Belleville attorney objects to toxic tort billboard

Ann Knef Apr. 12, 2007, 4:00am

A billboard on Route 3 in Cahokia was covered up following a St. Clair County judge's order

A loud billboard that advertised for toxic tort plaintiffs along Route 3 in Cahokia was ordered removed by a St. Clair County judge on Monday.

Belleville attorney Bernard J. Ysursa, a plaintiff's lawyer who has practiced law for 39 years, filed a complaint against Alabama attorney Phillip G. Estes and Viacom Outdoor (also known as CBS Outdoor) over bold signage entitled, "Toxic Waste Lawsuit."

The sign read: "Over $500 million already paid out. If you lived/worked in Cahokia/Sauget area for 5 years call for free application. 1-888-77-TOXIC. Or send a self addressed stamped envelope to P.O. Box 1012 Fenton, MO 63026. No representation is made that the quality of legal services offered is greater than that offered by other lawyers."

Associate Judge Andrew Gleeson signed a temporary restraining order effective at 1:30 p.m. April 9 ordering the sign be removed or covered. A preliminary injunction hearing is set for April 19 when the restraining order expires.

In Ysursa's April 9 complaint, he argued that Estes acted illegally in putting up the billboard because he is not licensed to practice in Illinois.

Gleeson's order restrains Estes from providing legal services in Illinois until he acquires an Illinois attorney's license.

"Defendant Estes' actions are illegal, are an invasion of the franchise enjoyed by plaintiff and contrary to the rights of the plaintiff, all other attorneys at law, the public, and the courts, and tend to bring the legal profession and the administration of justice and law into bad repute," Ysursa wrote.

He also argued that the billboard constitutes unfair competition and unfair or deceptive acts or practices under the Illinois Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act.

And, he argued that the billboard fails to disclose material facts, such as that communications between a potential injury claimant and defendant may not be privileged, given the fact that Estes is not licensed in Illinois.

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