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Richard Ruohonen & Charles Slane

Attorneys of the Year: Richard Ruohonen & Charles Slane

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Richard Ruohonen

Secured $2.2 million verdict against insurance company

When Charles Slane considers what he likes most about his work as a litigator, the answer pops up instantly for him. “I love standing up to bullies,” he says. “To provide an opportunity to be heard for someone who’s fighting, who needs to have a voice, is why I come in every day. I want to be an advocate, in every sense of that word.”

His partner, Richard Ruohonen, agrees that bully quashing is one of the most satisfying aspects of their work at TSR Injury Law, but adds that there’s an all-in quality to the work as well. “As a lawyer, you might have several cases going, but to a client, they have one case, and it might be the only case in their life,” he says. “You’ve got to give it everything you have.”

That ferocious advocacy was made apparent in early 2014, when the pair secured a $2.2 million verdict for a bad faith case against American Family Insurance. An elderly woman had lost her leg in a terrible car accident, and the other driver admitted to fault immediately. But despite that kind of seemingly clear-cut claim, the insurance company delayed payment.

Slane and Ruohonen took on the case initially because they felt there’s been a pattern of abuse with American Family, which they believe lowballs their customers. As they worked on the case, and got to know their 91-year-old client, their passion for advocacy only deepened.

“She’s such a fighter, and she quickly became one of our favorite clients of all time,” says Ruohonen. “Sometimes people give up after an accident, especially at her age. But she worked so hard to get to the point where she could walk with a cane instead of being in a wheelchair. We felt that she deserved attorneys who would work equally hard to make sure she wasn’t unfairly treated.”

Slane jokes that the firm spent $50,000 on a trial, and ended up making that amount back. But in seriousness, he notes that they would actually spend more if it meant trying a case as effectively as possible. They enjoy trying cases together, since their in-court personalities blend well, they believe. Ruohonen is the more dramatic, in-your-face attorney, he notes, while Slane is expert at intelligently getting points across in a way that witnesses or jurors understand.

Each attorney also enjoys the opportunity to use their skills in separate cases. For example, Ruohonen tried a case in early 2014 that involved a traumatic brain injury and knee injury, again taking on an insurance company that offered a low settlement sum. Ruohonen received a sizeable verdict that far exceeded the company’s settlement limits.

That story is a familiar one at TSR, where Slane, Ruohonen, and partner Steve Terry regularly take on insurance companies that offer low settlements despite extensive medical bills from their customers after car accidents.

Those cases are the kind that drive Ruohonen and Slane every day. They both admit to a passion for winning, but not for its own sake. They say they want the most for each client, in every case.

“When people aren’t being treated fairly, that just becomes a driver for us,” says Ruohonen. “We want them to win.”

—Elizabeth Millard

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