Estate of renowned Aurora attorney continues fight for cut of confidential settlement

Updated 6/12/2019 2:14 PM

The estate of a renowned Aurora attorney continued its fight for a cut of a confidential settlement this week, arguing to an appellate panel that it's "fair, right and reasonable" that his heirs receive 33.3% under a long-standing agreement.

William C. Murphy died in November 2016 at the age of 96 and had an agreement beginning in 2004 to receive one-third of any settlements on cases he referred to the Aurora firm of Kinnally Flaherty Krenz Loran Hodge & Masur.


Murphy wrote a letter to his son in February 2016 that he still had an interest in two cases he referred to the firm, one of which was a personal injury suit.

That lawsuit was settled in June 2017, and the firm offered Murphy's estate $150,000 out of "respect and admiration" for Murphy's work, while at the same time saying the 2004 agreement was not valid.

Under the 2004 agreement, the firm's obligation to pay Murphy one-third of any settlement would expire two months after his death; the personal injury suit was settled seven months after he died.

A Kane County judge sided with the Kinnally firm last year and dismissed the suit. Tuesday, attorney Thomas Demetrio argued before the three-judge appellate panel in Elgin that timelines for settlements can be manipulated and no lawyer, especially Murphy, would give up the right to one-third of a "significant" settlement for a referred case.

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"You don't know when a case is going to settle," Demetrio argued, stressing the February 2016 letter Murphy wrote to his son. "That's how self-assured he was. There was no need to clarify anything."

Demetrio asked the appellate panel to send the case back to Kane County court. He declined to comment on the total amount of the personal injury settlement, citing a confidentiality agreement. He said the amount owed to Murphy's estate is "more" than the $150,000 offered by the firm.

Patrick Kinnally and Patrick Flaherty both argued that under the language of the agreement, their obligation to Murphy expired two months after his death.

They noted a Kane County judge also ruled in July 2018 that the agreement's language was "not ambiguous" and the firm owed nothing to Murphy's estate.

"Unhappiness with the conclusion is not a cause of action," Flaherty told the panel, adding "this compensation agreement replaced the idea of a referral fee."

The panel, led by Justice Joe Birkett, took the matter under advisement and gave no time frame for it to issue its written opinion.

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