Our People

Biography

Chip Behler is a seasoned "bet-the-company" litigator who successfully represents governmental agencies, businesses, construction contractors, design professionals, and real estate owners and developers in complex commercial litigation and matters involving personal injury, real estate, breach of contract claims, construction defects, construction accidents, architectural and engineering intellectual property issues, and employment claims. He also is a well-regarded counselor with extensive experience in risk avoidance and contract drafting and negotiation for those in government and the construction industry. Chip is regularly sought after to defend lawyers and law firms against claims of legal malpractice, malicious prosecution, and other related issues.

In addition, Chip is a certified commercial and construction arbitrator for the American Arbitration Association.

Chip's honors include being listed in "Michigan Super Lawyers", "Best Lawyers in America", Benchmark Litigation, and he is AV Peer Review Rated by Martindale-Hubbell. 

Chip has a passion for motorcycling and has ridden to all 49 continental states, nine Canadian provinces, and much of Europe. In addition to decades and hundreds of thousands of miles of riding experience, he has had extensive training including attendance at Motorcycle Safety Foundation courses, the Ride Like a Pro class, police motorcycle training, and Superbike School. Chip represents plaintiffs, defendants, and governmental roadway authorities in motorcycle crash litigation throughout the state of Michigan. 

In addition to motorcycling, Chip enjoys cooking, wine collecting, golf, snow skiing, the arts, and spending time with his family. He has two adult sons, both of whom are married, and five grandchildren. 


Experience

Chip Behler and Brian Pearson successfully obtained the dismissal of licensing complaints against their architect and builder clients.

Chip Behler and previous SHRR attorney Cindy Boer, assisted by Jack Oostema, successfully defended their client, a large Michigan law firm, against charges of malicious prosecution. After more than five weeks of trial, Smith Haughey's client was dismissed by the judge on a motion for directed verdict.

Chip Behler and Matt Wikander represented a governmental agency and its former manager in a lawsuit brought by a recently terminated employee. The plaintiff alleged a breach of contract claim against the governmental agency, alleging that the agency had failed to complete a reciprocal transfer of the plaintiff’s pension benefits. The plaintiff also alleged that the agency’s former manager tortuously interfered with the plaintiff’s contract, causing a breach. Finally, plaintiff alleged that the agency’s former manager had openly defamed plaintiff during both public and private meetings. With reference to targeted discovery, and a thorough application of the facts to the relevant law, the court dismissed the governmental agency from the lawsuit, stating that the agency had performed all of its obligations under the contract. The court dismissed all remaining claims against the former manager on the basis of governmental immunity and absolute privileges that the manager held while engaged in the alleged conduct.

Chip Behler and previous SHRR attorney Steve Stawski were retained by an LLC created specifically for a large construction project. When it became likely that the LLC was going to lose significant money on the project, one member of the LLC claimed certain contractual rights against the LLC – rights that would have eliminated the member’s share of the losses, and in fact, generated a profit for the member at the additional expense of the LLC. This member also resorted to self-help by removing substantial amounts of cash from the LLC checking account. Through a series of motions Chip and Steve presented to the Court, the LLC was successful in regaining the cash and establishing the member was responsible for its share of project losses. The Court of Appeals recently affirmed that result.

In an effort to recover millions of dollars of damage to blueberry bushes and crops allegedly caused by the application of road salt, several West Michigan blueberry farmers sued their local road commission and the Michigan Department of Transportation. The farmers claimed that their property was taken without the just compensation required to be paid by the Michigan Constitution. Chip Behler successfully procured dismissal of the plaintiffs’ claim after a hearing on their motion for summary disposition. The case against the Michigan Department of Transportation continues.

Previous Experience

Affiliations

  • American Bar Association (Member, Sections: Forum on Construction Industry; Litigation; Government and Public Sector Lawyers)
  • State Bar of Michigan (Member, Sections on: Litigation; Negligence Law; Public Corporation Law; Law Practice Management. Chairperson of the Standing Committee on Character & Fitness, 1989-1991; Member, 1984-1991)
  • Fellow, Michigan Bar Foundation
  • Grand Rapids Bar Association (Member, Diversity Committee)
  • Member, National Roster of Arbitrators and Mediators, American Arbitration Association
  • Defense Research Institute
  • Michigan Defense Trial Counsel
  • Board of Law Examiners, State of Michigan, 1995-2005
  • Professional Affiliate, Michigan Society of Architects
  • Associate Member, American Institute of Architects
  • National Conference of Bar Examiners, 1995-2005
  • Board of Advisors, Legal Studies Program, Grand Valley State University
  • Major Gifts Committee, West Michigan Literacy Center
  • Co-Chair, Make-a-Wish Foundation 2012 Wish Ball
  • Co-Chair, Grand Rapids Ballet Capital Campaign
  • Co-Chair, 2011 “Twilight Series” Gala for Senior Neighbors
  • Member, Board of Directors, Literacy Center of West Michigan
  • Member, Board of Directors, Conductive Learning Center
  • Member, Rotary Club of Grand Rapids
  • Member, Grand Rapids Economic Club
  • Co-Chair, Great Artist Gala, St. Cecilia Music Society, 2009
  • Member, Board of Directors, St. Cecilia Music Society
  • Member, Board of Directors, Legal Assistance Center
  • Member, Board of Directors, Grand Rapids Civic Theatre
  • Member, Board of Directors, Blythefield Country Club
  • Member, East Grand Rapids Recreation Commission
  • Board Member and President, Grand Rapids Ballet
  • Member, Grand Valley Blood Program Board of Trustees
  • Chairperson, American Cancer Society, Kent County Chapter, Campaign Committee
  • Member, Crime Prevention Committee, Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce
  • Member, National Ski Patrol Systems, Inc., Outstanding Auxiliary Ski Patroller in United States

Education

  • University of Denver (B.A., 1969)
  • University of Denver (J.D., 1971)

Admitted

  • State Bar of Michigan, 1972

Accolades

  • Listed in Benchmark Litigation 2010-2016

  • Listed in Best Lawyers (2001-2017) -- Bet-the-Company Litigation, Commercial Litigation & Construction LawBest Lawyers Construction Lawyer of the Year (2013)

  • Listed in Leading Lawyers -- Medical Malpractice Defense Law; ADR Law: Commercial Litigation; ADR Law: Commercial Real Estate, Environmental & Construction

  • Listed as a “Michigan Super Lawyer” (2006-2016) -- Construction/Surety 

  • Listed as a "Local Litigation Star" in Benchmark Litigation (2010-2015) -- Commercial Litigation

  • AV Peer Review Rated, Martindale-Hubbell 

News and Publications

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