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Illinois State Bar Association Mutual Insurance Co. v. McNabola Law Group, P.C.

2019 IL App (1st) 182386 (Ill. App., 2019)

Words & Phrases

Professional Liability Policy: In General

Trial Judge

Sunjay T. Tailor

Appellate Judge



Professional liability insurer had no duty to defend insured against motion to adjudicate attorney liens for fees and expenses.

Fact Summary

 Yet another piece of litigation stemming from the Vandenberg accident. In September 2009, Scot Vandenberg was injured when he fell from the upper deck of a yacht. McNabola represented Scot and his wife Patricia in a personal injury action filed against Brunswick Corporation (Brunswick). On February 18, 2011, McNabola served his notice of a lien, as authorized by the Attorneys Lien Act (Act) (770 ILCS 5/1 (West 2016)), on KL Gates LLP, the attorneys representing defendants. On June 9, 2015, after a three-week trial, the parties negotiated a $25 million settlement. Brunswick subsequently learned that a circuit court clerk had read McNabola a jury question prior to the settlement and moved to vacate the settlement. After a hearing, the trial court granted Brunswick’s motion. The Vandenbergs discharged McNabola and current counsel appeared on their behalf and filed a motion to reconsider. After a hearing on that motion in front of a different judge, the Vandenbergs’ motion was granted and the settlement was reinstated. On appeal, this court affirmed the reinstatement of the settlement in Vandenberg v. Brunswick Corp., 2017 IL App (1st) 170181.

The Vandenbergs filed a legal malpractice action against McNabola, which ISBA Mutual is defending. The malpractice litigation is not an issue in this appeal.

Plaintiff, Illinois State Bar Association Mutual Insurance Company (ISBA Mutual), filed an action for declaratory judgment, alleging that it had no duty to defend a motion to adjudicate an attorney’s lien on behalf of defendants McNabola Law Group, P.C., and Mark McNabola (collectively, McNabola). The trial court granted judgment on the pleadings in favor of McNabola and denied ISBA Mutual’s cross-motion for judgment on the pleadings. On appeal, ISBA Mutual contends that the trial court erred in granting McNabola’s motion where the motion to adjudicate an attorneys lien was not a suit seeking recovery of damages as defined in ISBA Mutual’s policy issued to McNabola. For the following reasons, we reverse.