Teresa Fariss McClain: Taking a Bold Stand for Justice

By H. K. Wilson 

When someone has been seriously injured or has lost a loved one due to another’s negligence, it takes great courage to stand up and demand justice. It also takes a legal advocate who is both fearless and determined to right the wrong. With more than 225 attorneys in seven key cities across the country who are rewriting the odds in favor of justice, Robins Kaplan LLP is changing the law, lives and society for the better. 

Teresa Fariss McClain has devoted her legal career to litigating and successfully resolving birth injury, medical malpractice and other personal injury matters, ensuring that those who have been injured receive the compensation they deserve. 

Representing individuals whose lives had changed as a result of injury through healthcare became my passion.

Her journey as an advocate began with a career in nursing, nurtured from childhood by her mother, who provisioned her with nursing kits and costumes as a child. In her teens, McClain discovered an interest in law and politics. While she went on to pursue an education in nursing, she always felt her path would someday intersect with the law. She found her passion caring for obstetrics patients in labor and delivery, eventually moving to home health care for high-risk OB patients and then to a position as a nurse administrator for a healthcare company specializing in high-risk obstetrics. Identifying an underserved need, she obtained additional training as a critical care nurse, a field she worked in while attending law school at William Mitchell College of Law. 

McClain spent her first year as a lawyer clerking with the Honorable Donald P. Lay of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit. Once she entered practice, she began advocating for plaintiffs in medical malpractice cases. 

“Representing individuals whose lives had changed as a result of injury through healthcare became my passion,” she says. “With my OB background, I was well prepared to represent people who had issues with childbirth and newborn health issues as a result of birth. As a nurse, I gave care and a voice to patients. As an attorney, I am not only bearing witness to what happened, I am helping people receive justice.”

McClain joined Robins Kaplan in 2015, following a decade working alongside veteran plaintiff’s attorney Mark A. Hallberg in the firm they co-founded, Hallberg & McClain, P.A. 

“I always respected Robins Kaplan. When I read malpractice case law, most of the lawyers behind the cases that set Minnesota law were Robins Kaplan lawyers – besides the lawyer I worked with. When I decided it was time for a change, I started a conversation with Peter Schmit, the chair of the medical malpractice group here, and it seemed the perfect fit for me.”

Medical malpractice cases, and birth injury matters in particular, pose unique challenges for trial attorneys. During labor and delivery, the care of the mother and child are shared by a whole team of health providers. Due to the collaborative nature of obstetric care, negligence may be the result of more than one provider at different points in the process. This means that every aspect of care must be evaluated when assessing a birth injury claim. Robins Kaplan is well equipped for the task, with an array of experienced attorneys and in-house medical advisors who work together to examine the facts relating to liability and causation. 

“The most important resources I have at Robins Kaplan are the people I work with,” McClain says. “We have an extremely talented staff of medical analysts. One was a nurse midwife in Britain and practiced in OB here before joining our team. We also have nurses with backgrounds in pediatrics and obstetrics, a medical doctor and a physical therapist. We do a thorough first look here internally with the medical analysts we have, and with that information, we have a good idea of whether we will get the support of qualified experts who can testify at trial. We need to make sure we have meritorious cases only, so our medical experts look at records and imaging, and give their opinions about whether there was negligence and whether it was the cause of the injury.” 

Experts are needed not only to look backwards and tell the story of how the injury occurred, but also to look ahead and explain how a child’s life will be affected in the future. Specialists in life care planning, vocational rehabilitation, housing accessibility, economics and the like all play a role in predicting what will be needed to care for an injured child for their lifetime. 

Robins Kaplan has an array of professionals on its team who make vital contributions to plaintiffs’ cases. The firm’s graphic artists create informative and impactful graphics that demonstrate the facts of a case for use in mediation, pre-trial negotiations and courtroom trials. Paralegals work tirelessly to gather information about each client’s damages, the therapies a child needs, the details of their Individualized Education Program (IEP) at school, summaries of medical expenses, and what resources will be needed to care for the child in the future. 

The firm’s leading-edge technology is another factor in winning these and other complex cases. “One of the things our internal tech support does is help us to tell our clients’ stories by producing videos. They go out to spend a day or two with the family, go to school with the child and watch them go through therapy to help tell the entire story of how this event has affected their lives. They quickly form relationships with our clients and know what questions to ask in order to help document their claims.” 

Putting it into real-life terms, McClain explains, “It is so rewarding to help families get the resources they need to do everything and to make sure they have the best life they can. For instance, they might not have room in their home for a wheelchair or lift. It’s not hard when the children are little, but eventually, they get bigger than mom. Some clients are still carrying their children from the house to the car. They can do it for a little while, but eventually they need help. We’re here to make sure they get that help.” 

McClain’s insights into the complexities of health science as well as its policies and delivery are matched by her compassion for people. “Every one of these cases makes an impression on me,” she says. “In every case where there has been a birth injury, we are trying to get a meaningful recovery so the family can take care of the child. Parents in these situations expect it to be the happiest time of their life, and instead they are faced with the lowest low. They are left wondering, What is life going to be now? They are overwhelmed by what the future holds and how to take care of their child.” 

A mother of four, including twin boys who are still in high school, McClain highly values her own parenting experience. Aside from her work and pro bono contributions to the community, you will find her cheering on her sons as they play basketball and baseball or gathering loved ones around the family table. “It’s important to be able to shut my mind off and have fun. In order to be in this kind of practice for decades, you have to find ways to really decompress, rejuvenate and recharge to be the best you can for your clients.”

As a lifelong advocate, McClain is profoundly moved by the bravery and tenacity of the families she represents. “It takes a lot of courage on the client’s part to confront doctors, hospitals and health care organizations and to say, ‘This was wrong, and we were harmed as a result,’ to have their depositions taken and to answer discovery and be tested by the defense. They are all courageous to come forward looking for justice. I am honored to stand behind them and be the person who helps.”

In every case where there has been a birth injury, we are trying to get a meaningful recovery so the family can take care of the child.

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