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Fred Pritzker, litigator, formidable opponent of Fortune 500 companies, dies at 71

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Fred Pritzker, litigator, formidable opponent of Fortune 500 companies, dies at 71

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Fred Pritzker, a litigator who became a formidable opponent of Fortune 500 companies across the country in food poisoning, natural gas explosions and trucking accidents, died Jan. 10 after battling the cancer for more than two years. He was 71 years old.

He and his downtown Minneapolis-based small business have won hundreds of millions of dollars for people from all walks of life who have suffered serious injuries. He gained a reputation as a compassionate lawyer who was also a master of complex litigation.

His high-profile cases in Minnesota included a settlement for the family of receptionist Ruth Berg, who died in the explosion that destroyed Minnehaha Academy. Pritzker and his legal partner, Eric Hageman, also won a $3 million settlement for the family of 12-year-old Abdullahi Charif, who drowned during swimming lesson at St Louis Park Middle School.

A longtime St. Paul resident, he and his wife, Renee Beloy Pritzker, sued the city for rescinding a demolition permit they obtained before buying an $875,000 home in historic Crocus. Hill. Their plan was to demolish the house and build a dignified, modern, and disability-accessible home for their son, Jacob, who lives with Angelman Syndrome.

Ramsey County Judge Robert Awsumb decided the case in Jacob’s favor in 2015, ending a bitter dispute with neighbors who said they preferred historic preservation.

When the rebuilding project was completed, the Pritzkers embedded a steel plate in Jake’s concrete driveway, readable from the public sidewalk. In part, he says, “Neighborhoods are not defined by architectural styles and vocal activists. They exist and stay strong by meeting the needs of the people who live there.”

Twin Cities attorney Mike Colich said Fred possessed a rare blend of kindness, toughness and brilliance. He said Pritzker befriended several of his clients and stayed in touch with them for years. Colich said his friend relished the David vs. Goliath fights and amazed his friends with his deep curiosity and endless questions. He despised gossip.

“He’s the best lawyer I’ve ever met,” Colich said. “As good as he was, he was a fighter and he stood up for what is right.”

Sarah Pritzker, Fred’s daughter, said at her funeral Friday at the Hodroff-Epstein Memorial Chapel that her father lived by the saying, “What must be done, must be done.” The two of them were best friends and traveled the world together.

Named “Lawyer of the Year” three times by the Minnesota Lawyer newspaper, Pritzker grew up working in his late father Edward’s grocery and liquor business on Como Avenue and Dale Street. His late mother, Billie C. Lawton, was a colorful character who worked at the College of Liberal Arts at the University of Minnesota.

Pritzker graduated from Highland Park High School, attended Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, worked briefly for a Chicago alderman, and earned his law degree from the University of Minnesota Law School. in 1976.

The law school mourned his death with a public statement acknowledging his pioneering work in the area of ​​foodborne illness, including the largest such trial verdict on behalf of a child poisoned with E. coli.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota, where Pritzker was a founding board member, also honored the attorney in a statement. Pritzker’s law practice was influenced by having a son with a disability, and Fred’s passion was to make people with disabilities safe and happy, the ACLU wrote.

Pritzker was president of the Angelman Syndrome Foundation of America. Ben Philpot, a leading Angelman Syndrome researcher, spoke at the funeral about how the family’s involvement in the foundation and in direct research funding was transformational, globally , helping to develop treatments.

Pritzker began his legal career in 1977 at Meshbesher, Singer & Spence. Ten years later, he formed a new personal injury law firm with Helen Meyer. She became a justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court while Pritzker spent the rest of her life building what is now Pritzker Hageman Attorneys. Eric Hageman said his legal partner worked until 10 days before his death, never complaining about his physical disappearance.

Besides his wife and two children, Pritzker is survived by brothers Marc Pritzker (Sandra Stowell) and Tom Pritzker (Joanne Sunquist); half-sisters, Connie Lundeen (Bob), Sandra Rubenstein and Nancy Madson (John); and several nephews and nieces. The family throws a summer celebration of Fred’s life.

Fred Pritzker, litigator, formidable opponent of Fortune 500 companies, dies at 71

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