Our never-ending lawsuits

The Madison County Record Jun. 10, 2007, 10:00am

We're glad to hear that Madison County's busiest judge is set to get some summer relief.

The American Bar Association is offering Judge Dan Stack a free clerk for the summer. You don't have to audit his caseload to know the Third Circuit's asbestos chief/utilityman could use the help.

Rather, just glance at our news section. We've recently reported another doozy on the Lakin Law Firm and its former steady, Chicago-based Freed & Weiss, who are fighting endlessly over possession of lawsuits they filed together as sweethearts.

Last decade.

That's right. The two cases in question, class action fishing expeditions targeting Hartford Insurance and Farmer's Insurance, are seven and eight years old, respectively. Filed during the Clinton Administration, both are not only still lingering around the courthouse, but seemingly a long way from being resolved.

This week, Judge Stack has scheduled hearings on both cases. Again.

So what's the issue? Why on earth are the wheels of justice grinding so slowly?

This time, it's The Break-up. The Lakins and Freed & Weiss are wooing individual plaintiffs, who get to technically choose which law firm gets "custody" of their cases once they've gone their separate ways for good.

In both of these dusty lawsuits, which include multiple plaintiffs, the folks involved are split. In the Hartford case, Winnie Madison is going with the Lakins and Geraldine Huff picked Freed & Weiss. In the Farmer's suit, Maria Hernandez wants Freed & Weiss and Sallie Lewis picked the Lakins. Or so they say.

It's no secret that these plaintiffs aren't active drivers of these cases but mere pawns. Far from crusading customers, they are convenient mules typically hand-picked to carry lawyer-devised "fraud" claims. For the Winnies and Geraldines of the world, the incentive is a big future payday for themselves. That's if their representation can manage to get Stack to certify the class, virtually guaranteeing a hearty-if-strong-armed settlement, rich in legal fees.

Which explains the method in this madness. Cases like these are plaintiff's lawyer-loitered-to-death because it pays to do so. They're like lottery tickets, albeit with a renewable expiration date.

Call it something to think about the next time you're kept waiting for real justice down at the courthouse.

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