Lakin firm to collect $660,000 in class fees

Steve Korris Oct. 26, 2006, 11:52am

Citibank Corporation has settled a class action suit by pledging to send $30 to every borrower who paid a freight fee and $660,000 to attorneys who filed the suit.

Madison County Circuit Judge Andy Matoesian granted preliminary approval Sept. 22 to an agreement between Citibank and the Lakin Law Firm of Wood River.

Lakin client Carmelita McLaughlin of Alton sued Citibank in 2003, claiming the $27 fee she paid for transportation of documents in the closing of a loan exceeded the bank's actual cost.

Vincent Rapp signed the complaint, which also carried the names of Lakin firm founder Tom Lakin, son Brad Lakin and Lakin attorney Richard Burke.

Four Chicago attorneys and Timothy Campbell of Godfrey also put their names on it.

Rapp moved to certify McLaughlin as representative of a plaintiff class.

McLaughlin had proposed a similar suit in 2003 against Alliance Mortgage, over $30 fees the lender charged for facsimile transmissions.

She had closed her loan at Centerre Title, a company that attorney Emert Wyss owned and operated next to his law office in Alton.

The Lakin firm filed her complaints and about 25 others over fees on mortgages from 2002 through 2004.

At the Lakin firm's request, Wyss had searched files at Centerre Title to identify and sign up class action plaintiffs.

Wyss did not put his name on the complaints, though he stood to collect a tenth of the proceeds.

Later, after Alliance Mortgage charged conflict of interest, Wyss renounced any fees.

Citibank removed McLaughlin's complaint to federal court in East St. Louis, but U.S. District Judge Michael Reagan remanded it.

Citibank moved to dismiss. Matoesian denied the motion in 2004.

Gary Peel, leader of the Lakin firm's class action team, argued for class certification in a memorandum of Sept. 16, 2004.

Attorneys agreed in November 2004 that after 30 days of class certification discovery, Citibank would have 45 days to reply and McLaughlin would respond 21 days after that.

Citibank attorney Joseph Whyte of Edwardsville filed his reply in March, a little late.

Paul Marks of the Lakin filed his response not in 21 days but in September.

For nearly a year nothing happened in the case except Peel's withdrawal as counsel of record after a federal grand jury indicted him on charges of bankruptcy fraud, obstruction of justice and possession of child pornography.

This Aug. 9, the parties reached agreement. On Sept. 22, they presented it to Matoesian.

Marks said Citibank would pay $30 to Citibank borrowers who paid freight fees from April 1, 1998, to May 1, 2003.

Marks said borrowers must submit claim forms.

He said he would ask Matoesian to order an award of legal fees not to exceed $660,000.

He said McLaughlin would receive $750 for serving as class representative.

Matoesian set a fairness hearing Dec. 22.

Another settlement

Lakin attorneys settled another class action claim in October, though details of the settlement did not appear in the court record.

In that case, Madison County resident Clifton Moore claimed Shelter Insurance cheated him after an auto accident turned his Cadillac into a total loss.

Moore sued Shelter and CCC Information Services in 2001. He alleged that Shelter obtained below market values on vehicles from CCC.

Jeffrey Millar of the Lakin firm signed the complaint, which also carried the names of Lakin firm founder Tom Lakin, son Brad Lakin, and eight attorneys from other firms.

Shelter attorney Joseph Whyte moved to dismiss, claiming Moore suffered no damages.

Whyte argued that when Moore complained about CCC's $3,350 evaluation of his 1987 Cadillac DeVille, Shelter gave him $3,850 and Moore accepted without complaint.

In 2002, Moore dismissed CCC Information Services.

Thomas Maag of the Lakin firm amended the complaint in 2003, but the case stalled for two years. Maag amended again in 2005, adding Daniel Mainer as a plaintiff.

Shelter attorney Anthony Martin of St. Louis moved to dismiss this May 19. He wrote that Shelter paid Mainer $800 more than the value in the price book of the National Auto Dealers Association.

The parties announced a settlement to Associate Judge Ralph Mendelsohn on Oct. 13. Mendelsohn signed an order dismissing the case.

More News