Friday, September 03, 2021

On August 26, 2021, in an appeal filed by WBS partner Mitch Bryan, the Illinois Appellate Court reversed a Cook County Circuit Court ruling in favor of a general liability insurer in a declaratory judgment action the insurer brought against a WBS civil engineering firm client (RLI Ins. Co. v. Thomas Engineering Group, LLC, et al.). The lawsuit sought to deny coverage of and relieve the insurer of its duty to defend the engineering firm against wrongful death and catastrophic injury lawsuits resulting from a limousine crash in an I-90 bridge construction zone at the Fox River. Rejecting the insurer’s contention that the “professional services” exclusion in its GL policy negated coverage as a matter of law, the Appellate Court remanded the case to the trial court to resolve material fact questions bearing on applicability of the exclusion. In recent years the applicability of “professional services” exclusions in general liability policies has received significant attention from the Illinois Appellate Court.

This successful outcome followed another appellate court victory by WBS earlier this year when Mitch defeated an appeal by trustees of a national Association of physicians who sought to intervene in a Cook County Circuit Court action brought against WBS’s Association client by one of its members, when dismissal of the suit was imminent pursuant to settlement terms (Bari v. APPNA). The Association member sued to invalidate a vote by Association membership to amend the organization’s Constitution and Bylaws. The amendments created new Board of Trustees positions the intervenor trustees had been elected to hold. The Appellate Court ruled that the would-be intervenors failed to satisfy procedural requirements for intervention, and also lacked standing to step into the shoes of the Association for the purpose of unwinding the settlement.

This Cook County nonprofit corporate governance litigation was closely related to an earlier DuPage County lawsuit in which Mitch, representing the same Association, obtained a preliminary injunction against previously elected trustees who challenged and defied the executive authority of the Association’s duly elected Executive Committee (APPNA v. Hashmi, et al.). The Association’s Constitution and Bylaws had established the Executive Committee as the Association’s statutory Board of Directors under the Illinois Not for Profit Corporation Act. The outcomes of these related lawsuits have helped this forty-four year old, 3,000-member national Association of physicians to restore stability among the organization’s internal governing bodies toward more effectively achieving its medical profession and public service missions.

Please direct any questions about these appellate and trial court decisions, or any other insurance coverage or corporate governance questions, issues or dispute concerns, to WBS partner Mitch Bryan at bryan@wbs-law.com.