Nate works as an insurance defense attorney, focusing on products liability law and asbestos defense litigation in Missouri and Illinois. He has extensive experience advocating for a broad range of national businesses including manufacturers, premises owners, and contractors during all phases of litigation with the ultimate goal of mitigating and eliminating legal risk. He has also represented a variety of local professionals and entities including retail owners, medical professionals, design professionals, financial planners, and construction contractors. He regularly appears for contested motions and trial settings in the circuit courts of Missouri and Illinois including St. Louis City, St. Louis County, Madison County, and McLean County.
Prior to working at Rasmussen Dickey Moore, Nate gained experience as a law student extern at the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Kansas and as an extern clerk for the Honorable Carlos Murguia of the United States District Court for the District of Kansas.
Litigation in St. Louis, Madison County, and more.
Let Nate and the team at RDM put their experience to work for you. When you face claims in the challenging jurisdictions of Greater St. Louis and the Metro East areas, count on RDM to handle your case.
Johnson & Johnson is looking to strike a blow to one of the more infamous verdicts in the City of St. Louis. While St. Louis has long had a reputation for plaintiff-friendly decisions, the largest verdict by far was $4.69 billion against Johnson & Johnson for 22 plaintiffs in July 2018.
In the summer of 2020, the verdict was upheld by the Missouri Court of Appeals. On November 3rd, 2020, the Missouri Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal from Johnson & Johnson and Johnson & Johnson Consumer, Inc. in Robert Ingham et al. v. Johnson & Johnson, et al. The courts let stand a state appellate decision which affirmed a $2.2 billion jury verdict against the consumer giant and for women who claimed their ovarian cancer was caused by use of Johnson & Johnson’s talcum powder products.
Johnson & Johnson called the trial verdict “fundamentally flawed” and “at odds with decades of independent scientific evaluations confirming [their products were] safe.” They vowed to appeal the verdict to the Supreme Court.
In March 2021, Johnson & Johnson filed a petition on three issues related to the verdict: whether consolidating 22 plaintiffs into a single case violated due process; whether the punitive damages award was unconstitutional in light of the actual compensatory award; and whether the trial court actually had personal jurisdiction in the case.
The particular issues raised by Johnson & Johnson highlight many of the concerns raised over the years with Plaintiff friendly procedures in St. Louis. Only five of the 22 plaintiffs resided in Missouri. Other than suing the same defendant for the same product, their cases had little in common. These practices have become commonplace in Missouri and are likely to continue without a ruling from the Supreme Court that would change the current litigation climate.
The Old Courthouse in downtown St. Louis is getting an update as part of a $380 million revitalization of the grounds of Gateway Arch National Park. An iconic element of the St. Louis skyline, the first iteration of the Old Courthouse was completed in 1828, with various upgrades and expansions occurring over the next decades. The distinct iron and copper dome was completed in 1864.
While many in St. Louis might have intimate knowledge of the history of the Old Courthouse, most visitors to St. Louis and those living outside the region are likely unaware of why the courthouse is a historic federal building. Aside from its famous silhouette below the Gateway Arch, the Old Courthouse is best known for its role in the Dred Scott case, in which an enslaved Black man sued for his freedom. The case marked the end of an era in which hundreds of slaves sued for their freedom in St. Louis and stoked the tensions that led to the Civil War.
Once Free, Always Free: The History of Freedom Suits in St. Louis
In 1807, the Missouri Territory enabled a statute that permitted any person wrongly held in slavery to sue for their freedom. Such suits were referred to as “freedom suits.” Each suit required a charge of trespass of false imprisonment and witness testimony. The process was cumbersome, as the person who brought suit had the burden of proving that they were in fact free, and that their captor had inflicted physical abuse upon them. Furthermore, most would-be petitioners lacked the ability to read or write, not to mention the resources needed to seek counsel. Many cases were handled pro bono by abolitionist attorneys in the community.
The Missouri Supreme Court interpreted the territorial statute in 1824 and formally established Missouri’s criteria for a freedom suit. The precedent, set in Winny v. Whitesides, was known as “once free, always free.”
Winny was an enslaved woman owned by Phoebe Whitesides. Whitesides kept Winny as a slave while living in Illinois for a number of years. Winny won her case before the Circuit Court and prevailed again after Whitesides appealed the case to the Missouri Supreme Court. The Supreme Court heard that appeal at the Old Courthouse. On the appeal, the Supreme Court affirmed that a slave taken to a state or territory which had outlawed slavery, by virtue of being in a free land, became a free person. The freedom held even if a former slave returned to a slave state like Missouri. That freedom could not be revoked.
The Winny v. Whitesides decision ushered in a “golden age” of freedom suits. Approximately 300 freedom suits were brought before the Circuit Court in St. Louis throughout the middle of the 19th century. More than half of the petitioners prevailed in their fight for freedom under the “once free, always free” doctrine.
The Dred Scott Freedom Suit
The Old Courthouse was the site of the trial level freedom suits of Dred Scott and his wife Harriet in 1847 and 1850. When most hear Dred Scott, they jump to the infamous 1857 Supreme Court opinion in Dred Scott v. Sandford that held, “it is too clear for dispute that the enslaved African race were not intended to be included, and formed no part of the people who framed and adopted” the Declaration of Independence. The Supreme Court decided that Black people, whether free or enslaved, were not entitled to the privileges enshrined to American citizens in the Constitution.
Victory in St. Louis
However, the road to the Supreme Court case was a complicated one. Spanning more than a decade of litigation, the Dred Scott case started in St. Louis at the Old Courthouse. The Scotts’ original petition for freedom claimed that they had resided in the free state of Illinois at Rock Island and in the free Wisconsin Territory at Fort Snelling. Because they had been voluntarily held by their owner in these locations where slavery was not permitted, they argued that they were entitled to freedom. The Missouri Circuit Court in St. Louis agreed in 1850.
Appeal to the Missouri Supreme Court
The Scotts’ alleged owners appealed the case to the Missouri Supreme Court, and the parties again pleaded their cases at the Old Courthouse in downtown St. Louis. The tides had shifted at the high court since the days of “once free, always free,” and the Missouri Supreme Court overturned the Scotts’ victory in the lower court. The court sought to strengthen its position on states’ rights, stating in 1852, “Times are not now as they were when the former decisions on this subject were made. Since then, not only individuals but States have been possessed with a dark and fell spirit in relation to slavery.” In other words, just because you were free in Illinois, you are not guaranteed freedom in Missouri.
The Federal Suit
After the loss, the Scotts again sued for their liberty in 1853, but this time at the federal level. The federal court had jurisdiction as the Scotts’ so-called owner was residing in New York. However, the court instructed jurors to rely on Missouri law when determining whether or not the Scotts should be free. In light of the recent decision of the Missouri Supreme Court, the Scotts were again denied their freedom. They appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court’s Dred Scott Decision
The Dred Scott opinion is remembered as one of the darkest moments of jurisprudence in our nation. The majority chose to ignore the expansive ideals of the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, and our nation in favor of an inhumane and antiquated interpretation of the founders’ intentions.
The opinion was delivered by Chief Justice Roger Taney, a slave owner and southern sympathizer who outspokenly supported the institution of slavery. At the time, the Supreme Court included four southern justices. Behind the scenes, President-elect James Buchanan pressured northern justices to join the majority, hoping to put an end to the slavery question. Ultimately the efforts resulted in a 7–2 ruling against the Scotts. The decision outraged the growing contingent of anti-slavery Americans and pushed the nation closer to civil war.
The Old Courthouse’s Legacy in Civil Rights History
As we have seen here, the Old Courthouse was the stage for early decisive victories for slaves seeking freedom. The Old Courthouse also served as a setting for decisions that reversed those victories and diminished the possibility for former slaves to be guaranteed liberty. Missouri was always viewed as a divided state, and the wild swings in the opinions of the courts over just a handful of decades puts those divisions into stark relief. Soon after the Missouri Supreme Court’s ruling against Dred and Harriet Scott, the state would send thousands of soldiers to serve both the Union and Confederate armies.
While the Scotts did not ultimately prevail in their fight for freedom, their cases helped to fuel abolitionist movements and provided context to the struggle for Black freedom that has existed since the birth of our nation. A solid majority of the U.S. Supreme Court at the time of the Scott decision believed that the founding fathers saw Blacks as “so far below them in the scale of created beings” that the Constitution couldn’t possibly apply to Blacks enslaved or free. That such unconscionable beliefs were widely held, accepted, and enshrined into law shows the strength of the institutions which slaves, freed Blacks, and abolitionists had to push back against. While the 13th Amendment abolished slavery, the fight for Black civil rights continues. The relentless spirit of Dred and Harriet Scott in their pursuit of liberty lives on.
The Old Courthouse Today
Gateway Arch National Park serves as a “memorial to Thomas Jefferson’s role in opening the West, to the pioneers who helped shape its history, and to Dred Scott who sued for his freedom in the Old Courthouse.” The park, previously known as the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial, was renamed in 2018. As part of a massive project to update the park, a bridge and a small park space were built to provide a direct connection between the Arch and the Old Courthouse.
The final piece of the update project, known as CityArchRiver, is a full renovation of the Old Courthouse. Beginning in late 2021, the renovation will include upgrades to mechanical systems and accessibility improvements along with new exhibit galleries. The new northeast gallery will focus entirely on the Dred Scott case. The northwest gallery will examine Black life in St. Louis during the time of slavery, and the battles for freedom which were frequently fought in the Old Courthouse’s courtrooms.
A bronze statue of Dred and Harriet Scott stands in the southeast courtyard of the Old Courthouse. The statue was unveiled in 2012 and erected through the work of the Dred Scott Heritage Foundation.
In the Shadow of the Old Courthouse
Rasmussen Dickey Moore’s St. Louis office is located directly south of the historic Old Courthouse. The landmark serves as a daily reminder of the importance of the pursuit for justice: “Equality for all under the law without bias, or prejudice of any kind.” Moreover, we are reminded of the ongoing struggle for equality that Blacks and other minorities face both in the world at large and in the legal industry specifically.
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.
Recently, Nate Lindsey achieved a favorable result for a Rasmussen Dickey Moore client in a construction contract dispute that went to virtual arbitration. He discussed his experience with attorney Matt Jensen who also recently completed virtual alternative dispute resolution. Their experiences are captured here in these five quick questions for this month’s Cross-Examination.
What was the format for your virtual hearing?
Nate: I appeared for an arbitration involving a construction contract dispute via Zoom. It involved three witnesses, a fair amount of documents, and lasted around four hours. This followed a very brief Zoom mediation where we didn’t make much progress coming to an agreement on the claim.
Matt: I had a mediation last week involving husband and wife plaintiffs and three defendants. Generally, the case involves a defectively designed home. We had taken the plaintiffs’ depositions already and the parties were all pretty well aware of the documents both sides thought were important. We had initially planned on all of the parties gathering together by Zoom for the first round of talks. However, at the last minute, the mediator decided he only wanted to meet with the plaintiffs via Zoom in the initial meeting. Then he held a phone conference with all of the defendants before breaking off and calling each of us individually in successive rounds.
Did you do anything different approaching the hearing since you knew it was going to be virtual?
Nate: After the initial mediation, which was also through Zoom, I decided to find a little box to place my laptop on so I wasn’t looking down at the screen or camera. This felt a little more natural than the first call because I was eye level with screen and better centered. I tried to keep my notes and second screen with exhibits angled so that I was always facing my computer camera and never looking or turning away.
Matt: While I was pretty sure the mediator had already been provided with any important documents, I had scanned copies of everything I felt might be needed in a folder on my desktop just in case we needed to find something quickly. I also probably spent a little more time discussing the case with the carrier before mediation since there would nobody would be with me live.
What went well during the hearing and what do you wish would have gone better?
Nate: The only thing that didn’t go well was the arbitrator’s Zoom account started to boot us off during the final hour of the proceeding. I don’t think anyone knew why. Luckily, there was a backup account link ready to be used. Having a “Plan B” for handling a virtual conference is highly recommended.
Matt: The mediator decided that since we had already taken the depositions of the plaintiffs, there was no need to have the defendants present on Zoom. So, there were no opening statements and, while I am sure the mediator did a fine job of presenting our arguments, there was no opportunity for me to make those arguments directly to the plaintiffs. For reasons I will explain below, I think having the defendants in the initial Zoom meeting would have been beneficial. As for what went well, I did the mediation from my office where I had access not only to my computer but to my cell phone and a land line. This worked out well because when the mediator would call me on my cell phone, I could (usually) ring up the carrier on my land line so he could listen in.
Do you think the virtual hearing was as effective as doing it in person?
Nate: Generally, I think the format was fine for an arbitration where both parties knew we weren’t negotiating and we were presenting the case on the merits to the arbiter. I think had we have mediated in person, we would have been more likely to reach an agreement before the arbitration.
Matt: For the right type of case, the Zoom mediation could work out pretty well. However, my case was further complicated by the unrealistic expectations of the plaintiffs in terms of their damages and the failure of their attorney to manage those expectations. So, my mediation was kind of doomed from the start. We did not settle and made very little progress towards settlement. I believe there is a chance we could have made greater headway if we could have met with the plaintiffs in person to explain why the law did not entitle them to the damages they were seeking.
What’s your best piece of advice for an attorney approaching their first virtual hearing?
Nate: The organization of lots of documents and preparing to present them on the screen is crucial. I handled it alright by myself, but I think I could have done even better had I used an administrative assistant or paralegal to help me with the share screen function and quickly locating documents.
Matt: I agree with Nate on documents, but I think everything has to be a little more organized on the whole. There was at least one time when the mediator called me and I could not get the carrier on the phone. So, having spent a lot of time with him discussing the issues in advance of the mediation was good because I pretty much knew how he was going to react to everything the mediator was telling me.
Alternative dispute resolution.
RDM attorneys have extensive experience in alternative dispute resolution including arbitration and mediation. We also have certified arbitrators and mediators to help resolve your case.
Located in south St. Louis City, the Dutchtown Community Improvement District is a political subdivision with the power to impose special assessments and taxes for purposes of public improvements and development in the Dutchtown neighborhood.
Above, Nate is pictured in the center of the photo behind St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson on signing day.
Serving our communities.
When they’re not handling your case, RDM attorneys serve their communities in a variety of ways. Get to know our attorneys outside of the courtroom.