By Sheila Pursglove
Just cause: Attorney helps injury victims gain redemption
Having suffered a serious personal injury 20 years ago, attorney Ron Marienfeld has a special understanding of what injury victims go through—and enjoys going to bat for clients to get financial resources needed after a serious accident.
“I love the challenge of fighting against the insurance carriers and helping injury victims obtain compensation—it has a kind of ‘Robin Hood’ feeling,” he says.
A managing partner with Girodat & Marienfeld in Jackson, and a member of the Michigan Association of Justice and the Jackson County Bar Association, Marienfeld works to get clients compensation for medical bills, lost work and other expenses.
“An automobile—or any other accident—can change someone’s life in ways you can’t imagine,” he says. “Recovery can be a lengthy, painful process, and people may be unable to work or do all the things they did before their injury. The physical pain, financial strain, missed work and medical bills, can cause tremendous anxiety and stress. Unless you’ve been in this situation, it’s impossible to put yourself in someone else’s shoes.”
Drawn to the law by the desire to help others, Marienfeld followed an interesting path to his legal career. After graduating from Michigan Center High School near Jackson, he joined the U.S. Army for three years, when he had the opportunity to attend the U.S. Military Academy Prep School at Fort Monmouth, N.J., followed by a one-year tour in South Korea.
Active duty for Uncle Sam was followed by three years with the Army National Guard in Jackson; and Marienfeld served in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait during the First Gulf War, code-named Operation Desert Storm.
“During my military career, I performed various duties, but primarily drove trucks,” he says.
After completing his Army service, Marienfeld earned an associate’s degree in criminal justice, with a minor in psychology, from Jackson Community College, followed by an undergrad degree in paralegal studies from Eastern Michigan University in Ypsilanti.
He then earned his J.D. from Michigan State University College of Law where he was the chief editor of articles for the law school’s Journal of Medicine and Law. During his time at MSU Law he clerked at Church, Kritselis, & Wyble in Lansing, a fast-paced plaintiff’s personal injury litigation firm.
“I learned right away that I’d found my area of practice,” he says.
After passing his bar exam in 2002, he immediately began trying cases in courts all across Michigan. The discipline and structure he had learned in the Army carried over into law by learning tools to handle and complete any level of task without supervision.
“The Army taught me very well that things which seem impossible are not,” he says. “‘If it is to be, it is up to me,’ was a phrase I truly learned in the military and carried over into my civilian life. This was vital not only in completing the nightmare of law school, but the fast-paced area of law I’ve chosen.”
In 2007, Marienfeld made a tough decision to leave Lansing and return to his hometown of Michigan Center to begin his own personal injury practice in Jackson. Joining forces with attorney Rick Girodat, in 2010 the duo formed Girodat & Marienfeld PLC.
The two attorneys, and Of Counsel attorney George Potter, bring a combined 75 years of litigation experience to clients in Jackson and beyond. In addition to insurance disputes and probate law, the team handles automobile, tractor trailer, and motorcycle accidents; premises liability; wrongful death; slip and fall; medical malpractice; spinal and brain injuries; and dog bites, among other issues.
“However someone is injured, we guide them through one of the hardest times in their life, even meeting people at home or in hospital if they can’t come to our office,” Marienfeld says. “Every case—whether resolved through negotiations, mediation or trial—requires a unique strategy.”
His practice has continued to grow as successful verdicts and settlements were obtained in various courts in Michigan. He won a jury verdict of $257,707 in Kokas v Citizens Insurance Co. in Jackson County, in which the plaintiff sought compensatory damages for denied homeowner’s insurance claims following extensive home damage at a Clark Lake home. The jury agreed that the wrong version of the carrier’s policy was presented when the claim was initially denied, and that the delay in coverage of structure collapse led to even more damage.
Marienfeld also won jury verdicts of $110,112 in Williams v. State Farm Insurance Co. in Calhoun County, a disputed case for no-fault benefits arising from a motorcycle accident; $330,000 in Hartman v. 14th Avenue Cartage in Wayne County, which involved an accident caused by a tractor-trailer striking a bridge and subsequently colliding with his client’s minivan; and $410,000 in the Allegan County case of Morgan v. Menasha Corp., a case arising out of injuries suffered by a man as he unloaded wood chips being delivered to Menasha, allegedly caused by the negligent operation of a loading or delivery platform by a Menasha employee on Menasha property.
In his leisure time, Marienfeld enjoys spending time with his wife Heather and their three children: Max, 12, Nick, 10, and one-year-old Ella. For the past few years, he has coached youth baseball and football at Napoleon Schools. He also enjoys golfing, hunting, fishing, snowmobiling and boating, much of this on the Michigan Center chain of lakes and around Jackson County.
“The rural setting of the Jackson area always made me miss home while away in the service, despite being stationed in various parts of the world,” he says.