24 July 2015, Comments Comments Off on James D. Leach


I represent only plaintiffs, not insurance companies or corporations.

If I take your case, I will work hard and promptly for you. I will do my best to treat you as I would want to be treated if I were in your shoes. I will always be honest with you.

I do not charge for an initial consultation, so you can decide if you want me to be your lawyer, and I can decide if I want you to be my client. Almost all of my work is done on a contingent fee (percentage fee) basis.

I graduated from Amherst College in 1972, and received my law degree from Washington University in 1975. I was admitted to practice in Washington State in 1976, California in 1977, and South Dakota in 1979, and in numerous federal courts since then.

My practice has always been litigation (lawsuits). My major areas of practice are Malpractice, Insurance Bad Faith, Serious Personal Injury, Consumer Fraud, and Workers’ Compensation. I have tried cases to verdict in all these areas in recent years.

I don’t do taxes, contracts, wills, corporations, trusts, estates, divorces, child custody, bankruptcy, business law, construction disputes, or real estate.

I have received national recognitions. A complete list is under the tab “National Recognitions.”
I have published articles in national legal publications about social security law, workers’ compensation, cross-examination, environmental law, and how the courts and government treat Native Americans. A complete list is under the tab “Publications.”

In 2010 I was named the South Dakota Trial Lawyer of the Year. This is a singular honor that goes to one South Dakota attorney each year.

I was the Chair of the South Dakota Board of Bar Examiners from 2003 to 2009. In 2014 I was the Chair of the Search Committee to recommend a new United States Magistrate Judge for the United States District Court for the District of South Dakota, Western Division.

In addition to trials, I handle appeals. Appeals that I have won recently include:

  • In re Petition for Declaratory Ruling, 877 N.W.2d 340 (S.D. 2016), holding that the Department of Labor has jurisdiction over a petition for declaratory ruling, and that the circuit court has jurisdiction over an appeal from the Department of Labor’s ruling.
  • McLaren v. Sufficool, 862 N.W.2d 557 (S.D. 2014), holding that the cost of videotaping depositions may be recoverable by the plaintiff after a successful medical malpractice verdict;
  • Thurman v. CUNA Mutual Insurance Society, 836 N.W.2d 611 (S.D. 2013), holding that a consumer fraud lawsuit can proceed as a class action;
  • Schilf v. Eli Lilly, 687 F.3d 947 (8th Cir. 2012), holding that the parents of a teenage boy who committed suicide after taking Cymbalta, an antidepressant, are entitled to a jury trial; and
  • Richard v. United States, 677 F.3d 1141 (Fed. Cir. 2012), holding that the families of two Lakota people who were killed by a drunken driver on the Pine Ridge Reservation have a legal claim against the federal government under the 1868 Fort Laramie Treaty.

In 2010, I argued a case in front of the United States Supreme Court, Astrue v. Ratliff, which held that the government could take a court-awarded attorney fee to reimburse itself for a client’s pre-existing unrelated debt. Only a handful of lawyers in South Dakota have ever argued a case before the United States Supreme Court.