Weber relies on Avery and Gridley in limiting reach of class action

Steve Gonzalez May 25, 2006, 10:24am

Retired Judge Phillip Kardis

Relying on two powerful Illinois Supreme Court decisions, Circuit Judge Don Weber has turned a nationwide class action case filed in Madison County into an Illinois-only action.

On Wednesday, Weber amended the class certification order in Booher v. United Life Insurance signed by former judge Phil Kardis in April of 2003.

Christopher Booher claims that United Life cheated him when he bought credit insurance on an auto loan at Four Flags Motors, by secretly kicking back a portion of the insurance payment to Four Flags.

Kardis certified Booher to represent plaintiffs in Illinois and 17 other states.

Kardis retired before the case came to trial. All his cases passed to Weber.

Last year the Illinois Supreme Court ripped to shreds a billion dollar case, Avery v. State Farm, ruling that a Williamson County court erred in certifying it as a nationwide class.

In Gridley, the high court reversed lower court rulings and remanded a Louisiana man's case against State Farm Insurance back to Madison County with directions to dismiss the complaint based on forum non conveniens.

In his order Weber wrote, "Contrary to the position of the plaintiff, the court believes that the Supreme Court did modify Illinois class action law when it announced its Avery decision."

"It cautioned the trial courts in class action cases from entertaining multi-state claims," Weber wrote.

"In Gridley, the Supreme Court reversed a Fifth District Appellate Court order written by then Justice Maag remanding the case back to the trial court for further discovery on the certification issue."

"Both Avery and Gridley appear to impose new and significant obstacles to certifying the class and then conducting discovery to limit the class and to class certification of multi-state class actions in general," Weber wrote.

Weber also notes that since changes have been made he believes he is obligated to review Kardis' class certification order.

"This is not to say that this court is free to completely disregard the prior decision," Weber wrote. "This court is free to disregard the prior ruling of Judge Kardis only to the extent that the prior ruling is erroneous as a matter of law."

"The clear import of the Supreme Court's Avery and Gridley rulings is that the people of Illinois, in this case residents, taxpayers and possible jurors in Madison County, have little or no interest in adjudicating the consumer fraud statutory claims of allegedly wronged citizens of foreign states."

"Given the paucity of evidence in this record that the contractual language is identical, or nearly so, this Court will exercise its discretion and limit the class to all persons or entities who reside in Illinois."

"To do otherwise would create practical problems which clearly outweigh the need for Madison County Courts and citizens to be so burdened."

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