A Cook County circuit judge on Tuesday upheld a $25 million settlement in a personal injury lawsuit against Brunswick Corp., the Chicago Tribune reported.
The original case dates back to 2009, when Scot Vandenberg suffered a fall on a boat that left him a quadriplegic and sued Brunswick, Brunswick Boat Group and RQM, a yacht company. Brunswick and the plaintiffs settled the case as the three-week trial neared an end in 2015.
At issue in the latest ruling was a note sent by the jury, asking "Can we find fault with RQM, without finding fault with Brunswick?"
According to the Tribune, Brunswick's lawyers say they never learned of the note until after the settlement had been reached, and that if they had Brunswick would not have agreed to the settlement. The jury -- which had continued to deliberate during the settlement discussions -- also issued a verdict in favor of Brunswick shortly after the settlement was entered.
On Tuesday, Judge James O'Hara ruled that all parties were represented through counsel and had the opportunity to participate in a discussion as to how to respond to the note.
“The parties freely settled this case after full disclosure of all material information concerning the content and time of publishing the jury note,” O’Hara wrote, according to the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin. “At no point did the [d]efendants, through counsels, object to or question the validity of the settlement after learning of the content of the jury question contained in the note or the time it had come out prior to the settlement’s entry into the record.”
That overturned an earlier January ruling by Circuit Judge Daniel Joseph Lynch, who found that former court Clerk Tatiana Agee interfered with due process by sharing the contents of the note to the plaintiffs’ lawyer Mark E. McNabola and that McNabola’s silence about the note had an impact on the litigation’s outcome.
Dan K. Webb, Brunswick's attorney in the suit, told the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin that he and his clients were disappointed in the ruling.
“We don’t believe that the extensive factual record that has been made from a year in this case is supported by the decision by the judge today, and so we are going to take an appeal to the Illinois Appellate Court,” he said. “I think everyone expected this case to end up in the Illinois Appellate Court; it’s being watched carefully here in Illinois.”
Brunswick has also filed a federal lawsuit over the case, arguing that McNabola and Agee violated the company's constitutional right to due process by hiding the contents of the note.