Freed and Weiss of Chicago is being sued in St. Clair County by two law firms claiming they have been defrauded out of class action attorneys' fees.
Edward T. Joyce and Associates of Chicago and The Patchett Law Office of Marion claim they were part of a group of law firms that filed a "significant" amount of class action suits in 1999.
Most of the suits involved one of three different types of claims, according to the complaint filed April 13 in St. Clair County Circuit Court.
In the first type, total loss cases, the plaintiffs filed suits against various insurance companies because the companies allegedly used a computer program to undervalue their automobiles. When the clients' submitted claims for automobiles that were damaged beyond repair in accidents, the companies allegedly underpaid for the claims.
Secondly, the two law firms represented clients in med-pay cases. In these cases, clients claimed that insurance companies used a computer program to undervalue their medical expenses after an accident. Therefore, the amount of money they were reimbursed for medical bills was allegedly lowered.
Finally, there were paint delamination cases. This type of case involved claims by car owners who alleged the paint on their vehicles was peeling away and separating from other coatings after being exposed to long-term sun exposure.
Most of the suits were filed in Madison or St. Clair County Circuit Courts with the help of the Lakin Law Firm and defendant Freed and Weiss and Paul Weiss, the suit states.
However, without the knowledge of either Edward T. Joyce and Associates or The Patchett Law Office, Freed and Weiss entered into an agreement with the Lakin Firm to form a partnership to file and prosecute a series of class action cases, the two firms allege.
Both law firms remained unaware of the partnership until 2007 when they noticed a lawsuit Freed and Weiss filed against the Lakin Firm over a fee dispute.
In the complaint, Freed and Weiss admitted to entering into a partnership. As part of the partnership, Freed and Weiss agreed to evenly split all attorneys' fees evenly between it and the Lakin Firm, the complaint said.
"Defendants' deliberate failure to disclose their 'partnership' arrangement with the Lakin Firm evidences an early intention to keep attorneys' fees paid in the Madison/St. Clair Class Actions to themselves, to the exclusion of Plaintiffs," the suit states.
Edward T. Joyce and Associates and The Patchett Law Office say Freed and Weiss and the Lakin Firm collected attorneys' fees after settling class action cases without disclosing them and without paying Edward T. Joyce and Associates and The Patchett Law Office attorneys' fees they are due as co-counsel.
"Plaintiffs have contributed their reputation, financial resources, effort skill and knowledge for the purpose of representing the plaintiffs and the putative classes in pursuing the Madison/St. Clair Class Actions," the suit states.
Since then, Freed and Weiss has still refused to pay attorneys' fees to the two firms and has refused to identify which cases have been resolved, according to the suit.
In the six-count suit, Edward T. Joyce and Associates and the Patchett Law Office is asking the court to order Freed and Weiss to provide an accounting of status of each of the Madison and St. Clair County class action lawsuits and an accounting of all the money they received in attorneys' fees.
They are also asking the court to enter a judgment creating a constructive trust over all assets and property of Freed and Weiss and to deem Edward T. Joyce and Associates and the Patchett Law Office beneficiaries of the trust.
They are also seeking a judgment in excess of $200,000 and other relief the court deems just.
Robert J. Sprague of Sprague and Urban in Belleville will be representing them.
St. Clair County Circuit Court case number: 09-L-0187.