Sign of the times: Late model Lakin class actions are scaled down

Steve Korris May 5, 2008, 1:17am


In days gone by the Lakin Law Firm of Wood River advanced loose and large class actions, but now Jeff Millar of the Lakin firm pushes a tight and tiny model.

At an April 30 class certification hearing, Millar summarized a suit against insurer Travelers Casualty and Surety as "one state, one type of coverage, one provider, one administrator."

He told Madison County Circuit Judge Daniel Stack, "That is the case, one of each."

He didn't say one year, however, for he aims to run the class period back to 1996.

His plaintiffs, chiropractors Frank Bemis and Richard Coy, claim Travelers lured them into a preferred provider network but didn't keep a promise to increase patient volume.

They propose a class action only for Illinois, only for workers compensation claims and only for claims that a third party, First Health, administered.

Still, the case doesn't look tidy to Travelers attorney Lisa Lilly of Chicago.

She told Stack individual issues would overwhelm a class action.

Lilly predicted trouble from the first step, which she said would require deciding whether each class member had a contract.

No one in the class had a contract with Travelers, she said.

Millar said Stack should address common questions on a class basis.

He showed video of Travelers second vice president Robert McHugh stating that the insurer treated all Illinois workers comp claims in a similar manner.

Millar said Travelers would highlight a decision of U.S. District Judge David Herndon, denying a class action against Integrated Health Plan.

"I know it," he said. "We handled that case."

Millar said that suit was against an administrator and this one was against an insurer.

He said Herndon found a multitude of payors and different types of coverage, but this case involved one payor and one type of coverage.

He said that case wasn't limited to Illinois and this one was.

Lilly answered that contracts in this case differed more than those Herndon read.

She said many providers amended First Health contracts during the class period.

Plaintiffs tried to construe contracts together but Illinois courts don't allow that unless the same parties signed them at the same time, she said.

Contracts imposed different obligations on different providers, she said.

Different providers had different expectations, she said.

Testimony from Coy and Bemis indicated they breached the contract, she said.

Although Coy testified he was unhappy with PPO discounts in 2003, he continued doing business with First Health through last year, she said.

Stack asked for copies of cases he hadn't read, and the hearing ended.

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