Truck's damages not figured by software program, insurer argues

Steve Korris Sep. 1, 2006, 8:04am

Five years after the Lakin Law Firm sued insurer AIG over the value of a wrecked truck, the firm still does not understand how AIG figured the value, according to AIG's latest brief.

The Lakin firm proposed a class action in 2001, claiming AIG cheated plaintiff Kerry Hanke with biased computer software.

AIG attorney Joseph Whyte of Edwardsville on Aug. 17 wrote, "Quite simply, Plaintiff did not have his truck valued using the 'biased' software which he seeks to attack."

According to Whyte the insurer lacked enough data to calculate Hanke's truck value through valuation software.

Whyte wrote that the software required a sample of 30 comparable vehicles. He wrote that a search after Hanke's wreck turned up seven sales.

Lacking a full sample, Whyte wrote, AIG properly obtained dealer quotes and based its valuation on those.

Whyte submitted the brief to Madison County Circuit Judge Nicholas Byron in support of a motion for summary judgment.

His brief responded to one the Lakin firm filed under seal Aug. 3.

Whyte wrote that under last year's Illinois Supreme Court decision in Avery v. State Farm, Hanke could not prove that he was deceived or damaged.

The Avery decision overturned a $1.2 billion class action verdict from Williamson County and knocked the props out from under class action litigation.

Whyte also relied on this year's Illinois Supreme Court decision overturning Byron's $10 billion verdict in Price v. Philip Morris, a suit over "light cigarettes."

The Supreme Court ruled in Price that a state court could not hold cigarette makers liable for promoting light cigarettes because the Federal Trade Commission defined "light" and specifically authorized use of the word.

Whyte wrote that AIG "…followed a valuation methodology explicitly approved for determining actual cash value in the Illinois insurance regulations…"

He disputed a Lakin firm claim that AIG should have used a Kelly Blue Book or a National Automobile Dealers Association guide.

Those guides come out every three months, he wrote, and Illinois law required quotes from a guide published at least once every two months.

He wrote that, "…their only option was to use dealer quotes."

He disputed a Lakin firm claim that AIG improperly relied on two dealer quotes when it obtained more than two quotes.

He wrote that state regulations required at least two quotes but did not require AIG to base a settlement on all the quotes it obtained.

He wrote that Hanke cited nothing in support of a fraud claim but his complaint.

"A complaint is not evidence," he wrote.

He derided a claim from the Lakin firm's brief that the two dealer quotes were "averaged automatically" by a computer.

He wrote, "A computer program that does nothing more than a calculator by adding two numbers together and then dividing by two is plainly not the 'biased' computer software of which Plaintiff complains."

He wrote, "After all, he does not question that the computer averaged the two figures correctly."

Whyte submitted his brief a day before a scheduled hearing on his motion for summary judgment in Byron's court.

On the hearing date the parties agreed to continue the hearing.

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