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Home / Special Sections / Attorneys of the Year / 2022 Attorneys of the Year: Brewster v. USA
From left: Amanda Williams, Cathy Smith, Mary Nikolai
From left: Amanda Williams, Cathy Smith, Mary Nikolai

2022 Attorneys of the Year: Brewster v. USA

A team of Gustafson Gluek lawyers took on a pro bono case involving a botched surgery on a veteran and ended up with a handsome settlement for their client.

The team — Amanda Williams, Cathy Smith and Mary Nikolai — took on what was to be a challenging case at the request of the Federal Bar Pro Se Project. The plaintiffs — the Brewster family — had claims arising from injuries sustained by one plaintiff during his surgery and subsequent treatment at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center.

The Gustafson Gluek team became involved in 2019, after plaintiffs’ claims were twice denied in administrative proceedings.

“The Brewsters filed their case pro se, but the Pro Se Project reached out after the court identified that this was a case that could use some assistance,” said Williams. “We reviewed the file and took on the challenge.”

Over the next three years, the three lawyers spent untold hours on discovery, expert reports, depositions, motions practice and settlement negotiations. By the time they were involved, the statute of limitations had run out against the physicians. That meant the only claims remaining were against the VA.

The VA argued that the physicians involved were contractors, and as such, the VA had no liability under the relevant statute.

“Due to the injury he had suffered, Mr. Brewster had a difficult time communicating and his health was declining,” said Williams. “Second, the pandemic struck and the original medical expert for the case tragically lost several family members and was unable to continue on, leaving us to find new experts. Finally, the original surgeon had passed away, and much of the supporting staff and residents had little first-hand knowledge of this case.”

Those challenges made the possibility of a settlement remote, but in March 2022, the parties agreed to a six-figure settlement for plaintiffs, with Gustafson Gluek waiving its fees.

Read more about Minnesota Lawyer’s superb class of Attorneys of the Year for 2022 here.


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