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J. Timothy Cerney | Mary Jo O'Donnell, Associate | Julie D. Stahl, Associate

J. Timothy Cerney, Managing Partner

J. Timothy Cerney has been designated a Top Lawyer In Illinois and is rated an AV Preeminent® attorney by his peers and the judiciary, the highest ratings available for legal ability, professional excellence, and ethical standards. He is also an Avvo Client Choice Award recipient, based on the highest possible reviews by his clients. Tim has been a partner in Carroll, Hartigan & Cerney, Ltd. since 1983. He has an impressive trial and appellate record in both state and federal court litigation and is also highly experienced in counselling business, banks and individual clients with regard to a variety of legal issues and representing them in various transactional matters. He provides aggressive and creative representation for his clients while striving to provide service that is efficient and cost effective.

Tim attended the University of Iowa on a football scholarship, where he received his Bachelor of Science degree, cum laude, in 1975, and received his Juris Doctor degree from the University of Iowa College of Law in 1979.  He is admitted to practice by the Illinois Supreme Court, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois and the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, and is a member of the Federal Trial Bar.

Tim has been appointed by federal trial judges to plaintiff and defense counsel liaison committees to lead complex multi-district litigation in commercial airline crash and environmental litigation cases. He has successfully handled many types of cases, ranging from large, multiple party and high damages cases and class actions to smaller but equally important cases involving simpler issues and less serious injuries and damages, applying his efforts with the same vigor to every case. His superior communication, analytical, negotiation and trial skills have helped him to achieve an enviable record of success in cases for his clients.

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In addition to his extensive trial experience, his appellate cases include:

Continental Casualty v. McDowell and Colantoni, 282 Ill.App.3d 236

First Bank and Trust v. Firstar Information Services Corp., 276 F.3d. 317

Comark v. The Highland Group, 932 F.2d 1196

Mi-Jack Products v. Chamberlain Mfg. Co., 145 Ill.App.3d 1159

Adame v. Munoz, 287 Ill.App.3d 181


Tim's practice is focused primarily on civil litigation, including insurance defense, personal injury, property damage, insurance coverage, business, commercial, and banking litigation.  He has handled a variety of types of cases, including premises, automobile, trucking, product liability and professional liability litigation; aviation disaster cases; construction litigation; and breach of contract, fraud, real estate and shareholder/LLC member litigation.  Some examples of the great variety of types of cases in which Tim has recently achieved successful results for his clients include:

Personal Injury/ Insurance Cases:

  • Achieved a very favorable confidential settlement (exceeding $1,000,000) for the wrongful death of an airline passenger client in a commercial airline crash case.
  • Won a not guilty verdict in a jury trial for a defendant racetrack business in a serious personal injury trip and fall suit.
  • Obtained judgment in favor of a defendant health club in a suit brought by a plaintiff seriously injured in a fall on ice caused by a defective drain system.
  • Favorably settled 47 asbestos-related injury and wrongful death claims on behalf of a defendant piping supply distributor for less than $400 per case.
  • Obtained a $550,000 settlement on behalf of a plaintiff who suffered a tibial plateau fracture in a slip and fall.
  • Obtained a federal court judgment on behalf of an insurance company for an unprecedented insurance coverage ruling under Illinois law limiting the insurer's duty to defend multiple claims in a lawsuit.
  • Settled 6 serious benzene product liability, wrongful death and injury cases on behalf of a defendant ink manufacturer for a total of only $20,000.
  • Successfully defended an architect in a malpractice and fraud case, with dismissal of plaintiffs' claims before trial, and no recovery to plaintiff.
  • Saved a workers' compensation insurance carrier client several million dollars by obtaining a declaratory judgment ruling that, despite the insurer's failure to properly terminate its insurance policy, the insurer had no duty to defend or pay hundreds of pending worker's compensation claims.

Business/ Contract Cases:

  • Won a motion on behalf of a plaintiff insurance broker client, ultimately resulting in a $1,200,000 benefit to the client, to reinstate a complicated breach of contract and fraud lawsuit which had been previously dismissed in court, by creatively arguing that a clause in the contract requiring arbitration was not controlling because an exhibit to the contract constituted a separate contract which would allow the claims to proceed in court.
  • Won judgment on behalf of a defendant individual who had signed a commercial lease as tenant in her own name instead of her corporation and was sued for $88,000 in unpaid rent, by successfully arguing that certain sworn allegations in the landlord's complaint regarding who the tenant was, while inaccurate, were nonetheless binding, resulting in the defendant being found not liable, with no recovery to the landlord.
  • Obtained prompt dismissal on behalf of a defendant tree cutting business in a suit seeking $1,000,000 for the cost of replacing over 700 trees wrongfully cut down on plaintiff's property, by successfully arguing that the plaintiff was only entitled to recover the "stumpage value," rather than replacement cost, of the trees and that the "stumpage value" was merely the value of the wood chips of the trees, and then proving that to be only $480.
  • Obtained dismissal of a multi-million dollar suit against a defendant LLC member client brought by a fellow LLC member for derivative and individual claims for breach of fiduciary duty and breach of the LLC operating agreement, with no recovery to plaintiff.

In addition to his litigation practice, Tim is general counsel to many businesses, banks and individual clients, regularly advising them and negotiating, structuring and drafting agreements and documents for their legal transactions.

J. Timothy Cerney | Mary Jo O'Donnell, Associate | Julie D. Stahl, Associate

Mary Jo O'Donnell, Associate

Mary Jo O’Donnell has more than 32 years of experience handling civil litigation matters, specializing in insurance defense, including premises liability, product liability, property damage, professional liability, construction cases, personal injury, business, commercial and banking litigation. She also has significant experience in counselling and representing business, individual and bank clients in numerous diverse transactions, including formation of business entities, business and asset purchase agreements, shareholder and buy/sell agreements, commercial leases, and real estate contracts. Prior to joining Carroll, Hartigan & Cerney, Ltd. in 2009, Mary Jo practiced at a large Chicago firm where she defended product liability and professional liability cases and handled complex commercial matters.

Mary Jo received her Juris Doctor degree from Northwestern University School of Law in 1984 and her Bachelor of Science degree, cum laude, from Lawrence University in 1981. She is admitted to practice by the Illinois Supreme Court and the U.S. District for the Northern District of Illinois.

Examples of cases in which Mary Jo has recently obtained favorable results for her clients include:

• Successfully defended a large chemical manufacturer in a product liability suit, with no recovery to the plaintiff who had sustained chemical burns to her eyes, face, and arms.

• Favorably settled a lawsuit on behalf of a defendant property management company for negligent hiring of an employee with a known previous conviction for sexual assault who sexually assaulted a tenant.

• Successfully defended an accountant during a multi-million dollar fraud case.

J. Timothy CerneyMary Jo O'Donnell, Associate | Julie D. Stahl, Associate

Julie D. Stahl, Associate

Julie Stahl has been practicing law for 27 years, specializing in civil litigation, including insurance defense, personal injury, commercial, construction and business litigation.  She has successfully handled a variety of cases, including premises liability, automobile liability, product liability, breach of contract, fraud and shareholder/LLC member litigation.  Julie also has significant experience in handling transactional matters, including contract, real estate and business transactions.

Julie joined Carroll, Hartigan & Cerney, Ltd. in 2015, after practicing with another insurance defense firm in Chicago.

Julie received her Juris Doctor degree from DePaul University College of Law in 1984 and her Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Illinois in 1981.  Julie is admitted to practice by the Illinois Supreme Court and the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois.

Examples of cases in which Julie has obtained successful results for her clients include:

  • Successfully defended a property management company in a suit by a plaintiff who was seriously injured in a slip and fall on ice on an entrance walkway caused by a leaking gutter, with the suit being dismissed and no recovery to the plaintiff.
  • Favorably settled on behalf of a defendant property management company a suit brought by a plaintiff tenant who was injured when a kitchen cabinet in his apartment detached from the wall and fell on him, and succeeded in a claim against a third party defendant, resulting in the settlement being fully paid by the third party defendant.
  • Obtained dismissal of claims against a limited liability company member client in a suit for entering into loan agreements on behalf of the company without authority, with no recovery by the plaintiff.