August Attorney Spotlights: Scott Ruksakiati and Mark Shanberg

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August 3, 2020 9:00am

For our August Spotlight, we are introducing two attorneys launching Tyson & Mendes’ new Chicago office. Please welcome Chicago Managing Partner Scott Ruksakiati and Senior Counsel Mark Shanberg! Both are experienced litigators who bring impressive track records of success to the Tyson & Mendes Midwest team. Read on to learn more about these two powerhouses below.

Let’s start with Scott Ruksakiati:

T&M: Tell us a bit about your legal background.

SR: I have been an insurance defense trial attorney my entire career – 27 years and counting. I began handling premises liability and auto defense cases, where I obtained great trial experience. I went on to litigate construction defect cases representing contractors and sub-contractors, which led to an opportunity representing design professionals in cases involving catastrophic injuries and death. I primarily practice in Illinois, but I have been admitted pro hac vice in several jurisdictions around the country and currently maintain a multi-state practice.

T&M: What drew you to Tyson & Mendes?

SR: As trial attorneys, we should never be satisfied with what we currently know, including trial techniques that have been successful in the past. We always need to be learning. It became apparent to me during my discussions with several partners at Tyson & Mendes that their approach to handling cases through trial is a highly collaborative one. The firm provides many opportunities for lawyers to share experiences and techniques so that the client receives the best possible service and outcome for each case. Even though I have practiced for more than a quarter century, I am always looking for ways to better myself and others around me. T&M University will provide me with the opportunity to enhance my skills by learning from some of the best trial attorneys in the country.

T&M: What do you hope Tyson & Mendes’ new Chicago office will accomplish under your leadership?

SR: My goal is to grow the Chicago office by providing exceptional service to the firm’s clients using the proven T&M methods. I hope that Chicago will be the first of several T&M offices in the Midwest.

T&M: What made you decide to pursue a career in law?

SR: As an undergraduate at Indiana University, I considered careers in advertising or media, which led me to the department of telecommunications. One of the required classes for juniors was a communications law class which I found to be considerably more interesting than my other classes. For the term paper, I wrote about obscenity and indecency laws under the First Amendment. I remember walking into class the day the papers were returned to us and the professor had written the grade distribution on the chalkboard. There was one A+. When the professor handed my paper back to me, he said that “it was almost publishable” and there was an A+ on the cover. At that point, I thought that perhaps I should pursue a law-related career, which the professor encouraged. I never looked back.

T&M: Where do you go for the best deep-dish pizza and/or hotdogs in Chicago?

SR: My favorite deep-dish pizza is Lou Malnati’s. I prefer a simple cheese pizza with a butter crust, but if you are a meat eater, their sausage pizza is definitely worth trying. Rather than the typical sausage chunks, it comes with a whole layer of sausage in one piece underneath the cheese. For hot dogs, you can’t go wrong with Portillo’s, but know that if you ask for “everything on it,” it will be made the Chicago way – no ketchup allowed.

T&M: What is a fun fact about you that most people do not know?

SR: I have never ridden a horse.

And now Mark Shanberg:

T&M: How did you get into the insurance defense industry?

MS: I practiced plaintiff’s personal injury law for the first five years of my career. The first two years were spent prosecuting mainly soft tissue injuries arising out of automobile and premises liability actions. Wanting exposure and experience with catastrophic injury matters, I started working for a plaintiff’s medical negligence firm, where I was involved in the prosecution of medical malpractice matters. Naturally, you develop an empathetic connection to the client whose life has been adversely impacted by their injury. It was while deposing numerous physician defendants, however, when I saw first-hand just how much these doctors care about their patients, and how their main focus and intention are to provide proper medical care to their patients to help them get well. Sometimes mistakes are made, but other times, a mere difference of opinion on the proper way to treat the patient can lead to a negative result for the doctor that can affect his/her reputation and/or standing in the medical community.

In 1997, after three years of suing medical care providers, I made the decision to switch to the defense and defend the medical care providers. This gave me the opportunity to collaborate with and formulate the best possible defense for the clients. Over the years, my practice expanded to representing construction professionals, premises owners, product liability manufactures/distributors and clients in the transportation industry.

T&M: What drew you to Tyson & Mendes?

MS: I have had the great fortune over the course of my career to work with some really talented and knowledgeable attorneys. These individuals have proved to be not only great colleagues and mentors, but also savvy business professionals. When I learned of the opportunity to join Tyson & Mendes’ new Chicago office, I started my due diligence research into the origins and subsequent nationwide growth of the firm. I spoke with several firm partners who quickly impressed me, and also impressed upon me the merits of working for a growing law firm with dynamic leadership that focuses on individualized and thoughtful representation of the insured client. One of the most rewarding calls to receive at the end of a case is from the insured client who expresses their appreciation for the hard work and dedication on their behalf. Each client must know that they have a trusted advocate on their side who will zealously and ethically represent their best interests throughout the litigation.

Based upon the firm’s established track record of success and growth, Tyson & Mendes will provide the proper support and foundation for my continued success and growth as a lawyer.

T&M: Tell us about your biggest win or professional accomplishment.

MS: One of my most rewarding accomplishments was obtaining the dismissal of an ultrasound sonographer who was being sued in a medical negligence lawsuit arising out of a birth injury.  The sonographer had never been a party to a lawsuit and was completely unfamiliar with the legal process. Through a collaborative approach with experts in her field, we were able to formulate a defense that she had properly recognized and documented the abnormal findings on the transvaginal ultrasound report, and that there was evidence the report was provided to the OB-GYN managing the patient’s pregnancy. The judge granted the motion for summary judgment, finding that the sonographer complied with the standard of care by recognizing, documenting, and advising of the abnormality.

Following the dismissal, for years after, the sonographer invited me to serve as a guest lecturer for her sonography students at a local college to present on the potential pitfalls of medical negligence cases.

T&M: Similarly, what has been the biggest challenge of your career thus far?

MS: Every career has its challenges, and the legal field is certainly no exception. Each case presents its own merits and difficulties. With experience comes knowledge. Every successful lawyer will use their accomplishments and failures to help guide them on the next case, which may present with similar legal or factual issues. In defending a medical negligence matter, for example, the lawyer has to become an expert in their own right on the significance of lab values, chart entries and the applicable standard of care required for a reasonably careful doctor under the same or similar circumstances. In defending a product liability manufacturer, the lawyer must gain an understanding as to the design issues of the product, and for example, formulate a defense to establish that the product was not unreasonably dangerous at the time it left the control of the manufacturer.

With all the pressures involved in defending the client, I believe one of the biggest challenges for any lawyer is properly managing the expectations of their client. I believe this is best accomplished through collaboration and keeping the client informed. I was taught early in my career to call the client right away with good news and to call even faster with bad news.

T&M: Where is the one place in Chicago you always like to share with guests from out of town?

MS: It is hard to recommend just one place to visit when coming to town. Chicago is known for its beautiful and historic architecture, museums, views of Lake Michigan and countless culinary opportunities. If time and weather permit, a walk, jog or bike ride along Lakeshore Drive is a must. It is a great way to clear your head, get some exercise and take in the true beauty of the city. If time is limited, no matter what their favorite cuisine, there is an outstanding restaurant somewhere in the city that they will be talking about to their friends and family when they return home. Chicago is the city of the “Big Shoulders” and big opportunity for numerous adventures.

T&M: When not at work or home (or, working from home!), where are we most likely to find you?

MS: You will find me “on the move.” Rarely will I be home on a weekend day watching television (except for a Sunday Chicago Bears’ game or Cubs’ game – sorry White Sox fans).  My form of relaxation is staying physically active. That could mean hours of yard work, miles of bike riding, walking my 90-pound chocolate Labrador Retriever and finding the time to play tennis and golf. Work stimulates the mind and activity stimulates the body.

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