Most successful, personable lawyers occasionally receive thank-you cards along with full payment, and Racine lawyer Timothy S. Knurr is no exception. But a recent token of appreciation was especially memorable, from a representation that was especially memorable.
NASCAR icon Wilbur “Bay” Darnell, now in his seventies, gave Knurr tickets and pit passes as his guest at a race at the Milwaukee Mile last summer, after Knurr saved him and his wife from financial ruin in a lengthy, hard-fought and highly contentious case. Knurr, who knew very little about the sport before Darnell’s case, is a convert now, after watching Darnell’s grandson race. But he especially enjoyed seeing the respect his client received from the celebrity drivers in the pit, after his trial opponents tried so hard to take everything away from Darnell, including his dignity.
“It was the single most satisfying thing I’ve ever done as an attorney. It made me step back and appreciate all the skills I’d acquired and put to use,” Knurr, of Schoone, Leuck, Kelley, Pitts & Knurr SC says.
Darnell, who had a longstanding business relationship as an independent contractor with S.C. Johnson, was sued by the $50-billion corporation as part of its effort to rid its transportation department of corruption rising to the level of criminal activity. In last year’s civil trial, while several others were slapped with a $140-million verdict, Darnell was exonerated from liability.
The victory brought Knurr, the only local counsel from a small firm, huge satisfaction. At the other counsel table were multiple attorneys from the ninth largest law firm in the world and the fourth largest law firm in the state.
“It wasn’t smoke and mirrors, just good old-fashioned cross-examination and destroying the evidence to show the jury that he clearly had nothing to do with this kickback scheme,” Knurr says.
Approaching his 25th year as a trial lawyer, Knurr says he was drawn to the courtroom because of his competitive nature; he participated in just about every sport offered in high school. But, he emphasizes, being an aggressive advocate for him has never meant surrendering civility or ethics.
It’s an approach that’s working for him. Knurr has had a string of successful verdicts in recent years, including obtaining the largest auto accident verdict in Racine County’s history in 2008 in Anderson v. West Bend. In 2009, he obtained a $277,000 verdict in the Kenosha trial court in Patera v. Love.