Billion dollar verdict tossed by high court

Steve Korris Aug. 18, 2005, 4:27am

Business friendly: Chief Justice McMorrow

The Illinois Supreme Court threw out a billion dollar verdict ruling that a Williamson County Circuit Court erred in certifying a nationwide class, Avery v. State Farm.

Avery alleged that State Farm breached its contracts with policy holders by repairing vehicles with inferior parts and it violated the Illinois Consumer Fraud Act by concealing that practice.

In 1999, a jury had awarded the plaintiff $456 million on the contract claims. The judge, in a simultaneous trial, awarded $600 million in punitive damages and $130 million in disgorgement on the fraud claim.

In 2001, the 5th Appellate Court disallowed the disgorgement, but otherwise affirmed, leaving State Farm liable for $1.056 billion.

Because of different language in different policies, the circuit court erred in certifying a nationwide class on the contract claims.

On the fraud claim, the Supreme Court ruled the circuit court erred again in certifying a nationwide class because there was only one plaintiff whose vehicle was assessed and repaired in Illinois.

The individual testified, and according to the Supreme Court, "failed to establish causation or that he suffered actual damages, therefore there could be no class action on this count," according to a Supreme Court press release. The opinion was written by Chief Justice McMorrow.

The Supreme Court issued its decision Thursday morning.

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