Catherine S. Nietzel

Of Counsel

Catherine S. Nietzel is a partner in the firm. She practices in the firm's litigation department, primarily defending civil suits in the areas of personal injury, municipal and board of education liability, civil rights, employment litigation, and medical malpractice. Catherine has tried over 40 jury cases to verdict. 

Catherine is a member of the Connecticut Chapter of the American Board of Trial Advocates (“ABOTA”), an association of experienced trial lawyers and judges whose mission is to foster improvement in the ethical and technical standards of practice in the field of advocacy. The Board is uniquely balanced between the plaintiffs and the defense bar and its membership is by invitation only. Membership is limited to the top trial lawyers who are actively engaged in trying civil jury cases. The national membership consists of approximately 8,500 lawyers. The Connecticut chapter has just under 80 members. She has also been board certified in civil trial advocacy by the National Board of Trial Advocates (“NBTA”) since 2002.  A board certified attorney demonstrates an enhanced level of expertise and substantial involvement in civil trial practice.

Each year since 2006 Catherine has been selected for inclusion in Connecticut Super Lawyers®, the result of a peer review process, blue ribbon panel review and independent research of candidates. Additionally, Catherine was listed as one of the Top 25 Connecticut Women Super Lawyers for 2011/2012 and 2016/2017, representing one of the 25 women who received the highest point totals in the Connecticut nomination. In 2010, Catherine was listed as one of the Top 50 New England Women Super Lawyers. Catherine has also received the highest Martindale-Hubbell rating of AV and is listed on the Bar Register of Preeminent Women Lawyers.

She was appointed by Chief Justice Chase Rogers in 2007 to join the Connecticut Supreme Court’s Civil Commission. The Civil Commission is charged with the review of the status of the civil docket and the development of practices that will improve the administering of judicial services to litigants, the bar and public, and will promote the resolution of cases in a fair, timely and cost-effective manner. It is comprised of members of the judiciary and experienced trial attorneys.

Professional Affiliations: 
  • American Board of Trial Advocates
  • Board Certified by the National Board of Trial Advocates
  • Lecturer for the Fairfield County Bar Association on topics including trial preparation and settlement techniques.
  • Faculty member of the Connecticut Bar Association and Regional Bar Association’s joint Symposium on Professionalism, Civil Practice forum on both occasions it was held in Stamford, which were moderated by state and federal judges and the Keynote speakers were then-Chief Justice William J. Sullivan and, in 2010, Chief Justice Chase Rogers.
  • Connecticut Bar Association
  • Connecticut Defense Lawyers Association
  • Defense Research Institute
Representative Experience: 
  • Catherine Nietzel and Jonathan Zellner recently won dismissal (on summary judgment) for a local police department and several of its officers who were charged with violations of a resident’s constitutional rights arising out of domestic violence calls to police by his then-wife. The couple had just initiated divorce proceedings and the husband claimed in the lawsuit that the police helped facilitate the wife’s efforts to gain possession of the marital residence using a strategy the husband called “Possession by 911.”  The husband claimed that police lacked probable cause and otherwise violated his Fourth Amendment, substantive due process and equal protection rights when they twice arrested him and, on several other occasions, investigated his wife’s claims of domestic violence by coming to the house and interviewing them. A federal district court granted summary judgment in their favor, finding not only that they were entitled to qualified immunity, but that they had probable cause to make the arrests.
  • Successfully defended at trial a Board of Education, several school administrators and teachers arising out of a lawsuit charging a paraprofessional aide with exposing himself to a student.  On a motion for summary judgment, Catherine obtained a dismissal of several defendants on negligent hiring, training and supervision claims, as well as due process claims for the post-allegation investigation conducted by the Board.  On the remaining constitutional claims that two employees knew of ongoing abuse and were deliberately indifferent to it by failing to report it, Catherine won a defendants’ verdict after a federal court jury trial.
  • Obtained summary judgment for a police department for charges that they lacked probable cause in seeking a search warrant based on a tip from an exotic dancer that drug activity was occurring at someone’s home.  After the balance of the claims were appealed to the Second Circuit, that court reversed the District Court’s denial of summary judgment in favor of Catherine’s client, a police chief who sought the assistance of a tactical arms unit to serve the search warrant, finding that the police chief was entitled to immunity for the decision to call in the unit.  The balance of the case was settled.
  • Won a defendant’s verdict for a food services manager in a public school district charged with assault, battery and intentional infliction of emotional distress arising out of an incident whereby a cafeteria employee was disciplined and thereafter suffered a collapse on school grounds due to hypoglycemia.  The plaintiff is a diabetic.  She claimed that the food services manager pushed her out of her office after reprimanding her and claimed the hospitalization and subsequent medical treatment was caused by the stress of the incident, claims which a Stamford state court jury rejected.
  • Obtained summary judgment on behalf of an Alabama university sued by a former student from Connecticut who completed all the academic requirements to obtain a distance learning master's degree in family counseling, but failed to complete her clinical practicum.  The former student claimed the university breached its contract to her to provide her an education that would enable her to be certified in counseling and family therapy.  A university professor and admissions official gave testimony that the student was promised only that the university would do all it could to assist her in finding clinical placement site.  The court found that was not the sort of promise giving rise to liability on the part of an educational institution, relying on well settled case law limiting these types of cases.  The former student has previously brought suit in Delaware, where she relocated, claiming she couldn't find any placements in Connecticut because the university wouldn't help her.  The District Court in Delaware rejected her claims.  The United States District Court, Second Circuit, dismissed her appeal from the decision of the Connecticut District Court in the university's favor.
  • Won a defense verdict in a case involving a couple formerly married who had a dispute about whether the mother could take her children out of the country for summer vacation.  The mother sued her ex-husband, whose lengthy and tumultuous divorce proceedings ended several years ago, claiming he intended to inflict emotional distress upon her when he kept the children's passports from her and, one summer, wouldn't allow her visitation with the children despite their shared custody status.  In a case involving an expanding area of litigation - post-divorce judgment torts - the trial court rejected two attempts to dismiss the case on various legal grounds including the fact that the parties had signed releases in each other's favor for any disputes arising out of custody arrangements. The case proceeded to trial and the jury found that the husband's conduct in keeping the children away from their mother, whom the evidence suggested had threatened to bring her children back to China, her native country, was not extreme and outrageous and thus did not meet the legal standard of being tortious conduct.
  • Successfully defended two police officers from a large Connecticut city accused of police brutality and malicious prosecution. The two officers were accused of beating up a suspect who was apprehended after burglarizing a local business and leading police on a high speed chase. The suspect was convicted of the burglary but acquitted of assaulting the police officers, who claimed the suspect had tried to flee from them, striking them as they attempted to handcuff him. The suspect was brought to the hospital with facial fractures, which the officers said may have occurred when the suspect was tackled on a driveway as he tried to run away from police. The jury deliberated for almost eight hours before returning a verdict in favor of the defendants.
  • Obtained a directed verdict on all but one count of a complaint and a defendants' verdict on the remaining count for two Fairfield County police officers accused of false imprisonment, unreasonable search and seizure pursuant to the Fourth Amendment, and malicious prosecution in a case brought by two elderly residents charged with animal cruelty.
  • Won a defendant's verdict for a local surgeon who performed an exploratory laparoscopy on a post-bariatric surgery patient who developed a leak where patient went on to suffer catastrophic complications for several months. The jury concluded the plaintiff could not establish that the surgeon either caused the leak or negligently failed to apprehend it when he performed the exploratory laparoscopy.
  • Won a defendant's verdict in a lawsuit alleging wrongful death against a psychiatric hospital where a patient, a librarian, committed suicide. The patient had previously attempted suicide in the same hospital. The patient suffered from dissociative identity disorder, previously termed multiple personality disorder.
  • Represented a Connecticut city’s Board of Education, high school principal and the coaching staff of the football team in a negligence and failure to supervise claim for a football player catastrophically injured while conducting an indoors sprinting drill. The lawsuit resulted in a defendants’ verdict after a three week trial
  • Recently obtained defendant’s verdicts in jury trials representing neurosurgeons, a gastroenterologist and an opthalmalogical surgeon in claims of partial paralysis and dysfunction, wrongful death and blindness, respectively.
  • Obtained summary judgment on claims of unfair trade practices which would have given rise to exemplary damages in a lawsuit against an equine veterinarian.
  • Successfully defended a Department of Public Health license disciplinary action in a hearing before the Board of Medical Examiners, resulting in a complete exoneration of an internist whose patient died in the hospital as a result of infection.