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Jennifer L. Ilkka



Jennifer Ilkka is passionate about protecting clients’ most important products. With more than a decade under her belt as national counsel for a Fortune 100 manufacturing, technology and service company in product liability and commercial litigation matters, she understands where the product life cycle can take unexpected turns. Leveraging her deep knowledge of their businesses and products, Jennifer helps clients to effectively assess and manage litigation risk, counsels them in strategies to mitigate or avoid material liability exposure, and fights back against their most complex litigation challenges.

Product Liability and Toxic Tort Litigation

Jennifer litigates and tries product, premises and personal injury cases across the country and in multidistrict litigation. She works every angle of a product liability or toxic tort case and has obtained defense verdicts and summary judgments on grounds of insufficient evidence, lack of standing, duty, and causation, component part supplier defense, exclusive remedy defense, statute of limitation, statute of repose, and other substantive and procedural defenses.

When liability cases rise to the next level of the court system, Jennifer manages appeals and has substantial experience authoring appellate briefs and arguing in appellate courts, including the Seventh Circuit.

Commercial Litigation

During litigation threatening to topple clients’ businesses, Jennifer has won trial verdicts, summary judgments and dismissals. Uniquely attuned to the business needs and goals of clients, Jennifer also delivers solutions outside the courtroom. Whether at the outset of a case or on the eve of trial, Jennifer has strategically negotiated favorable settlements for clients that want to avoid the uncertainty of the courtroom.

Jennifer’s litigation and trial savvy helps her deliver solutions to clients in a wide variety of business litigation matters, including contractual disputes, warranty and recall cases, class action defense, consumer fraud and deceptive business practice claims, supplier disputes under the Uniform Commercial Code (UCC), and licensing and regulatory matters. In addition, she routinely advises and assists manufacturer and supplier clients in the preparation and/or analysis of various commercial contracts, including development, supply and warranty agreements.

Representative Experience

  • Obtained an unanimous defense verdict as first chair in $18+ million wrongful jury death trial for manufacturer of industrial cutoff saw after less than one hour of deliberation following three-week trial in Illinois state court (Cook County, IL)
  • Obtained summary judgment for a tube mill component manufacturer in a product liability and wrongful death lawsuit
  • Forced the transfer of complex class action claims to preferred forum on personal jurisdiction grounds on behalf of international automotive manufacturer
  • Obtained dismissal of class action claims for consumer fraud on behalf of an international automotive manufacturer predicated on lack of constitutional standing
  • Won summary judgment for a multi-national pharmaceutical manufacturer in a multimillion-dollar licensing and contract dispute and successfully defended award of summary judgment on appeal
  • Successfully tried a three-week commercial breach of contract case involving restoration work for vintage locomotives for national railroad company
  • Successfully executed and defended the removal of an environmental class action under CAFA from an unfavorable state court venue to the more preferable federal venue that was predicated on a battle of the experts in the fields of statistics and environmental regulatory compliance
  • Won a high stakes "bet the company" government contractor debarment action arising out of crash of airport tram, saving the client from the loss of millions of dollars in current and future public contract work, and favorably settled multi-million-dollar breach of contract suit in Florida federal court
  • Defended and successfully settled a wrongful death action in Wisconsin state court involving the death of an infant for nuisance value on behalf of a data furnisher that provided background reporting on the caregiver alleged to be responsible for the infant’s death
  • Successfully settled action for wrongful death and traumatic brain injury on behalf of automated people mover (APM) maintenance provider for a small percentage of the initial multimillion-dollar demand in Texas state court
  • Won summary judgment and dismissal for client and subsidiary in multimillion-dollar premises liability personal injury suit in federal court after rejecting mediator's suggestion to pay a near seven-figure settlement
  • Successfully settled premises liability personal injury case for a fraction of the total demand during jury deliberations following three-week jury trial in federal court in Kansas
  • Obtained zero-pay dismissal of a multimillion-dollar product liability subrogation action arising from a rooftop fire at national fast food chain the day after deposing plaintiff’s mechanical engineering and cause and origin experts in Kentucky federal court
  • Successfully defended against efforts by plaintiff’s counsel to pierce the corporate veil in defense of a parent manufacturing company in toxic tort case in a plaintiff-oriented, Illinois state court venue
  • Obtained numerous pivotal rulings on hotly contested evidentiary trial issues regarding the placement of nonparties on the verdict form in high risk crashworthiness jury trials
  • Achieved six-figure settlement (significantly in excess of counterclaim amount) on the eve of trial for defendant hospital from plaintiff in multimillion-dollar breach of contract suit through leveraging of contractual fee-shifting provision
  • Approached by co-defendant on the day of trial regarding the possibility of substituting in as trial counsel (second chair) following low dollar settlement for product manufacturer client in high risk product liability suit involving a CPSC recalled product and the death of two children
  • Defeated motions for injunctive relief brought against client alleged to have violated consumer fraud and deceptive trade statutes through internet marketing and related search engine optimization after expedited discovery process and briefing
  • Obtained summary judgment in numerous product liability and toxic tort lawsuits on a variety of grounds, including lack of evidence, lack of standing, lack of duty, component part liability defense, civil procedure deficiencies, exclusive remedy defense, statute of limitation and statute of repose
  • Provided counseling and training to in-house counsel of international pharmaceutical company on good contract negotiating and drafting practices

Personal Interests

Jennifer mentors and supports up-and-coming women lawyers in cultivating successful careers. She speaks and writes on topics related to women in the courtroom and the path to partnership.


Bar Admissions


Court Admissions

Illinois Supreme Court
U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit
U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Trial Bar
U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana
U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois


Lake Forest College
B.A. magna cum laude (2002)

The John Marshall Law School
J.D. summa cum laude, John Marshall Law Review - Editor (2004 & 2005) (2006)

Leadership & Community

Pro Bono

Jennifer is committed to giving back to her community and devotes significant time to pro bono activities.

  • At a contested U.S. immigration hearing, Jennifer obtained full political asylum for a young Tibetan man detained in a Wisconsin jail who had fled religious persecution in China.
  • Jennifer has assisted numerous pro bono clients in domestic violence, child custody and other family law proceedings.

Professional Associations

  • American Bar Association
  • Chicago Bar Association

Civic Activities

Jennifer has invested considerable time assisting young lawyers in cultivating and improving their trial advocacy and professional skills.


  • Faegre Drinker — Pro Bono Honor Roll, 2021, 2023
  • Edward T. Lee Scholar, John Marshall Law School, 2006
  • Arba N. Waterman Scholar, John Marshall Law School, 2005
  • Fred F. Herzog Scholar, John Marshall Law School, 2004
Awards Methodology
No aspect of these recognitions has been approved by the highest court of any state.
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