Attorney wants class action to go on, despite client's deal

Steve Korris May 3, 2005, 7:07am

Gary Peel

If the people who sue their mortgage company over a $9.46 claim cut a deal with them for $25,000, the lawsuit should go away, right?

Not this Madison County class action lawsuit. It's on to the appellate court.

Brandi and Larry Freitag of Troy, who alleged Option One Mortgage unfairly collected less than $10 in interest from them, settled their claim by signing a release and accepting a five-figure check on March 21.

But their attorney, Gary Peel, of the Lakin Law Firm in Wood River, clamored that the lawsuit should not die for lack of class representation.

“I’ve got a live plaintiff,” Peel said when Circuit Judge Nicholas Byron suggested at the start of an April 22 hearing that he did not.

Peel argued that Option One did not move to dismiss the Freitags and that in spite of settling their claim, the Freitags still have a right to pursue a class action and discovery. According to Peel, the Freitags have asked for a list of Madison County residents who borrowed from Option One.

“I think someone should appeal this so we can get some direction from the appellate court,” Judge Byron said. “I don’t want you folks going and spending any more money.”

Byron said he did not want to spin wheels and recommended that Option One attorney Richard Wohlleber, of Herzog Crebs in St. Louis, prepare an appeal.

Peel said he had grounds for appeal and Byron told him to submit a counter appeal.

“I’ll certify both," Byron said.

Peel and Wohlleber agreed to prepare appeals in two weeks.

Wohlleber had moved April 1 to quash depositions and block discovery, arguing that Peel did not request information for the Freitags but for the sole purpose of finding a new client to represent the class.

Option One tendered the Freitags' settlement in October, mailing it to Peel. The Freitags wanted to cash it then, but Peel would not let them. At Peel’s request, Byron deposited the check in the courthouse vault.

At a hearing in January, Byron released the check to the Freitags and gave Peel 60 days from the execution of a release to find a new plaintiff.

The Freitags did not sign. Option One moved to compel execution of a release, and Byron granted it Feb. 25.

Along with the Lakin firm, the Freitags retained Campbell and Brinkley of Godfrey, Diab and Bock of Chicago, and Freed and Weiss of Chicago.

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