Cook County Record

Friday, September 20, 2019

ARDC accuses Chicago lawyer Mark McNabola of dishonesty, wrongly using jury note to turn trial loss into $25M settlement

Discipline

By Dan Churney | Jun 27, 2019


Mark McNabola | Youtube screenshot

SPRINGFIELD -- State officials are continuing to seek disciplinary action against a Chicago lawyer, who allegedly engaged in various acts of misconduct, including allegations he was not upfront with a client about fees and that he allegedly wrongfully withheld information in court to clinch a $25 million settlement in a personal injury lawsuit.

On June 18, the Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission filed an amended seven-count complaint against Mark E. McNabola, who has been a lawyer in Illinois since 1985. The ARDC investigates and prosecutes allegations of professional misconduct by lawyers, and, when necessary, presents its findings to the Illinois Supreme Court for any disciplinary action, which can range from reprimand to disbarment.

McNabola has formally denied the allegations in an answer filed last November in response to the ARDC's initial complaint. 

McNabola represented Scot and Patricia Vandenberg in a 2010 suit alleging yacht maker Brunswick was to blame for Scot's fall from a Brunswick yacht, which left him paralyzed from the neck down. The case went to trial in 2015 and, while the jury was deliberating, the jury gave a note to the judge, asking a question that suggested it was not going to find Brunswick at fault. The judge told his clerk to contact the lawyers for both sides to come to her chambers. When the clerk called McNabola, he told the clerk to hold off contacting Brunswick, because the case was about to be settled.

McNabola persuaded Brunswick to settle for $25 million, without allegedly telling Brunswick about the note. Less than one hour later, the jury returned a verdict for Brunswick.

The ARDC is alleging McNabola was dishonest in the matter, and improperly communicated with the judge without the Brunswick attorney present. After Brunswick tried to vacate the settlement and new litigation issues arose, McNabola allegedly brought on another lawyer to help represent the Vandenbergs against Brunswick, without getting the Vandenbergs' consent. 

McNabola also allegedly did not tell the Vandenbergs that Brunswick was accusing him of fraudulently securing the settlement. In addition, McNabola did not withdraw as the Vandenbergs' attorney, despite a conflict of interest, in that McNabola was now a witness in the case, the ARDC alleged.

Brunswick failed to vacate the settlement. The company also sued McNabola, Cook County and the clerk, but a judge dismissed the suit.

In a separate case, the ARDC alleges McNabola had his father, Dr. William McNabola, loan $83,000 to a personal injury client. The loan involved McNabola representing his father's interest in collecting payment, which was adverse to the interest of the then former client. McNabola allegedly did not obtain the former client's consent for this arrangement.

In another matter the ARDC alleges McNabola had Lauren O'Keefe, a paralegal in his firm, loan money, varying between $1,2000 and $2,000, to three clients. According to the ARDC, McNabola allegedly had O'Keefe advance the money to "hide his involvement when" he "knew that financial assistance to a client was prohibited."

In a final case, the ARDC alleges McNabola had a subpoena issued to Apple Inc., to sift through O'Keefe's Gmail account to see if she was communicating with a former lawyer in McNabola's firm, who had joined the firm of McNabola's former partner. McNabola allegedly had the subpoena issued as part of an arbitration case, involving a former law partner, but which was no longer an active case. The ARDC alleges the subpoena constituted "abuse of process by dishonestly issuing a subpoena in a closed matter for ulterior reasons."

McNabola is represented in the proceedings by attorneys Edward W. Feldman, Mary Eileen Cunniff Wells and Alexandra Kay Block of Miller Shakman & Beem in Chicago.

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Organizations in this Story

Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission Illinois Supreme Court McNabola Law Group PC Miller Shakman

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