John T. Wagener




John Wagener is an experienced trial attorney who understands the high value clients place on responsive service, fiscal responsibility and proactive risk management. He honed this perspective while managing litigation and supervising claims in 35 states for a Fortune 500 retailer

John makes sure that the client’s expectations are clearly understood and that quality legal services are provided to meet those expectations.

Today, John concentrates his practice in the litigation, insurance and litigation/risk management areas. He litigates cases throughout the country on behalf of major businesses involved in the retail, manufacturing, distribution, and transportation sectors. He has tried products liability, chemical exposure and accident reconstruction cases requiring the application of complex scientific and engineering principles. His cases have involved a diverse range of products, including motor coaches, trucks and heavy equipment, pesticides and other chemicals, outdoor power products, automotive components and hand tools, and unique premises and vehicular liability scenarios.

During his 25 year law career, John has built a solid reputation for utilizing novel legal theories and creating new case law. He has been involved in several cases of first impression, in which various appellate courts in Illinois and in other jurisdictions created new legal doctrines. Colleagues at Dressler Peters frequently seek his advice on insurance and insurance coverage, on defending other responsive parties, and on identifying deep pockets to satisfy liabilities.

John is also a dedicated public servant. He is a four-term elected municipal official in his home town and also serves on the Executive Committee of the Solid Waste Agency of Lake County. John also volunteers his time as panel counsel for the Jeanne Carpenter Legal Defense Fund of the Epilepsy Foundation of America. He resides in central Lake County, Illinois, with his wife and children.

Representative Legal Achievements

  • Settled a toxic exposure case for nuisance value on behalf of an area hospital client while it remains pending against the remaining defendant with a nearly $1 million settlement demand.
  • Defended a heavy truck manufacturer in climbing system case where the plaintiff fell from frame rails, allegedly due to the lack of an optional deck plate. Discovery showed that the truck manufacturer did not know the end use of the semi-truck, or the location of the intended trailer’s air line connections, when it was sold. Won a summary judgment in favor of defendant based upon the lack of duty to provide optional equipment.
  • Represented the retailer of an electric motor and grinding wheel after the wheel shattered and left the plaintiff blind in one eye. Defense prevailed after one week trial, and subsequent appeal by plaintiff was dismissed.
  • Defended a chemical company in atoxic exposure case after a plumber claimed he received a closed head injury after inhaling toxic vapors from sulfuric acid drain cleaner and subsequently falling down a flight of stairs. A summary judgment for the defendant was obtained on the warnings based complaint.
  • Took on the difficult defense of a public transit system after an allegedly speeding bus operator severely injured a child who darted in front of his bus.Though the original jury verdict was one of the top ten verdicts of the year, the matter was subsequently settled for a fraction of that record verdict following post-trial motions and threat of appeal.
  • Represented a coach manufacturer in a product liability case in the wrongful death of a wheel chair bound pedestrian. The suit alleged that blind spots and faulty mirror design and placement limited visibility inside the full sized transit coach. The matter was settled for a nominal amount after we established a significant amount of comparative negligence on the part of the decedent.



University of Illinois College of Law, J.D., Magna Cum Laude, Order of the Coif
Spring Hill College, B.A., Magna Cum Laude, Presidential Scholar


U.S. District Court, Northern District of Illinois (including the Trial Bar)
U.S. District Court, Central District of Illinois
U.S. District Court, Western District of Arkansas



CLM – Claims & Litigation Management Alliance, Illinois State Bar Association
Trial Attorneys of America – President (2014-2016), past Vice-President (2012-2014), past Director/Treasurer (2006-2012)
TAA Worker Achievement Award 2009
AV Peer Review Rated by Martindale-Hubbell

Pro Bono & Community

Jeanne Carpenter Legal Defense Fund of the Epilepsy Foundation of America
Great Lakes Giant Schnauzer Rescue, Director


CLM – Claims & Litigation Management Alliance
Illinois State Bar Association