Untitled Design 2 11/18/20

Partner Spotlight: Don McGarrah Brings Years of Experience to McNabola Law Group

McNabola Law Group partner Don McGarrah has more than 35 years of experience representing clients in state and federal courts across the United States. He has tried cases in 38 states and has expertise in every area of personal injury law, including complex medical malpractice, product liability, trucking and construction cases, most of which have involved catastrophic injuries.

“Don has a wealth of legal knowledge that few attorneys can match,” McNabola Law Group partner Mark McNabola said. “His experience, empathy and attention to detail are true assets to the firm as we work every day to help clients facing some of the toughest times of their lives.”

Learn more about McGarrah in our featured Q&A:

You joined McNabola Law Group as a partner in 2017 after nearly four decades of practicing law. What drew you to the firm?

The standard of lawyering at McNabola Law Group is excellent. Our attorneys have a very collaborative, detailed, all-hands-on-deck mentality — which is consistently rewarding.

I enjoy having the opportunity to practice with talented colleagues who are like-minded. We take on the type of complex and catastrophic cases that I’ve handled my entire career, both as a plaintiff’s and defense attorney. We conduct a very exhaustive, thorough analysis of any potential case. We only pursue cases that have a good faith basis.

Before I joined the firm, I knew Mark McNabola for many years through our respective trial work in Chicago. I respect Mark because he is committed to excellence in representing our clients.

How would you describe your style as an attorney? 

My approach to lawyering involves detailed case preparation combined with dealing with others in a professional, integrity-based fashion. 

I was very fortunate to come from a wonderful family and to have mentors who always focused on doing things with integrity and treating others with dignity and respect.

I believe the “devil is in the details.” A detailed, meticulous investigation combined with a critical, strategic assessment of every case can and does generate exceptional results. 

You practice every area of personal injury law, from complex, detailed medical malpractice cases to trucking cases. Can you tell us about some of your recent verdicts and settlements?

Mark and I recently obtained a multimillion-dollar settlement in a premises liability case where we represented a nurse who is unable to return to her profession. The settlement will provide her with the resources to take care of her lifelong needs.

One of our partners and I recently tried a medical negligence case to verdict in a very conservative venue where we were able to secure a significant seven-figure verdict. Our client is a very hardworking United States Navy veteran who had a passion for working out. It was rewarding to be able to secure a successful verdict and result for this gentleman and his wife, which will take care of their financial needs.

Last month, McNabola Law Group obtained a $1.4 million settlement for a 10-year-old boy who was struck in the head at an Illinois golf camp. What happened there?

An instructor hit our young client in the head while taking a practice swing with a driver. The impact was very violent. The defendants claimed that our client was in the wrong location when the incident occurred, but we established that the instructor failed to follow well-known universally accepted safety standards and practices that would have easily avoided the incident.

We retained and worked with a nationally renowned PGA (Professional Golf Association) instructor who teaches hundreds of junior golfers each year to prepare the case, which included identifying applicable safety standards and practices.

One of the most troubling aspects of this incident was that it involved an individual who was represented by the camp to be an “instructor”. The evidence demonstrated that this “instructor” was actually a college student who did not implement any of the well-known safety practices that would have easily avoided the incident. 

Our 10-year-old client sustained a large, deep head laceration that required an emergency procedure known as a craniotomy. He also underwent plastic surgery to address and repair his complex head trauma.

Your career has taken you to courtrooms in 38 different states. Tell us how you got started.

I have a bachelor’s degree in communications from Spring Hill College and obtained my law degree at Saint Louis University School of Law. While I was in St. Louis, I started working with a small trial firm that handled both plaintiff’s and defense cases.

During law school, I also worked almost full-time doing investigative work and providing a videotape deposition service. At that time in Missouri, most medical care providers testified by video. I also worked in a clinic for a senior federal district judge in East St. Louis, Illinois. 

I came to Chicago to take the bar exam, and the day after the exam, I interviewed at a prestigious personal injury firm and was offered a position. I worked there for about two years and was essentially on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It was exciting and hard work, but I learned more in two years than most young lawyers learn in a decade.

Where did you go next?

I worked at Wildman, Harrold, Allen & Dixon, a terrific full-service firm that had a great group of trial lawyers. I was a partner there for an extended period and spent much of my time in the product liability arena — handling all types of products cases involving alleged manufacturing defects, design defects and warnings issues, along with working with manufacturers on several product recalls and retrofits. 

I was fortunate to be on teams that represented several clients on a national basis and handled products cases in state and federal court in 38 different states. I handled a number of medical malpractice cases, including cases involving catastrophic neurological injuries to infants. I also had the opportunity to handle commercial litigation and property subrogation matters and to advise and work closely with senior management personnel regarding risk management and risk mitigation strategies and programs.

While you were at that firm, you started an in-house trial practice clinic. Why was that important to you?

I initiated, taught and administered the clinic for a number of years with one of my partners. Like many firms, we had a number of young, talented lawyers who had very little, if any, hands-on trial experience. In the beginning of my career, I was fortunate to work in firms that provided opportunities to try cases. For a variety of reasons, our younger lawyers were not getting many opportunities to participate in trials in a substantive fashion, so I wanted to provide a vehicle that provided simulated trial experience.

Each participant was required to conduct every facet of a trial during the clinic, followed by trying a case before a mock jury. We spent a significant amount of time on how to effectively communicate with the jury, but also on the nuances of trial practice such as effective ways to interact with the bench and proper witness preparation.

This was a win-win-win situation for the lawyer, our firm and our clients as the clinic provided a very valuable experience for our young attorneys. Our mock trials were held in actual courtrooms on a Saturday, and friends, family and law students served as jurors. 

One of the cases we used was a former case of mine. I knew everything there was to know about that case, but as with any mock trial, it was fascinating to see how the jurors reacted and responded to the evidence. These type of experiences provide valuable insight to any trial attorney, regardless of their level of experience.

Why do you like practicing personal injury law?

As a personal injury attorney, you’re in a position to help people when they need it most. Clients come to us after they’ve suffered a tragic or catastrophic event in their life, and in most cases, we’re able to get people back on their feet. That is a very rewarding aspect of this practice.

Are you involved in any professional or charitable organizations?

I just finished a stint as a board member for the Village of Clarendon Hills. I have worked with Prevent Child Abuse America and USO of Illinois in the past and am currently involved with several Christian organizations that are active on a number of fronts, which include fighting against human trafficking.

The USO (United Service Organizations) helps service members across the U.S. Why is it important to you to assist military families?

My father and brother were both Naval Academy graduates and admirals in the United States Navy. My father served for more than 38 years, and my brother served for more than 35 years. When I was growing up, we moved every two to three years, so I have lived in different areas, including the Washington, D.C. area; Norfolk, Virginia; Charleston, South Carolina; Long Beach, San Diego and Monterey, California; and Pascagoula, Mississippi.

I’m a very big supporter of those who serve in all our military branches.

What do you do for fun outside of the office?

I spend as much time as I can with my wife, Mary, and our three daughters, Megan, Maddie and Melanie. I also work out and play golf.

We offer a no-cost, no-pressure, no-obligation consultation to discuss your rights

From our offices in downtown Chicago, our personal injury litigation attorneys represent clients in communities throughout Cook County and Illinois. Learn more about ways we can help you receive the compensation you need for your physical, mental, emotional and financial recovery. Contact us today to schedule a free initial consultation.

$27

million

Product Liability - A married father of three was paralyzed in a boating injury when he fell from the upper deck of a yacht. The offer by the insurance company for the defendant was $3 million before trial and $25 million after 3 weeks of jury trial.

Trial Attorneys Mark McNabola, Ruth Degnan

$20

million

Construction Site Negligence - A man was demonstrating construction equipment known as a “man lift” and was elevated in the air. The lift collapsed and two men suffered permanent injuries. McNabola Law Group represented one of two men injured totaling $20 million. Prior to jury trial the offer was $3 million

Lead Trial Attorney Mark McNabola

$14

million

Medical Malpractice - A young mother died during child birth when doctors failed to monitor her properly. Her newborn baby also suffered irreversible brain damage during the delivery at a Chicagoland hospital. 

Lead Trial Attorney Mark McNabola

$12

million

Medical Malpractice - A 52 year old man suffered an anoxic brain injury following routine bowel surgery when doctors and nurses at a suburban hospital failed to properly monitor and treat him post-operatively. The offer before jury trial was $3 million. Case settled after it was set for jury selection.

Trial Attorneys Mark McNabola, Ruth Degnan

$10

million

Trucking Negligence - A young girl was killed when she was struck by a vehicle that had previously collided with a bus that was traveling too fast for conditions. After a ten-day jury trial, a Cook County jury returned a verdict in favor of the family. According to the Jury Verdict Reporter, this is a record high verdict for the wrongful death of a minor in a motor vehicle accident. There was no offer for settlement by the defendant.

Lead Trial Attorney Mark McNabola

$10

million

Trucking Negligence - A Cook County jury entered the verdict in favor of a 72-year-old grandmother rendered wheelchair-dependent after a car vs truck accident. The offer prior to trial was $3 million

Lead Trial Attorney Mark McNabola

$9.8

million

Automobile Negligence - A 72 year old woman was paralyzed following an automobile accident. The defendant turned into the plaintiff’s vehicle causing her to sustain a spinal fracture and dislocation at C6-C7 requiring a fusion. She is wheelchair dependent. The offer for settlement before jury trial was $4 million

Lead Trial Attorney Mark McNabola

$9.2

million

Medical Malpractice - A young woman suffered amputation of her legs as a result of complications following surgery at a suburban hospital. Doctors and nurses failed to develop and implement an appropriate plan to manage blood thinning medications pre and post-operatively leading to severe clotting and tissue death. The case settled during jury selection. The offer was $3 million before trial.    

Trial Attorneys Mark McNabola, Ruth Degnan

$7.8

million

Medical Negligence - A woman presented herself to the emergency room on three consecutive days with worsening symptoms. Finally, she was diagnosed with bacterial meningitis but suffered severe injuries due to the delay of diagnosis and treatment. The initial settlement offer was $3 million.

Lead Trial Attorney Mark McNabola

$6.9

million

Construction Negligence - A man lost his leg while working at a City of Chicago construction site. The man was working near his truck at the construction site when a driver struck him and pinned him against his truck. City workers failed to properly mark their construction site, failed to safely route traffic around the area, and failed to use flaggers to warn traffic to slow down and direct it to move one direction at a time. The offer prior to jury trial was zero. A Cook County jury returned a verdict in favor of the plaintiff.

Lead Trial Attorney Mark McNabola

$6.8

million

Medical Negligence - A 48 year old woman suffered severe brain damage at a Chicagoland hospital after surgery to alleviate sleep apnea. Her breathing tube clogged because of inadequate monitoring by the nursing staff. 

Lead Trial Attorney Mark McNabola

$6.8

million

Construction Negligence - A 30 year old man suffered severe injuries from a 30-foot fall at a construction site and received blood thinning medication at the defendant hospital that was intended for another patient. The offer before trial was zero.

Lead Trial Attorney Mark McNabola

$6

million

Motorcycle Negligence - A teenager and her father were injured in a motorcycle crash. The 15 year old suffered severe fracture to her right ankle which required multiple surgeries. Her father sustained numerous injuries including a fractured wrist and ankle.

Lead Trial Attorney Mark McNabola

$5.8

million

Automobile Negligence - A wheel assembly dislodged from the axel of a semi-trailer killing two seventeen year old boys.  McNabola Law Group represented the family members of one of the two boys. The extent of liability insurance coverage for both families was six million dollars.

Lead Trial Attorney Mark McNabola

$5.5

million

Automobile Negligence - A 29 year old woman suffered a fractured cervical spine and subsequently died after the car she was riding in crashed into a construction pit. The jury held the contractor liable for failing to place concrete barriers at the construction site. The offer prior to jury trial was $1 million.

Lead Trial Attorney Mark McNabola

$5

million

Product Liability - A man working in Will County was unexpectedly sprayed in the face with anhydrous ammonia when a house coupler failed to close properly. The incident caused severe eye injuries. During the investigation, the coupler was thrown away. The primary cause of this action was based on spoliation of evidence against the insurance adjuster. According to the Jury Verdict Reporter, this is a record high result for this type of injury. The offer prior to trial was zero.

Lead Trial Attorney Mark McNabola

$5

million

Construction Negligence - A 27 year old man’s legs were crushed causing below the knee amputations when a wall fell onto his legs after an employee cut a steel beam while demolishing a Union Pacific railroad bridge. $5 million was the extent of the insurance policy limit. This case concluded after it was set for jury trial. 

Trial Attorneys Mark McNabola, Ruth Degnan

$4.9

million

Medical Malpractice - A young girl who suffered from cardiac arrhythmias due to a cardiac abnormality had a cardiac procedure. Four weeks after the procedure, she was cleared to resume sports and other activities, she collapsed in gym class and later died. The case settled prior to jury trial.

Lead Trial Attorney Mark McNabola

$4.7

million

Construction Negligence - A man was working on a ladder, painting a Chicago building, when his ladder came in contact with electrical wires. He suffered severe electric shock, broken ankles and ribs, and a fractured back. An Illinois utility company, ComEd, was called four times before the incident to shut off the lines but they never shut off the lines. The victim has undergone multiple surgeries and has not been able to return to his career since the incident.

Lead Trial Attorney Mark McNabola

$4

million

Medical Negligence - A young woman died at a Chicago hospital when doctors failed to timely diagnose symptoms of a pulmonary embolism. She had a cardiac procedure performed so that she could stop taking anti-arrhythmia medications. She was discharged from the hospital only to die two days later.

Lead Trial Attorney Mark McNabola

$3.6

million

Medical Negligence - A 12 year old girl was deprived of oxygen for 15 minutes during a routine surgical procedure. Plaintiffs alleged the surgical residents mismanaged the young girl’s airway and negligently allowed her condition to deteriorate before attempting intubation at the bedside. Following a two week trial the jury awarded $3.6 million. The offer before jury trial was zero.

Lead Trial Attorney Mark McNabola

$3

million

Automobile Negligence - A man’s automobile was struck by a taxicab and he suffered permanent weakness in his legs and a laceration of an artery in his chest. The extent of insurance company policy limit was $3 million

Lead Trial Attorney Mark McNabola

$3

million

Medical Negligence - A 60 year old man who suffered from uncontrolled diabetes and vascular disease was admitted to a Chicago hospital with an infected ankle wound. Doctors postponed the procedure and failed to timely readmit the plaintiff to undergo a procedure to reestablish blood supply to his leg. Plaintiff leg was amputated below the knee a month later.

Lead Trial Attorney Mark McNabola

$2.9

million

Medical Negligence - A DuPage County record jury verdict for the family of a 5 day old baby who died when physicians failed to timely diagnose an obstructed bowel. The jury concluded physicians also delayed administering IV fluids, antibiotics and transfer to an institution with a pediatric surgeon available. The offer prior to trial was zero.

Lead Trial Attorney Mark McNabola

$2.7

million

Automobile Negligence - A 41 year old father and husband was killed instantly when the defendant ran a red light and hit his vehicle.

Lead Trial Attorney Mark McNabola

$2.5

million

Medical Negligence - A 58 year old woman died after a radiologist from a Chicago hospital misread the patient CT scan and failed to identify her bowel obstruction. 10 days later another CT scan was done and the obstruction was located and emergency surgery performed. She suffered complications which resulted in her death.

Trial Attorneys Mark McNabola, Ruth Degnan

$2.5

million

Trucking Negligence - A 31 year old man was hit by a flatbed truck after he stopped and exited his car to gather a loose dog from the roadway. He suffered degloving of his left leg above and below the knee, vascular and nerve injuries. Plaintiff has been unable to return to work.

Lead Trial Attorney Mark McNabola

$2.3

million

Trucking Negligence - A woman was killed while driving on I-88 when an upraised backhoe on a flatbed trailer hit the underpass and fell on top of her car.

Lead Trial Attorney Mark McNabola

$2.2

million

Medical Negligence - A 42 year old high school teacher died of severe coronary atherosclerosis after a Chicago hospital failed to recognize or timely provide treatment for high cholesterol and hypertension.

Lead Trial Attorney Mark McNabola

$2

million

Trucking Negligence - A woman driving on I-80 was cut off by a truck driver, forcing her off the roadway. Her car flipped, causing de-gloving of her right arm and serious injuries.

Lead Trial Attorney Mark McNabola

$1.8

million

Construction Negligence - A 39 year old man sustained bilateral hip fractures, shoulder dislocation, and a torn rotator cuff during a fall from inadequate scaffolding at a construction site.

Lead Trial Attorney Mark McNabola

$1.8

million

Negligence - A railroad worker was injured when he was working underneath a train car. The train car moved resulting in injuries to his shoulder, knees, hip and neck. The accident was caused by miscommunication between employees and the company that managed railcar movements in the yard.

Lead Trial Attorney Mark McNabola

$1.8

million

Product Liability - A settlement against a furniture company in the case of a 3 year old who died when a poorly-constructed dining room chair toppled over. The front legs of the chair were one half inch longer than the back legs. The child suffered a seizure, became unconscious and died the next day at a Suburban hospital.

Lead Trial Attorney Mark McNabola

$1.8

million

Trucking Negligence - An 81 year-old woman was struck by semi-tractor trailer resulting in multiple fractures to her right femur, left tibia, left ankle and right hip. The defense had two witnesses who claimed the plaintiff walked into the back of the trailer while crossing mid-block outside the crosswalk. The case settled during jury trial. The offer before trial was zero.

Lead Trial Attorney Mark McNabola

$1.7

million

Automobile Negligence - A young man was driving on a highway when his vehicle was struck from behind by a sports utility vehicle. Plaintiff suffered injuries to his back which required surgery.

Lead Trial Attorney Mark McNabola

$1.6

million

Record High Jury Verdict - A college student suffered burns on her face, arms and chest in an incident at a campus bar at the University of Iowa. A bartender poured grain alcohol into the bar well and lit it on fire. The flames went out of control and into the crowd.  After a six-day jury trial, in Iowa City the jury returned a verdict in favor of the victim. According to the Iowa City Press-Citizen, the award is one of the largest in Johnson County history. The offer prior to jury trial was $200,000.

Lead Trial Attorney Mark McNabola

$1.5

million

Construction Negligence - A 37 year old mason was working on a construction site when a forklift struck a crossbar of the structural steel frame, dislodged unsecured concrete planks, and fell killing him instantly.

Lead Trial Attorney Mark McNabola

$1.3

million

Automobile Negligence - Three plaintiffs were in an automobile that struck and hit a construction barrel on I-94. The passengers took off their seat belts and one of the passengers exited the car. The defendant then struck the vehicle and the vehicle hit the passenger who exited the vehicle throwing her onto the CTA tracks. She suffered a brain bleed, fractures to her ribs, pelvis, tailbone, jaw and ankle. The plaintiffs that were in the car was ejected and died. There was a limited amount of insurance coverage.

Lead Trial Attorney Mark McNabola

$1.1

million

Medical Negligence - An 8 day old baby died on the operating table when the anesthesiologist improperly managed the baby’s anesthesia during the surgery. The anthologist failed to advise surgeons of the baby’s low blood pressure and abnormal blood gas readings.

Lead Trial Attorney Mark McNabola

$1.1

million

Medical Malpractice - A woman suffered a stillbirth despite having carried her baby to term through a healthy pregnancy as a result of the failure of the nurses and physicians to properly monitor and to timely reverse signs and symptoms of significant fetal distress.

Lead Trial Attorney Mark McNabola

$1.1

million

Construction Negligence - Plaintiff fell from a temporary staircase in his new home suffering a hip injury. Investigation of the staircase concluded it was not properly re-installed and secured after hardwood flooring was installed.

Lead Trial Attorney Mark McNabola

$1

million

Record High Settlement - After seven days of jury trial, the parties agreed to settle a work injury case involving a reflex sympathetic dystrophy injury to a 37 year old man. The plaintiff slipped on an unnatural accumulation of ice and water at the Bismark loading dock at Navy Pier, fracturing his right leg. The injury resulted caused RSD. According to the Jury Verdict Reporter, this is the highest result on record for this type of injury. The offer before jury trial was zero.

Lead Trial Attorney Mark McNabola