Rewarding frivolous filings

The Madison County Record Jul. 18, 2009, 12:23pm

$1.25 million to charity. $10,000 to serial plaintiff Lawrence Shipley. $650,000 to demanding lawyers. That's the settlement proposed for a five-year-old Lakin Law Firm-spawned class action suit which is back in Madison County court this week for another swing at resolution.

That's the deal for the plaintiff's lawyers. The lawsuit filed against First Health Insurance Company on behalf of chiropractors who claim they were cheated out of due compensation won't resolve anything for the public. Lakin & Co. didn't convince anyone of anything beyond knowing how to drag out a case long enough to make the target willing to pay for it to go away.

First Health has spent hundreds of thousands, if not millions, defending itself against a seemingly meritless suit brought by two of Madison County's most skilled pot-stirrers. The Lakin firm--teamed with Granite City chiropractor Lawrence Shipley, who has filed 15 similar lawsuits in the past decade--are hard to shake.

We feel for First Health. It wants out of this morass, to put Edwardsville in the rear-view mirror, never to see it again. Paying a few million to move on may seem worth it at this point. But where does that leave Madison County? Is it fair to taxpayers funding these courts? To the people who remain here, stuck with a crippled justice system?

Consider that the Lakin lawyers will pocket $650,000 for accomplishing little. They brought a lawsuit they didn't prove; they gummed up courtrooms and ate up judges' time for five years; they cost a targeted company lots of money-- raising costs to the detriment of its customers.

It may pay to be one of the frivolous lawsuit-filing plaintiff's lawyers, but why do you have to pick up part of the tab? Cases like this demonstrate that justice system reforms are needed a lot more than lawsuits that benefit only a special few.

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