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Justin joined RDM as an associate in 2014 and quickly proved himself as a skilled attorney in the field of toxic torts, products liability, commercial litigation, and employment law. He became a member of the firm in 2020.

Justin’s trial and litigation experiences have led to favorable outcomes for his clients along with a nomination to the National Black Lawyers Top 40 Under 40. Justin was part of the RDM team that delivered a Missouri Top Defense Verdict in 2017. He has demonstrated outstanding ability and performance throughout his early career.

Justin has demonstrated leadership as the chair of RDM’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee. The committee seeks to develop the careers of young, diverse, or disadvantaged associates and to foster a safe and welcoming environment for all. Justin has helped to mentor associates on their path to leadership within the firm.

Developing leaders.

Justin leads in the courtroom and out: delivering results for clients, and coaching a new class of diverse associates to become the first class litigators and trial attorneys that make RDM stand out in a crowded field. Let Justin take the lead on your case.

Education

  • St. Louis University

    Juris Doctor 2011

  • University of Illinois

    Bachelor of Arts 2007

Admissions

  • State of Missouri
  • State of Illinois

Honors
& Awards

RDM's Knowledge Blog Posts by Justin U. Ijei

Missouri recently enacted legislation protecting businesses from COVID-19 liability.

As states across the country ease out of COVID-19 restrictions, many state legislatures are passing laws to protect businesses from COVID-19 liability. Various chambers of commerce and pro-business groups across the country have been proponents of such protections and have pushed their state legislatures to pass laws to protect businesses. So far 30 states have enacted statutes that provide businesses some type of shield against COVID-19 liability suits. 

On July 7th, 2021, Missouri became the next state to protect businesses, healthcare providers, and manufacturers from COVID-19 liability. Missouri Governor Mike Parson signed Senate Bill 51 into law, protecting businesses, premises owners, and healthcare providers from personal injury suits arising from COVID-19 exposure unless plaintiff can show clear and convincing evidence that defendant’s reckless or willful misconduct caused the exposure to the virus.

The Missouri law establishes a rebuttable presumption of risk by a plaintiff in an exposure claim when they enter the premises that has warnings signs posted. The law also shields manufacturers from product liability claims stemming from items used to protect against COVID-19 exposures.

The proponents of this bill hope that this law will provide businesses some type of relief from the pandemic as the potential for COVID-19 related lawsuits looms. The new law will go into effect on August 28th, 2021. As the Missouri Constitution does not allow for legislation to be applied retroactively, the new law will not affect claims filed prior to August 28th.

This law does not completely shield businesses from liability. So, it is extremely important for businesses to have the right counsel to help them comply with federal, state, and local laws in order to be protected.  The attorneys at RDM have broad experience in the fields of premises liability, products liability, and more. We can assist your business in maintaining compliance or defending against claims. Contact RDM today.

Protect yourself from liability.

RDM’s attorneys can help you make sure you’re compliant with state laws and avoid costly COVID-19 lawsuits. And should a claim arise, we’re prepared to defend your business.

Contact RDM

Statue of Thurgood Marshall in Annapolis Square.

To celebrate Black History Month, we’ve studied freedom suits and the Dred Scott case at St. Louis’ Old Courthouse and examined diversity issues among small and mid-sized firms. Today, RDM attorney and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee chair Justin Ijei reflects on the life and achievements of Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, the first Black man to serve in the position.

Although Thurgood Marshall is well known as being the first Black Supreme Court Justice, Marshall was a stellar attorney whose work became a pillar for the civil rights movement. In fact, Marshall argued 32 cases in front of the Supreme Court, the most anyone has argued in history. Of those 32, his clients prevailed in 29.

Continue reading Celebrating the Life of Thurgood Marshall
RDM is taking steps to improve diversity, equity, and inclusion at or firm. Smaller and mid-sized firms face challenges when it comes to diversity, but steps can be taken to build a more diverse firm culture.

Many businesses, including law firms, recognize the benefits in promoting diversity and inclusion (D&I) in the workforce. Successful law firms will have attorneys from diverse backgrounds that better represent the clients and communities they serve.

What Are the Challenges for Smaller Firms?

Today, nearly every large law firm in the United States has a D&I department. With their wealth of resources, the big law firms can allocate significant amounts of time and money to diversity and inclusion efforts. Many of the larger firms have diversity directors with extensive training and experience, and that experience often commands hefty salaries that are not in the budget for small, mid-sized, and growing firms. Diversity directors can devote themselves full-time to addressing issues of diversity and inclusion in recruiting and retaining diverse attorneys and staff as well as guiding community outreach. 

However, small-to-mid size law firms are sometimes challenged by the limited resources they can allocate to D&I efforts. To address these challenges, many law firms must depend on their own attorneys to take action to improve their diversity and inclusion efforts within their firm and their profession. Despite the limited resources, small and mid-sized law firms still have the capability to achieve a diverse, equitable and inclusive culture within their firms by taking a variety of steps.

Pursuing Diversity at RDM

To be dedicated to our clients we understood that we had to become advocates and make a commitment to diversity that promotes the employment and advancement of individuals with different backgrounds and experiences. While employing candidates with a variety of backgrounds is the start, we know that once an associate decides to work with us, it is our job to make sure that they receive adequate support to become a successful attorney.

To accomplish these goals, Rasmussen Dickey Moore conducted several listening sessions with our diverse associates to ask them what diversity, equity, and inclusion meant to them and how our firm could best serve them. These were not the easiest conversations to have. Having just elected our first Black equity member and having just one current female equity member, our firm still had work to do to reach our stated goals of creating equitable opportunities for younger and diverse associates. We could not be blind to the disparity at the leadership level and needed to confront it head on to consider strategies to bring about improved results for our firm.

RDM’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee

In 2019, Rasmussen Dickey Moore established our Diversity Committee. We had recently hired several new associates who represented the most diverse part of our law firm. Soon after, RDM expanded the scope of the committee and renamed it Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI).

To improve equity efforts, there must be a buy-in at every level of the firm. RDM attorneys Nate Lindsey and Justin Ijei were chosen to co-chair our Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee. Nate Lindsey was previously the youngest member to be elected at the firm. Justin Ijei is our firm’s first Black equity partner. While neither Justin, Nate, nor our associates had any professional training in establishing or promoting DEI initiatives, the committee worked to define terms, discussed how to put words into action, and built trust to accomplish difficult tasks together in a transparent way.

Words into Action

As a result of our committee’s discussions and work, RDM is implementing several new initiatives in 2021:

  • Renewing efforts to recruit and retain diverse candidates
  • Creating a mentorship program to help with career development, aimed specifically at advocating for personal business development
  • Developing opportunities for young diverse attorneys to network
  • Celebrating diverse heritages, cultures, and religious practices through firm-wide education
  • Training employees on the importance of DEI
  • Collecting data and tracking the success of these efforts

Our leadership knows that it is imperative that these initiatives are effectively implemented. Promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion within the firm is not just a feel-good pursuit. Our clients, our communities, and our attorneys require progress towards a more just and equitable future, and that progress starts with us in our offices. RDM is excited to put these initiatives into practice and strengthen our diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts in 2021 and beyond.

How To Promote Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at Smaller Law Firms

All law firms, regardless of size, have the ability to foster an inclusive and diverse culture within their firm. While smaller firms may not have the deep pockets to implement the types of diversity programs that larger operations have, simple steps can be taken to build a more inclusive and diverse firm.

Identify and Listen To Diverse Voices

The first step is to identify voices within your firm that may not have been heard previously. Ensure that attorneys and staff from diverse backgrounds have a seat at the table. Take time to listen to these voices and accept difficult constructive criticism. Acknowledge the challenges that attorneys of diverse backgrounds face within the firm, in the legal industry at large, and in life in general.

Develop Measurable Actions

It is easy to pay lip service to the concepts of diversity, equity, and inclusion. Likewise, it is easy to get bogged down in the day-to-day business of your firm. But to ensure that your firm is moving in the right direction, a firm must commit to concrete and measurable actions and outcomes.

With your diverse attorneys taking the lead, determine what actions the firm can take to break down barriers to success. RDM’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee identified business development as an area where diverse attorneys could benefit from one-on-one mentoring and tracking results over time.  RDM has implemented a quarterly mentoring program to supplement annual reviews where mentors will discuss with associates their current workload, client contacts, and plans for unique business development opportunities specific to their own career desires and skills.

Continue the Process

We realize the importance of building an inclusive culture at our firm and understand the time and commitment required to make sure the firm continues to progress. We highly recommend other small and mid-sized firms doing this work to continue to listen, measure the successes and failures of their efforts, and make the necessary adjustments to improve. Pursuing these efforts will be both challenging and rewarding. There is always room for improvement, and it is essential that we collectively continue to listen to diverse voices both within and without the office. Every firm, no matter the size, has a role to play in making the practice of law more equitable.

Diversity, equity, and inclusion.

RDM believes that small and mid-sized firms can also have an impact on building a more diverse, inclusive, and equitable legal industry. See what we’re doing to foster a diverse firm culture at RDM.

DEI at RDM

A doctor treating a patient for COVID-19. Photo courtesy of the US Navy.

A new trend relating to COVID-19 lawsuits is emerging. Employers are now facing lawsuits for “Take Home” infections.

In August, the daughter of Esperanza Ugalde filed a lawsuit against her father’s employer alleging that her mother died of COVID-19 that her father contracted during the scope of his employment at a meat processing plant. The complaint alleges that Ricardo Ugalde worked as a butcher and was “shoulder to shoulder” with his coworkers while working on the processing line. The plaintiff further alleges that the meat processing plant was aware that other employees had become infected with COVID-19 but took no measures to mitigate the spread within the facility.

The complaint includes several negligent actions against the employer. Some of those actions include failure to warn when it knew or should have known of a COVID-19 outbreak at the facility and actively creating a risk of harm for its employees and those with close contact with those employees by not disinfecting the facility nor providing personal protective equipment (PPE).

View the full Ugalde v. Aurora Packing Company complaint here.

This idea of “Take Home” exposure is nothing new. In fact, asbestos litigation has been dealing with these types of cases for quite a while. Praedicat, a firm that evaluates risks for insurers, states that 7% to 9% of U.S. COVID-19 deaths are believed to come from take-home infections. The firm further believes that if American fatalities reaches 300,000, businesses could see a cost up to $21 billion in litigation

To be successful, the plaintiff must show a strong causal chain that connects the sick family member to the worker, and then to the employer and the employer’s alleged negligent actions. Despite this hurdle, businesses should still protect themselves by establishing proper safety procedures for its employees by following CDC guidelines, OSHA regulations, and state and local laws.

Employment and labor law.

Justin Ijei and the Employment Law team at RDM can help your business eliminate potential risks before they arrive.

Contact RDM

A marijuana plant.

In 2018, Missouri became one of the 33 states to pass the legal use of medical marijuana. Since then, Missouri has issued 192 licenses to open dispensaries and 60 licenses to grow marijuana. According to the Associated Press, a lab in Maryland Heights, Missouri was recently approved to start testing samples of marijuana. The lab anticipates that medical marijuana will be available to patients by mid-October this year. 

The use of medicinal marijuana will create challenges for employers trying to keep a drug-free workplace.  Under the Missouri constitutional provision, a person is not permitted to bring a claim against any employer, former employer, or prospective employer for wrongful discharge, discrimination, or any similar cause of action or remedy, based on the employer prohibiting an employee, former employee, or prospective employee from being under the influence of marijuana while at work or disciplining the employee or former employee, up to and including termination from employment, for working or attempting to work while under the influence of marijuana (Mo. Const. Art. 14, § 1). 

Because there are no clear tests to determine whether an employee is under the influence during working hours, there are many questions that await to be answered. It will be important for employers to ensure that their drug-free policy is in compliance with state law.

Questions about employment law?

Justin Ijei and the team at Rasmussen Dickey Moore have extensive experience with employer/employee relationships and regulations. Contact us today to discuss your case.

Contact RDM