| Practice Description: |
If you ask Jo to identify the key to a successful defense in the high exposure injury and death cases she handles, her answer comes quickly: "Everything centers on trial preparation. If the defense anticipates trial presentation throughout the litigation, the case is postured to accommodate all possible outcomes, from a favorable settlement to a successful trial." Jo believes that once the initial investigation is complete, every good trial attorney should start outlining the closing argument and gathering evidence to support his or her theory of the case.
Jo earned both her undergraduate and law degrees from the University of Iowa "with distinction," finishing in 1997, and soon after began her legal career at Quinn Johnston. Within her first year of practice, she tried several cases and within her second year she second-chaired a trial over property damage from a fire, with insurance coverage issues to be decided. "That early experience, following an internship in law school with a state’s attorney’s office, confirmed for me that my place was in the courtroom," she recalls. Jo’s practice soon evolved into defending cases with high exposure injuries, death cases, or catastrophic property damage losses and coverage issues.
"Some of the insurers I work for often insure farmers. I’m comfortable with that, since I grew up on an Iowa farm myself." She recalls one claim in particular for a farmer whose cow had escaped from its pen and made its way onto a highway, causing an accident. After receiving a defense verdict for the farmer, she spoke privately with some of the jurors who decided the case. "They told me that early on in the case, they were relatively sure the farmer was responsible for the accident and injury. However, after hearing the law and the evidence, they deliberated less than 20 minutes before deciding the case in favor of my client."
Jo is often called upon to predict settlement and jury verdict ranges for cases of significant injuries or death. "There’s no formula to use to predict what a jury might do," she explains. "Generally speaking the factors that drive damages in high exposure claims are not the same set of factors typically considered in settling a soft tissue injury. It requires experience and consideration of many facts specific to each case, including the parties, circumstances of the incident, venue and law to make an accurate assessment of value."
Notable Cases and Results:
Obtaining summary judgment from the U.S. District Court, Central District and having that judgment affirmed by the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals on a highly contested coverage issue involving allegations of intentional conduct by an employee.
Receiving over 30 summary judgments in premises liability claims, many of which have been appealed and sustained on appeal. The only one that was reversed, she eventually tried and obtained a defense verdict.
Obtaining summary judgment on the basis of no duty due to lack of foreseeability for a tilling operator who accidently started a fire in a field that created enough smoke to effect visibility on a nearby interstate, causing a 17 car pile-up, including one death and several serious injuries.
Trying over 20 cases to verdict, the vast majority of which resulted in either defense verdicts or verdicts that were less than the pre-trial offer.
U.S. District Court, Central District of Illinois
U.S. Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit
Year of Birth: 1971
Law School: University of Iowa College of Law, J.D., 1997
Law School Honors/Involvement:
Graduated with distinction; Trial Advocacy; Moot Court Board; Client Counseling Board; Business Law Journal, editor
Undergraduate School: University of Iowa, B.S., political science and sociology, 1993
Undergraduate School Honors/Involvement:
Graduated with distinction
Quinn Johnston Henderson Pretorius & Cerulo, partner, 1997-present
Bar/Professional Association Involvement:
Illinois State Bar Association
Peoria County Bar Association
Continuing Legal Education
Committee Chair, 2011-2012
Greater Peoria Claims Association
Defense Research Institute
Illinois Association of Defense Trial Counsel
Illinois Defense Counsel
Abraham Lincoln Inns of Court
Awards; Honors; Distinctions:
Martindale-Hubbell rating of AV® Preeminent
Illinois Leading Lawyers, 2017-present
Illinois Super Lawyers, 2013-2017
Illinois Rising Stars, 2011
Prairie State Campaign for Legal Services
St. Jude Volunteer
Quinn, Johnston, Henderson, Pretorius & Cerulo, with offices in Peoria and Springfield, Illinois, provides dedicated, experienced counsel and litigation for individual and corporate clients. Its mission is to provide quality counsel and aggressive representation to clients in an ethical and civil manner. The firm solves legal issues when they arise, and helps its clients avoid situations that may become problems. The firm provides a wide breadth of defense and litigation services with particular emphasis on healthcare law, medical malpractice, workers' compensation, products liability, and personal injury, as well as commercial litigation and business law.
Handling business and commercial matters, insurance law, and litigation defense matters ranging from personal injury to civil rights defense, our lawyers take special pride in their ability to meet clients' needs, resolve issues, and work for the best possible outcome.