving fraudulent conveyances
  • Banking litigation, including the rights and remedies of parties to routine bank transactions (forged endorsement cases), Equal Credit Opportunity Act cases (the enforceability of “spousal” guaranties), litigation over letters of credit and debtor/creditor rights
  • Commercial lease litigation under Article 2A of the Uniform Commercial Code

“Varnum is our go-to law firm in Michigan for all litigation matters. They are extremely professional and efficient. I would highly recommend this firm for large-scale litigation matters.”

Senior Counsel of Litigation, pulp and paper company

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