It was a regular day of work for Lisa Ann Hayes, a home health care nurse who tended to Alexandra Jacobs, wife of legendary Twin Cities dealmaker Irwin Jacobs.
But when Hayes let herself into the Jacobs' Lake Minnetonka mansion that spring morning two years ago, something seemed amiss. She went upstairs to the master bedroom and discovered the bodies of her employers, shot dead with a handgun in a murder-suicide.
Now Hayes is suing the Jacobs estate, seeking unspecified damages for the trauma she claims she suffered by walking in on the grisly scene.
The Jacobs estate is calling her lawsuit extortion, saying she sought a settlement of $12.5 million and threatened to sue if she wasn't paid off.
It's the final chapter in the story of Irwin Jacobs, who reached thrilling heights and crushing lows in a long business career that ended when he shot and killed his wife and himself on April 10, 2019, amid health and financial troubles.
In her suit, Hayes charges that Irwin Jacobs' actions were "injurious to Hayes' health and constituted willful, wanton and malicious conduct … and were indecent and offensive."
Calling the lawsuit "a grotesque betrayal," a Jacobs family lawyer said he plans to seek dismissal.
"This is simply the latest baseless effort to extort the Jacobs family and Irwin's estate," Minneapolis attorney Steven Sitek said in a statement. "Ms. Hayes threatened to publicly file her lawsuit filled with unnecessarily lurid and sensationalized details unless the estate paid her $12.5 million.
"We believe a jury, like the Jacobs family, will view the lawsuit as nothing more than a grotesque betrayal of Irwin and Alexandra's memories by a once trusted caregiver who was treated like family for years."
According to court filings, Hayes arrived at the Jacobs home that April day about 8:30 a.m. as usual. Hayes, a registered nurse, had cared for Alexandra Jacobs for about four years, preparing meals, monitoring medication and assisting with daily living. Alexandra Jacobs was an early riser and was often awake and watching television by the time Hayes arrived. But the house was silent that day.
Hayes went upstairs to the master bedroom, where she found Alexandra Jacobs lying in bed with her eyes open, not breathing. Hayes checked for a pulse and found none.
In a panic, according to court documents, Hayes then saw Irwin Jacobs "slumped against the night stand, next to his bed, with what appeared to be gunshot wounds to his chest and profuse bleeding from Jacobs' nose and mouth."
She fled the room and found the family's property caretaker, who confirmed that Irwin Jacobs had no pulse.
Brian Stofferahn, a Minneapolis attorney who represents Hayes, said the Jacobs family heirs wouldn't take a financial hit from any money Hayes might receive. Although the suit is filed against the Jacobs estate, any money would come from insurance policies, he said.
"Obviously, it's not my client's intent, nor has it ever been, to try to deplete the assets of the estate that are available to the family," Stofferahn said. "I see this, and my client sees this, as a tragedy for everyone involved."
Hayes has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder by two doctors, Stofferahn said, and has been unable to work since the incident.
Stofferahn declined to comment on whether Hayes had asked for $12.5 million, but said, "There has been a demand against the insurance company. And hopefully at some point [the company] will make a good-faith offer. And they have not to date."
Irwin Jacobs was a nationally known investor who made a fortune as a corporate raider in the 1980s and 1990s.
He bought a series of boat firms in the 1990s to form Genmar Holdings Inc., which became the nation's No. 2 maker of boats.
His other businesses included the bass-fishing tournament organizer Fishing League Worldwide, as well as Winona-based J.R. Watkins Co.
John Reinan • 612-673-7402