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The POWER 30: William Harper and Paul Peterson

Minnesota Lawyer//June 22, 2023

William Harper (left) and Paul Peterson, Harper & Peterson, PLLC

William Harper (left) and Paul Peterson, Harper & Peterson, PLLC

The POWER 30: William Harper and Paul Peterson

Minnesota Lawyer//June 22, 2023

Harper & Peterson, PLLC

The garage door didn’t see the 70-year-old man on a bicycle, is how his attorneys, Bill Harper and Paul Peterson of Woodbury, explain it.

The plaintiff, a man who had spent his career as a trainer of professional or everyday athletes, is now living a very different life, one that includes chronic pain. He was awarded $1.4 million by an arbitrator. The final offer from the defense was $300,000.

He was injured when a garage door crushed his head as he rode on his bicycle through an entrance garage in Minneapolis. Since the door lacked a motion detector, it didn’t see the bicyclist coming, it failed to stop. He also suffered a fractured jaw and three broken cervical disks.

The plaintiffs settled with the door manufacturer with a Pierringer release, leaving the installer’s liability to be determined by the fact-finder. While Pierringers are “always scary,” said Peterson, their theory of liability was that the installer should have included a motion detector.

The attorneys were able to demonstrate that the plaintiff had led a very active life and argued that time is very different to a person in pain. In cross-examination, Harper turned the defense witness into the plaintiff’s witness, Peterson said.

Also on the firm’s docket is Jepsen v. Pope County. It was considered by the Minnesota Supreme Court in 2021, where the court said that child protection workers who allegedly negligently failed to notify local law enforcement about reports of child abuse that led to a child’s death were not protected by common law or statutory immunity. A final distribution hearing in the wrongful death case was pending at deadline.

Peterson, who will see the end of his tenure as president of the Minnesota State Bar Association in June, is also planning to move his practice in a different direction by increasing his mediation clients, planning to increase the number of clients he can help.

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