STEPHEN R. AYRES graduated from DePauw University in 1981 and from the University of Illinois School of Law in 1984 and has been in practice for 36 years. He started his legal career at Baker & McKenzie and later formed his own firm, Cheely, O’Flaherty & Ayres, with two Baker & McKenzie colleagues. Before joining Gunty & McCarthy, he served as of counsel at two other Chicago insurance defense firms.
Mr. Ayres has a wide variety of experience in the areas of general insurance defense, insurance coverage, the defense of asbestos, sick building, mold and other toxic tort matters as well as the defense of environmental, premises liability, trucking, professional liability and vehicular accident cases.
Mr. Ayres’ successful defense of high exposure bodily injury and property damage cases includes the successful defense of numerous construction negligence matters, representing the interests of general contractors, ownership, design professionals and subcontractors. Mr. Ayres has also successfully represented owners and contractors in numerous commercial construction disputes, from mechanics lien and other payment disputes to the successful defense of the general contractor involved in the construction of the DuPage County Courthouse in one of the most high profile “sick building” cases to be tried before a jury in Illinois. Mr. Ayres has also represented insurers in numerous insurance coverage matters involving construction issues, environmental liability and other coverage disputes.
In the asbestos defense arena, Mr. Ayres has handled well over 1000 bodily injury claims as well as property damage claims. In one such case, Mr. Ayres was able to convince the trial court and Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals to reject a claim that asbestos left in a commercial warehouse following sale of the building constitutes “hazardous waste” as defined in CERCLA, RCRA, and other environmental statutes and regulations, a case which has had wide ramifications in the construction and real estate industries.
Most recently, Mr. Ayres was able to obtain summary judgment in a high exposure electrocution case involving a Plaintiff who was left in a persistent vegetative state following contact with a high voltage power line. He also successfully represented the defendant in a $26 million oil spill case, which involved over 60 witnesses and 15 experts, achieving a successful settlement weeks before trial. Most recently, he obtained a defense verdict following the jury trial of a $24 million property damage case involving the claimed destruction of hundreds of mature oak trees on the subject plaintiff’s property.
He has spoken on many issues involving the insurance and construction industries. Mr. Ayres is a member of the Illinois State Bar Association and the trial bar for the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois and is licensed to practice before the United States Supreme Court. He currently serves on the Board of Directors for the University of Illinois Law Alumni Association.