Stack sets class certification hearing for Oct. 15

Steve Gonzalez Oct. 9, 2008, 7:37am


After having a motion to certify a class action on file for almost a year, Madison County Circuit Judge Daniel Stack will hear arguments on whether he will grant the motion on Oct. 15.

Granite City chiropractor Lawrence Shipley filed the class action suit against St. Paul Fire and Marine Insurance and MetLife Auto & Home in 2003, alleging the insurance companies wrongfully and deceptively reduced payments to him by using biased computer software.

Shipley seeks to represent a class of medical providers who had payments reduced by the insurance companies.

Shipley is represented by Brad Lakin, Charles Chapman, Jeffrey Millar, Jonathan Piper and Dennis Barton III of the Lakin Law Firm in Wood River and Patrick Johnson of Giacoletto & Johnson of Collinsville.

In the motion for certification, Shipley states that MetLife recently settled a case quite similar to his on a statewide class basis in Washington.

According to Shipley, the defendants' main objection to class certification is based on speculation about conflicts that do not exist.

Shipley argues the insurance companies are worried about variations in state law, conflicts between medical providers and insureds and individual issues arising from the range of computer codes the software employs.

He argues the defense need not worry because in an effort to make the case as manageable as possible while also affording relief to the broadest number of potential class members, he has scaled back his class definition for contract purposes to include only 15 states, eliminating the personal injury protection states with variations in law.

Shipley also argues that for the purposes of the consumer fraud portion of the class he only seeks certification of an Illinois only class. In addition, Shipley argues he narrowed the range of computer codes at issue.

"This case is carefully tailored to assure maximum manageability and commonality," the certification motion states.

Shipley also argues the case should be certified because he has adequate standing.

"Plaintiff as assignee of the insured has standing and suffered damages because his bills were not paid in full," the motion states.

Shipley also argues that the class definition is adequate.

He seeks to certify a class of all persons or licensed medical providers by assignment residing in Alabama, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Missouri, Ohio, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Wisconsin who submitted a claim and had the amount reduced from Feb. 21, 1993, until the date of certification.

In addition, Shipley argues that common issues predominate because there is no need to inquire into each member's "good faith" and because the contract claims of class members outside Illinois are manageable because there are no actual conflicts of law.

Shipley also argues that varying rulings on class certification do not create a conflict of law issue.

"Class certification is discretionary, and the fact that various judges exercise their discretion differently does not create a constitutional due process issue," the motion states. "There are plenty of courts, in Illinois and elsewhere, that have certified classes in medpay UCR review cases."

The insurance companies do not want the class certified and filed a 408 page motion in opposition to class certification.

St. Paul and MetLife are represented by Gordon Broom, Troy Bozarth and Jill Sundberg of Hepler Broom in Edwardsville.

They argue Shipley has serious conflicts with the class he seeks to represent making him an inadequate class representative.

According to the defense motion, Shipley's assignor, the patient he treated, sustained no injury, therefore Shipley has no injury and lacks standing.

They also argue it would be unconstitutional to apply Illinois law to a multi-state class.

St. Paul and MetLife argue the Illinois Supreme Court decision in Avery v. State Farm held certification in a nationwide class with similar circumstances was an error and reversed the judgment against State Farm.

They also argue that another Illinois Supreme Court decision, Gridley v. State Farm, said foreign states have an interest in applying their laws in their own courts and that Illinois courts should not be burdened with applying foreign law.

St. Paul and MetLife further argue the decision in Price v. Phillip Morris had the Illinois Supreme Court rule that even an Illinois only class where issues regarding consumer fraud and contract claims raise individualized questions.

They ask that Stack deny the motion for certification.

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