John J. Kohnke


John Kohnke has been a trial attorney for more than 35 years. He defends corporations and government entities in state and federal litigation involving high-risk toxic exposures, environmental issues, product liability, and catastrophic accidents, including traumatic brain injuries, paralysis, and wrongful death. John also advises and defends employers in employment matters. He has extensive experience in the manufacturing, construction, and transportation industries. A sample of his representative experience includes:

  • Successfully defended a trucking company in a Cook County jury trial involving a two-car truck accident on a Wisconsin interstate. 
  • Defending a Midwest trucking company in multiple cases filed in Missouri, Wisconsin, Indiana, Illinois, Pennsylvania, and Michigan. These cases included highway and local delivery accidents.
  • Victory in trial defending an insulation contractor in a death case where damages sought totaled $3.5 million.
  • Obtaining a defense verdict for a bowling center in a slip and fall suit where plaintiff sought $1.6 million in damages, claiming broken neck and other injuries and medical specials in excess of $160,000.
  • Securing several early voluntary nonsuits from plaintiffs' attorneys after providing evidence that defendant construction companies were not responsible for jobsite safety.
  • Successfully defending Campton Township (IL), obtaining voluntary dismissal of employment charges alleging wrongful termination and violations of the Family and Medical Leave Act.

Before joining Hawkins Parnell & Young, John chaired his prior firm's Hiring Committee, was a member of the Pro Bono and Public Service Committee and Technology Committee, and was responsible for an asbestos docket in Illinois. As a leader in his community, John was elected to the Board of Trustees for the Village of Glen Ellyn and he served as Glen Ellyn's Administrative Hearing Officer for several years.



  • Drake University Law School  (J.D., 1984)
    • Drake Law Review
    • Judicial Extern, Justice Allen L. Donielson, Iowa Court of Appeals
  • Drake University  (B.A., 1981)

Bar Admissions

  • Illinois
  • Wisconsin


  • Trial Bar for the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois

Professional Affiliations

  • American Bar Association
  • DuPage County Bar Association
  • Illinois State Bar Association
  • State Bar of Wisconsin


  • Top 100 Civil Defense Litigator in America for Civil Defense Litigation, Environmental Litigation and Government Relations Law (2018)
  • Leading Lawyer in Illinois (2012-2019)
  • Leading Lawyers in Appellate, Chicago Daily Law Bulletin (2014)
  • Illinois Super Lawyers (2005-2007)


  • Caruso, et al. v. M&O Insulation Co., Circuit Court of Sangamon County, Illinois
  • Erlichman, et al. v Bowling & Beyond Arlington Heights Inc., Circuit Court for Cook County, Illinois
  • Pinkney v. Ford Motor Company, et al., Circuit Court for Cook County, Illinois
  • Wallace v. North American Volvo, Circuit Court for Cook County, Illinois
  • Caruso, et al. v. M&O Insulation Co., et al., Circuit Court of Sangamon County, Illinois
  • Leinov v. Outlook Trucking Inc., Circuit Court for Cook County, Illinois
  • York, et al. v. City of Yorkville, Circuit Court for Kendall County, Illinois
  • Urbanik v. Justus, Circuit Court for DePage County, Illinois
  • Redlin, et al. v. Village of Hanover Park, Circuit Court for Cook County, Illinois
  • Sajtar, et al. v. Amron Stair Works Inc., Circuit Court for Kane County, Illinois
  • Salak v. City of DeKalb, Circuit Court for DeKalb County, Illinois
  • Barron, et al. v. R. Russell Builders, Circuit Court for Cook County, Illinois
  • Kirkpatrick v. Village of Gardner, Circuit Court for Grundy County, Illinois
  • Hager, et al. v. Madison County, Circuit Court for Madison County, Illinois
  • Lambert v. City of Lake Forest, Circuit Court of Lake County, Illinois
  • Nolan v. Elliot and City of Rochelle, Circuit Court of Ogle County, Illinois

Charitable & Civic Involvement

  • Trustee, Village of Glen Ellyn (1999-2003)
  • Administrative Hearing Officer, Village of Glen Ellyn (2010-2014)

Published Appellate Opinions

  • Burns v. Sherwin-Williams Co., case number 22-2825, in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit (2023)
  • White v. Garlock Sealing Technologies, LLC, 398 Ill. App. 3d. 610, 924 NE 2d. 53 (4th Dist. 2010)
  • Caruso v. M & O Insulation, 345 Ill. App. 3d. 345, 802 NE 2d. 327 (4th Dist. 2003)
  • Johnson v. Grossinger, Inc., 324 Ill. App. 3d. 354, 753 NE 2d. 431 (1st Dist. 2001)
  • Fuller's Car Wash, Inc., 298 Ill. App. 3d. 167, 698 NE 2d. 237 (2d. Dist. 1998)
  • Culver v. Velcor, 247 Ill. App. 3d. 589, 616 N.E. 2d. 1013 (2d. Dist. 1993)
  • Rector v. Mattingly, 273 Ill. App. 3d. 344, 652 N.E. 2d. 811 (5th Dist. 1995)
  • Redlin v. Hanover Park, 278 Ill. App. 3d. 183, 662 N.E. 2d. 459 (1st Dist. 1996)
  • Nolan v. Elliott, 179 Ill. App. 3d. 1077, 535 N.E. 2d. 1053 (2d. Dist. 1989)


  • "Lung Cancer Causation: Smoking and/or Asbestos," 22nd Annual FETTI Conference, Chicago, IL, (October 2015)
  • "Asbestos Filing Trends," 2013 National Forum for Environmental & Toxic Tort Issues (FETTI), Chicago, IL (September 2013)
  • "Post-Accident Repair and Maintenance of Property Without Spoliation of Evidence," Illinois Municipal League's 98th Annual Conference (September 2011)
  • In-house Claims Adjusters' Seminar, "Plaintiff's Injuries: Are They Real? How Can You Tell?" (September 2008)
  • Golden Rule Risk Control Workshop, Schiller Park, IL, "The Dos and Don'ts of the Hiring Process: How to Minimize the Risk of Litigation" (September 2007)