James D. Helenhouse


James D. Helenhouse

jhelenhouse@fletcher-sippel.com (email)

(312) 252-1501 (Phone)

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Jim Helenhouse is one of the four founders of Fletcher & Sippel. He concentrates in the areas of litigation, Railroad Retirement Board matters, and contract negotiation and drafting. His nationwide practice includes a variety of clients in the railroad industry, including railroads, equipment lessors, repair facilities, and lenders.

Jim has extensive litigation experience involving FELA, trespasser, grade crossing, derailments, collisions and commercial litigation. Jim is often called upon by clients to immediately respond to major incidents such as derailments, crossing accidents, train collisions, evacuations, major property damage events, and incidents with extensive personal injuries. The "boots on the ground" approach Jim and his team utilize assists clients in making sure the claim is fully investigated, evidence is preserved and the client is well-prepared for any claims that may arise. The immediate response saves clients significant money by being better prepared upfront and helps to assure that FRA, NTSB, and other regulatory investigations are handled smoothly and efficiently.

Jim has a broad-based knowledge in many areas affecting the rail industry. As such, he has represented clients in several regulatory matters, including proceedings before the Railroad Retirement Board, the Illinois Commerce Commission, the Illinois Department of Labor, the Iowa Department of Transportation and the NLRB, and frequently advises clients on the latest regulatory developments.

Jim's unique understanding of railroad issues provides rail clients an advantage in his broad-based corporate practice, which ranges from providing business management advice to negotiating a variety of transactions and drafting the corresponding documentation, such as leases, joint venture agreements, covenants not to compete, financing documents, STB lien opinion letters, and employment agreements.

In his spare time, Jim enjoys spending time with his family: attending high school football games, plays, musicals, and dance competitions. He also plays bass in a local band and in Hard Coupling, a band consisting of lawyers and professionals in the rail industry. Hard Coupling has played at the AAR General Claims Conference, NARTC Annual Meetings, ASLRRA events and the Regional Railroad Liability Seminar.


University of Illinois, Champaign, Illinois; Juris Doctorate; Summa Cum Laude

University of Illinois Law Review, Champaign, Illinois; Notes and Comments Editor

North Central College, Naperville, IL; BA in English Literature; Summa Cum Laude

Bar Admissions

State of Illinois
State of Iowa
State of Minnesota
State of Missouri
State of Wisconsin
Northern and Central Districts of Illinois
Southern and Northern Districts of Iowa
Western District of Michigan
Eastern and Western Districts of Wisconsin
7th Circuit Court of Appeals
United States Supreme Court

Presentations & Publications

Using ACA in Settlement Negotiations, Twenty-Second Annual Regional Railroad Liability Seminar, July 2015, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

Use of Experts, Midwest Claims Conference, April 2014

Hot Topics: Post Accident Drug Testing, Indemnification Clauses, and Using RRB Benefits at Trial and in Settlement, 2013 ASLRRA Annual Meeting, Atlanta, Georgia

Using RRB Benefits and RRB Taxes in Settlement and Trial, 2012 NARTC Annual Meeting, Santa Barbara, California

Diagnosis of a FELA Case, ASLRRA 96th Annual Convention, 2009, Las Vegas, Nevada.

Panel Member: Preemption: Have We Pushed the Envelope Too Far?, 2007 Regional Railroad Liability Seminar, Rockport, Maine

Diagnosis of Claims in Transportation Accident, Moderator, 78th Annual Meeting of Association of Transportation Law Professionals, 2007, Chicago, Illinois.

Preemption Nuts and Bolts, 2006 Regional Railroad Liability Seminar, Denver, Colorado

Tips for Managing Claims: What’s New?, 2005 Regional Railroad Liability Seminar, Biloxi, Mississippi.

Recent Legal Developments: Ayers v. Norfolk Southern & Western and State Farm v. Campbell, 2003 Regional Railroad Liability Seminar, Napa, California.

Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act Privacy Provisions, 2002 Regional Railroad Liability Seminar, Indianapolis, Indiana.

Update on Federal Preemption, 2001 Regional Railroad Liability Seminar, Park City, Utah

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, 2000 Regional Railroad Liability Seminar, Nashville, Tennessee.

When Are Non-Railroads Subject to Railroad Retirement and Unemployment Tax?, 1999 Seminar on Railroad Retirement Coverage Issues, Chicago, Illinois

Emotional Distress Claims, 1999 Regional Railroad Liability Seminar, Providence, Rhode Island.

Preemption Overview for Claims Commonly Brought Against Railroads, 1998 Regional Railroad Liability Seminar, Big Sky, Montana