Insurers agree to pay $92 million in class settlement

Steve Korris Jan. 2, 2006, 11:45pm

Lakin attorney Richard Burke

Automobile insurers have agreed to pay about $92 million to settle a Madison County class action suit over the values the insurers assigned to wrecked vehicles.

Motorists who accepted payouts on "total loss" crashes will qualify for up to $132 under a pair of orders that Associate Circuit Judge Ralph Mendelsohn signed Dec. 20.

The settlement covers dozens of insurers. About four million persons have received mailed notices of it.

The settlement provides more than $16 million for class counsel at the Lakin Law Firm of Wood River and four Chicago firms.

Mendelsohn's first order covered 10 separate class action suits from 2001 through 2003. His second order covered a single class action suit from 2003.

Plaintiffs alleged that insurers obtained biased valuation reports from CCC Information Services and improperly reduced the value of vehicles they declared total losses.

The settlement requires CCC to employ someone to monitor its total loss valuation methods for five years.

Mendelsohn normally does not hear class action cases. Chief Judge Edward Ferguson assigned these to Mendelsohn after attorneys consolidated them for settlement.

The lead attorney in the ten consolidated cases was Richard Burke of the Lakin firm. The lead attorney in the other case was William Harte of Chicago.

Burke wrote to Mendelsohn that, "After years of hard fought litigation and years of arms length negotiations, the parties reached a Settlement Agreement…"

He wrote that the agreement relied on an expert examination of 189,124 total losses.

Burke estimated the settlement value of his ten suits at $52 million, and the value of the combined settlement at $92 million.

He wrote that defendants in his ten cases would pay $9.5 million in legal fees and expenses to the Lakin firm and Freed and Weiss of Chicago.

In the other case, Harte wrote to Mendelsohn that his firm and two other firms in Chicago would receive $6.6 million.

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