Steven J. Wells

Steven J. Wells



For over thirty-seven years, Steve has tried business cases and argued appeals in courtrooms across the nation. He works with clients to resolve disputes early by thoroughly investigating the facts and the law, identifying key issues, and collaborating closely with clients to understand their business goals. Steve understands that, often, winning at all costs is not winning at all. But when push comes to shove, Steve advocates persuasively for his clients from trial-level courts to the highest court in the land – as his track record of trial and appellate wins reflects. For many years, Steve chaired Dorsey’s worldwide Trial Group, and now chairs Dorsey’s Appellate Practice Group.

Education & Admissions

University of Vermont (B.A., Russian Studies and History, 1979), cum laude

The George Washington University Law School (J.D., 1983), with honors


  • Minnesota
  • Minnesota Supreme Court
  • U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota, Eastern and Western Districts of Wisconsin, and Southern District of Indiana
  • U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third, Fourth, Fifth, Seventh, Eighth, Ninth, and Federal Circuits
  • U.S. Supreme Court
  • Appeared and practiced pro hac vice before state, federal and administrative courts in numerous other states


  • U.S. District Court for the District of Vermont, Chief Judge Albert W. Coffrin, 1983-1984


Representative Litigation

Commercial Litigation

  • Sohmer v. United Health Group Inc., U.S.D.C., D. Minn., 2021Lead counsel in putative class action alleging ERISA claims against health insurance claims administrator; motion for class certification denied and summary judgment granted for clients.
  • Larson v. Gannett Co., et al., 940 N.W. 2d 120 (Minn. 2020). Lead trial and appellate counsel for media defendants in multi-claim defamation action; after two-week trial, jury verdict for defendants on all claims; new trial order by the court reversed on appeal. In a significant decision, the Minnesota Supreme Court held for the first time that the fair and accurate reporting privilege applies to press reports of official statements by law enforcement agencies, and remanded for new trial on the fair and accurate reporting privilege.
  • Nelson Auto Center v. Tegna, Inc., 951 F.3d 952 (8th Cir. 2020). Represented defendant media organization in defamation suit alleging false statements in connection with news reporting. Judgement for defendant affirmed.
  • Money Mailer, LLC v. Brewer, 449 P.3d 258 (Wash. 2019). Argued in Washington Supreme Court for Appellant franchisor on certified question regarding interpretation of Washington franchising statute; questions answered in client’s favor.
  • Kedrowski v. Lycoming Engines, 933 N.W.2d 45 (Minn. 2019). Lead counsel for defendant airplane pump manufacturer in post-trial motions and appeal following $28 Million jury award for plaintiff, the third biggest personal injury award in Minnesota state history. As a result of post-trial motions, jury verdict on liability was overturned, and Supreme Court affirmed new trial order.
  • Represented SUPERVALU INC./United Natural Foods, Inc. in numerous commercial disputes in federal and state courts (e.g., Affiliated Foods  Midwest Cooperative, Inc. v.  SUPERVALU INC., U.S.D.C., D. Neb., 2019); Mr. Dees et al. v. Inmar et al., U.S.D.C., E.D. Wis., 2019).
  • In the Matter of Qwest Corp. d/b/a CenturyLink QC, 918 N.W.2d 578 (Minn. App. 2018). Represented utility in connection with railroad’s constitutional challenge of utility crossing statute; statute upheld on appeal.
  • Midbrook Flowerbulbs Holland B.V. v. Holland Am. Bulb Farms, Inc., 874 F.3d 604, 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 21172, 98 Fed. R. Serv. 3d (Callaghan) 1623, 2017 WL 4799263 (9th Cir. 2017). Lead appellate counsel for Dutch agricultural company in multimillion dollar international contract dispute involving meaning of “due process” in connection with the enforcements of foreign country judgments. Judgment for client affirmed.
  • Del Real, LLC v. Harris, 636 Fed. Appx. 956, 2016 U.S. App. LEXIS 2569 (9th Cir., Feb. 12, 2016). Lead counsel for prepared food company challenging California “slack fill” packaging statute on basis of preemption; statute held preempted and permanently enjoined by district court; affirmed on appeal.
  • OBB Personenverkehr AG v. Sachs, 136 S.Ct. 390 (2015). Co-counsel on successful petition to the United States Supreme Court for a writ of certiorari from the Ninth Circuit on behalf of a foreign state-owned railway regarding the interpretation of the Foreign Sovereign Immunity Act’s commercial activity exception. In a unanimous opinion, the Court reversed the Ninth Circuit and held that OBB enjoyed sovereign immunity.
  • Centurion Properties III, et al v. Chicago Title Insurance Co. 793 F.3d 1087 2015 WL 4283338 (9th Cir. 2015). Counsel of record on appeal for appellant seeking reversal of summary judgment on commercial tort claims.
  • National Meat Association v. Harris, 132 S.Ct. 965 (2012). Counsel of record for, and argued on behalf of, Petitioner in preemption case involving the Federal Meat Inspection Act; in a unanimous opinion, the Court reversed the Ninth Circuit and struck down all provisions of California law challenged by Petitioner. 
  • U.S. Bank v. Equity Bank, U.S.D.C., D. Minn., 2015. Lead counsel for U.S. Bank in mortgage repurchase dispute; summary judgment on “bad faith” claims, then favorable settlement.
  • Syngenta Seeds, Inc. v. Bunge North America, Inc., 762 F.3d 795 (8th Cir. 2014). Counsel for appellant in Lanham Act and other claims. Remanded.
  • St. Jude Medical (Hong Kong) Limited, et al. v. Conor Medsystems, Ireland, Ltd. et al. Supreme Court of State of N.Y., 2013. Lead counsel for Plaintiffs in dispute over international distribution rights for cardiac stent. Confidential settlement.
  • Reilly et al. v. Ceridian Corporation, 664 F.3d 388 (3rd Cir., 2012). Lead counsel for defendant in putative class action alleging claims based on data security breach; all claims dismissed with prejudice.
  • Rios, et al. v. Jennie-O Turkey Store, Inc., et al., 739 N.W.2d 309 (Minn. App. 2011). Lead counsel for defendants in wage and hour class action regarding donning and doffing in turkey processing facilities involving over 13,000 employees; summary judgment on all claims.
  • OOIDA v. SUPERVALU INC., 651 F.3d 857 (8th Cir. 2011). Lead counsel for Defendant in class action by transport trade association claiming violations of Motor Carriers Act; all claims for restitution and damages rejected.
  • Trustee in Bankruptcy for Health Risk Management, Inc. v. Ernst & Young LLP, AAA Arbitration, 2008. Lead counsel for respondent in "deepening insolvency" claim. After five weeks of arbitration, award for respondent and all claims dismissed with prejudice.
  • Clougherty Packing LLC v. AmeriCold Logistics, JAMS Arbitration, 2008. Lead counsel for claimant in contract and accounting dispute; $2.7 Million award for the claimant.
  • Data Recognition Corp. v. The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc., U.S.D.C., D. Minn., 2004. Lead counsel for defendant in action by educational testing services company for alleged breach of contract and tort claims over state testing contracts; summary judgment for defendant on all claims.
  • Loop Corp. v. Ernst & Young LLP, 2004 WL 2221619 (Minn. App. 2004). Lead counsel for defendant accounting firm in action by investors in failed HMO seeking in excess of $22 Million for alleged accounting malpractice and securities violations; all claims dismissed with prejudice.
  • Fortune Funding, LLC v. Ceridian Corp., 368 F.3d 985 (8th Cir 2004). Lead counsel for defendant in action by office building owner and mortgagee claiming over $44 Million in damages as a result of breach of contract and fraud in sales/leaseback transaction. Partial summary judgment for defendant on contract and related claims; jury verdict for defendant on all fraud claims.

Franchise and Distribution Litigation

  • Represented numerous automobile manufacturers (including Nissan North America, Inc., American Honda Motor Co., Inc., Subaru of America, Inc., Toyota Motor Sales, USA, Inc., Volkswagen Group of America, Inc., and others) in connection with hundreds of market representation disputes in 22 states.
  • Nissan of North Olmsted v. Nissan North America, Inc., 38 N.E.3d 500 2015 WL 3963958 (Ct. App Ohio 2015). Lead counsel for defendant Nissan in add-point dispute. Plaintiff’s claims dismissed, affirmed on appeal. 
  • Zimbrick Honda v. American Honda Motor Co., Inc., 2012 WI App 40, 340 Wis. 2d 498, 812 N.W.2d 540 (Wis. App. 2012). Lead counsel for defendant Honda in add-point protest; after trial, judgment for Honda. Affirmed on appeal.
  • Gentile Nissan v. Nissan North America, Inc., 800 N.W.2d 555, 2011 (Wis. App. 2011). Lead counsel for defendant Nissan in dealer termination; after trial, judgment for Nissan. Affirmed on appeal.
  • Andrew Chevrolet, Inc. v. Nissan North America, Inc., Wisconsin Division of Hearings and Appeals, 2011. Lead counsel for defendant Nissan in action claiming wrongful rejection of dealership sale; after trial, judgment for Nissan.
  • Krantz, Inc. v. Nissan North America, Inc., U.S.D.C., D. South Dakota, 2005. Lead counsel for defendant Nissan in dealer termination action and civil damages suit. Following motions and evidentiary hearing, termination upheld and all claims of dealer and proposed transferee dismissed with prejudice.
  • Brunswick Nissan v. Nissan North America, Inc., Ohio Motor Vehicle Dealers Board, 2004, and Ohio Court of Common Pleas, 2005. Lead counsel for defendant Nissan in dealer termination action; following trial, termination upheld and all claims of protesting dealer dismissed.
  • R.L. Imports v. Subaru of America, Inc., U.S.D.C., D. Minn., 2005. Lead counsel for defendant Subaru in add-point protest. Following trial, favorable settlement allowing establishment of new dealer.
  • Enervations v. 3M, 380 F.3d 1066 (8th Cir. 2004). Lead counsel for 3M in action by former distributor of film products alleging wrongful termination and various business torts; all claims dismissed with prejudice.

Pro Bono Litigation

  • Webster v. Daniels, 784 F.3d 1123 (7th Cir. 2015)(en banc); Webster v. Watson, 975 F.3d 667 (7th Cir. 2020). Lead counsel in successful, ground-breaking federal habeas appeal to the en banc Seventh Circuit; upon remand, successfully led team in multi-year evidentiary hearings resulting in vacatur of client’s death sentence.
  • Guy v. Cockrell, 343 F.3d 348 (5th Cir. 2003). Lead counsel for Texas death row inmate in federal habeas proceeding; following trial, writ of habeas granted and death sentence vacated. Subject of "Investigative Reports" documentary on The Arts and Entertainment Network.

News & Resources


The Supreme Court - October 3, 2022
The Supreme Court – June 30, 2022
The Supreme Court – June 29, 2022
The Supreme Court – June 27, 2022
The Supreme Court – June 24, 2022
The Supreme Court – June 23, 2022
The Supreme Court – June 22, 2022
The Supreme Court – June 15, 2022
The Supreme Court – June 14, 2022
The Supreme Court – June 8, 2022
The Supreme Court – June 6, 2022
The Supreme Court - May 2, 2022
The Supreme Court - April 29, 2022
The Supreme Court – April 25, 2022
The Supreme Court - April 21, 2022
The Supreme Court – April 4, 2022
The Supreme Court – March 31, 2022
The Supreme Court - March 28, 2022
The Supreme Court - March 24, 2022
The Supreme Court - March 4, 2022
The Supreme Court - March 3, 2022
The Supreme Court - February 28, 2022
The Supreme Court - February 24, 2022
The Supreme Court - February 22, 2022
The Supreme Court - February 18, 2022

News & Press Mentions

Super Lawyers Recognizes 26 Dorsey Lawyers in Minneapolis
UnitedHealth Units Beat ERISA Drug Overcharge Claim
The POWER 30: Steven J. Wells
18 Dorsey Lawyers Recognized by Benchmark Litigation
Super Lawyers Recognizes 29 Dorsey Lawyers in Minneapolis
Benchmark Litigation Recognizes 17 Dorsey Lawyers
ABA 2020 Volunteer Recognition & Awards Program
SCOTUS Gets Defamation Appeal
Bar Buzz: Dorsey lauded for death row work
Dorsey Partner Steve Wells Comments on Mask Mandate
Super Lawyers Recognizes 38 Dorsey Lawyers in Minneapolis

Select Presentations

  • Lecturer at numerous CLE seminars on trial strategy and procedure, expert witnesses, ethics/attorney-client privilege, discovery and death penalty issues

Industries & Practices

  • Appellate
  • Banking & Financial Institutions
  • Class Action Litigation
  • Commercial Litigation
  • Creative Industries
  • Food, Beverage & Agribusiness
  • Franchise & Distribution Law
  • Healthcare & Life Sciences
  • Healthcare Litigation
  • Intellectual Property Litigation
  • Tax Controversy & Litigation
  • Trusts & Estates Litigation

Professional & Civic

Professional Achievements

  • Legal Teaching
    • University of Minnesota, 2007-present, Adjunct Professor (Trial Practice Seminar; Death Penalty Seminar; Appellate Advocacy Seminar)
  • Federal Practice Committee, U.S. District Court, D. Minn., 2013-2022 (Chair 2018-2022)
  • Merit Selection Panel, U.S. District Court, D. Minn., 2010
  • American Constitution Society, Advisory Committee 
  • Fund for Legal Aid, Board Member

Community Involvement

  • Catholic Charities, Board Member
  • Wilderness Inquiry Foundation, Board Chair
  • MacPhail Center for Music, Board Member (former)
  • Wilderness Inquiry, Board Member (former)
  • West Bank School of Music, Board Member (former)
  • James Sewell Ballet, Board Member, (Treasurer) (former)
  • Theatre de la Jeune Lune, Board Member,  (former)
  • West End Sports and Athletic Club Baseball Coach (former)


Contributed 100+ Pro Bono Hours in 2020

  • Contributed more than 100 Challenge pro bono hours, 2020

Chambers USA 2021  Ranked in Chambers USA 2020  Ranked in Chambers USA 2019 Leading Individual  
Chambers USA 2018 Leading Individual  Ranked in USA Chambers 2017 Leading Individual  Ranked In - USA Chambers and Partners 2016 - Leading Individual   
Ranked in Chambers USA 2015 - Leading Individual 

  • Named one of “America’s Leading Business Lawyers” by Chambers USA (Litigation: General Commercial), 2008-2021
  • Listed as a Minnesota Super Lawyer, 2012-2021
  • Listed in Best Lawyers in America©, 2012-2022
  • Minnesota Lawyer The POWER 30: Business Litigation, 2021

North Star Lawyer logo

  • MSBA North Star Lawyer, 2014-2020

  • Recognized as a "Local Litigation Star – Minnesota" by Benchmark Litigation, 2015-2019 and 2021-2022
Steven J. Wells