Jonathan Cifonelli

Jonathan B. Cifonelli


Jonathan B. Cifonelli is a Partner in Pugh, Jones & Johnson's Litigation Practice Group. He practices in commercial, employment, civil rights, insurance coverage, and other areas of complex civil litigation, as well as in the firm’s Compliance and Internal Investigations Practice Group.

Jonathan successfully defends Fortune 500 companies on a regular basis, including securing summary judgment several times for a multinational risk management corporation. As part of his employment litigation practice, he was an integral part of a team that successfully resolved a multi-party employment litigation case for a large city pertaining to an alleged discrimination and retaliation under Title VII, FMLA, and the ADA. He has also defended numerous police departments against allegations of constitutional violations and malicious prosecution. Jonathan has both prosecuted and defended criminal matters, including serving as defense counsel in a federal healthcare fraud trial, and serving on a team that prosecuted the owners of Chicago’s E2 nightclub (where 21 patrons died in a February 2003 tragedy).

As part of his investigations practice, Jonathan conducted several internal investigations into a large municipal entity’s employment practices, including allegations of systematic age and race discrimination, as well as sexual harassment and hostile work environment. He also conducted a global investigation into potential violations of a Fortune 500 company’s global trade restrictions policy. He interviewed employees throughout Europe, Africa and the Middle East to determine whether they knowingly violated trade regulations.

Jonathan has been named a Rising Star in Super Lawyers Magazine for the years 2012 through 2017, and was recently selected as an Emerging Lawyer by the Leading Lawyers Network.

Prior to joining PJJ, he also served as an Associate at Knight, Hoppe, Kurnik & Knight, Ltd., and worked in the summers of 2003 and 2004 for the Lake County State's Attorney's Office in Waukegan, Illinois.


  • Represented a major municipality and seven of its employees in a 26-count lawsuit filed by four aviation police officers who alleged various claims of discrimination under Title VII, the state’s Human Rights Act, its Civil Rights Act, and the 14th Amendment; interference and retaliation under the Family Medical Leave Act; and discrimination and denial of accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act and its state-law equivalent.  After the municipality's motion for summary judgment was partially granted, the case was settled on favorable terms.
  • Represented the City of Chicago in the prosecution of criminal contempt charges against the owners of The Epitome nightclub for municipal code violations which resulted in 21 deaths.  PJJ’s efforts resulted in the only known criminal contempt conviction and incarceration for municipal code violations.
  • Conducted a global investigation into potential violations of the company’s Global Trade Restrictions Policy; interviewed employees in Europe, Africa, and the Middle East to determine whether they knowingly violated company policy by conducting business that involved Cuba, or had knowledge that any co-workers had done so.
  • Represented a global insurance company against a claim that it secured inadequate insurance for a corporation that owns multiple residential communities.  The corporation claimed losses totaling over $18,000,000 as a result of four hurricanes, and its insurers denied coverage for over $13,000,000.  PJJ prevailed on multiple motions to dismiss plaintiff’s complaints for failure to state a claim.  After plaintiff filed a fourth complaint against the insurance company, PJJ joined in plaintiff’s successful motion for summary judgment in which the court held that coverage existed for the vast majority of the $13,000,000 in losses, thus avoiding liability for the client as to those losses.
  • Received a favorable verdict as part of the PJJ litigation team on May 16, 2016 in the matter Lexington Insurance Company vs. Horace Mann Insurance Company, which was tried in the United States District Court. The plaintiff/third-party plaintiff Horace Mann had accused our client, third-party defendant, of professional negligence in providing notice to the carrier and in the handling of an insurance claim with Horace Mann's insurer Lexington. After all sides rested and before closing arguments, the judge dismissed the jury and granted our client and Lexington's motions for judgment as a matter of law against Horace Mann. The court found that our client did not act negligently in the performance of its duties and was not liable for any losses attributed to Horace Mann's failure to timely report its loss in connection with the Burley Litigation to Lexington.
  • Served as defense counsel in a federal healthcare fraud trial.  Defendant was acquitted of half of the Medicare fraud charges brought against him, and served less than 20% of the incarceration time that the government requested he serve.
  • Represented a global insurance company for professional negligence and breach of contract.  PJJ filed a motion for summary judgment, contending that plaintiff filed suit outside the statute of limitations and that the client did not owe plaintiff a duty of care.  The Court granted defendant’s motion and PJJ secured summary judgment for the client in this matter. 
  • A competitor of a global insurance company, whose former employees joined said company, sued those employees in an attempt to enforce their restrictive covenants with the competitor.  PJJ secured the full dismissal of one employee, and a near-total victory on summary judgment for the other.  The remaining claim settled.  Further, on the client’s behalf, PJJ prevailed upon a motion to shift e-discovery costs onto the plaintiff, and client was awarded $130,000 thereon by the court--a sum substantially higher than the de minimis sum paid to plaintiff under the settlement agreement.
  • A former executive of a global insurance company who practiced in the company’s rail practice area joined a competitor.  The company sued him and his new employer to enforce the restrictive covenants in his stock incentive agreement with said company, and for tortious interference.  A related action was pending in the United Kingdom.  All claims in both jurisdictions were settled without the Illinois defendants filing an answer and without any discovery being taken.
  • The plaintiff, a former deputy commissioner in a major municipality’s Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection, brought a two-count complaint in the Northern District of Illinois claiming that the City interfered with defendant’s right to take FMLA leave and retaliated against defendant for requesting FMLA leave.  The jury found in the City’s favor on plaintiff’s FMLA interference claim and in the plaintiff’s favor on the retaliation claim.  Plaintiff asked the jury for nearly $400,000 in damages, but was awarded only $75,000.

Service and Memberships

  • Chicago Bar Association
  • Federal Bar Association
  • Illinois State Bar Association