KAREN KIES DEGRAND leads the appellate practice of Donohue Brown Mathewson & Smyth LLC in Chicago. She has extensive experience representing clients before the appellate and supreme courts of Illinois, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, and the appellate and supreme courts of Wisconsin and Indiana. In addition, she advises trial counsel regarding preservation of issues for appeal and handles post-trial proceedings.
An experienced trial lawyer, Ms. DeGrand defends attorneys and physicians in a wide range of professional liability matters. She has defended attorneys in a variety of practice areas including criminal defense, domestic relations, transactional work, estate planning and tort litigation.
Ms. DeGrand also has successfully defended product liability and employment actions and litigated business and insurance coverage disputes. She has guided her clients through insurance disputes involving contested interpretations of professional liability and commercial general liability policies.
Ms. DeGrand, the firm’s managing partner, is a former President of the Appellate Lawyers Association and is included in the annual listing of “Super Lawyers” and “Leading Lawyers” in the area of appellate practice. In 2015 she was named to Leading Lawyers’ list of Top 10 Women in Civil Appellate, and in 2016 she was inducted into the American Academy of Appellate Lawyers, an organization with its membership limited to appellate lawyers with a minimum of 15 years of practice focusing substantially on appeals and possessing a reputation of recognized distinction as an appellate lawyer. Ms. DeGrand currently serves as a member of the Illinois Supreme Court’s Committee on Professional Responsibility.
Ms. DeGrand received her law degree from the University of Illinois College of Law, where she served as an associate editor of the University of Illinois Law Review. She received her undergraduate degree in journalism from the University of Illinois, where she was awarded Bronze Tablet, the University’s highest recognition for academic excellence.
Recently, Ms. DeGrand handled the briefing and oral argument in a medical negligence case in which the Illinois Supreme Court vacated a circuit court decision, resulting in dismissal of the case based on a statutory immunity defense. Gonzalez v Union Health Service, Inc., 2018 IL 123025. Ms. DeGrand's client, a “health services plan corporation” organized under the Voluntary Health Services Plans Act, moved to dismiss plaintiff’s negligence claims based on the Act’s provision immunizing certain types of health services plans from civil liability. 215 ILCS 165/26 (West 2016). Plaintiff opposed the motion based, in part, on a claim that the 1988 version of the Act’s statutory immunity provision was unconstitutional. The trial court ruled that a 1988 amendment of the immunity provision constituted special legislation and violated federal and state equal protection guarantees. Based on its declaration that the immunity provision was unconstitutional, the trial court denied the defendant's motion to dismiss the claims against it.
Ms. DeGrand sought a direct appeal to the Illinois Supreme Court. Overcoming a jurisdictional obstacle, Ms. DeGrand persuaded the supreme court to exercise its supervisory authority to address and reverse the circuit court’s ruling. The supreme court held that the circuit court need not have addressed the 1988 amendment to the immunity provision, because the effect of a finding that that the amendment was unconstitutional would not abolish the statutory immunity conferred on the defendant by the original version of the statute. Rather, even if the amendment were unconstitutional, the provision would simply revert back to its original version, which has been upheld by the appellate court against a constitutional challenge. Based on that immunity, the supreme court observed that the defendant still would be entitled to seek dismissal.
The supreme court, accordingly, vacated the order denying the motion to dismiss and remanded the case for further proceedings in the circuit court. On remand, the circuit court dismissed all claims against Ms. DeGrand's client based on the statutory immunity defense.