Michael J. Cohen
Shareholder Michael J. Cohen has more than 30 years of experience in complex commercial litigation in federal and state courts. His proven record of numerous favorable verdicts at the trial and appellate levels has earned him a reputation as one of Wisconsin’s preeminent business litigators. For many years, Mike has been recognized by members of the Wisconsin bar and judiciary as one of the top lawyers in the state.
Mike concentrates his practice on complex commercial litigation including non-compete and other restrictive covenants, breach of contract, business torts, shareholder disputes and employment; environmental and toxic tort litigation; and on complex insurance coverage litigation, including environmental and asbestos liabilities and bad faith claims. He has been involved in some of the most significant complex insurance coverage matters in Wisconsin and other surrounding states over the two decades.
Preparing to Compete: The Boundaries of Permissible Conduct
Enforceability of Non-Compete Agreements in Wisconsin
Ratajczak v. Beazley Solutions Ltd., 870 F.3d 650 (7th Cir. 2017)
Obtained summary judgment holding that our insurer client did not owe the insureds a duty to defend or indemnify against claims for the adulteration of whey protein concentrate because the underlying allegations of fraudulent and deceitful actions by the insured did not constitute an “occurrence.” Affirmed on appeal.
Acuity v. Chartis Specialty Insurance Company
The Wisconsin Court of Appeals unanimously reversed. The Wisconsin Supreme Court then unanimously reversed the Court of Appeals’ decision
Cargill, Inc. v. Ace American Insurance Company, et al.
784 N.W.2d 341 (Minn. 2010). A complex environmental insurance coverage action in which the client, a nationally renown liability insurer, obtained summary judgment in its favor, with such decision being affirmed by the Minnesota Court of Appeals and then, on other grounds, by the Minnesota Supreme Court. In doing so, Attorneys Michael Cohen and Thomas Hruz convinced the Minnesota Supreme Court to overrule a 43-year-old precedent and create new law on contribution rights between insurers as to their duty to defend an insured, all in a manner favorable to our client and insurers generally.
St. Paul Mercury Ins. Co. v. Northern States Power Co.
2009 Minn. App. Unpub. LEXIS 977 (Minn. Ct. App. 2009), rev. denied 2009 Minn. LEXIS 834 (Minn. 2009); Northern States Power Co. v. Continental Ins. Co., 2011 WI App 136, 337 Wis. 2d 427, 805 N.W.2d 734, rev. denied 2012 WI 2. A complex environmental insurance coverage action in which the firm’s clients, two excess insurance carriers, obtained a favorable ruling on venue of the action in Minnesota and Minnesota choice of law and subsequently obtained summary judgment on allocation of damages and justiciability. Cohen and his colleagues were also successful in obtaining a critical stay of the parallel Wisconsin action while the Minnesota action proceeded. The Minnesota District Court’s decisions were affirmed on appeal, and the insured’s petition for review to the Minnesota Supreme Court was denied. The Wisconsin circuit court then gave full-faith and credit to the Minnesota District Court’s holdings and dismissed the parallel Wisconsin action. The Wisconsin circuit court’s decisions were affirmed on appeal and the insured’s petition for review to the Wisconsin Supreme Court was denied.
Lyman, et al. v. St. Jude Medical, United States District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin (2005-2008)
A multi-million dollar breach of contract action by our client, an individual sales representative whose contract with a major, national medical device company was summarily and without legitimate cause terminated. The case settled soon after our client obtained a number of very favorable court rulings immediately prior to trial, including a ruling rejecting a Daubert challenge to our client’s damages expert while disqualifying the defendant’s corresponding expert.
Haase, et al. v. American Optical, et al.
2004 WI 97, 274 Wis. 2d 143, 682 N.W.2d 389. Our client, one of the nation's largest industrial sand suppliers, was sued by a foundry worker with silicosis claiming strict liability for allegedly producing an unreasonably dangerous product. Cohen and his colleagues obtained a directed verdict after two weeks of trial. The directed verdict was upheld by the Wisconsin Court of Appeals and by the Wisconsin Supreme Court, which held that sand in its raw form was not an unreasonably dangerous product as a matter of law, effectively creating legal immunity for our client.
Cababa v. St. Francis Anesthesiology, Inc.
United States District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin (2003). An anesthesiology group and its officers were sued by a former member of the group for national origin discrimination and retaliation claims. Cohen and his colleagues obtained summary judgment dismissing all claims against the defendants and an order for costs. The case established precedent on “stray remarks” as not constituting direct evidence of discrimination and the need for common decision makers to have performed the alleged discriminatory acts.
Emergency Physicians, Ltd. v. Infinity Healthcare Physicians, S.C., et al.
Brown County Circuit Court, Wisconsin (1999). Emergency physician group brought claims of tortious interference of non-compete agreements and conspiracy to injure business against client, who was awarded exclusive hospital contracts for emergency room services. Michael Cohen obtained summary judgment for our client dismissing all claims and declaring that the physician non-compete agreements were unenforceable as a matter of Wisconsin law.
- Bielefeldt v. Dickert, Racine County Circuit Court, Wisconsin (2011) (defamation claims against Mayor of Racine; case settled prior to trial)
- Lunda Construction Co. v. Fischer-Fischer-Theis, Inc., et al., Milwaukee County Circuit Court, Wisconsin (2008) (Construction defect case involving insurance coverage claims; obtained partial summary judgment on plaintiff’s claim for defense as additional insured; case settled prior to trial)
- Majerus v. M.A.N. Equipment Sales, LLC, et al., Fond du Lac County Circuit Court, Wisconsin (2008) (breach of contract; case settled after several days of jury trial)
- Menasha Corporation v. Employers Insurance of Wausau, et al., Winnebago County Circuit Court, Wisconsin (2007) (Environmental insurance coverage action involving PCB contamination of Fox River; case settled prior to trial)
- Schmuck v. Oja, et al., Price County Circuit Court, Wisconsin (2005) (Employer liability claims involving insurance coverage; obtained summary judgment for insurer, appeal denied)
- Columbia Casualty, et al. v. Arjo Wiggins Appleton P.L.C., et al., Brown County Circuit Court, Wisconsin (2005) (Environmental insurance coverage action involving PCB contamination of Fox River; case settled during appeal)
- Rogers, et al. v. Wisconsin Patients Compensation Fund, et al., Washington County Circuit Court, Wisconsin (2004) (Insurance coverage for health care liability claims; obtained summary judgment for insurer; affirmed on appeal)
- Plastics Engineering Company v. Liberty Mutual Insurance Company, United States District Court Eastern District of Wisconsin (2004) (Asbestos insurance coverage case; Decision by Wisconsin Supreme Court after transfer by Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals)
- Mullins Whey, Inc. v. McShares et al., United States District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin, Green Bay Division (2004) (Toxic tort and products action; settled prior to trial)
- Northwest Wisconsin Anesthesiologists, S.C. v. Brendel, et al., Barron County Circuit Court, Wisconsin (2003) (Non-compete and breach of contract claims; obtained preliminary injunction following hearing enforcing non-compete)
- Wisconsin Electric Power Company v. Admiral Insurance Company, et al., Milwaukee County, Wisconsin (2003) (Environmental insurance coverage action; case settled immediately prior to trial)
- Johnson Controls, Inc. v. Employers Insurance of Wausau, et al., Milwaukee County Circuit Court, Wisconsin (2000-2006) (involved for lead carrier in environmental insurance coverage case, including appeal to Wisconsin Supreme Court; summary judgment granted, affirmed on appeal and reversed by Supreme Court; claims against client settled prior to trial after remand)
- Bentley World-Packaging, Ltd. v. One Source Packaging, Logistics & Distributions, LLC., Milwaukee County Circuit Court, Wisconsin (2000) (Claims of breach of fiduciary duties, trade secrets, tortious interference, and conspiracy to injure business; obtained settlement prior to trial for former employer)
- Radiology Consultants, et al. v. Huberty, et al., Racine County Circuit Court, Wisconsin (1999) (claims of tortious interference, conspiracy to injure business; obtained denial of preliminary injunction, case voluntary dismissed against clients)
- Wisconsin Power & Light Co. v. Admiral Ins. Co., et al., United States District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin (1997) (Environmental insurance coverage action; obtained summary judgment for insurer; argued on behalf of insurers before the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, who affirmed on appeal)
- Sunbeam Corporation, et al. v. Liberty Mutual Insurance Company, et. al, Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County, Pennsylvania (1994-2007) (parallel Wisconsin case stayed) (Environmental insurance coverage action; argued on behalf of insurers before the Pennsylvania intermediate appellate courts and Supreme Court; claims against client settled prior to trial)
- Kohler Co. v. Allstate, et al., Sheboygan County Circuit Court, Wisconsin (1991) (Environmental insurance coverage action; obtained summary judgment for insurer, affirmed on appeal)
- Powers Holdings, Inc. v. Sharp Refractories, et al., Milwaukee County Circuit Court, Wisconsin (1991) (Claims of non-compete, trade secrets, tortious interference, breach of fiduciary duty and conspiracy; obtained denial of preliminary injunction, obtained summary judgment on certain claims including non-compete violations and prevailed at trial on remaining claims)
- Wisconsin Super Lawyers® (2006 - 2016); Top 25 Lawyers in Milwaukee (2011 - 2016); Top 50 Wisconsin Super Lawyers (2008 - 2016)
- The Best Lawyers in America® (2010 - 2018); Milwaukee Lawyer of the Year® (Insurance Litigation, 2014, 2017)
- America's Top 100 Attorneys - Lifetime Achievement Member (2017)
- Leaders in the Law (2011)
- Update: Attorneys Michael Cohen & Joseph Sarmiento Win Appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh CircuitSeptember 7, 2017
- Attorney Michael Cohen to Present at the National Business Institute’s Seminar "Expert Witnesses: Using Wisconsin Court Rules to Your Advantage"August 31, 2017
- August 15, 2017
- May 24, 2017
- March 16, 2017
- Attorneys Michael Cohen and Joseph Sarmiento Recognized for Outstanding Appellate Brief in State Bar of Wisconsin CompetitionDecember 21, 2016
- November 11, 2016
- August 15, 2016
- November 12, 2015
- August 24, 2015
- July 8, 2015
- June 25, 2015
- April 29, 2015
- Attorneys Michael Cohen and Joseph Sarmiento Obtain Unanimous Decision from the Wisconsin Supreme CourtApril 10, 2015
- November 14, 2014
- November 4, 2014
- August 20, 2014
- July 15, 2014
- December 19, 2013
- Michael Cohen Elected to Judicial Election Steering Committee and Presenting at State Bar of Wisconsin SeminarNovember 11, 2013
- November 11, 2013
- August 19, 2013
- July 3, 2013
- May 13, 2013
- November 14, 2012
- November 14, 2012
- October 12, 2012
- September 19, 2012
Speeches & Publications
Speaker, Expert Witnesses: Using Wisconsin Court Rules to Your Advantage, National Business Institute, September 27, 2017
Speaker, Arbitration: Soup to Nuts, Alternative Dispute Resolution Seminar, Milwaukee Bar Association, May 11, 2016.
Speaker, Social Media and Other Electronic Evidence, 2016 Marquette University Law School Civil Litigation and Evidence Conference, March 4, 2016.
Speaker, E-Discovery in Insurance Coverage Cases, PCI Claims Committee Conference, October 8, 2014.
Speaker, Agents who Prepare to Compete: Soliciting Customers and Co-Workers, State Bar of Wisconsin, December 5, 2013
Speaker, Trending Topics in Business Litigation—Preparing to Compete and the Breach of the Duty of Loyalty, Wisconsin State Bar, November 30, 2012
Speaker, Litigation Holds—What Should Be Done. Wisconsin Defense Counsel 2010 Summer Conference; Washington County Bar Association, February 17, 2010
Speaker, Advanced Allocation Issues, Complex Insurance Claims Litigation Association, March 10, 2010
Speaker, Litigation Holds and the Duty to Preserve Evidence, Marquette University Law School, November 6, 2009
Author, Recent Revisions to the Wisconsin Fair Employment Act Raise the Stakes for Employers, The Business Journal (Milwaukee), Vol. 27, No. 3 at 43 (Oct. 16, 2009) (co-authored with Thomas M. Hruz)
Author, Can Employers Force Employees to Sign Noncompete Agreements as a Condition of their Employment?, Wisconsin Lawyer, Vol. 72, No. 5, (May 1999) (co-authored with William T. Stuart)
Speaker, Practical Evidence Issues Before and at Trial—Scope of Expert Testimony at Trial—Attempts to Go Beyond Expert Report and Disclosures; Use of Information Obtained Over the Internet; Litigation Holds—What Should be Done; Contacting Employees and Former Employees of Opposing Party; Milwaukee Bar Association, December 12, 2008
Speaker, 2008 Insurance Law Institute—Views From Across the River—Trigger, Allocation and the Plastics Engineering Co. v. Liberty Mutual Co. Case in Wisconsin, Minnesota Defense Lawyers Association, November 13, 2008
Speaker, 31st Annual Corporate Practice Institute—Trade Secrets: A Thief or Not a Thief?, State Bar of Wisconsin—CLE Seminars, December 4, 2007
Speaker, Real Evidence for the Trial Practitioner—Scope of Expert Testimony at Trial—Attempts to Go Beyond Expert Report and Disclosures; Use of Information Obtained Over the Internet; Litigation Holds—What Should be done; Contacting Employees and Former Employees of Opposing Party, Lorman Business Center, Inc., August 28, 2007
Speaker, Current Issues Surrounding CGL Coverage—Insurance Coverage for Business Torts, Lorman Business Center, Inc., May 4, 2007
Speaker, Insurance Bad Faith Claims, Lorman Business Center, Inc., March 30, 2007
Speaker, 2006 Civil Law Seminar—Case Management Orders, Wisconsin Supreme Court, December 6, 2006
Speaker, Insurance Coverage for Environmental Contamination, Civil Trial Counsel of Wisconsin, August 12, 2006
Speaker, Annual Convention Litigation Section—Insurance Coverage for Business Torts, State Bar of Wisconsin, May 3, 2006
Speaker, Insurance Bad Faith Claims in Wisconsin, Lorman Business Center, Inc., March 31, 2006; April 29, 2005 and March 22, 2005.
Speaker, Insurance Coverage for Environmental Contamination: Welcome Back to Environmental Law After Johnson Controls, Inc., v. Employers Insurance of Wausua, et al., Civil Trial Counsel of Wisconsin, August 11, 2005
- State Bar of Wisconsin, Judicial Election Steering Committee
- State Bar of Wisconsin, Past Member of the Board of Governors (2013 - 2017)
- Milwaukee Bar Association
Past President; Bench-Bar Civil Division Committee, Former Co-Chair; Civil Litigation Section, Former Chair
- Milwaukee Bar Foundation, Board Member
- Thomas E. Fairchild Inn of Court, Master
- American Bar Association
Tort Law and Insurance, Business Litigation
- American Bar Foundation
- Wisconsin Fellows
- High School Mock Trial Tournament, Former Co-Chair
- Defense Research Institute
- Wisconsin Defense Counsel
- International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders, Board Member
- National Alliance for the Mentally Ill, Former Board Member
- Business Law, Center for Legal Technology, a division of MBTI/Business Training Institute, Instructor (1989-1991)
- City of Milwaukee Administrative Appellate Review Board, Board Member (1987-1989)
- City of Milwaukee Housing Authority, Alternate Hearing Examiner (1986-1989)
“From the get go, Attorneys Michael Cohen and Dieter Juedes were confident that they could litigate our case to a satisfactory outcome. They were very knowledgeable as to employer/employee relationship law and our legal basis for a lawsuit. I was very satisfied with our outcome. I called around the city for referrals for an attorney who specialized in employer/employee relations law and Attorney Cohen’s name kept coming up, again and again. I would not hesitate to use Attorney Cohen in the future if the need arises.”
-Glen H. Schott, Vice-President and General Manager of Imperial Flavors Beverage Company
"From the very start, Atty. Cohen and his team at Meissner Tierney put forth their full efforts into defending our case. Atty. Cohen doggedly pursued every avenue of attack on our behalf, and his expert legal work resulted in a dismissal, exceeding our expectations. We could not be happier with the quality of the legal representation or the result."
-Gregory T. Helding, J.D., Alderman of the 11th District, City of Racine
“As we approach our 11th business anniversary, I am thankful that Meissner Tierney has been on our side from the beginning. Our lead counsel, Mike Cohen, consistently provides us with a comprehensive view of our legal issues and finds practical, quality solutions that work in a timely fashion.”
-Brian Lammi, President of Lammi Sports Management, Inc.
“Michael Cohen is a pleasure to work with. He has great expertise within his specialty, is very responsive and is cost effective and practical. Michael also has a very good manner and style when dealing with both clients and opposing counsel.”
-William M. Bohn, President & CEO of Associated Financial Group, LLC