Pretzel & Stouffer

Illinois Supreme Court Victory for Insurance Professionals

Pretzel & Stouffer, Chartered takes pride in our success in representing our clients in a wide variety of professional liability cases. For over fifty years the Firm’s Professional Liability Team has been a leader in defending attorneys, accountants, architects, appraisers, directors and officers, engineers, insurance professionals, physicians, psychologists, and other professionals in litigation and claims in the courts and administrative agencies throughout Illinois.

Our Professional Liability Team takes particular pride in a recent victory in the Illinois Supreme Court that culminated over twenty years of effort by our attorneys in both the legislative and judicial arenas to level the playing field for insurance brokers and agents.

In a significant victory for insurance producers throughout this state, the Illinois Supreme Court’s ruling in American Family Mutual Ins. Co. v. Krop, 2018 IL 122556, upheld and enforced provisions of the Insurance Placement Liability Act, 735 ILCS 5/2-2201, which was drafted by partners Richard M. Waris and Matthew J. Egan. The Act eliminated the judicially-created concept that insurance producers owe fiduciary duties to their policy holder clients. The Supreme Court’s decision specifically rejected several prior lower court rulings which held that insurance producers are bound by the heightened standard of care governing fiduciaries.

The Supreme Court also upheld and enforced another statute (Section 13-214.4 of the Illinois Code of Civil Procedure) which the firm’s attorneys drafted, ruling that an insurance producer cannot be sued more than two years after the producer procured a policy for the client and provided the client with a copy of that policy. The Supreme Court’s ruling validated our often-asserted defense that Illinois law requires an insured to read the insurance policy upon receiving it and to raise any issues or objections to the coverages afforded at that time.

The Supreme Court’s decision in Krop is the culmination of more than two decades of effort on the part of the Firm’s attorneys to improve the legal and business environment for insurance professionals in this state. These efforts began in 1995, when partners Richard Waris and Matthew Egan conceived and drafted legislation to protect the interests of Illinois insurance producers, and then worked with industry and legislative leaders for over a year to secure its enactment into law. These provisions included two of the statutes which the Supreme Court considered in Krop: the Insurance Placement Liability Act (735 ILCS 5/2-2201) and the statute of limitations for claims against insurance producers (725 ILCS 5/13-214.4).

The Supreme Court’s ruling in Krop adopted the arguments which partners Richard Waris, Brendan Nelligan, and Matthew Egan advocated in a “friend of the court” brief the Court allowed the Firm to file on behalf of the state’s professional association for independent insurance producers.

We are gratified that the Supreme Court’s unequivocal pronouncements in Krop put an emphatic halt to judicial decisions over the past twenty years which eroded both the statute of limitations for insurance producers (735 ILCS 5/13-214.4) and the Insurance Placement Liability Act (735 ILCS 5/2-2201). As such, the Krop decision is a major victory for all insurance producers licensed in Illinois.

The Pretzel & Stouffer, Chartered – Professional Liability Team
Richard M. Waris, Matthew J. Egan, James J. Sipchen, Brendan J. Nelligan, Matthew F. Tibble, Thomas V.P. Draths, Pat Eckler, Caitlin S. Donohue, Quinn P. Donnelly, Kayla A. Condeni

Pretzel & Stouffer Wins Constitutional Challenge in Illinois Supreme Court to Secure Right to 12-Person Jury In All Civil Cases in Illinois

Attorneys Robert Marc Chemers, and Paula K. Villela, recently obtained a major victory before the Illinois Supreme Court, successfully challenging the constitutionality of Public Act 98-1132, Senate Bill 3075, which reduced the number of jurors in a civil trial in State of Illinois from 12 to 6, arguing that a jury of 12 is a fundamental right under Article 1, Section 13 of the Bill of Rights to the 1970 Constitution of the State of Illinois, which states, “The right of trial by jury as heretofore enjoyed shall remain inviolate[.]” The Supreme Court ruled that the Illinois Constitution guaranteed a jury of 12 at the time of its ratification and struck the entirety of the Act. Civil jury trials in Illinois will now be conducted with 12 jurors as a result of this decision, and any trials conducted with less jurors than demanded will be retried.

Mr. Chemers argued the appeal on May 11, 2016. The decision is reported at Kakos v. Butler, M.D., 2016 IL 120377, and can be accessed here http://www.illinoiscourts.gov/Opinions/SupremeCourt/2016/120377.pdf.

mission

Clarence Darrow’s famous statement is clearly an opinion and not a statement of fact as “trial lawyers” actually account for a small percentage of the legal profession. However, Mr. Darrow’s statement reflects the reality that there is a distinction between litigators and trial lawyers. The attorneys at Pretzel & Stouffer take pride in the fact that they are trial lawyers. Year after year, our attorneys try more complex and high-exposure cases to verdict before juries than any firm of comparable size — averaging 27 verdicts per year over the last decade. In addition, our lawyers appear frequently in regulatory hearings and appellate courts as advocates for our clients.

Our experience has proven over many years that when cases are approached from the outset with the mindset of a trial lawyer, the outcomes are far superior and cost-effective for our clients, whether through a voluntary dismissal, a verdict in a courtroom or by a pretrial settlement on those occasions when it is appropriate to do so. We have found that our reputation as trial lawyers has encouraged many opposing counsel to voluntarily dismiss cases of questionable liability prior to trial and have allowed us to negotiate pretrial settlements from a position of strength. Being in the courtroom on a regular basis also allows us to better assess the potential liability and exposure of claims against our clients.

Ever since Paul Pretzel established this law firm in 1946, its focus has been attracting and developing those lawyers with the courage, poise and passion to advocate on behalf of a client in the public forum of a courtroom, an appellate court or a regulatory commission. Since its beginning, Pretzel & Stouffer has had the distinction of having among its ranks every year many of the most highly regarded trial and appellate attorneys in our profession.

The trial experience and expertise of attorneys at Pretzel & Stouffer is wide-ranging and includes catastrophic injury claims, medical malpractice claims, legal malpractice claims, directors and officers errors and omissions claims, other professional liability claims, product liability claims, class actions, financial malpractice claims, asbestos litigation, commercial litigation, and employment litigation.

Pretzel & Stouffer, Chartered, is also fortunate to have among its ranks experienced attorneys who possess a wide range of non-litigation skills and who counsel and assist clients with tax issues, estate planning, contracts, and corporate and real estate transactions.

While Pretzel & Stouffer has grown and evolved over the years, the same principle upon which the firm was founded remains: Quality lawyers are, and will continue to be, the backbone of our firm. Our clients benefit from the legal counsel of attorneys who are widely regarded as among the very best in their respective practice areas.

We are pleased that many of our attorneys have received recognition from their peers as Super Lawyers, Best Lawyers in America, Leading Lawyers, and similar designations.

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It is our goal to provide informed, creative and cost-effective legal representation to a diverse client roster, identifying the legal solutions that work best for their individual needs. We strive to offer counsel of the highest caliber, from attorneys who are regarded as among the best in their respective practice areas.

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