Robert A. Clifford
Timothy C. Evans
James R. Figliulo
Richard C. Godfrey
Supplement to Chicago Daily Law Bulletin® and Chicago Lawyer®
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You can often measure the skills of a litigator by his client list. The
most talented lawyers work with the biggest names. By this
measure, Richard Godfrey, a senior litigation partner with
Chicago’s Kirkland & Ellis LLP, is one of the most sought-after
litigators in the state.
Godfrey’s case list includes names such as Allstate, Aon, BP
and BP Amoco, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Exxon, GM, Walgreens,
and Repsol YPF, S.A., the Spanish oil company. These
big-name clients want Godfrey to serve as lead counsel on
their cases for one reason: He gets positive results.
In 2009, he may even have helped to change the way plaintiffs and defendants argue
asbestos cases. Godfrey represented Weil-McLain, a company that manufactures boilers and HVAC
equipment, in a case in which a plaintiff sued 12 defendants, claiming that her husband’s death
resulted from exposure to asbestos. After the other defendants settled, Weil-McLain remained as
the only defendant in the case. In 2004, a lower court ruled in favor of the plaintiff, awarding her
$2.3 million, a decision that was later upheld by the Fourth District Appellate Court.
Thanks in part to Godfrey’s compelling oral argument, the Illinois Supreme Court in 2009
overturned the earlier verdict, stating that the trial court erred in not allowing Weil-McLain to present
evidence that the plaintiff’s husband was exposed to asbestos from other sources (Nolan v.
It’s an important case because it has the potential to change the way companies defend themselves
in asbestos cases.
For Godfrey, it’s just one more important victory in a legal career filled with them.
The Weil-McLain case isn’t the only time that Godfrey has excelled before the Illinois Supreme
Court. He’s also successfully represented Amoco in a case involving the Illinois Consumer Fraud
and Deceptive Business Practices Act (Oliveira v. Amoco Oil Co.), 3M in a case involving the
nationwide termination of distributors (Jespersen v. The Minnesota Mining & Manufacturing Co.),
GM in two separate cases, one involving a constitutional challenge to the Illinois Motor Vehicle
Franchise Act (Fields Jeep Eagle Inc. v. Chrysler Corp.), and the other involving the standards for
a preliminary injunction (Postma v. Jack Brown Buick, Inc.), and Moody’s in a case involving the
application and constitutionality of certain tax statutes that were negatively impacting Moody’s
Illinois business (Moody’s Investors Serv., Inc. v. Department of Revenue). On the appellate side
of his practice, Godfrey is nearing his 100th appeal.
With his experience, Godfrey’s skills continue to be in high demand for clients in Illinois and across
the country. Over the last year, he argued cases for different clients in jurisdictions including
California, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Maine, New Mexico, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and
Texas, and had three back to back trials, including a nine-week jury trial and a five-week bench trial
since last August. Yet a fourth case, set for trial in Indianapolis, settled a few days before jury
selection was to begin.
Outside the courtroom, Godfrey has found time to give back to both his profession and his
community. Locally, he is a Trustee of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Augustana College
(Ill.), as well as a member of the board of directors of the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce, and
a member of the Civic Committee of The Commercial Club of Chicago. Nationally, he is a Trustee
of Boston University, a member of the board of directors of The Appleseed Foundation (D.C.), and
a member of the board of directors of the National Center for State Courts (Williamsburg), where
he also serves as a co-chair of its Lawyer’s Committee.
Reprinted with the permission of the Law Bulletin Publishing Company, 2010