Kardis' class action docket the largest in county

Steve Korris Feb. 2, 2005, 3:31pm

Circuit Judge Phillip Kardis

(Editor's note: This is the second of a series of reports on pending class action lawsuits in Madison County Circuit Court, judge-by-judge).

Madison County Circuit Judge Phillip Kardis has dozens of motions pending to certify lawsuits as class actions, but he has set a hearing date on only one. If history repeats, that hearing probably will not happen.

Bringing a class action to the vital question of class certification usually takes years. Over and over, Kardis has set certification hearings only to cancel them.

Defense motions to dismiss and plaintiff's motions to compel discovery have pushed certification hearings off the docket. So have appeals.

Attorneys for both sides have often asked jointly to cancel hearings. In some cases plaintiffs have scratched hearings by amending their complaints.

Kardis has more class action claims in his court than any other judge in the county. When given the chance he does not shy away from certifying a class, having certified four last year and three in 2003. In two cases, plaintiffs and defendants agreed on certification.

He expressed the spirit of class action in a 2003 order that certified Ronald Poor and others as representatives of a class with potential claims against Sprint Communications. The plaintiffs claimed that Sprint entered their properties without consent or compensation.

"Can a wrong be too large?," Kardis wrote. He wrote that courts had a duty to allow every person an opportunity to pursue a remedy for alleged injuries to his property, which in this case might deal with 200,000 people and 20,000 miles of easement.

"This Court is not unaware of the intense advertising and political pressure against class actions," he wrote. He asked if the system could allow an alleged wrongdoer to keep as much as $500 million that legally belonged to others.

"The Courts cannot turn their collective backs on this situation," Kardis stated in a written opinion. "Let us not be naive. Without a class action, there is no potential remedy."

The Sprint case was originally filed in federal court, which certified two subclasses consisting of current and former land owners subject to an easement.

On appeal, the Seventh Circuit Court reversed the certification order holding that the trial court failed to make any of the determinations that Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23 makes prerequisite to certification.

Federal Judge Posner noted the case involved different conveyances by and to different parties made at different times over more than a century, not to mention in 48 states, which all have different laws regarding the scope of easements making it unlikely common issues predominate over individual claim issues.

Posner went on to call the case a "nightmare class action" and concluded class action treatment is "decidedly inappropriate."

The plaintiffs then filed the same case in Madison County, which certified three subclasses under the Illinois companion to Federal Rule 23.

Kardis has set a May 16 trial without jury for Sprint.

One of his seven classes disappeared in January. Kardis de-certified Pamela Cunningham and Reet Caldwell as class representatives in a suit against Mattel. The plaintiffs charged in 1999 that the toy maker offered "limited edition" Barbie dolls but produced so many that the dolls would not hold their value or appreciate in value.

Kardis certified the class in 2003. Mattel moved for reconsideration, and the plaintiffs opposed the motion. At a Jan. 27 status conference, however, the plaintiffs withdrew their opposition and Kardis withdrew his certification order.

In the only case he has set for a certification hearing, Kardis scheduled a June 27 date for Cynthia Hoffman of Belleville. She claimed in 2002 that State Farm Mutual Auto refused to issue or to renew her insurance policy solely on the basis of a credit report.

Other items on Kardis' docket include:

  • An April 14 hearing to order a schedule for briefing of certification issues in a suit Cynthia Brown of Alton filed against mortgage lender RBMG. Brown claims RBMG charged a $25 courier fee on closing a home mortgage, paid less than that for a courier, and kept the rest.

  • Certification hearings are scheduled in other courier fee suits, one on April 11 regarding the late Juanita Treadway of Hartford filed against Nationscredit Financial Services. Her son, Gary Treadway, seeks to represent a plaintiff class. Another hearing will be held after May 6 for a suit filed by Todd Morgan of Alton against Countrywide Home Loan.

    Kardis has set three jury trials on class action complaints without deciding whether the plaintiffs represent classes:

  • A trial is set Aug. 8, for a suit Edmund Woodbury of Godfrey filed against the Templeton investment firm.

  • A trial on Sept. 19 is scheduled for a suit Madison County resident Frances Misukonis filed against oil companies for alleged contamination of drinking water.

  • On Feb. 27, 2006, a trial is set for a suit Deanna Neubauer of Troy filed against Compaq and Dell computer companies for allegedly concealing the fact that Pentium 4 processors were slower and less powerful than Pentium 3 processors.

    Kardis regularly holds case management conferences on class action complaints. He scheduled 14 such conferences Feb. 3, plus 24 more in weeks and months to come.

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