A New Lenox man paralyzed in a boating accident in 2009 has
sued his former lawyers and a Cook County Circuit Court clerk, saying he is
owed $25 million after a judge, upon learning the court clerk had improperly
passed jury information to one of the lawyers, tossed a settlement agreement
the man had reached with the maker of the yacht on which he was injured.
On Oct. 31, Scot Vandenberg and his wife, Patricia, filed
suit in Cook County Circuit Court against attorney Mark McNabola and his firm,
the McNabola Law Group, and attorney David Anders, and his firm Hutchison
Anders & Hickey, of Tinley Park, alleging counts of legal professional
malpractice against them.
The complaint also named as defendants Cook County and court
clerk Tatiana Agee.
The case centers on the actions of McNabola during the June
2015 trial of the Vandenbergs’ claims against boatmaker Brunswick Boat Group.
The Vandenbergs had sued Brunswick, as well as yacht charter
operation, RQM LLC, in 2010. A year earlier, Scot Vandenberg had been aboard a
Hatteras yacht, made by Brunswick, which had been leased from RQM for a company
event, when he fell from the rear top deck of the craft. His injuries paralyzed
him from the neck down, according to published reports and court documents.
The Vandenbergs retained McNabola and Anders to represent
them in their personal injury liability lawsuit over the incident,
They settled with RQM in 2012 for $2.365 million, but
proceeded to trial against Brunswick.
According to the lawsuit and published reports, the case was
handed over to the jury on June 9, 2015.
While the jury was deliberating, Brunswick purportedly
offered the Vandenbergs $25 million to settle the case. They accepted the
settlement offer, and the case was dismissed before the jury could return its
However, while the jury had been deliberating, the court
later learned Agee had allegedly relayed the contents of a crucial jury note to
McNabola, allowing him to learn the mood of the jury, which was preparing to
find in Brunswick’s favor.
Upon learning of the alleged communication, Brunswick cried
foul, and a Cook County judge vacated the settlement agreement in January 2016,
“ruling it was unenforceable on the grounds of unilateral mistake and fraud
perpetrated by (Agee and McNabola) and violations of the code of professional
responsibility by” McNabola,” the complaint said.
In May, the judge then polled the jury from the original
trial, and entered the verdict in favor of Brunswick, cementing the loss of any
possibility of obtaining any settlement from Brunswick.
The Vandenbergs also asserted the lawyers improperly kept nearly
three-quarters of the $2.36 million settlement obtained from RQM.
The Vandenbergs are represented in the action by attorneys
John Kralovec, of the firm of Kralovec, Jambois & Schwartz, of Chicago, and
Joseph A. Power Jr. and Joseph W. Balesteri, of the firm of Power, Rogers &
Smith, of Chicago.