GEICO plaintiffs fail to oppose Avery motion to decertify class

Steve Korris Mar. 9, 2006, 12:53am

Jeffrey Millar

Plaintiffs in a class action against insurer GEICO have not responded to a motion to decertify their class under the Avery decision of the Illinois Supreme Court, according to GEICO attorneys.

"Plaintiffs have failed even to oppose GEICO's motion much less advance any arguments as to why it should not be granted," attorney Joseph Brown of Edwardsville wrote to Madison County Circuit Judge Nicholas Byron in a Feb. 15 request for ruling.

Byron has set a hearing March 24.

In 2004, Byron certified plaintiffs Patricia Singleton and Myron Billups to represent drivers whose vehicles GEICO had paid off as total losses.

Byron certified a multi state class on breach of contract claims and an Illinois class on consumer fraud claims.

Billups, a St. Clair County resident, drove a Pontiac Grand Am in a 1998 crash. He sued GEICO in 2001, claiming they had undervalued his car.

Jeff Millar of the Lakin Law Firm in Wood River signed the complaint, which also listed three Chicago firms and two attorneys from Marion.

In a deposition Billups said he did not want to sue. "I didn't want to do it in the first place but it got so every night or every day somebody was calling, calling," he said.

He did not know where his case was pending. "They send me stuff," he said. "I pile it. I don't even open the envelopes."

The Lakin firm amended the complaint to add Singleton, a St. Clair County resident. Someone had stolen her Cadillac and wrecked it.

GEICO asked Byron in 2002 to postpone a decision on class certification until the Supreme Court ruled on Avery vs. State Farm, a Williamson County class action.

That decision would take three years to unfold. Last August the Court ruled that Avery and the other plaintiffs failed to prove deception or damages.

The Court threw out a verdict of more than $1 billion.

Next time the GEICO case came to Byron's court, he brought up the Avery decision. After discussion he gave GEICO 30 days to move to decertify the class actions.

He gave plaintiffs 45 days to respond to the motion.

Attorney Sheila Carmody of Phoenix filed the motion Oct. 28. "Neither Billups nor Singleton can demonstrate they were actually damaged," she wrote.

As the deadline approached for plaintiffs to respond, GEICO agreed to extend the deadline. Byron set it Jan. 31.

At the deadline, according to GEICO attorneys, plaintiffs asked for three more days and GEICO set the deadline Feb. 3.

Brown's Feb. 15 request for ruling stated that on Feb. 13 he confirmed that plaintiffs did not send a response.

"More than 100 days have passed since GEICO filed its motion to decertify – a motion that plaintiffs knew was coming," Brown wrote.

He wrote that plaintiffs forfeited the right to oppose the motion.

In support of the assertion that Singleton suffered no damage, GEICO placed in the court file excerpts from depositions of Singleton and her son, Khari Sharp.

Singleton said she paid her son $1,200 for the car. An attorney asked if she thought that was the approximate value. She said no.

Sharp said, "I wasn't going to charge my mother the full value for the car because she's my mother." He said, "I was just basically looking to get rid of it."

An attorney asked where the price came from. Sharp said, "Maybe she suggested it and I just said whatever."

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