Class actions still potent, says Lakin attorney

Steve Korris Apr. 6, 2006, 10:17am

Robert Schmieder

Judge Nicholas Byron

Class action litigation remains potent regardless of the Illinois Supreme Court decision in Avery vs. State Farm, according to the Lakin Law Firm.

"Avery has not changed class action litigation in Illinois," Robert Schmieder of the Lakin firm wrote to Madison County Circuit Judge Nicholas Byron on March 30.

Schmieder asked Byron to deny a motion to decertify a class action against GEICO.

The insurer moved last year to decertify plaintiffs Myron Billups and Patricia Singleton as representatives of a consumer class.

The Lakin firm filed the suit in 2001, claiming the insurer improperly reduced payouts on vehicles it declared as total losses.

GEICO asked Byron to postpone a decision on class certification until the Supreme Court decided the Avery case.

In Avery, a Williamson County judge and jury awarded more than $1 billion against State Farm for specifying auto parts that auto manufacturers had not made.

Byron did not wait for an Avery decision. He certified a class action against GEICO.

Last August the Illinois Supreme Court reversed the Williamson County judgment.

The Justices found that plaintiffs had not proved damages or deception. They held that the state consumer fraud law applies only to transactions in Illinois.

Byron, at a hearing in September, brought up Avery and invited GEICO to file a motion citing the decision.

GEICO moved to decertify. When the Lakin firm did not submit an opposing brief on schedule, GEICO asked Byron to grant the motion as unopposed.

At a March 9 hearing, Byron gave Schmieder another 21 days. He met the deadline.

He argued that GEICO misapplied Avery. He wrote that Avery did not overturn any Illinois class action precedent.

He wrote that class action litigation "remains a potent and important litigation tool."

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