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Alan S. Daniel and Williamson v. Aon Corporation

May 24, 2011

ALAN S. DANIEL AND WILLIAMSON
COUNTY AGRICULTURAL ASSOCIATION, ON BEHALF OF THEMSELVES
AND ALL OTHERS SIMILARLY SITUATED, PLAINTIFF,
v.
AON CORPORATION, ET AL.,
DEFENDANTS.
FREED & WEISS LLC,
PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
EDWARD JOYCE & ASSOCIATES AND THE PATCHETT LAW FIRM,
DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County No. 99 CH 11893 The HonorableSophia H. Hall, Judge Presiding.

Circuit Court of Cook County No. 99 CH 11893 The Honorable Sophia H. Hall, Judge Presiding.

JUSTICE HARRIS delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Presiding Justice Cunningham and Justice Connors concurred in the judgment

and opinion.

OPINION

In this appeal we decide that the plaintiff is not entitled to additional attorney fees for participating in a settled class action. The trial court denied plaintiff's petition for $950,000 additional attorney fees and its cross motion for summary judgment. Plaintiff argues that numerous factual questions exist precluding the grant of summary judgment to defendants. For the reasons hereinafter set forth we are not persuaded and affirm.

JURISDICTION

The trial court entered a final judgment in the instant case on April 30, 2010, and plaintiff filed its notice of appeal on May 26, 2010. Accordingly, this court has jurisdiction pursuant to Illinois Supreme Court Rules 301 and 303 governing appeals from final judgments entered below. Ill. S. Ct. R. 301 (eff. Feb. 1, 1994); R. 303 (eff. May 30, 2008).

BACKGROUND

The law firms of Kirby McInerny & Squire, LLP (KMS), Futterman & Howard, Chtd., and The Jacobs Law Firm, Chtd. (collectively referred to as "Kirby group"), filed the underlying class action suit against Aon Corporation (Aon) on behalf of Alan Daniel. After becoming concerned that Mr. Daniel might not be an appropriate class representative, the Kirby group solicited Edward Joyce of Edward Joyce & Associates, to find a more suitable class representative. Mr. Joyce contacted Randy Patchett of the Patchett Law Firm, who secured Williamson County Agricultural Association to serve as a class representative. Defendants invited Freed & Weiss LLC, to participate in the class action litigation.

Edward Joyce & Associates, the Patchett Law Firm, and plaintiff are collectively referred to as "Williamson counsel" in a written letter agreement entered into with the Kirby group on December 28, 2000. The letter outlined the agreement among the six law firms regarding the prosecution of a class action against Aon. The letter specified:

"1. [Williamson counsel has] referred their client, Williamson County Agricultural Association (Williamson), to KMS for inclusion as a plaintiff in the pending class action styled Daniel v. Aon Corporation, et al., referenced above, or for the commencement of a similar class action on Williamson's behalf.

***

3. In consideration for the services performed by Williamson's Counsel in connection with preparing the Williamson case, and in the event the court awards fees to plaintiffs' counsel in this action, Williamson's Counsel collectively will receive 15% off the top of the fees awarded to plaintiffs' counsel in this action, subject to the conditions specified below. In addition, Williamson's Counsel collectively will receive significant work in the referenced class action or a similar class action to be commenced on behalf of Williamson.

4. KMS will act as lead counsel and will be responsible for managing the prosecution of this action ***.

5. [Williamson counsel] *** will act as members of, and constitute, an Executive Committee. The Executive Committee shall be responsible for assisting ...


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