Photo of Dennis J. Cotter

Dennis J. Cotter



DePaul University College of Law, J.D.

University of Notre Dame, B.B.A., Accounting



Litigating cases involving high-stakes multi-million dollar exposures is nothing new to Dennis. As a senior member of the firm’s business and commercial litigation group, he has been defending construction, industrial and commercial clients in the courtroom for nearly 30 years, in cases ranging from catastrophic injury, construction defect, and commercial contract disputes, to product liability, medical malpractice, professional liability and more.  He is a key member of the firm’s catastrophic loss and emergency response teams, as well as the OSHA practice. 

Dennis encourages his clients to remain involved and proactive during litigation, testing theories and strategies and asking the tough questions about the issues and outcomes.  It is in this way that he learns more about his clients’ businesses, and as a result, becomes not only their litigation counsel, but a trusted business colleague as well. 

Dennis successfully defended a masonry contractor in a claim involving water intrusion in a multi-unit mixed use condominium project. The condominium association was seeking $3,000,000 in damages. All other defendants settled on the eve of trial.  Following a 2 week trial, the jury, after only a 45 minute deliberation, returned a verdict in favor of his client and awarded no damages. It is believed to be the largest Implied Warranty of Habitability case tried to a jury in Illinois, based upon available jury verdict records.

Dennis also provides general legal consulting to his clients, including preparation of contracts, developing strategies to protect their businesses from risk, and more. The lessons learned litigating complex disputes have provided him real life education about how to avoid those litigated issues in the future. In spite of his active trial practice, as a trained mediator, Dennis appreciates that the best resolution to a business dispute, if possible, is a business solution, not litigation. 

Dennis is a founding member of the firm. As a senior member of the commercial litigation group and founder and co-chair of the construction practice group, Dennis supervises a team providing comprehensive litigation and transactional services to many lines of business, including the construction industry. As a member of the firm’s Executive Committee, Dennis influences the strategic direction of the firm, ensuring each of our attorneys is working to exceed client expectations in every area of practice.


  • Martindale-Hubbell AV® Preeminent™ rated
  • Selected to the Illinois Super Lawyers List: 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017
  • Selected by the Leading Lawyers Network as a "Leading Lawyer" in construction law

Memberships & Involvement

  • Member: SmithAmundsen Executive Committee
  • Co-chair, Construction Law Committee: IDC
  • Member: Associated General Contractors of America; American Subcontractors' Association; Attorney's Council; Northern Illinois Building Contractors' Association; DRI Construction Law Committee; Illinois Road and Transportation Builders Association; Highway Work Zone Safety; MAASTRO Reg AASHTO-AGC-ARTBA Jt. Committe
  • Former Chair, Former Immediate Past Vice Chair: USLAW Network Construction Practice Group


  • Successfully tried the largest implied warranty of habitability water infiltration construction defect case ever tried to a jury in Illinois in November 2014. Plaintiff, representing a condominium board, requested nearly $3,000,000 in damages and in less than an hour, the jury returned a verdict in favor of the masonry defendant, awarding no damages
  • Obtained summary judgment on behalf of the builder/developer in a case involving a massive fire in downtown Champaign, Urbana. The claims against our client included damage to several surrounding buildings and exceeded $8,000,000. Summary judgment was granted after only three depositions were taken – the fire marshal, the developer and the general contractor
  • Successfully defended a contractor in the defense of a multiple fatality at the BNSF yard, when a piece of equipment allegedly slid on defective removal of snow and contacted the power lines, causing a hot zone.  Our client settled for $100,000 and the co-defendants for $20,000,000

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