John Buckley is a trial lawyer focused on mass tort and product liability, business tort and professional negligence and insurance coverage actions across the country. He represents public and private companies in the health care, food and beverage, consumer products and insurance industries.
What do you focus on?
I use my 30 years of experience to help clients involved in high stakes litigation get results that meet their business goals. Based on the unique circumstances of the client and the case, I develop individualized litigation and business strategies to help clients reach the best possible outcome. My practice currently involves three main areas.
Products Liability, Mass Tort and Class Actions
I’ve tried more than 20 cases to verdict in courts across the United States, representing manufacturers in a wide range of civil cases arising from alleged product defects and failures. For example, I served as national counsel in one of the largest instances of food poisoning tied to a single source in U.S. history. My team resolved over 90% of the individual claims in less than three months, settled one class action and stayed another, leading the trial judge to say he had never seen such a defense in all of his years on the bench.
I also served as co-lead counsel in a 10,000 claimant mass action over PCB exposure. We employed non-traditional discovery strategies under the state law in effect to impose the burdens of discovery on the 10,000 claimants themselves. We also used a summary judgment strategy on causation to weed out entire classes of plaintiffs. As a result, we achieved dismissal of one-third of the claimants before trial and obtained a settlement for less than 2% of the plaintiff’s initial demand after trial began.
Complex Commercial Litigation—Business Torts, Fraud and Insurance
I handle all sorts of business disputes with an eye toward the most efficient path to meet the client’s goals. For example, I served as lead counsel for a computer leasing company accused of breaching restrictive covenants involved in hires of sales personnel. We acted swiftly to gather and sequester the alleged proprietary information and prohibit further employee solicitation. We successfully removed the threat of an injunction and achieved a quick resolution, enabling our client to resume operations and benefit from its new hires.
In another case, I represented a former business owner of a storm-water management company sued by his partner for alleged breach of restrictive covenants with a $500,000 per breach liquidated damages clause. Since the contract required a bench trial, I sought an early settlement conference with the presiding judge and moved for summary judgment on the liquidated damages provision in order to lay out our case before the settlement conference. The parties settled after hearing the judge’s view of the case, avoiding potentially catastrophic costs to our client.
I have been involved in over 65 appeals, including cases before the Supreme Court of the United States, Illinois Supreme Court, United States Courts of Appeals and Appellate Courts of Illinois, Michigan and Wisconsin. I have argued several cases before the United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit; one case before the Illinois Supreme Court; and numerous cases before the Appellate Court of Illinois, First and Second Districts.
What do you see on the horizon?
I am thinking about how clients must adapt to communications in the age of social media. If businesses are not shaping their messages in real time, it will be shaped against them. “No comment” is no longer an option.
Selected Mass Torts and Class Actions
- Trial counsel for health care company in a legal and actuarial malpractice case against its pension design and actuarial consultants and its benefits lawyers arising from the design, implementation, and administration of a Cash Balance Pension Plan that led to a class action against the company
- Counsel to component supplier to cryogenic freezer manufacturer in lawsuit over alleged freezer failure
- Counsel to national health care company in defense of legacy liability asbestos claims
- National and Illinois counsel for an ice cream manufacturer in consumer salmonella class action
- Salmonella litigation (milk class actions and individual cases)
- Co-lead trial counsel in a 10,000 claimant mass action (PCB exposure claims)
Selected Employment Litigation
- Mainline Information Systems v. Beckendorf (USDC ND IL)—Lead counsel for computer leasing company and sales team members in case for injunction and damages alleging breaches of non-competition, non-solicitation of customer, and non-solicitation of employee restrictive covenants
- USSurfnet v. Daiker (Cir. Ct. Cook County IL)—Successfully defended clients at evidentiary hearing seeking preliminary injunction on behalf of defendants who left firm to start their own competing business; successfully defended ruling on appeal
- Heffernan v. Moore (DuPage County)—Defended non-solicitation and non-compete claims in context of $500,000 per violation liquidated damage clause; took advantage of plaintiff’s jury waiver to pretry the case to fact finder and force early settlement
Selected Insurance Coverage Litigation
- Lead trial counsel in a coverage case on behalf of a Fortune 500 policyholder involving numerous issues regarding coverage for thousands of underlying asbestos claims
- Counsel to aerospace and aircraft manufacturer in coverage action arising from sale of commercial satellites
- Lead policyholders’ coverage counsel in coverage litigation regarding underlying environmental claims involving PCB contamination
Selected Significant Appellate Cases
- Housing Authority Risk Retention Group (HARRG) v. Chicago Housing Authority (CHA), 378 F.3d 596 (7th Cir.)—Briefed and argued case of first impression regarding scope of “absolute” pollution exclusion in comprehensive general liability policy
- Taylor v. Quality Hyundai, 150 F.3d 689 (7th Cir.)—Successfully obtained dismissal of lender in trial court on Truth-in-Lending Act claim; obtained landmark decision excepting assignees from liability under Federal Truth-in-Lending Act on appeal before the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit
- People v. Pugh, 157 Ill. 2d 1, 623 N.E.2d 255—Obtained unanimous reversal of death sentence and significant Illinois decision regarding ineffective assistance of counsel; successfully avoided death penalty at sentencing hearing on remand and obtained further reduction of sentence on appeal; People v. Pugh, 325 Ill. App. 3d 336, 758 N.E. 2d 319 (1st Dist.), (Pugh II)
- Presenter, “Unlocking the Keys to Effective Crisis Management for Food and Beverage Companies,” Momentum’s 3rd Annual Food & Beverage Litigation, Compliance and Regulatory Summit, October 2015
- Moderator, “The ABC’s of Crisis Management,” Toxic Tort and Environmental Law Committee Spring CLE Meeting, Tort Trial and Insurance Practice Section, American Bar Association, Phoenix, Arizona, April 2014
- Moderator, “Winning the Causation Battle,” Toxic Tort and Environmental Law Committee National CLE Program, Tort Trial and Insurance Practice Section, American Bar Association, Phoenix, Arizona. April 2008
- Program co-chair and presenter, “Masters of the Courtroom: A Display of Innovative and Proven Trial Technique,” Trial Techniques Committee/Business Litigation Committee National CLE Program, Tort Trial and Insurance Practice Section, American Bar Association. Phoenix, Arizona, March 2008
- Program chair, “The ‘Look Good’ Cross With Terence F. MacCarthy,” American Bar Association Annual Meeting, 2006
- Presenter, “Winning Your Case—What’s Voir Dire Got to do With it?” ABA Tort Trial and Insurance Practice Section Spring Meeting, Miami, Florida, May 19, 2006.
- Program chair, “Harnessing the Power of Persuasion: Theme Building For The Professional Advocate,” ABA Tort Trial and Insurance Practice Section Spring meeting, New Orleans, Louisiana, April 2005
- Co-host, Three-part Trial Techniques Series, ABA Tort Trial and Insurance Practice Section, Teleconference Continuing Legal Education Series, April–June, 2004
- Speaker, American Bar Association Tort Trial and Insurance Practice Section Toxic Torts and Environmental Law Spring CLE Conference, “PCB claims: Administration and defense of a 10,000-claimant mass action and the innovative use of a geographic information system to produce demonstrative evidence on clean-up and causation issues,” March 2004
- “MacCarthy on Cross-Examination,” ABA Publishing, August 2007