Ratchet case --minus complaint-- goes to trial in April

Steve Korris Jan. 19, 2006, 12:47am

Circuit Judge Daniel Stack

Cassens & Sons of Edwardsville must prepare for a trial with no complaint on file and no decision on whether jurors can award punitive damages.

Madison County Circuit Judge Daniel Stack, in a Jan. 10 order, gave plaintiffs Ronald and Phyllis Yenerich of Arkansas 14 days to amend their complaint. He set trial April 3.

Ronald Yenerich claims that when he hauled autos for Cassens, defects in trailers caused injuries to his spine, neck and shoulders
He and his wife sued Cassens and trailer maker Cottrell, of Georgia, in 2004.

Last year Circuit Judge Phillip Kardis, on his last day before retiring, signed an order granting the plaintiffs leave to seek punitive damages.

Kardis did not just allow a claim for punitive damages. He practically recommended it. His order roasted the defendants.

After Kardis retired, Chief Judge Edward Ferguson assigned the Yenerich suit and other Kardis cases to Circuit Judge Don Weber.

Cassens and Cottrell moved for reconsideration of Kardis's order, but Weber never got to hear the motion.

Attorney Brian Wendler, representing Ronald and Phyllis Yenerich, moved for a substitute judge. Weber granted the substitution.

He had to grant it, for in Illinois every party in a case can move once for substitution without cause, provided the judge has not made a substantial ruling in the case.

Ferguson then assigned the Yenerich suit to Stack.

Yenerich claims he suffered injuries in 1998 and 2000, and he claims he suffered injuries from repetitive trauma.

At a Jan. 10 hearing, Cassens and Cottrell argued that Stack should dismiss claims over the alleged 1998 injury because the statute of limitations ran out.

Stack granted the motion, but he gave Wendler two weeks to find a way to work the 1998 injury back into the complaint.

Stack wrote, "Plaintiffs agree to replead without waiving the 8/26/98 injury claim and will separate said injury from the repetitive trauma claim in the amended complaint."

At least nine plaintiffs have sued Cassens and Cottrell in Madison County since 1998. In 2004, a jury returned a $1,486,584 verdict against them for plaintiff Carl Brdar.

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