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Steven Puiszis is a well-known and highly experienced trial attorney and mediator with a wide-ranging litigation and trial practice, who stopped counting after having taken more than 40 civil and criminal jury trials to verdict. He is one of the few attorneys nationally who has ever successfully defended through trial a federal class-action lawsuit. Mr. Puiszis is the Secretary -Treasurer and a member of the Board of Directors of the DRI and is a past president of the Illinois Association of Defense Trial Counsel.

He is the author of “Illinois Governmental Tort and Section 1983 Civil Rights Liability,” and municipal and civil rights law are two of the primary areas of his practice. Mr. Puiszis has handled a variety of claims in state and federal court on behalf of various units of state and local government. For example, he successfully represented the Governor and several other state officials in a civil rights action where the plaintiffs initially sought to certify a class of all developmentally disabled adults in Illinois who failed to receive residential Medicaid services on a timely basis. He also successfully defended the Secretary of the Illinois Department of Human Services and several other state officials while serving as lead counsel in a class-action trial involving Illinois' Sexually Violent Persons Commitment Act (SVP) Program. That matter involved a variety of constitutional challenges brought by the American Civil Liberties Union against Illinois’ SVP Program.

In 2004, Mr. Puiszis obtained a defense verdict in a jury trial on behalf of a Cook County Assistant Public Defender in a legal malpractice action. In that case, the plaintiff had been convicted of a rape which he did not commit and sentenced to 36 years in prison. DNA testing, which occurred years after the conviction and sentence were affirmed on appeal, established the plaintiff’s innocence. The underlying criminal trial involved complex scientific issues, and Mr. Puiszis convinced the jury that his client’s strategy for dealing with those issues at the criminal trial was both reasonable and appropriate. That case is believed to be the first legal malpractice case against a public defender taken to verdict in Illinois.

A number of matters involving the use of deadly force and claims of wrongful prosecution that he has handled on behalf of law enforcement officials in federal court have resulted in published appellate opinions affirming summary judgment in his client's favor. Mr. Puiszis also represented the DuPage County Board on issues stemming from the "DuPage 7" criminal prosecution. He has also been requested to defend the Sheriff of Cook County in a series of putative class actions stemming from procedures followed at the Cook County Jail, which is the largest single-site jail in the country.

In one of the municipal matters handled by Mr. Puiszis, (Zimmerman v. Village of Skokie), the Illinois Supreme Court declared unconstitutional the use of the common law’s "public duty" doctrine to override statutory immunities available under the Illinois Tort Immunity Act. That decision substantially broadened the scope of protection available to local public entities and their employees under the Act.

Another matter he handled before the Illinois Supreme Court (Arteman vs. Clinton Community Unit School District) clarified the interplay of immunities between the Illinois School Code and the Tort Immunity Act, and substantially broadened the scope of protection available to school districts in Illinois. As a result of that decision, Illinois school districts can now raise the Tort Immunity Act as defense to claims involving the provision of defective equipment and the failure to provide safety equipment to its students.

Mr. Puiszis’ litigation background is not strictly limited to the representation of local units of government or state and local officials. He has also successfully handled numerous professional liability claims on behalf of attorneys, architects, engineers and various health care providers.

With his background in accounting, he has also been asked to handle matters involving sophisticated accounting and tax issues, including the representation of lawyers and accountants in professional liability matters. He has also successfully handled various types of product liability claims.

Professional Background

Mr. Puiszis joined Hinshaw in January 1984. He is the firm’s Deputy General Counsel and also serves as Hinshaw's Privacy and Security Officer. Mr. Puiszis began his legal career in the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office where he served in the Special Prosecution and General Criminal Divisions. He is a member of the firm’s business litigation practice group and electronic discovery committee. He also served as the head of the firm’s school law group, and was the editor of the firm’s school law newsletter, The Report Card.

Mr. Puiszis is a member of DRI. In 2013, he was elected Secretary-Treasurer of DRI after having served for three years on DRI's Board of Directors. In addition, Mr. Puiszis served on DRI's Amicus Committee and is the former Chair of its Judicial Task Force (2010–2013).

In 2013, Mr. Puiszis was appointed the Chair of a Task Force formed by DRI's Center for Law and Public Policy, directed at proposed legislation dealing with asset freezing orders drafted by the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws. The following video addresses some of the issues involving the proposed Asset Freezing Orders Act.

[VIDEO] DRI Advocacy — Uniform Asset Freezing Act

In 2010, Mr. Puiszis was added to the Seventh Circuit’s Electronic Discovery Pilot Program.

In the Fall of 2005, Mr. Puiszis completed intensive training in mediation from the faculty of Pepperdine University School of Law’s top-ranked Straus Institute for Dispute Resolution, and is a Certified Mediator in the Cook County Court-Annexed Major Case Civil Mediation Program.

Professional Affiliations

  • Defense Research Institute (DRI)
    • Secretary-Treasurer, 2013
    • Board of Directors, 2010 to Present
    • Judicial Task Force, Former Chair (2010–2013)
    • Amicus Committee, (2010–2013)
  • American Bar Association
    • Fellow, American Bar Foundation
    • Past Vice Chair
      • Governmental Liability Committee
      • Tort and Insurance Practice Section
  • Society of Trial Lawyers
  • Association of Defense Trial Attorneys (ADTA)
  • International Association of Defense Counsel (IADC)
  • Association of Defense Trial Attorneys (ADTA)
  • Illinois Association of Defense Counsel (IDC)
    • Member and Past President

Honors & Awards

  • Received IDC’s “Distinguished Member Award," June 2011, for his work on DRI’s report, “Without Fear or Favor in 2011, A New Decade of Challenges to Judicial Independence and Accountability,” which was published in 2011
  • Named by Illinois Super Lawyers magazine to the Super Lawyers list in the area of Civil Rights Law, Constitutional Law and Civil Rights/First Amendment Law
  • Holds the AV® Peer Review Rating from Martindale-Hubbell, its highest rating for ethics and legal ability
  • Recognized by his peers as a Leading Lawyer in the categories of governmental law, municipal law, lobbying & administrative law and personal injury defense law

Representative Matters

In addition to his noteworthy municipal and civil rights representations, Mr. Puiszis has represented the following clients in product liability litigation:

  • Served as co-lead trial counsel for the target defendant, building owner, in 21 lawsuits consolidated for trial stemming from the fire at the Cook County Administration Building in downtown Chicago, which resulted in 6 deaths and 16 people injured, in which approximately 300 witnesses were deposed.  A key immunity ruling against the City of Chicago resulted in the City paying $50 million of the $100 million settlement.  This was a landmark case in Cook County civil court history.

  • Siemens Energy & Automation, Inc. – In a span of approximately 18 months, Mr. Puiszis obtained summary judgment in five separate product liability actions involving wrongful death and personal injury claims allegedly resulting from defects in different products manufactured by Furnas Electric Co., a division of Siemens.
  • Rudd Industries – Mr. Puiszis secured a jury verdict in favor of his client in Mark v. Rudd International, in which he represented the manufacturer of an FAA air traffic controller chair in a product liability claim filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. The plaintiff contended that an adjustable height control mechanism for the air traffic controller’s chair (manufactured in Germany and distributed by a company in the Netherlands) malfunctioned, allegedly causing the chair to rapidly descend and cause a back injury that the plaintiff claimed prevented him from returning to work as an air traffic controller. Third-party actions for contribution were filed in that matter against the foreign manufacturer and distributor of the failed component part.

In the area of professional liability, Mr. Puiszis handled a claim resulting in the first reported Illinois appellate decision interpreting the Accountant’s Privity Statute in Chestnut v. Pestine, Branati, et al., reported at 607 N.E.2d 543. He also represented a Dallas-based law firm in a professional liability claim filed in federal district court in St. Louis, Missouri, arising from that firm’s handling of an antitrust lawsuit on behalf of a local telephone company against several of the "Baby Bells." The underlying antitrust lawsuit involved the manner in which long distance phone calls were billed and reimbursed. The case was ultimately settled for a modest amount, and for a fraction of the settlement demand made before Mr. Puiszis assumed the defense.

Mr. Puiszis was one of three Hinshaw & Culbertson LLP attorneys requested to coordinate the defense of the 1995 Illinois Civil Justice Reform Amendments against multiple constitutional challenges in several consolidated lawsuits filed in the Circuit Court of Cook County. As part of that assignment, he briefed and argued the constitutionality of the "cap" on non-economic damages at the trial court level.

Mr. Puiszis successfully represented the following clients in significant general litigation:

  • Chicago White Sox/Illinois Sports Facilities Authority – Mr. Puiszis secured a jury verdict in favor of the defendants in Kaishas v. Chicago White Sox, a general liability claim in which the plaintiff was struck by a foul ball hit by Tim Raines, then an outfielder for the White Sox. The plaintiff suffered a serious facial injury, and the case turned on the safety provided to patrons of baseball games.
  • CNA Insurance Companies – Mr. Puiszis obtained a jury verdict in favor of building owner CNA in Atkins v. Otis Elevator Co., et al., a general liability claim alleging that an elevator suddenly dropped five floors, injuring the plaintiff and several other passengers.
  • Sprint Centel/360E Communications – Mr. Puiszis won summary judgment in a Structural Work Act claim arising out of the remodeling of Sprint Centel’s corporate offices in Illinois. Following the spin-off of 360E Communications from Sprint, Mr. Puiszis was asked to redraft the indemnification provisions of 360E’s communication tower construction and maintenance agreements, an assignment that involved a review of the relevant law in 36 states where 360E’s towers were located or planned.

Presentations

Mr. Puiszis is a frequent speaker on litigation-related topics, including “The E-Discovery Amendments to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure – That Light You See is Not the End of the Tunnel,” a presentation that qualified for two hours of Continuing Legal Education credit. He has delivered this presentation to all of Hinshaw’s attorneys as well as to various clients since 2007, including Markel Corp., Walsh Construction Co., The Illinois Attorney General’s Office, the civil divisions of the Cook and DuPage County States Attorneys Offices, the long-term care group at American Health Lawyers Association 2007 annual conference in Chicago, the legal departments of the Chicago Park District, METRA and to members of the legal and information technology departments of TTX Company. 

Additionally, Mr. Puiszis was interviewed on the "Crisis in the State Judicial System" on VoiceAmerica on October 8, 2013, shortly after the United States federal government entered a shutdown on October 1, 2013.

His other presentations include:

  • "Developments (and Sometimes Disasters) in High-Tech E-Discovery: Risks, Consequences and Better (or Worse) Practices," and "The General Counsel Forum," Legal Malpractice & Risk Management Conference, Chicago, Illinois, March 2014.

  • "Using Social Media — Legal and Ethical Issues of Getting Connected,"  International Association of Defense Counsel, webinar, June 2013.
  • "Law Practice Management in the Electronic Age," co-presenter, Law Bulletin Seminars, Chicago, Illinois, June 2013.
  • "Hazing: Precautions, Warnings and Steps to Take," Illinois Athletic Directors Association, Peoria, Illinois, May 2013.
  • "First Amendment," DuPage County Bar Association, DuPage County Courthouse and Administration Building, Wheaton, Illinois, April 2013.
  • "Litigation Holds, Anticipated Litigation, and Social Media, Oh My!" panelist, ABA Section of Litigation Section's Annual Conference, Chicago, Illinois, April 2013.
  • "The Need for Lawyers to Protect Judicial Independence," Illinois Association of Defense Trial Counsel, Chicago, Illinois, January 2013.
  • "New Litigation Risks Associated With EHR Systems and Electronic Communications," Illinois State Medical Society, November 2012.
  • “First Amendment Rights of Public Employees,” Hinshaw’s Annual Labor & Employment Seminar, Hoffman Estates, Illinois, October 2012.
  • “Unexpected Consequences of Electronic Health Record Systems and Communication: New Litigation Risks,” ISMIE Mutual Insurance, Effingham, Illinois, October 2012.
  • “Unexpected Consequences of Electronic Health Record Systems and Communication: New Litigation Risks,” Illinois State Medical Society (ISMS) and ISMIE Mutual Insurance, Oak Brook, Illinois, June 2012.
  • “Can Schools Discipline Students for Internet Use?” Public Risk Management Association (PRIMA) Annual Conference, Nashville, Tennessee, June 2012.
  • “Electronic Health Record Implementation: Meeting the Meaningful Use Requirements and Risk Management Issues in HER Implementation,” Hinshaw’s Annual Health Care Conference, Lisle, Illinois, November 2011.
  • “Legal Implications of Social Media for Public Entities,” IRMA Joint Steering Committee Workshop, Westchester, Illinois, June 2011.
  • “Understanding the Intricacies of Section 1983 Civil Rights Claims at Public Risk Management Association’s (PRIMA) Annual National Conference, Portland, Oregon, June 2011.
  • “Without Fear or Favor in 2011, A New Decade of Challenges to Judicial Independence and Accountability,” DRI annual meeting of DRI State and Local Defense Organization (SLDO) Executive Directors and DRI State Representatives, Chicago, Illinois, March 2011.
  • “The Intricacies of Federal Section 1983 Civil Rights Claims,” Public Risk Management Association (PRIMA), live webinar, March 2011.
  • “Social Media Implications to Law Enforcement and Other Public Entities,” Association of Governmental Risk Pools (AGRiP) Spring Conference, Clearwater, Florida, March 2011.
  • “Ediscovery Ethics,” International Association of Korean Lawyers, Chicago, Illinois, September 2010.
  • “Intricacies of 1983 Civil Rights Liability,” Public Risk Management Agency (PRIMA) Annual National Conference, Orlando, Florida, June 2010.
  • “Best Practices for DRI State Representatives,” DRI Meeting of Executive Directors and State Representatives, Las Vegas, Nevada, March 2010.
  • “E-Discovery: Get in Step with the 21st Century,” Illinois Trial Lawyers Association, live webinar, February 2010.
  • “Ediscovery and Email Risk Management,” Illinois Association of Mutual Insurance Companies, Springfield, Illinois, February 2010.
  • “Internet Marketing in the 21st Century: Are You LinkedIn?” DRI Annual Meeting, Chicago, Illinois, October 2009.
  • “Understanding Legal Risk, Ethics and Privacy Involving the Use of Social Media,” Media Skills Workshop panel discussion, National Association of Medical Communicators, Chicago, Illinois, September 2009.
  • “Risk Management and Ethical Considerations Involving E-Discovery,” CPCU Society, Chicago, Illinois, September 2009.
  • “Schools and Social Media: First Amendment Issues Arising from Student Use of the Internet,” DuPage County Regional Office of Education, Wheaton, Illinois, May 2009.
  • “Section 1983 File Handling Checklist,” Chicago Park District Legal Department, Chicago, Illinois, May 2009.
  • “Risk Management and Ethics Involving E-Discovery,” Fireman’s Fund Insurance Company, Chicago, Illinois, March 2009.
  • “Blog Now, Pay Later – Legal Issues Concerning Social Networking Sites,” Illinois Association of School Boards, Annual Conference, Chicago, Illinois, November 2008.
  • “The Trial Attorney and Class Action Litigation in America,” Union League Club of Chicago’s Public Affairs Committee and the Illinois Channel videotaped forum, Chicago, Illinois, November 2008.
  • “Benefits & Pitfalls of Electronic Medical Records and Communications Technologies,” Illinois Risk Management Services 24th Annual Risk Managers Meeting, Springfield, Illinois, September 2008.
  • “What Do Healthcare Lawyers Need to Know about E-Discovery?” American Health Lawyers Association’s 2008 Annual Meeting & In-House Counsel Program, San Francisco, California, July 2008.
  • “Training New Board Members,” Defense Research Institute North Central Regional Meeting, Savannah, Georgia, January 2008.
  • “Preserving and Producing Electronic Evidence,” Illinois Council of School Attorneys’ 21st Annual Seminar on School Law,” Chicago, Illinois, November 2007.
  • “Are Your Information and Record-Keeping Systems Ready for the New Rules on E-Discovery?” Hinshaw’s 2007 Health Care Conference: Current Issues Affecting the Governance and Management of Hospitals and Health Systems, Oakbrook, Illinois, November 2007.
  • “Emerging Issues Confronting Public Employers, Including Section 1983,” Hinshaw’s “Effectively Dealing with Current Labor & Employment Issues” seminar, Chicago, Illinois, September 2007.
  • “Emerging Issues on Electronic Discovery,” Federal Civil Practice Committee, Chicago Bar Association, Chicago, Illinois, September 2007.

Publications

Mr. Puiszis has also written a number of articles on litigation-related and other topics, including:

    • "The Need to Protect Judicial Independence," For the Defense, DRI, April 2013.
    • "The Uniform Asset Freezing Orders Act: A Cause for Concern," For the Defense, DRI, Vol 55, No. 3, March 2013.
    • "Reconciling Federal Rule of Evidence 502 with Model Rule 1.6," For the Defense, DRI, Vol 55, No. 3, March 2013.
    • "’Tinkering’" with the First Amendment's Protection of Student Speech on the Internet,” The John Marshall Journal of Computer & Information Law, Fall 2012, Vol. XXIX, No. 2.
    • On/Off-Campus Lines Now Blurred by Internet Speech,” The Illinois School Board Journal, September / October 2012, Vol. 80, No. 5.
    • The Illinois Citizen Participation Act Provides Immunity for the Exercise of First Amendment Rights,” IDC Quarterly, Second Quarter 2009.
    • Schools and Social Media: First Amendment Issues Arising from Student Use of Social Media,” co-author, Intellectual Property & Technology Law Journal, Aspen Publishers, April 2009.
    • “Navigating the Quagmire of E-Discovery in Electronic Health Record (EHR) Systems,” paper, American Health Lawyers Association 2008 Annual Meeting & In-House Counsel Program, San Francisco, California, July 2008.“
    • A Civil Justice System That is Out of Balance,” President’s Message, IDC Quarterly, Vol. 17, No. 2, 2d. Qtr. 2007; and Chicago Daily Law Bulletin, Law Day, 2007.
    • “What Do the E-Discovery Amendments to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and the Rock Musical Hair Have In Common?” IDC Quarterly, Volume 17, Number 1, 1st Qtr. 2007.
    • Are Your Information and Record Keeping Systems Ready for the New Federal Rules on Electronic Discovery?,” Illinois Association of School Boards Newsbulletin, February 2007.
    • “Take Time to Learn About Judicial Elections,” Daily Southtown, November 6, 2006.
    • Developing Trends With The Class Action Fairness Act of 2005,” The John Marshall Law Review, Fall 2006, Vol. 40 No. 1.
    • “What Makes a Lawyer Great?,” President’s Message, IDC Quarterly, Summer, 2006.
    • The Class Action Fairness Act of 2005 – Navigating Through its Sea of Uncertainty, Part II,” For the Defense, Vol. 47, No. 11, Defense Research Institute, November 2005.
    • The Class Action Fairness Act of 2005 – Navigating Through its Sea of Uncertainty, Part I,” For the Defense, Vol. 47, No. 10, Defense Research Institute, October 2005.
    • "Fabiano vs. City of Palos Hills. A Modern Day Merchant of Venice," IDC Quarterly, Vol. 13, No. 1, 1st Qtr. 2003.
    • "Tort Immunity for Discretionary Policy Determinations," Feature Article, IDC Quarterly, Vol. 11, No. 20, 2nd Qtr. 2001.
    • "No Representation Without Indemnification Under the Public Defender Immunity Act," IDC Quarterly, Vol. 11, No. 2, 2nd Qtr. 2001.
    • "Title IX Damages Liability Extended to Students on Student Harassment," DCBA Brief, Vol. 12, No. 2, October 1999.
    • "Does the Local Governmental Tort Immunity Act Stand in Derogation of the Common Law?" (co-author with W. Morgan), IDC Quarterly, Vol. 8, No. 3, 3rd Qtr. 1998.
    • "Now You See It, Now You Don’t - How the Immunity for ‘Executing or Enforcing the Law’ Magically Disappeared," IDC Quarterly, Vol. 7, No. 5, 1st Qtr. 1998.
    • "Update on Peremptory Challenges: J.E.B. v. Alabama ex rel, T.B., Significant Case Comment," IDC Quarterly, Vol. 5, No. 1, 1st Qtr. 1995.
    • "Honda Motor Co. v. Oberg: Punitive Damages Update, Significant Case Comment," IDC Quarterly, Vol. 4, No. 3, 3rd Qtr. 1994.
    • "Constitutional Arguments Against the Imposition of Punitive Damages in Illinois," Monograph Article, IDC Quarterly, Vol. 3, No. 3, 3rd Qtr. 1993.  
    • "Will the Peremptory Challenge Survive its Battle with the Equal Protection Clause?" The John Marshall Law Review, Vol. 25, No. 1, Fall 1991.

Education

J.D., Loyola University Chicago School of Law, 1979

B.Sc., highest honors, DePaul University, 1976

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