Pair of class actions up for hearing in Madison, St. Clair counties

Steve Korris Aug. 4, 2008, 1:00am



Two judges in two counties will hold hearings two days apart in two identical class actions from two law firms.

Madison County Circuit Judge David Hylla has set an Aug. 4 hearing on a Lakin Law Firm motion to reconsider an order staying a lawsuit against Country Mutual Insurance in deference to a suit Kevin Hoerner of Belleville pursues in St. Clair County.

St. Clair County Associate Judge Andrew Gleeson has set an Aug. 6 hearing on a motion to dismiss Hoerner's suit, Roche v. Country Mutual.

Both suits popped up last year as carbon copies of one the Lakin firm dismissed after Country Mutual removed it from Madison County to U.S. district court.

As Brad Lakin struggles to retain control of the litigation, he risks reopening the legal contest he waged all last year with the Chicago firm of Freed and Weiss.

Although the firms settled their fee dispute and resumed cooperation, the Lakins now allege that Freed and Weiss hijacked this case.

To soften the sting of the charge, the Lakins submitted the motion through Charles Chapman, who does not work for the Lakins but practices at the same address.

Chapman alleged that former Lakin lawyer Richard Burke dismissed the federal case while he secretly planned to pursue a separate case with Paul Weiss, of Freed and Weiss.

"The dismissal which effected that plan was filed on December 29, 2006," Chapman wrote. "Mr. Burke was terminated from LLF on January 4, 2007."

Chapman failed to mention that Burke didn't dismiss the suit. Brad Lakin dismissed it.

Chapman also challenged Weiss's competency, claiming that two federal judges entered orders last year identifying procedural errors that Weiss committed in other cases.

A federal judge in California restricted a class action to individual claims only because Freed and Weiss missed a deadline to move for class certification, Chapman wrote.

U.S. District Judge David Herndon of East St. Louis ordered Weiss to explain why he hadn't complied with an order to deliver a remand order to the federal Judicial Panel on Multi-District Litigation, Chapman wrote.

"Staying this litigation pending the Roche case, represented by these same attorneys is not in the best interest of the putative class, particularly in light of these orders," Chapman wrote.

While Chapman alleges that Burke and Weiss initiated the competing suit in St. Clair County, court records don't support the charge.

Hoerner's name appears alone as plaintiff counsel.

The suits allege that Country Mutual improperly discounted medical bills from car crashes.

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