On August 26, 2016 — The Bridge was advised by the Montpelier office of the law firm Downs Rachlin Martin of the sudden and untimely death of Eric A. Poelmann.
Along with a message regretting his death, the law firm attached a letter about Poelmann written by his friends and colleagues at Downs Rachlin Martin.
Here is that letter.
We pay tribute to our fallen partner, colleague, and great friend Eric Poehlmann.
Eric died Wednesday doing one of the things he loved best: hiking on one of Colorado’s 14,000-plus foot high peaks. He had already summited 47 high peaks in his lifetime. His body was found 300 feet from the apex of 14,500 foot Mt. Harvard.
Eric was a star litigator at Downs, Rachlin and Martin and was beloved within the firm and the entire Vermont legal community. He was that rare gem who was universally liked not only by his clients but also by all of his opposing counsel.
A native of Boulder, Colorado, Eric joined DRM in 1996 immediately upon graduating from Cornell Law School, where he was an editor of the Cornell Law Review, and was in his twentieth year with the firm when he passed away. He was elected a director of the firm in 2005. He devoted his entire legal career to DRM. He was only 46 years old when we lost him.
Eric was an experienced trial lawyer and litigator handling some of Vermont’s most complex litigation cases, from matters involving the scope of federal preemption, to defending private equity firms in shareholder derivative actions, to defending products liability, toxic exposure, and professional malpractice cases, to litigating insurance coverage issues, and complicated income and tax matters. He was probably Vermont’s pre-eminent attorney on matters of federal pre-emption law: whether federal law overrides state law.
Three years ago, Eric wrote Vermont’s anti-“patent troll” statute, the first-ever law in the country to give a state Attorney General legal authority to protecting the state’s businesses and non-profits from unfair attacks by overly aggressive patent owners. That law has since been copied by a number of other states.
To his great credit, Eric was unwilling to toot his own horn or laud his own accomplishments. He let his many outstanding legal victories and accomplishments speak for themselves. And they have.
Eric was one of several attorneys mentored during his early years at DRM by senior partner Robert Rachlin. Of Eric, Mr. Rachlin said:
“Eric’s death is a grievous loss, not only to the legal community and to our firm, but to me personally. In his early days, we worked together on cases, most memorably, a plaintiff case which we tried to a successful jury verdict in the federal court in Boston. Eric played a major role in achieving that outcome. Eric was not only a skilled “lawyer’s lawyer”; he was a thoroughgoing gentleman who understood that an adversary is not an enemy and that litigation does not warrant an abandonment of kindness and civility toward those whom circumstances situate for the moment as opponents. I have lost a dear colleague and friend.”
Eric was considered a legal thought-leader at DRM and mentored several young attorneys himself.
Outside of the firm, he loved soccer, hiking, football, baseball, and the outdoors. When he was not practicing law, he was either enjoying one of those activities or playing or coaching soccer or baseball with his children.
Eric leaves behind a wife, Jennifer, and three children, Andrew, 11, Ava, 9, and Maddie, 5.
Condolences may be addressed to: PO Box 512, Richmond, VT 05477.