“My first case out of law school was a published win and should be all easy from there, right? Well you quickly learn that not every case is resolved that way, and you have to really look at every case each time as if you’re reinventing yourself, and you have to never stop short of giving it everything you can. ” ~ Joel Finnell

Joel T. Finnell

Joel Finnell joined Sinas Dramis Law Firm in 2011 and quickly excelled at appellate law, earning a favorable published appellate decision in the first appeal he handled out of law school. He now primarily focuses his practice on representing clients in the Michigan Court of Appeals and Michigan Supreme Court.

As the firm’s appellate attorney, he works very closely with our senior-most attorneys to develop successful legal strategies that will withstand an appeal all the way up to the state’s highest Court. Other attorneys at the firm also call upon Joel to provide additional tactical legal support in heavily defended and more-complex cases. Joel’s role at the law firm is very unique and is one that often sets Sinas Dramis Law Firm apart from other firms. Many firms do not have an in-house appellate specialist like Joel who possesses the knowledge and expertise that is required to provide top-tier representation in the Michigan appellate courts.

Joel’s dedication and success in this role makes him a vital member of the firm, and his practice helps our attorneys stay ahead of the many complex legal issues that arise in auto no-faultsemi-truckcatastrophic injury, and wrongful death cases.

In Joel’s words, what he enjoys the most about his practice is:

“Having the opportunity to do very meaningful work to help others while working with some of the most talented lawyers in the state.”

Joel earned his law degree, cum laude, from Western Michigan University’s Thomas M. Cooley Law School and his undergraduate degree from Eastern Michigan University, where he graduated with honors magna cum laude. He is admitted to practice in the state courts of Michigan, as well as numerous federal courts, including the United States District Court for the Western District of Michigan, the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, as well as the Supreme Court of the United States.

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Significant Appellate Victories

Of Joel’s many successful appeals, he has most notably handled or been involved in:

  • Brown v Home-Owners Ins Co, 298 Mich App 678 (2012) – Set important legal precedent requiring no-fault insurers to pay work-loss benefits under Michigan’s No-Fault Act for the loss of “flow-through” income earned by incorporated small-business owners.
  • Linden v Citizens Ins Co, 308 Mich App 89 (2014) – Set important legal precedent preventing no-fault insurers from denying no-fault benefits to minor children who had no way to comply with the No-Fault Act’s one-year statute of limitations.
  • People v Timothy Panagis, Circuit Court No. 15-28686-AL (2016) – Received national attention in 2016 in the field of bicycle law when a bicyclist was unlawfully cited for “impeding traffic.” However, dashboard camera footage made it clear the officer was driving too close to the bike, and the burden of correcting this distance rests upon motor vehicle operators in Michigan. The appeals court judge, Judge Reader, commented on Joel’s exceptional brief, stating, “This is a $10,000 brief for a $200 citation.
  • Swick v Farm Bureau, Unpublished Opinion of the Court of Appeals, Docket No. 324829 (2014) – Prevented a no-fault insurer from illegally relying on the Michigan motorcycle helmet law to deny auto no-fault survivors loss benefits to the surviving minor children of a fatally injured motorcyclist.
  • Bacon v City of Flint, Unpublished Opinion of the Court of Appeals, Docket No. 339009 (2018) — Successfully overturned the incorrect dismissal of a Flint water case brought on behalf of a Flint woman who fatally contracted Legionnaires’ disease as a result of being exposed to the contaminated Flint public water supply. 
  • Hughes v City of Livonia, Unpublished Opinion of the Court of Appeals, Docket No. 340447 – Reaffirming the right of an elderly passenger to bring a cause of action against the city of Livonia for the negligent operation of a city bus.
  • Kulghert v Michigan State University,328 Mich App 357 (2019) — Successfully obtained the affirmance of several lower court rulings finding that our client’s tort claim was not barred by the worker’s compensation exclusive remedy rule.
  • Slocum v Farm Bureau and USAA328 Mich App 626 (2019) — Successfully obtained an Order from the Court of Appeals directing the defendant insurer’s in this case to pay no-fault survivors loss benefits for the full cost of purchasing replacement health insurance for the surviving widow and three minor children of a deceased motorcyclist.

Connect with Joel Finnell

Email: joelfinnell@sinasdramis.com
Phone: 517-394-7500
Toll Free: 866-758-0031

Professional Associations

  • State Bar of Michigan
  • State Bar of Michigan – Appellate Practice Section
  • Michigan Supreme Court Historical Society
  • Michigan Association for Justice
  • The National Trial Lawyers Association
  • Coalition Protecting Auto No-Fault (CPAN)
  • Ingham County Bar Association
  • American Bar Association


B.S., Eastern Michigan University, 2001
J.D., Thomas M. Cooley Law School, 2011


State Bar of Michigan
United States District Court for the Western District of Michigan
United States District Court for the Southern District of Illinois
United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit
United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan
The Supreme Court of the United States

Awards & Recognition

In 2019, Western Michigan University Thomas M. Cooley Law Review selected Joel’s brief, co-authored with Sinas Dramis partner, Stephen Sinas, as the recipient of its prestigious annual Distinguished Brief AwardMichigan Super Lawyers recognized Joel as a Rising Star from 2015-2021, a designation given to only 2.5% of all eligible Michigan attorneys. He was then recognized in 2022 as a Michigan Super Lawyer a recognition that continued in 2023. In 2017 and 2018, The National Trial Lawyers also recognized Joel as being a “Top 40 Under 40” trial lawyer in Michigan. Furthermore, Joel is also named a “Top 100” by The National Trial Lawyers in 2019. Leading Lawyers of America has also recognized Joel since 2022.

Speaking Engagements

Tort Threshold Update, No-Fault Summit (ICLE) – Annual Co-Author

Survivor’s Loss and Work Loss Benefits, No-Falt Institute XVI, October 2019

No-Fault Tort Threshold Update, No-Fault Institute – Annual Co-Author


In addition to his appellate practice, Joel co-authors several publications dealing with the auto no-fault law that are relied on by practitioners throughout the State, including Sinas & Finnell, Tort Threshold Update (Lansing: ICLE, 2014-2018); and Sinas & Finnell, The No-Fault Tort Threshold: An Annual Survey of the Law (Lansing: Michigan Association for Justice, 2014-2017). He is also a regular contributing author to the No-Fault Red Book Online.   

Additional publications include:

Brain Injury Association of America Preferred Attorney
Rated By Super Lawyers Joel Finnell
Joel Finnell Leading Lawyer Badge 2024