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Vital expertise for what matters.

Dean Zimmerli focuses his practice on civil litigation related to agriculture, environmental regulation, banking and finance, commercial disputes and general litigation. Dean regularly represents banks and other creditors in bankruptcy and state courts to enforce the creditor’s rights, recover collateral and maximize recovery on troubled loans. Dean has also defended banks against claims made by borrowers against the bank and has recently secured dismissals of multi- million-dollar claims alleged against a client bank, which was affirmed by the Minnesota Court of Appeals, ending several years of litigation. Dean’s broad experience in civil litigation beyond collection and enforcement actions allows him to provide comprehensive representation through the entirety of a lending relationship with a borrower, no matter the issues that arise.

In addition, Dean has developed an expertise in drainage and water law while representing project proponents, concerned landowners and even drainage authorities throughout the process. Dean has represented numerous landowners throughout the drainage project process from preparing petitions, to advocating at drainage authority meetings and hearings and litigating drainage appeals.

Dean has also advised landowners or other stakeholders with concerns over potential projects. By having represented clients from all points of view on a drainage project, Dean can provide a unique perspective. Beyond drainage, Dean has represented clients with various regulatory and environmental concerns related to water and agriculture, as well as disputes between landowners concerning water, flooding, crop loss and similar issues. Dean is a skilled appellate attorney who has briefed or argued numerous cases before the Minnesota Court of Appeals and other appellate courts. Dean is able to pare complex cases down to their essential parts in order to provide concise and persuasive analysis to appellate judges. Dean’s advocacy has resulted in numerous wins for his clients, including reversing mistaken decisions by the trial court or having a correct decision affirmed. Examples of cases where Dean has secured important victories for his clients include St. Paul Park Ref. Co. LLC v. Domeier, 938 N.W.2d 288 (Minn. Ct. App. 2020), where the Court of Appeals reinstated an adverse possession claim asserted by Dean’s client and Farmers State Bank of Trimont v. Rabbe, No. A19-0707, 2019 WL 7287075, (Minn. Ct. App. Dec. 30, 2019), where the Court of Appeals determined Dean’s client was entitled to nearly double the award determined by the district court. Dean’s appellate work involves not only cases he was involved in from inception, but also cases where clients have sought new representation on appeal.

Dean acquired a valuable work ethic growing up on a family farm in southwest Minnesota, and this experience provides him with a full understanding of  agribusiness issues. Dean provides service to his clients addressing their full range of legal needs through conducting research, drafting documents, and collaborating with other Gislason & Hunter LLP attorneys. Outside of work, Dean enjoys spending time with his wife, Chelsey, as well as fishing, remodeling his Victorian-era home and helping with his family’s farm.

Areas of Expertise

Agriculture Law & Agribusiness

  • Purchase & Leasing
  • Planning, Zoning & Land Use
  • Environmental Regulation
  • Water Rights & Wetland Mitigation
  • Ag Financing & Debt Restructuring
  • Agribusiness Formation & Transactions
  • Agriculture Contracts
  • Ag Litigation
  • Food Safety & Animal Rights Controversies

Business & Corporate Law

  • Business Entity Law & Formation, including LLC’s, Partnerships and Corporations
  • Partner & Shareholder Agreements
  • Contracts
  • Creditors' Rights
  • Data Privacy & Security

Finance & Banking

  • Loan Transactions
  • Loan Workouts
  • Collection Actions
  • Portfolio Management
  • Bank Litigation
  • Reorganization & Bankruptcy
  • Commercial Lending


  • Commercial Litigation
  • Ownership Disputes & Dissolutions
  • Business Torts Litigation
  • Construction Litigation
  • Banking Litigation
  • Real Estate Litigation
  • Property Disputes & Land Use
  • Regulatory Compliance & Defense
  • Mediation & Arbitration
  • Civil Appellate Law
  • Product Liability

Real Estate, Environmental Law & Land Use

  • Eminent Domain
  • Compliance & Permitting
  • Transactions & Due Diligence
  • Environmental Litigation

Trusts & Estates

  • Estate & Probate Litigation


  • CRP Contract Termination Appeal

    After a local FSA office terminated a client’s CRP contracts and the FSA demanded tens of thousands of dollars of refunds in payments, Dean Zimmerli represented his client in an appeal to the National Appeals Division of the United States Department of Agriculture. At the Appeals Division, Dean presented evidence showing that the FSA wrongfully terminated the contract and acted arbitrary in demanding refunds far beyond the money actually received by his client. The Appeals Division agreed, reversed the termination and demand for refunds, and even awarded Dean’s client a significant amount of the attorney’s fees incurred in connection with the appeal.

  • Implementation of a Complex Bankruptcy Reorganization Plan

    Following a lengthy and at times contentious bankruptcy process, the Bankruptcy Court approved a reorganization plan negotiated between the debtors and the bank. In implementing the plan, the parties disagreed as to how much money the Bank was entitled to under the terms of the Plan resulting in litigation in state court, where the district court judge initially sided with the debtors. On appeal, Dean Zimmerli and Dustan Cross provided extensive and compelling arguments concerning the correct interpretation of the plan and calculation of the funds owed to the bank, and the Court of Appeals reversed. As a result of the Court of Appeals’ decision in favor the bank, the total amount recovered by the bank under that provision of the plan doubled from what was initially ordered by the district court. Farmers State Bank of Trimont v. Rabbe, No. A19-0707, 2019 WL 7287075 (Minn. Ct. App. Dec. 30, 2019)

  • Trespass and Property Lines

    In 2016 Dean Zimmerli tried a case to a jury involving a claim that the defendants had crossed onto Dean’s clients’ property and cut down dozens of old-growth trees, even after defendants’ had been warned about the location of the property line. This case involved a disputed version of events between the plaintiffs and the defendants, as well as competing expert testimony concerning the valuation of the damaged trees. At the conclusion of the trial, the jury agreed that the defendants had trespassed on Dean’s clients’ property, awarded damages for the lost trees, and vindicated Dean’s Clients’ property rights. Dean has been involved in other disputes concerning property lines or disputed claims to real property, obtaining successful resolutions for the client.

  • Disputed Claims to Collateral

    In 2017, Dean Zimmerli represented a bank with a blanket security interest in all of the borrower’s equipment other personal property. After the borrower’s business failed, the client realized many pieces of equipment has been hidden and given to a family member of the borrower. Dean was successful in obtaining a temporary injunction from the court against the family member prohibiting the family member from transferring or selling the collateral, and eventually the collateral was all reclaimed by the bank. Prior to a jury trial on the outstanding issues in the case, legal research by Dean concerning security interests and ownership questions led to a favorable settlement for the bank. Dean has represented banks and other lenders in numerous cases involving foreclosure, security interests, bankruptcies, priority disputes, and loan defaults.

  • Environmental and Permitting Litigation

    Dean Zimmerli has been involved in several appeals to the Minnesota Court of Appeals concerning agricultural producers and environmental law and permitting issues. For example, Dean researched complex areas of water regulation under the Federal Clean Water Act and assisted in briefing questions about the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency’s ability to regulate farming and irrigation practices as part of a stream improvement project. Dean has also defended a new swine facility that was approved by the County board but opposed by a vocal minority of nearby landowners in a case before the Minnesota Court of Appeals. Dean has assisted farmers in responding to administrative orders from the DNR and other governmental entities.