Moran recuses himself from plaintiff attorney's class action

Steve Korris Sep. 8, 2005, 11:09am

Madison County Circuit Judge George Moran has recused himself from a class action lawsuit filed by a plaintiff who frequently appears before the court--Alton attorney Lanny Darr.

“He is a lawyer that has practiced in front of here,” Moran said after signing a recusal order Thursday. “I just didn’t feel like I should take it.”

Darr, who represents a number of clients in pending Madison County class action lawsuits, filed suit against Affirmative Insurance Company 16 days after he was the victim of a rear-end collision.

He claims Affirmative offered an "inappropriate" substitute vehicle while his was being repaired. The case has no judge at the moment.

Affirmative sent Darr a $222.74 check to reimburse him for three days in a rented 2005 Jeep Cherokee after the Feb. 14 auto accident, but Darr did not cash the check. He filed a class action lawsuit instead.

The insurance company told Darr it would pay $19 a day for a substitute vehicle.

“It is not appropriate to get an appropriate substitute vehicle for $19 per day,” he wrote in a complaint for miscellaneous remedy.

According to the complaint, a car hit the rear of his 2003 Ford Explorer while he waited for a traffic light at Broadway and Monument Street in Alton.

He wrote that he took his vehicle to a garage and found out repairs might take four days. He asked Affirmative to rent a vehicle, and Affirmative offered $19 a day.

Darr did not originally file the suit as a class action. He sought declaratory relief.

Through correspondence, Affirmative’s attorney, Peter Morse of Chicago, asked Darr how much he spent on a substitute vehicle. Darr sent Morse a copy of a $222.74 bill.

Morse sent Darr a $222.74 check April 8, with a request to dismiss.

If Darr had cashed the check he would have released Affirmative from all claims, but he did not cash it.

Affirmative moved to dismiss June 10. Morse argued that if Darr had an insurance problem, he should notify the Illinois insurance commissioner.

Morse wrote that Darr could sue the driver of the other vehicle, Walter Price. In that case, he wrote, Affirmative would indemnify Price.

Class action specialist T. Evan Schaeffer entered an appearance for Darr June 23.

Schaeffer filed an amended complaint July 11, alleging consumer fraud. He moved to certify Darr as representative of everyone that Affirmative harmed with its $19 rate.

Chief Judge Edward Ferguson assigned the case to Circuit Judge Phillip Kardis, but one of the parties moved for substitution. On July 20, Ferguson gave Moran the case.

Affirmative, in an Aug. 17 answer to the amended complaint, argued that Darr was not a consumer under the Illinois consumer fraud law.

Moran’s recusal bounces the case back to Ferguson for reassignment.

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