Steven J. Wells

Steven J. Wells




For over thirty 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.

Steve is the Partner-in-Charge of Dorsey’s Trial Group worldwide.

Education & Admissions

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

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


  • Minnesota
  • Minnesota Supreme Court
  • U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota, and Eastern and Western Districts of Wisconsin
  • U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third, Fourth, Fifth, Seventh, Eighth, Ninth, and Federal Circuits
  • U.S. Supreme Court
  • Appeared and practiced 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 Work

Commercial Litigation

  • Del Real LLC v. Harris, --- Fed.Appx. ---- (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; question certified to Washington Supreme Court, argued January 21, 2016.
  • 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

  • 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. United States, 784 F.3d 1123 (7th Cir. 2015)(en banc). Successfully argued ground-breaking habeas case on behalf of federal death row prisoner.
  • 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. Subject of "Investigative Reports" documentary on The Arts and Entertainment Network.

Industries & Practices

  • Appellate
  • Banking
  • Class Action Litigation
  • Commercial Litigation
  • Food & Agribusiness
  • Franchise & Distribution Law
  • Health Care
  • Health Litigation
  • Intellectual Property Litigation

Professional & Civic

Professional Achievements

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

Community Involvement

  • MacPhail Center for Music, Board Member
  • Wilderness Inquiry,  Board Member
  • 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)


Ranked in Chambers USA 2015 - Leading Individual   Ranked in Chambers USA 2014 - Leading Individual

  • Named one of “America’s Leading Business Lawyers” by Chambers USA (Litigation: General Commercial), 2008-2015
  • Listed as a Minnesota Super Lawyer, 2012-2015
  • Listed in Best Lawyers in America©, 2012-2016

North Star Lawyer logo

  • MSBA North Star Lawyer, 2014-2015

Benchmark Litigation - Local Litigation Star 2016

  • Recognized as a "Local Litigation Star – Minnesota" by Benchmark Litigation, 2015-2016
Steven J. Wells