DiscoverThe Litigation War RoomThe Art of the Bench Trial with Aaron Phelps
The Art of the Bench Trial with Aaron Phelps

The Art of the Bench Trial with Aaron Phelps

Update: 2021-07-13


On this episode, Maxwell Goss interviews Aaron Phelps, a commercial litigator with the Varnum law firm. Aaron handles a range of litigation matters including healthcare, corporate governance, energy, and environmental tort actions. Aaron talks about his victories in a series of important lawsuits he filed against Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan for charging “hidden fees” on its customers. Aaron also shares insights on the art of the bench trial.


A judge is just another juror. They’re people and they have an emotional reaction just like everyone else. You want the judge to be on your side.

You want them to want to rule in your favor.

-Aaron Phelps


  • 00:18 – Introduction
  • 01:09 – About Aaron Phelps
  • 03:41 – About Aaron’s firm
  • 04:29 – The “hidden fees” cases
  • 13:28Hi-Lex Controls, Inc. v. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan
  • 27:49 – Aaron Phelps’ advice on bench trials
  • 32:52 – Concluding remarks


Aaron Phelps focuses his practice on complex commercial and environmental litigation – in Michigan and around the country. Aaron has represented clients in contract and corporate governance disputes, telecommunications and energy matters, health care litigation and environmental tort actions.

Over the last five years, Aaron has represented over 200 companies in lawsuits against Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan for ERISA violations. The first trial resulted in a $6 million judgment, and subsequent judgments ranged from $315,000 to over $8 million. Aaron defended the primary judgment on appeal, where it was unanimously affirmed by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit and certiorari denied by the U.S. Supreme Court.

In February 2020, Aaron successfully tried an inverse condemnation case against the City of Grand Rapids on behalf of the Plaza Towers. The jury awarded over $7 million in a case where the City offered zero dollars in settlement. Currently, Aaron represents over 400 Rockford area residents in over 250 lawsuits against Wolverine Worldwide and 3M related to PFAS contamination.


About Aaron Phelps

About the “hidden fee” cases

Aaron Phelps featured in water contamination documentary


The Litigation War Room is hosted by litigation lawyer Maxwell Goss. Max represents clients in intellectual property and business cases throughout Michigan and around the country, bringing forceful advocacy and creative solutions to every case he handles.


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The Art of the Bench Trial with Aaron Phelps

The Art of the Bench Trial with Aaron Phelps

Maxwell Goss