New class action interrupts dog days in Madison County

Steve Gonzalez Jul. 29, 2005, 6:33am

Ending a near three-month drought of class action lawsuits since a restrictive federal law was enacted, Alton plaintiff’s attorney Lanny Darr filed suit against Affirmative Insurance Company because it would only reimburse him $18.90 per day for a rental vehicle.

While it is not the first class action lawsuit filed in Madison County since President George W. Bush signed the Class Action Fairness Act into law Feb. 18, Darr's new case filed July 11 is the fourth of five filed in that period in which Darr, of Schrempf, Blaine, Kelly, & Darr, has been associated.

Darr is the plaintiff's attorney in these other post-Class Action Fairness Act Madison County suits: Locklear Electric v. NAPP for unsolicited faxes, filed Feb. 23; Kyle Stark v. Madison Mutual over medical repayment, filed March 11; Kesha Manning v. BA for moldy conditions at an apartment complex and Locklear v. Inprovenet Inc. for unsolicited faxes both filed April 18.

In the new case, Darr claims he was involved in an auto accident Feb. 14 with Walter Price, who was negligent and insured by Affirmative.

“Affirmative refused to lease a vehicle for Darr and failed to reimburse for an amount greater than $18.90 per day, which is illegal under Illinois law,” the complaint states. Darr claims he could not drive his Ford Explorer for several days while it was being repaired.

According to the complaint, common questions of law and fact predominate over any questions affecting only individual members of the class, which include whether Affirmative acted illegally when it:

  • refused to pay more than $18.90 a day for a substitute rental car;

  • represented to Darr and other class members that they only reimbursed $18.90 regardless of the vehicle damaged or the needs of the owner of the damaged vehicle;

  • concealed that they may reimburse more than $18.90 per day;

  • failed to rent a vehicle for those incapable of leasing substitute vehicles, either due to financial circumstances, credit history or age; and

  • violated the Illinois Consumer Fraud Act.

    Darr claims he is not seeking an amount greater than $75,000 for his individual damages, and also stipulated no class member damages will exceed $75,000, and the class as a whole is not seeking damages in excess of $5 million.

    He is seeking orders:
  • certifying the class of all Illinois residents involved in a traffic accident with Affirmative’s customers in the past 10 years;
  • declaring Affirmative’s conduct unlawful
  • requiring Affirmative to cease and desist all deceptive, unjust and unreasonable practices;
  • requiring Affirmative to notify and properly disclose to whose they have overcharged; and
  • an award of reasonable attorney fees and costs of the suit, including fees of experts and an award of factual and compensatory damages in an amount less that $75,000 per class member.

    Darr is represented Evan Schaeffer of Schaeffer and Lamere in Godfrey.

    While it may seem odd that a plaintiff's lawyer would name himself as the lead victim in a class action lawsuit, Darr is not alone.

    Another area lawyer who has championed a cause for himself includes class action filer John Driscoll, a St. Louis attorney who has filed many Vioxx cases against Merck Pharmaceutical in Madison and St. Clair counties. On Feb. 18, the day President Bush signed the Class Action Fairness Act into law, Driscoll--represented by Belleville attorney Christopher Cueto--filed a class action suit against Pfizer and Pharmacia alleging consumer fraud, but not personal injury.

    Driscoll, an attorney with Brown & Crouppen, "takes great pride in being able to help people receive fair treatment and just compensation," according to the firm's website.

    "He is also very interested in addressing consumer fraud practices and corporate misbehaviors," his profile reads.

    The suit over the prescription pain reliever drug Celebrex claims damages arising from its purchase price. It is alleged that defendants charged too much money for Celebrex, given reports on the drug's safety and efficacy.

    Driscoll's suit was removed to federal court on April 8.

    Lance Mallon, a plaintiff's attorney from Wood River is another example of victim's advocate-turned victim.

    In April of 2004, Mallon filed a consumer fraud class action lawsuit against California-based Seagate Technology, the world’s largest supplier of computer disc media.

    Nowhere in the complaint does it state that Mallon had any problems with his Seagate products. It states that Seagate knowingly, recklessly or negligently committed unfair and deceptive acts with respect to the true quality and capability of its product.

    Mallon claims that had he known that the Seagate tape drive systems possessed an extremely high failure rate, he would not have purchased the system, or he would have negotiated a lower price.

    “Plaintiff and class have been damaged as a proximate result of defendants’ course of conduct and violations of the Consumer Fraud Acts in that they purchased a product that did not have the advertised operational capacity,” the complaint states.

  • More News