Dynamic suing duo fizzling in court

Steve Korris Aug. 24, 2006, 3:05pm

Judge Nicholas Byron

For a while Armettia Peach and Ashley Peach looked like the most successful mother and daughter team since the Judds, but their act has lost its sizzle.

The Peaches did not sing. They sued.

Through the Lakin Law Firm mother Armettia Peach proposed a class action against CIM Insurance in a case that would reach the United States Supreme Court.

Through the Lakin firm she alleged a fraud on which Madison County Circuit Judge Andy Matoesian ordered Granite City to pay her more than $100,000.

Through the Lakin firm daughter Ashley Peach proposed class actions against K-Mart, Wal-Mart and Fashion Bug, for refusing to give change on gift cards.

The Lakin firm even cast a supporting role for Armettia Peach's friend Chad Carpenter, proposing to certify him as leader of yet another class action.

Now the Peaches and their attorneys have nothing to show but whatever scraps they gathered by settling with Fashion Bug.

The U.S. Supreme Court in June kicked Armettia Peach's class action back to Madison County for a fresh start in a court less receptive to class actions than in 2002, when she accused CIM of cheating.

Last year Judge Matoesian declared his judgment against Granite City void.

Carpenter's proposed class action against Nissan Motors Acceptance stopped dead in 2004, although no one ever closed it.

Ashley Peach's class actions against K-Mart and Wal-Mart hang by a thread. Both gift cards still carry the balances she claims the stores withheld.

K-Mart and Wal-Mart moved last year to dismiss, but each time Circuit Judge Nicholas Byron set a hearing the Lakin firm asked for a delay.

Byron tried again, setting the motions Aug. 18.

On Aug. 17, according to the docket, a defense attorney notified Byron that the parties had agreed to continue because, "Opposing counsel had family emergency."

The docket did not identify opposing counsel.

Jeff Millar of the Lakin firm is counsel of record, but the signature on the most recent brief remains mysterious because Peach filed it under seal.

Mystery also clings to the brief because Jennifer Kingston, representing Wal-Mart and K-Mart, alleged in an Aug. 10 brief that parts of it were contrary to law.

The emergency involved more than a day, for the agreement also cancelled a case management conference Byron had set Aug. 23.

In the case that reached the Supreme Court, Armettia Peach bought a 1999 Jeep Cherokee from Enterprise Leasing with "extended protection" from CIM Insurance.

She claimed the contract falsely represented that her payment would pass through to CIM when in fact part of it stayed with Enterprise.

CIM moved to dismiss. CIM also moved to compel arbitration, arguing that Peach's contract included an arbitration clause.

Byron in 2003 ruled that CIM could not enforce the arbitration clause because CIM did not sign the contract.

In 2004 the Fifth District appellate court affirmed Byron.

In 2005 CIM petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court for a writ of certiorari that would lead to review of the facts in Washington.

This June, the Supreme Court denied the writ.

Byron on June 28 gave Peach 45 days to respond to the motion to dismiss.

Fifty-one days later, on Aug. 18, Peach asked Byron for an extension.

Meanwhile, appellate judges of the Fifth District try to sort out the case in which Matoesian entered and voided a default judgment.

Thomas Maag of the Lakin firm filed the suit in 2004, claiming water leaked through a roof of Peach's house at 9 Briarcliff Lane in Granite City.

She sued Kevin Link, who formerly owned the house, and David Lambert, who remodeled it for Link.

She also sued unknown Granite City housing inspectors, claiming they should not have issued an occupancy permit.

Granite City did not respond to the suit. Peach conditionally dismissed Link and Lambert, and asked Matoesian for default judgment against the city.

Matoesian granted default judgment. He ruled that the purchase price was $70,000 and repairs cost $8,242.50.

He awarded legal fees of $26,016.67, bringing the total to $104,259.17.

When Maag sent the bill to Granite City, the city moved to vacate the judgment.

Attorney Jane Unsell argued that claims against unknown inspectors did not constitute claims against the city and that Peach sought no relief from the city.

Peach's claim lost credibility last year when the Madison County Record reported that Carpenter bought the property for $68,900 and conveyed it to Peach by quit claim deed with no payment.

Link told the Record that Peach gave him $20,000 in $20 bills as a down payment, but that at the closing she said Carpenter would buy the property.

Matoesian declared the order void. Maag appealed.

Granite City asked Matoesian to stay the proceedings pending a decision from the Fifth District. Matoesian granted that, and again Maag appealed.

In the strangest twist yet, Peach fired Maag from one appeal and kept him on the other.

On Jan. 27, Peach moved to substitute for Maag in her appeal of Matoesian's decision to void her default judgment.

Maag had left the Lakin firm and joined the firm of Wendler & Ezra.

New attorney Amanda Bradley Verett wrote that Peach "…has chosen not to remain with attorney Maag at his new firm…"

Three days later Peach declared in the appeal of Matoesian's order to stay the proceedings that she chose to remain with Maag.

Seven days later Peach excused both Maag and the Lakin firm from her first appeal.

Three days later Peach excused the Lakin firm in the second appeal and substituted Maag and his firm.

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