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RDM attorney Vincent Gunter successfully filed a motion for summary judgment on behalf of a client at the Jackson County Courthouse in Kansas City, MO. Photo by Cat Craig.

Rasmussen Dickey Moore attorney Farhan M. Zahid represented a mother in a pro bono termination of parental rights trial in October. Three months later, Judge Jalilah Otto of the 16th Circuit Court in Jackson County, Missouri, finally issued a ruling.

Judge Otto held that the Petition was not sustained and ordered that the mother’s rights not be terminated. The Judge took particular interest in this case and repeatedly agreed with arguments Farhan made at trial.

The mother was alleged to have left the kids alone in the home with diaper rash and vomit. During the pendency of the case, she tested positive for marijuana, missed 70 visits arranged by the Children’s Division, and was convicted for shoplifting. The cards were stacked against the client.

A First for Marijuana Card Holders in Missouri

Farhan represented his client zealously in this case, convincing the Court to apply California precedent in this case—an unprecedented occurrence in Missouri. For the first known time in the Show-Me State, a court held that where a parent in a juvenile court matter who has a medical marijuana card, the substance-free requirement and associated negative urinalysis drug tests are not allowed to be ordered or held against the parent as a factor in consideration of termination of parental rights. This also brings to the forefront the issue of whether the state punishing mothers for using THC by removal of their children is a violation of the Missouri Constitution’s provision for medical marijuana.

The judgment does conclude on custody that it will remain as ordered in the underlying neglect case. However, in that case, the Judge has delayed proceedings to find out how Judge Otto will rule on the termination of parental rights trial. Meanwhile, the Children’s Division is already in the transition period, making preparations for the three children to all return to their mother. It is plainly obvious that essentially res judicata will be applied in the judgment of the underlying case.

RDM Fights Hard

Needless to say, Farhan’s client is elated at the outcome. At RDM, our attorneys fight hard with zeal for all of our clients and are undeterred by an uphill battle. If you are seeking top-notch, state-of-the-art trial counsel defense involving products liability and other litigation, contact RDM to discuss your case today.

RDM handles employment and labor law cases, including compliance with ADA regulations.

On July 26th, 1990, one of the most transformative pieces of civil rights legislation was passed into law: the Americans with Disabilities Act, otherwise known as the ADA. The ADA was created to prohibit discrimination against individuals with disabilities in all areas of public life, including jobs, schools, transportation, and all other public and private areas opened to the public. Today many of us can see the effects of the ADA just by walking into a building or riding public transportation.

The ADA is divided into five sections to protect individuals with disabilities in different areas of life:

  • Title I: Employment
  • Title II:  Public Services: State and Local Government
  • Title III:  Public Accommodations and Services by Private Entities
  • Title IV: Telecommunications
  • Title V: Miscellaneous Provisions

The ADA does not provide an exhaustive list of conditions that are protected under the act. Some believe the ADA was designed to be incomplete so that it could be expanded and include new disabilities. For example, in July of 2021, President Joe Biden announced that individuals suffering from serious long-term COVID-19 could qualify as disabled under the ADA.

Employers’ Obligations under the ADA

Many ADA lawsuits filed against businesses are based on allegations of discrimination, which include allegations relating to Title I of the ADA. Therefore, it is crucial for employers to understand their rights and obligations under the ADA.

Continue reading Employer Compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act
The Illinois First District Court of Appeals in Downtown Chicago. Photo by Vincent Desjardins.

The Appellate Court of Illinois, First Judicial District recently found that the COVID-19 pandemic was a factor that weighed against forum transfer in Bearden v. Conagra Foods, Inc. In this case, 45 plaintiffs brought a total of 39 product liability actions in the circuit court of Cook County against Conagra Foods, Inc., Conagra Brands, Inc., DS Containers, Inc., and Full-Fill Industries, LLC. Conagra Foods and the other defendants involved filed a combined motion to dismiss for forum non conveniens as to the out-of-state plaintiffs and a motion to transfer out of Cook County for the in-state plaintiffs. The circuit court issued a ruling without hearing argument dismissing the defendants’ motions and issued its findings.

Interestingly, in addition to weighing the standard private and public interest legal factors, the court also weighed another factor that has had both private and public implications for all of us over the past two and a half years: COVID-19.

While wrangling up all the necessary witnesses that could testify in a case involving numerous out-of-state plaintiffs and corporations with offices and employees across the country might be a factor against a forum in certain cases, here, the circuit court found that because of the COVID-19 pandemic, it was likely that most or all of the witnesses would testify by video and that remote depositions and testimony would likely be used. The court found that the arguments that court dockets would be backlogged and that jury trials might be postponed or delayed were not persuasive because COVID-19 had rendered that the case in every jurisdiction.

The circuit court did find, however, that jury visits to the sites weighed in favor of dismissal or transfer, not specifically because of COVID-19, but one could easily assume that if the court considered COVID-19 in other factors, perhaps having a jury travel to multiple states during a pandemic influenced its decision on that point as well.

COVID-19 as a Factor

On appeal, the defendants argued that the circuit court improperly found that COVID-19 weighed against dismissal or transfer. They argued that including COVID-19 as a factor was an abuse of the circuit court’s discretion. Upon review, the appellate court upheld the circuit court’s ruling in total, including its inclusion of COVID-19 in its list of factors.

The appellate court stated that “a circuit court’s decision is an abuse of discretion when it is arbitrary, fanciful, or unreasonable, or when no reasonable person would take the same view.” Bearden v. Conagra Foods, Inc., 2021 IL App (1st) 210234-U, ¶ 71 (quoting Palacios v. Mlot, 2013 IL App (1st) 121416, ¶ 18. The appellate court found that the circuit court’s consideration of such issues as testifying virtually or by video, packed dockets, and delayed jury trials, were not fanciful, arbitrary, or so unreasonable that no person would ever take the view of the circuit court. In affirming the circuit court’s decision, the appellate court has determined that COVID-19, and more specifically the impacts and related measures taken on and by the legal system can be a factor considered by Illinois circuit courts in deciding a forum non conveniens issue.

The New Normal During COVID-19

The factors considered by the circuit court in this case are familiar to anyone in the legal profession that has continued to work throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Zoom and telephonic depositions have become the norm, trial dates have been pushed back multiple times, and pajama pants have become standard dress code while in webcam meetings (well, the court didn’t explicitly consider that last one, but we all know how important that’s become).

Concerns for Defendants

Forum non conveniens motions are a viable tool for defendants seeking to have cases dismissed, avail themselves of friendlier state or local laws, or a more favorable jury pool. Some of the standard factors weighing in favor of a transfer have been effectively negated by the measures taken by the legal profession to address the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. Now that courts and law firms have knowledge of these measures, they are not likely to go away anytime soon and could be damaging to a defendant’s motion for forum non conveniens efforts.

With many state legal systems continuing to utilize these COVID-19 measures and now precedent on the books in one of the busiest legal arenas in the country, it is possible that other courts and other states could follow the Illinois circuit court’s lead and explicitly consider COVID-19 in their analysis of forum non conveniens motions. For defendants, this could prove to be a bigger headache than trying to get that one co-counsel to mute their phone during your cross-examination. But hey, at least you don’t have to show the plaintiff how to work the Zoom camera.

Rasmussen Dickey Moore's St. Louis office at 10 South Broadway.

At the end of 2021, two outstanding Rasmussen Dickey Moore associates were named members of the firm. We’re proud to welcome Travis Pour and Brandon Powell as new partners in our St. Louis office!

“We’re excited that our firm is growing,” says Nate Lindsey, member attorney in the St. Louis office. “And that includes promoting new leaders and partners like Brandon and Travis.”

Both Travis and Brandon joined our St. Louis office as associate attorneys in 2018. Their work focuses on toxic torts, products liability defense, and insurance defense, though they also have experience in business law, environmental law, and other fields.

“I am very pleased to have Travis and Brandon joining the partnership at RDM,” says Bryan Skelton, another St. Louis-based member attorney. “I have worked with Travis since 2013 and with Brandon since 2017. They have been a very significant part of my team from the beginning.  They are both excellent attorneys who will serve our clients well into the future. I am looking forward to working with them for many years to come.”

Travis Pour, attorney at Rasmussen Dickey Moore.

Travis Pour

Travis received a Bachelor of Science in Construction Engineering from Purdue University and attended law school at Southern Illinois University School of Law in Carbondale, obtaining his Juris Doctor in 2013. With a background in construction engineering, Travis focuses his practice in areas that he has hands-on experience with, defending corporate clients in the construction industry.

“I am honored to be named a partner and I am looking forward to being a part of Rasmussen Dickey Moore’s growth and success.”

Travis and his wife, Katie, find themselves chasing their 18-month-old son, Jude, in their free time. Away from the office and home, Travis helps out at his family’s winery, The Pour Vineyard, in Red Bud, Illinois.

Brandon Powell, attorney at Rasmussen Dickey Moore.

Brandon Powell

Brandon is also a 2013 SIU School of Law alum, graduating summa cum laude, while also serving as editor-in-chief of his law journal and member of the school’s moot court board. Prior to law school, Brandon received his bachelor’s degree in economics from the University of Evansville in Indiana.

Following a term as a judicial extern for Illinois Supreme Court Justice Lloyd Karmeier in 2013, Brandon began his practice in Evansville, representing corporate clients in a variety of complex litigation matters. He has extensive trial and appellate experience, both in state and federal courts.

“My entire legal career has been focused on litigation, and I am extremely excited to continue to work with the group of tenacious, detail-oriented litigators at RDM.”

Brandon and his wife, Jennifer, are parents to three boys, including twins born in November of 2021. They reside in O’Fallon, IL

RDM's office in Kansas City, MO.

With hard work, a bit of luck, and the best staff in the business, and of course our happy clients, Rasmussen Dickey Moore has been able to sustain growth through turbulent times. We’ve established ourselves as a premier small firm in the fields we serve. We’ve expanded from a small office in Kansas City’s Westport District to three branches in Kansas City, St. Louis, and Los Angeles with nearly two dozen top-tier attorneys. We are truly thankful for the clients, attorneys, and staff who have brought us so far.

In 2021, RDM celebrated an exciting and impressive milestone—25 years in business! While the ongoing pandemic preempted a silver anniversary party, we still want to take some time to reflect on the past quarter century, from humble beginnings to where we are today.

Rasmussen & Barton

On November 1st, 1996, Kurt Rasmussen, George Barton, and a handful of other attorneys from the Watson & Marshall law firm (including Clayton Dickey and Steve Moore) opened Rasmussen & Barton. The newly established firm first hung their shingle at 21 West 43rd Street in the Westport District of Kansas City. Kurt’s now-retired secretary Anita Kuhn recalls that first office as “not too good.”

“Leaky roofs, crows in the parking lot, people sleeping in the dumpster, one nasty bathroom in the basement,” were some of the challenges Clay recollects from the first year on West 43rd Street. “Anita wore her rain gear and brought a fishing pole to work to mark the occasion of the leaks.”

RDM's first office at 21 West 43rd Street in Kansas City's Westport District.
Our firm’s first office at 21 West 43rd Street in Westport, Kansas City.

The staff initially consisted of four employees, including Anita and paralegal Charles Blaschke, who still works for the firm today. According to the first issue of the R&B newsletter in the winter of 1996, the firm started off with “Corel Word Perfect 7.0 and Microsoft Windows installed on three PCs and two laptops; two laser printers; Savin 9600 copy machine; postage meter; one facsimile machine; phone system with voicemail and cost accounting procedures; scanner with sheet feeder; and of course—the office pen.”

“That first year was scary,” Clay recalls. “We no longer had the safety nets associated with a large organization—health care, steady paycheck, rent, utilities, and overhead being paid for by someone else. We had to pay the rent, buy the office supplies, make payroll, and advance costs to clients.”

However, at the end of their first year in business, the attorneys and staff at the fledgling firm had faith in their future and each other. The firm moved to newer office space on Roanoke Road in Westport and renamed itself to Rasmussen Barton & Willis to recognize the achievements of Randy Willis in developing the firm.

When George Barton left the firm to pursue a solo practice, the name changed again, with a couple of attorneys who stuck it out from the beginning—Clay and Steve—adding their names to the sign, becoming Rasmussen Willis Dickey & Moore.

Invitation to a 1998 open house at the office of Rasmussen, Barton, & Willis.
RDM founding member Kurt Rasmussen in the firm's early days.
Kurt Rasmussen in the early years.
Rasmussen Willis Dickey & Moore's former office at 9200 Ward Parkway in Kansas City.
RWDM’s office at 9200 Ward Parkway.
2006 Kansas City Business Journal photo of Kurt Rasmussen, Virginia Giokaris, Steve Moore, and Clay Dickey.

Into the New Millennium

By 2001, the firm had outgrown its Roanoke Road office and relocated to 9200 Ward Parkway, securing two floors of space and some creature comforts for the growing roster of attorneys and staff. Rasmussen Willis Dickey & Moore would operate from this location for the next 15 years.

Rasmussen Dickey Moore

RDM founding member Clay Dickey and retired secretary Anita Kuhn at RDM's 20th anniversary party.
Clay Dickey and retired secretary Anita Kuhn.

2016 was a year of many milestones. The firm, stronger than ever, celebrated its 20th anniversary. The firm relocated its Kansas City headquarters to the present office in the Holmes Corporate Center at 1001 East 101st Terrace.

Also in 2016, longtime partner Randy Willis retired. With that, the firm again changed its name and became Rasmussen Dickey Moore, or RDM, as we’re known today.

How Did We Get Here?

“Luck,” says Kurt. While luck certainly plays a role in the success of any business, most anyone at RDM will say there’s more to it than that.

“Our mantra for the past 25 years has been, ‘There is no substitute for hard work,’” says Steve. “Hard work pulled the firm through tremendously challenging times—9/11, client bankruptcies, market crashes, and the current pandemic. There is no real mystery to creating a successful law firm. The harder you work, the more successful you will be.”

RDM founding members Steve Moore and Clay Dickey.
Steve Moore (left) and Clay Dickey (right).

Clay reiterates the value of hard work. “What sets us apart is dedication to representing our clients with zeal. We have an ethical duty to be zealous in our representation. We should never allow our adversaries (and our competition) to out-work us. Our clients pay us well to represent them and we owe them nothing short of our best foot forward in every case.”

“I’m confident our clients see that we care more than most about thinking outside the box and creatively thinking about how best to succeed in a case that is tailored to the peculiar facts of any given challenge. We come to work each day with enthusiasm and a willingness to do the best job you can for our clients. They deserve nothing less.”

Behind the luck and the hard work, of course, are people. Dozens of present and past attorneys and staff have dedicated their day-to-day lives to providing exemplary work and quality service to our clients for 25 years and counting.

Despite the constant work, Anita Kuhn recalls, “we always stopped for people. We take a moment to reflect, we celebrate each other, and we take time to help each other.”

The Army National Guard Team Medal presented to Rasmussen Dickey Moore by Col. Chuck Blaschke, RDM paralegal.
The National Guard Team Medal presented to RDM by Col. Chuck Blaschke.

One notable example is when paralegal and National Guardsman Col. Chuck Blaschke was deployed to Iraq in the early 2000s. “The respect that Kurt and the firm had for me as a guardsman and soldier through two deployments was remarkable,” says Chuck. In return, Chuck presented the firm with the Army National Guard Team Medal as a thanks for the support shown while he was away serving the country.

Another paralegal, Teresa Tallman, has been with the firm for most of its existence, recently celebrating 22 years with RDM. She’s made her dedicated work with us a family affair, with her daughter Brittany Leonard also working at the firm as a paralegal.

“The people who deserve special recognition for the success of our law firm are our families,” adds Steve. “They were (and still are) the support system that have allowed us to make innumerable personal sacrifices that have resulted in a successful law firm. Our key to success has been and will always be a strong work ethic, and our families have made that possible.”

To the Future

Rasmussen Dickey Moore named to US News & World Report's Best Law Firms for 2022.

RDM has come a long way over 25 years, expanding to three offices in Kansas City, St. Louis, and Los Angeles. However, our commitment to our core values—dedication, flexibility, and value—have always stayed the same. And while we’ve grown, we still acknowledge the importance of maintaining a lean, efficient organization to be able to provide top-tier service to our clients nationwide at an extraordinary value.

Recently, RDM was recognized in U.S. News & World Report’s 2022 Best Law Firmsfor our work in products liability defense, mass torts defense, and franchise law. Kurt Rasmussen, Clay Dickey, and Joseph Dioszeghy have been once again named to the Best Lawyers list. And Kurt Rasmussen and Steve Moore were listed as 2022 Super Lawyers in products liability defense.

We’re immensely grateful for the opportunity to serve our clients, whether it be from day one of a case or down to the wire before trial. Our attorneys and staff are eager to demonstrate our dedication and attention to detail that have set us apart over the last 25 years.