Katheleen  Ehrhart
Katheleen Ehrhart
Freeborn & Peters LLP
Commercial litigation
40 Under Class – 2015

Katheleen Ehrhart is no stranger to courtroom victories. This commercial litigation expert with Chicago’s Freeborn & Peters has earned a long string of them during her relatively short career.

Donna Welch, with Chicago’s Kirland & Ellis, points to the work Ehrhart turned in for a national Fortune 500 insurance company. Ehrhart helped lead the company’s defense during a trial based on the Illinois Wage Act. She earned a complete defense verdict in this case.

Ehrhart played a key role, too, in the defense of a nationwide class action gender discrimination case involving the same client.This time, Ehrhart helped defeat two class action motions in the trial court and on appeal.

“Kathy is a bright and capable attorney who digs into the facts,” Welch said.“Kathy provides excellent counsel and advocacy for her clients. She is poised and effective in the courtroom, and equally good at written advocacy.”

Ehrhart has already tackled several major cases during her career. She represented BP Amoco in several litigation matters rising from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill of 2010 in the Gulf of Mexico.

“The complexity, scope and demands of this litigation were unprecedented,” said Scott Fowkes, also from Kirkland & Ellis. “Kathy played a key role as part of a larger team, working collegially with clients, co-counsel from other law firms, opposing counsel, fact witnesses and expert witnesses.”

Ehrhart also represented BP Amoco Polymers in a series of antitrust cases alleging that the company engaged in price fixing in the carbon fiber industry. In one of these cases, a plaintiff sought treble damages based on $190 million of carbon fiber that it had purchased from BP Amoco.

Ehrhart uncovered and then successfully obtained internal memoranda and notes prepared by the plaintiff’s former antitrust counsel, managing to defeat the plaintiff’s claim that the attorney’s documents were protected by attorney-client privilege. Ehrhart then took the lead in preparing an extensive summary judgment motion based on these documents and other evidence. The trial court granted the motion and held that the plaintiff’s claims were time-barred. This resulted in a complete dismissal of the case.

Barry Fields from Kirkland & Ellis said that results like these help explain why Ehrhart has managed to craft such a deep roster of repeat clients. It’s also why Ehrhart at such a young age has managed to land key roles in the biggest of cases, he said.

“Over the years, I did not hesitate to give Kathy a challenging legal issue, a difficult witness or abundant time to interact with the client,” Fields said. “As she became more senior, she continued to take on challenging cases that allowed her to deepen her skills. She never shied away from a challenging case, project, assignment or task, and she relished whatever opportunities were placed in front of her.”

Outside the courtroom, Ehrhart has been an active speaker at reinsurance industry forums, often focusing on the emerging legal and claims issues from head injuries and sports. She is also in her second year serving on the board of directors for the not-for-profit organization Glen Ellyn Newcomers, an organization that makes it easier for newcomers to Glen Ellyn to connect with the surrounding community.