The Rookery Cornice

Firm News and Recent Decisions

Supreme Court Resolves Defamation Case in Favor of TDR Client

May 25, 2011

On May 25, 2011, the Illinois Supreme Court resolved the defamation and punitive damages case of Leyshon v. Diehl Controls North America, Inc., et al. in favor of TDR’s client, the former President and CEO of a North American subsidiary of a German conglomerate and against Diehl Controls and one of its executives. 949 N.E.2d 1098, 2011 Ill. LEXIS 865 (Ill. 2011). This followed our 2010 victory in the Illinois Appellate Court which affirmed TDR’s resounding victory at trial on behalf of our client, Leyshon v. Diehl Controls North America, Inc., 407 Ill. App. 3d 1, 946 N.E.2d 864, 349 Ill. Dec. 368 (1st Dist. 2010).

TDR’s client, a highly respected electronics executive, sued Diehl Controls and the company’s Chairman for their breach of an executive employment agreement and for defamation. After an eight-day jury trial, the jury found in favor of TDR’s client on all counts and awarded him over $13 million in compensatory and punitive damages. The jury’s award is believed to be the largest in this type of case in U.S. history. The trial court denied the defendants’ post-trial motion but granted their request to reduce the punitive damages award to $6 million.

On appeal, the defendants challenged the jury’s finding of liability on the defamation claim and the amount of damages awarded. They argued that the “for cause” statement was protected under the “innocent-construction rule,” because it could reasonably be innocently interpreted. The defendants also argued that they were protected by the “invited-defamation” defense, because the plaintiff “invited” the defendants’ defamatory statements. The defendants conceded, however, that they did not raise the invited-defamation defense until their post-trial motion.

The appellate court upheld the lower court’s decision. The court found that the “for cause” statement fell within the definition of defamation per se, because it was a statement “imputing an inability to perform or want of professional integrity in performing employment duties,” and “imputing a lack of ability or … otherwise prejudic[ing the plaintiff] in his profession or business.” The court held that, given the context in which the statement was made, it could not reasonably be construed as having an innocent construction. The appellate court further held that the defendants’ failure to raise the defense of invited-defamation prior to the jury verdict denied TDR’s client the opportunity to respond to a defense that, if proven, would have been a complete defense to his defamation claim. Therefore, the court found that the defendants had forfeited the invited-defamation defense. The appellate court went on to uphold the $2 million in compensatory damages and $6 million in punitive damages awarded by the trial court.

TDR partners Caesar A. Tabet and Mark Horwitch represented TDR’s client throughout the entire case, including during the two-week jury trial.

Leyshon v. Diehl Controls North America, Inc., et al.

49 N.E.2d 1098, 2011 Ill. LEXIS 865 (Ill. 2011)

TDR Wins Important Insurance Coverage Dispute

April 28, 2010

On April 28, 2010, Judge Peter Flynn of the Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois, Chancery Division, awarded summary judgment to our client Walsh Construction Company in an insurance coverage lawsuit against it filed by Scottsdale Insurance Company. Walsh was represented by TDR attorneys Daniel L. Stanner, Michael J. Grant, and John M. Fitzgerald. Judge Flynn's ruling requires Scottsdale Insurance to provide a defense to Walsh, a general contractor, in a personal injury lawsuit filed by a subcontractor's employee. Judge Flynn's ruling addressed an emerging area in insurance coverage litigation regarding sole-negligence exclusions in additional insured endorsements. The Court rejected Scottsdale's arguments that the sole negligence exclusion applied to bar coverage and granted Walsh's cross motion for summary judgment.

Scottsdale Insurance Co. v. Walsh Construction

Case No. 09 CH 33074

Verdict for Hospira in ERISA Class-Action Lawsuit

April 23, 2010

On April 23, 2010, the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois found in favor of our client Hospira, Inc. and Abbott Laboratories on all counts of an ERISA class-action lawsuit filed against both companies in 2004. In the lawsuit, representatives of an 8,000-employee class claimed that Hospira and Abbott intended to interfere with their retirement benefits through Abbott’s spin off of its Hospital Products Division, which established Hospira as an independent company, and the implementation of a two-year reciprocal no-hire policy. The suit, in which the plaintiff class sought over $300 million in lost employee benefits, was tried over a period of three weeks in 2009.

In a 97-page opinion, the Court found that neither Hospira nor Abbott violated ERISA in connection with the spin off or the no-hire policy. Of critical importance to the Court’s decision was the testimony of the defendants’ witnesses, including Hospira’s CEO and COO, which the Court found was "highly credible, internally consistent, and amply corroborated by the unquestionably authentic documentary evidence." In ruling in favor of the defendants, the Court also vindicated Abbott’s and Hospira’s strategic decisionmaking and human resource policies relating to the spin off. The Court explained that "Hospira has been a successful, profitable enterprise in the years since the spin, no doubt in large part because it retained the talent it had at the time it became independent of Abbott."

Hospira was represented in this matter by TDR partners Christopher Liguori and Daniel Konieczny, associate Brian Haussmann, and legal assistant Diane Tasic.

Nauman v. Abbott Laboratories and Hospira, Inc.

Case No. 04-cv-07199 (N.D. Ill.)

DeHayes Selected as 2nd VP of the Women’s Bar Association of Illinois

March 23, 2010

Karina DeHayes was selected to be the second vice president of the Women's Bar Association of Illinois ("WBAI") beginning in June 2010. From that position, Karina will automatically ascend to the presidency in 2012-13, becoming the organization's 98th president. DeHayes recently co-chaired the WBAI's Judicial Reception, attended by nearly 170 judges practicing in the state and federal courts of Illinois. DeHayes has been a board member of the WBAI since 2003 and has served as a board member of the Women's Bar Foundation since 2007.

Deb Decker Featured on Chicago Cable TV Show

March 10, 2010

Partner Deb Decker is being featured as a panelist on school law on the television program "Illinois Law." The subject of the show is "Student Discipline," and will be aired on Chicago cable station 21 on March 23, 2010, and April 6, 2010. "Illinois Law" is a series devoted to providing practical information about the law to Illinois citizens, and helping them to understand their rights and responsibilities under the law.

Firm Represents Village of Crestwood in Toxic Tort Contamination Lawsuits

Chicago Tribune, p. 1

February 15, 2010

The article describes the law firm's representation of the Village of Crestwood against various toxic tort and class action lawsuits. The lawsuits involve alleged environmental contamination of the drinking water in the Village of Crestwood in the 1980s and 1990s.

DeHayes Speaks at CBA Seminar on Preliminary Injunctions

October 19, 2009

On October 19, 2009, TDR partner Karina DeHayes was the featured speaker at the Chicago Bar Association Commerical Litigation Committee and presented on the topic Offense and Defense: TROs and Preliminary Injunctions. Her discussion included practice tips and described recent case law and the rule changes regarding temporary restraining orders and preliminary injunctions.

Arbitrator Rules in Favor of Hospira

March 31, 2009

On March 31, 2009, an arbitrator ruled in favor of Hospira, finding that its exclusive supplier of flush syringes had breached its supply contract with Hospira. The arbitrator ordered Hospira’s supplier to deliver to Hospira 74 million additional syringes. In addition, the arbitrator awarded Hospira over $500,000 in attorney fees. The arbitrator also ruled in Hospira’s favor on its supplier’s counterclaim that Hospira was in breach of the parties’ agreement. Hospira was represented in the arbitration by TDR attorneys Gino DiVito, Christopher Liguori and Brian Haussmann along with co-counsel.

Hospira, Inc. v. Excelsior Medical Corporation

JAMS, REF# 1340007267

Deborah Decker Speaks at ISBA Seminar on Education Law

Illinois State Bar Association

March 19, 2009

Tabet DiVito & Rothstein LLC partner Deborah E. Decker was a speaker at the ISBA CLE seminar Safe and Sound: The Attorney's Role in School Safety and Security, presented by the ISBA Education Law Section on March 13, 2009. Ms. Decker presented on the legal ramifications surrounding the use of various school security measures, including videotaping, security cameras, metal detectors, sex offender lists, visitor logs, and security entry systems.

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