Kill the dead plaintiff case

The Madison County Record Mar. 9, 2008, 8:00am

Plaintiff's lawyer Jeff Millar is nothing if not determined. How long should the court allow him to be?

As reported by our Steve Korris last week, the Lakin Law Firm class action profligate has filed a sixth amended complaint in his infamous eight-year-old case against American Family Insurance, alleging improperly reduced payouts on medical bills from car crashes.

The lawsuit is well-known around the courthouse, not for the substance of its claim or its prominent defendant but, rather, Millar's curious plaintiff.

Or his lack of one.

Class representative Manny Hernandez died of a heart attack in 2004.

It took two years for the court to learn of his death. American Family--not Millar--notified Judge Dan Stack in 2006.

That he had been pursuing a lawsuit on behalf of a corpse was news to Millar. Apparently, the lawyer hadn't been sharing much legal strategy with his client, unless they were channeling.

Hernandez' death didn't slow "his" lawyer down one iota.

Millar went hunting for new plaintiffs to carry his lawsuit. His resurfacing in court now--two years later, and four years after Hernandez' death--means he's finally found them.

Five chiropractors, none from Madison County, will take Hernandez' place. All allege they were cheated on reimbursements by American Family.

One claims the company paid just $39 on a $40 bill, cheating him out of a whole dollar. Two others say the company owes them $4 each.

Such are the travesties Jeff Millar has spent eight years and countless court hours trying to uncover.

It seems embarrassing enough that our court would tolerate these charades, in which lawyers allege that the class actions are concocted on behalf of someone other than themselves. But that seems to be the reality, even when the lawyers are this open and blatant about their motives.

Self-serving crusades like the American Family case give our courts a bad name. Our judges shouldn't take them with a shrug. This case should be dismissed and a message finally should be sent: we won't tolerate lawyer-driven litigation in Madison County.

For now we aren't holding our breath.

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