Stack takes insurance class certification under advisement

Steve Gonzalez Nov. 21, 2008, 12:57am

Madison County Circuit Judge Daniel J. Stack has given lawyers 21 days to file supplemental pleadings after hearing arguments on whether to certify a 15-state class action.

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.

The motion to certify the case has been pending for more than a year.

During the certification hearing, lawyers for Shipley argued that MetLife recently settled a similar case on a statewide class basis in Washington.

Lakin argued the defendants' main objection to class certification is based on conflicts that don't exist.

He said the contract portion of the case has been scaled back to include only 15 states to make it as manageable as possible to afford relief to the broadest number of potential class members.

Lakin also said he is seeking an Illinois-only certification on the consumer fraud question.

Shipley 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.

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 argued Shipley has serious conflicts with the class he seeks to represent.

According to the defense, Shipley's assignor, the patient he treated, sustained no injury, therefore Shipley has no injury and lacks standing to bring the case in the first place.

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

St. Paul and MetLife argued 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 argued 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 argued 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 asked that Stack deny the motion for certification.

Stack said he would take the matter under advisement after the supplemental briefings are filed with the clerk.

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