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.