Dead class rep replaced with band of seven chiropractors

Steve Korris Nov. 30, 2007, 6:11am

Jeff Millar

Lakin Law Firm attorneys pursuing a Madison County class action with a dead class representative for almost four years have found seven living chiropractors to replace him.

Jeff Millar of the Lakin firm moved Nov. 15 to substitute the seven for the late Manuel Hernandez in a class action against American Family Mutual Insurance.

Hernandez died in 2004, two years after Madison County Circuit Judge certified him as class representative.

He had alleged that American Family Insurance improperly reduced payouts on medical bills for accident victims.

The Lakins didn't know he died, or they knew and didn't tell the court.

Stack held hearings and signed orders in the case after Hernandez died.

American Family Insurance reported his death to Stack last year.

The Lakins offered Helen Nemeth of Ohio as substitute, but they withdrew her and offered the plaintiff's widow, Nora Hernandez.

Stack denied substitution for the widow because she didn't belong to the class.

Former Lakin lawyer Richard Burke, who had sued the Lakins in January after they fired him, then tried to snatch the case away from them.

He offered Nemeth and local chiropractor Dawn Robinson as substitutes.

Burke mocked the failure of the Lakins to replace Hernandez, but he didn't know they had gathered a whole band of plaintiffs.

Millar proposed to certify Charles Smith of Illinois, Greenville Rehab and Pain Clinic of Illinois, BreAnn Moddes of Arizona, East Washington Chiropractic of Indiana, Kruse and Manley Clinic of Iowa, Charles Vifquain of Missouri, and Henderson Chiropractic of Nevada as class representatives.

Stack must evaluate the competing plaintiffs.

He must also consider a challenge from American Family Insurance to the adequacy of the Lakin firm as class counsel.

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