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Thursday, March 23, 2023

St. Paul lawyer Fred Pritzker, who specializes in food poisoning law, has died at the age of 71.

Mary McKissick still talks about the awe she felt after her first meeting with St. Paul’s attorney, Fred Pritzker.

In 2012, after her husband, John, contracted a near-fatal case of food poisoning that left him hospitalized for two months, of which he was unconscious for six weeks, a woman from Merrysville, Pennsylvania began talking to lawyers from all over the world. country.

According to her, Pritzker made an impression on her as soon as he arrived at the rehabilitation hospital in Pittsburgh, where John was recuperating. “He knew more about listeriosis meningitis than any other doctor I have ever met,” she said.

Pritzker, a founding partner of the Minneapolis law firm Pritzker Hageman, died Jan. 10 from complications related to multiple myeloma. He was 71 years old.

Pritzker, who has been practicing law for over 40 years, was “a trailblazer in food poisoning law,” said Eric Hageman, his longtime partner at the law firm. Pritzker also specialized in bomb and fire litigation, as well as catastrophic injury cases, he said.

Fred Pritzker, 71, Of Saint Paul, Died On January 10, 2022 From Complications Related To Multiple Myeloma.  Pritzker, A Founding Partner Of The Minneapolis-Based Pritzker Hageman Law Firm, Has Practiced Law For Over 40 Years And Was A World-Renowned Food Poisoning Expert.  He Also Specialized In Explosion And Fire Litigation, As Well As Disaster And Personal Injury Cases.  (Courtesy Of Renee Pritzker)
Fred Pritzker (Courtesy of Renee Pritzker)

“Fred had such a unique ability to understand the scientific and medical aspects of a case almost better than our hired experts,” Hageman said. “With his scientific and medical background, he was able to spot problems in cases and see things in medical records or regulatory reports that 99 percent of lawyers wouldn’t see.”

Pritzker was also a skilled public speaker and negotiator and “had an unrivaled work ethic,” Hageman said. “He was always the most well-trained lawyer in the room.”

In October, Pritzker and Hageman resolved what is “considered the largest food poisoning settlement in U.S. history,” Hageman said. “This is certainly what drove him in the last few years of his life. It was his last act as a lawyer and one of his greatest achievements.”

The details of the settlement are confidential, he said.

According to Hageman, one of Pritzker’s biggest cases involved a man “horribly injured in a pipeline explosion.” According to Hageman, Pritzker helped negotiate a $45 million settlement on the man’s behalf and, as with many former clients, remained a family friend for the rest of his life.

Fred was “a social person and he loved to interact with people,” Hageman said. “He loved to listen to people’s stories, but he also loved to tell people’s stories. He loved being the voice of the voiceless and speaking on behalf of the little people fighting big companies or the powerful – that was his passion and it really fit with his personality.”


Pritzker grew up in St. Paul’s Highland Park and graduated from Highland Park High School in 1968. He received a bachelor’s degree in political science from Northwestern University and then graduated with honors from the University of Minnesota Law School.

His first job as an attorney was in the state attorney general’s office, where he was assigned to the Minnesota Department of Commerce. He then worked for Meshbesher Singer & Spence and Schwebel, Goetz, Sieben and Hanson. In 1996 he founded his own law firm.

In 1977, he met Renée Bela, who worked at the Hennepin County Attorney’s Information Desk; Fred Pritzker worked pro bono in legal advice, providing free legal assistance to people on low incomes. According to her, the agencies shared office space in Minneapolis, and the couple met when one day Pritzker dropped in on a friend.

“We have been arguing about this for years,” she said. “He came out of the office – remember, we didn’t have cell phones then – and immediately called me. He always said he would go back to his office and call me and ask me out, but he called so quickly that he must have been calling from a pay phone in the lobby of the building.”

Pritzker asked her to come out that night and offered to pick her up from work. However, first they had to go to his house and let Sam, his dog, out on the street. Pritzker lived near St. Thomas University in St. Paul; according to her, she lived near McAlester College. “He and Sam walked me home,” she said.

The couple married in August 1982 in the backyard of their home on Fairmount Avenue in the Crocus Hill neighborhood of St. Paul.


According to Rene Pritzker, Pritzker began specializing in foodborne illness more than two decades ago after an outbreak in New Jersey caused by a turkey lunch.

“He was clearly aware that this was an area of ​​law that no one was doing,” she said. “It was a good example of what Fred did well: he studied the science and realized that this was not just an isolated case, that there were many injured and that there really was little protection for them. He studied science, figured out the case and achieved a large sum.

Pritzker enjoyed working on complex civil cases “that involved serious scientific and technical issues,” René Pritzker said. “A lot of people may have shied away from it because it’s a lot of work, but Fred liked that kind of investigation.”

In 1985, the Pritzkers had their first child, Jacob. A month later, Jake, now 36, was diagnosed with Angelman Syndrome, a genetic disability characterized by a lack of speech and cognitive impairment.

“Here’s what I learned: we are all handicapped in one way or another,” Pritzker once said. “But we are not defined by our disabilities. We want to be loved, have friends, have fun, do interesting things, and be accepted for who we are, not for what we can do.”

Pritzker worked to empower people with disabilities. He has been an associate or director of the Angelman Syndrome Foundation, the Minnesota Brain Injury Alliance, and ARC Minnesota, among others. The couple helped found the Highland Friendship Club, donated the Jacob E. Pritzker Foundation to support the University of Minnesota Law School and the Minnesota Disability Law Center, and helped sponsor the Angelman Syndrome Clinic at Massachusetts General Hospital.

“Fred was so efficient at problem solving,” said Renee Pritzker. “He was involved in a major lawsuit trying to keep people in their homes and communities and build a better life. It wasn’t enough just to serve on the board, it was necessary: ​​”How do I go to the next step?”


Pritzker was a traveler, an avid sportsman, and a serious runner and cyclist. According to Rene Pritzker, a few days before he went ice climbing in Washington state in 2000, he had an episode during which he fell.

He was subsequently diagnosed with secondary progressive myelopathy, a neurological disorder that caused him to eventually lose most of his ability to use the left side of his body. In 2019, he was diagnosed with multiple myeloma.

According to his daughter Sarah Pritzker, who lives in St. Paul, while in the hospital, Pritzker made friends with nurses, phlebotomists and other patients.

“My father didn’t have time for small talk,” she said. “He was not interested in your hobbies or pastimes, he wanted to know your history. Who were your people? What scared you the most? What did you want from life?

Pritzker’s medical battles “deprived my father of all ego,” she said. “He was able to establish deep and lasting relationships in a matter of moments, touch someone’s life deeply and, perhaps most importantly, help someone believe in themselves.

“That gift I liked most about my father: his ability to make you feel like you matter. that you were important. That you understood.

Services were held Friday at the Israel Temple in Minneapolis.

World Nation News Desk
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