Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart
In the field of employment law, there are few cases more wrenching than those involving employee fatalities. It takes not only experience, but also sensitivity, when navigating labor issues, investigations, public relations, potential lawsuits and insurance.
Fortunately, Hal Shillingstad, shareholder at Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart, possessed both the background and the insight needed to shepherd two recent situations involving fatalities.
Last year, Verso Paper in Sartell, Minn., experienced one of the largest commercial fires in state history, leading to the death of one worker and injuries for several others. After getting the call from Verso, Shillingstad arrived in Sartell the same day, wearing a hardhat and steel-toed boots, in order to walk through the scene. For three months, he stayed onsite to assist fire investigators, insurance professionals and plant managers.
Also in 2013, Shillingstad concluded his representation of a global manufacturing company, which had two fatalities from a hydrogen explosion at a facility in the southern U.S. Shillingstad helped coordinate a wall-to-wall safety audit, in the midst of aggressive investigations by state and federal agencies.
“We jumped in during the initial hours of an event to counsel our clients on event triage and the marshaling of company and external resources to address these types of events in an effective and meaningful way,” he said.
Because of his experience, Shillingstad tends to get called in on non-traditional employment law situations, he adds, and they often involve crisis management. He sees himself as a valuable resource in the midst of chaos, and he values the opportunity to help companies come out of crises stronger and safer.
“Enhancing worker safety is the ultimate goal,” he said. “That falls in line with my belief that we’re here to make the world a better place, whenever we have the ability and capacity to do so.”