Safeco class action remanded to Madison County

Steve Korris Jul. 14, 2009, 2:36am


EAST ST. LOUIS – Madison County Circuit Judge Barbara Crowder has regained jurisdiction over a LakinChapman class action against Safeco Insurance.

U.S. District Judge Patrick Murphy remanded the case to Crowder on July 8, less than three months after Safeco removed it from Crowder's court.

LakinChapman's class representative, chiropractor Frank Bemis, claims Safeco software wrongly reduced two of his bills from $75 to $65.95.

Bemis sued in 2005, seeking damages from Safeco Insurance Company of America and Safeco Insurance Company of Illinois.

This March, Crowder certified a class action against "all Safeco property and casualty insurance companies" that used the software.

She included 14 states in the class and started the class period in 1997.

Safeco removed the case to federal court in April, claiming Crowder added nine new Safeco affiliates to the case.

Safeco argued that Crowder turned it into a new case for purposes of the national Class Action Fairness Act, which directs most new class actions to federal court.

Murphy didn't follow the insurer's logic.

He wrote that "it is disingenuous for Safeco to pretend that prior to the state court's grant of class certification it had no reason to believe that Bemis intended to try to hold Safeco liable for the acts of affiliated companies."

"This has been apparent since the outset of this litigation in 2005," he wrote.

"Examples of Safeco's awareness that liability in this case encompassed liability for the acts of affiliates abound in the record and could easily be multiplied here, but there is no reason to do so."

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