Carmen D. Caruso thrives in trial practice, having 35 years’ experience trying civil and criminal cases and arbitrations. He has been recognized as one of the “half dozen best franchise trial lawyers in the country,” and has received on-the-record praise from state and federal court judges for the way he tries cases.
Carmen is best known for his representation of franchisees and dealers, or entrepreneurs building franchise systems, or occasionally, successful national or international franchisors, and he is one of the very few trial lawyers to be named to the exclusive Franchise Times Legal Eagles Hall of Fame (for being named a Legal Eagle in franchising over 10 years in a row).
Carmen has substantial experience in most areas of business litigation, including contract cases, fraud claims, business torts, antitrust and other statutory claims, real estate and intellectual property cases, and employment law cases. He is also experienced in professional liability and civil rights cases.
Carmen has represented major corporations and privately held companies, partnerships, trusts, professional practices or individual professionals, and many individuals in their roles as franchisees, dealers, sales agents, officers, directors, employees, partners, shareholders, property owners, or as clients victimized by other lawyers’ misconduct.
Clients retain Carmen and other lawyers refer cases to him because they appreciate his determined advocacy, single-minded focus on what is best for the client, his ability to “see around the corner” and his creative thinking to win cases and solve client concerns.
Without compromising his dedication to his clients and their cases, Carmen has served since 2011 as an Arbitrator for the American Arbitration Association on its complex case, commercial arbitration, employment, and franchise arbitration panels. He has rendered Awards in over twenty cases ranging from single day to two-week hearings. Without question, Carmen has found that sitting in the Arbitrator’s chair, ruling on objections, and having to decide the case, has made him an even more effective Advocate for his clients than he was before.
Until 1997, Carmen practiced and “made partner” at Foran & Schultz (earlier Foran, Wiss and Schultz), a premier Chicago litigation firm led by the former federal prosecutors in the renown Chicago Seven Conspiracy Trial. Carmen gained “big case” experience representing companies such as McDonald’s Corporation and Waste Management and had significant civil and criminal trial experience early in his career.
Practicing as a solo attorney from 1998 to 2001, Carmen scored victories in the United States Court of Appeals for franchisees and in helping to shatter the “glass ceiling” of gender discrimination, and he prevailed in civil rights claims pursued on behalf of a minority franchisee that was not allowed to buy a franchise in white areas of Chicago.
From 2001 to 2008, Carmen was a Litigation Partner at Schwartz Cooper Chartered, a 75-lawyer firm well respected in the financial community, where he established and served as Chair of the Firm’s Franchise & Distribution Practice Group. By 2008, Carmen was lead counsel in six cases in six states each with more than $10 million at stake in controversy, while also overseeing corporate, regulatory, transactional, intellectual property and employment matters as outside general counsel for a major national and international franchisor.
In 2010, Carmen re-established his independent practice, initially residing in the “Chambers” – a suite on the 48th floor of a major Chicago skyscraper filled with some of the best trial lawyers in Chicago. In 2013, the need to add personnel led Carmen to open his own office in its present location.
Mediator & Ombudsman
Carmen has served as Mediator in franchise disputes upon the parties’ request.
Carmen has served as an expert witness on franchise law and litigation subjects in cases pending in Illinois, Florida, and Singapore.
Carmen serves in pro bono positions including:
*Over 10 years of service on the Franchise Advisory Board established by the Illinois Attorney General, advising on the implementation and enforcement of the Illinois Franchise Disclosure Act.
*Past Co-Chair of the Civil Rights Litigation Committee of the American Bar Association (Section of Litigation).
*Frequent writer and Continuing Legal Education (CLE) speaker on various franchise law and trial practice topics for the American Bar Association and the American Association for Justice.
*Frequent speaker at meetings of franchisee associations including the Coalition of Franchisee Associations (CFA) and the Asian American Hotel Owners Association (AAHOA), and in past years the American Franchisee Association and the American Association of Franchisees & Dealers.
*A Trustee of the Union League Club of Chicago Boys & Girls Clubs.
*A member of the Board of Advisors of Catholic Charities of Chicago.
*An alumni officer of the Fathers Club at Mount Carmel High School in Chicago.
Carmen D. Caruso has received widespread professional recognition for many years, including:
Born and raised in Chicago, Carmen has been married to Ellyn Caruso since 1983, the principal of Caruso Communications LLC/Caruso PR. They have three grown sons and reside in the Beverly neighborhood of Chicago.
Carmen Caruso has been interviewed, or his cases have been profiled by publications including the Wall Street Journal, Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times, Chicago Reader, Crain’s Chicago Business, WBBM-TV Chicago, AP, Forbes, Franchise Times and more.
For media inquiries about Carmen’s cases, or about legal topics of interest, please contact:
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