Class Action: Belinda Vardell v. Union Planters Bank

Steve Gonzalez Sep. 23, 2004, 8:50am

On Monday September 27, Judge Byron will hear arguments concerning Union Planters' motion to dismiss a class action suit alleging they charge too much to cash non-accountholder checks.

Belinda Vardell, the editor of an auto racing magazine who lives in Granite City, first filed the suit on February 11, 2004.

She is represented by The Lakin Law Firm of Wood River. Union Planters is represented by Burroughs, Hepler, Broom, MacDonald, Hebrank & True.

Vardell claims that she was charged $5 when she went to cash a check at Union Planters Bank in November 2003. She does not personally have an account at Union Planters.

By filing a class action lawsuit, Vardell is alleging that Memphis-based Union Planters is violating Illinois state law by charging all non-accountholders $5 to cash checks at their bank branches.

Vardell is seeking damages for her and the class equal to their respective fee paid to Union Planters when they presented checks drawn on Union Planters accounts for payment.

Banks charging fees to non-customers is a hot topic in courts throughout the country.

In 2001, the Texas Legislature passed the “par value” law, which states that banks must cash checks at face value and may not impose fees to cash the check.

On August 17, two weeks before the effective date, the largest banks in Texas filed suit and a Federal District court judge granted a temporary injunction halting implementation of the new law.

Most major banks across the country do charge non-account holders fees to cash checks that are drawn on accounts. Multiple state and federal courts are currently hearing cases on legality of this practice nationwide.

Union Planters Bank merged with Birmingham-based Regions Financial corp. in July 2004.

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