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The POWER 30: Philip Sieff

Minnesota Lawyer//June 22, 2023

Philip Sieff

Philip Sieff, Robins Kaplan LLP

The POWER 30: Philip Sieff

Minnesota Lawyer//June 22, 2023

Robins Kaplan LLP

Philip Sieff has a way of being at the intersection of legal remedies and public crises. He was a leader in the compensation process for the plaintiffs’ damages in the 35W bridge collapse. He was at Red Lake in 2005 after a teenager killed nine people — seven at the Red Lake high school, his grandfather and the grandfather’s partner — and then himself.

Now Sieff is leading a charge for compensation for victims harmed by people inhaling keyboard duster to get high, and he is trying to change the way the duster product is sold. About 3 million people intentionally inhale dust remover every year, according to the federal National Electronic Injury Surveillance System. But there is little public awareness of the problem because it is a legal product, easy to buy  and evades testing because it wears off in hours, Sieff said.

“Imagine the drunkest person you’ve ever seen. You can get that from one huff,” said Sieff, who would like to see the cans locked up in stores.

Sieff now has 10 cases involving seven deaths, he said. He recently settled a case against 3M where a driver who had inhaled, or “huffed,” the dust remover blacked out while driving and struck a woman walking on the sidewalk. She now must use a wheelchair. Another case is headed for trial where a huffer killed three Girl Scouts and a troop leader cleaning along a highway.  That driver was sentenced to 54 years in prison.

The carnage at Red Lake still leaves Sieff at a loss for words. He said he’s learned that the worst tragedies defy the imagination. “I don’t have words to tell you how distressing it is to see a school shooting scene. It takes your breath away,” he said.

We as a country are responsible for school shootings, Sieff said, not just the shooter, gun manufacturers, and security staff, he said. “We could stop it.”

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