PPO objector calls competitor's argument 'nonsense'

Amelia Flood Oct. 23, 2009, 10:48am

Swansea Chiropractor Kathleen Roche does not believe a nearly identical suit over improper preferred provider organization (PPO) discounts filed in St. Clair County means that a proposed settlement in a competing Madison County case should go through, according to a response she filed Oct. 20.

Roche, a Swansea chiropractor, is a class member in a class action brought against First Health Insurance Company by fellow chiropractors Lawrence Shipley and Richard Coy.

Madison County Circuit Judge Daniel Stack held a final fairness hearing on the settlement in late August but has yet to issue an order granting or denying it approval as of Thursday.

Attorneys for the Shipley-Coy class have reached a settlement with First Health that Roche contends is unfair and does not financially compensate the class. She also argues the Madison County settlement would scuttle a nearly identical suit against First Health she has pending in St. Clair County.

Attorneys for the Shipley-Coy class filed a motion Oct. 6 suggesting a new St. Clair lawsuit that Roche filed against Zenith Insurance Company in late August means that her own attorneys don't believe their arguments and the Madison County settlement should go through.

"The argument is nonsense," Roche's Oct. 20 response to the Oct. 6 motion reads. "Plaintiffs in their zeal to gain approval of a facially inadequate, unfair and unreasonable settlement apparently neglected to listen to the arguments of Roche counsel."

The Roche response claims that the attorneys for the Shipley-Coy class fail to cite a point of law illustrating why her new St. Clair Zenith suit is evidence in support of approval of the settlement.

"Plaintiffs' decision to settle with First Health for literally nothing denies this class a viable alternative avenue of recovery," Roche's response reads.

The Madison County settlement would give $10,000 to each of the class representatives, about $600,000 in fees to LakinChapman LLC, the firm representing the class, and $1.25 million to non-profits to further medical education.

Roche argues that if Stack approves the Shipley-Coy settlement, the Zenith class would have no legal recourse to obtain monies they claim are owed except from the suit against Zenith. Roche further argues that the filing of the Zenith case two days after the final August fairness hearing in Madison County is an argument for nixing the Shipley-Coy settlement, not allowing it.

The competing suits have provided another battle ground for a former LakinChapman firm member and his old colleagues.

Roche attorney Richard Burke was a member of the Lakin firm until 2007, and he has fought with his old fellows several times over similar suits. Burke has referenced his role in working on a number of the disputed suits in hearings in the Shipley-Coy case.

Roche, Shipley and Coy have all been the lead plaintiffs in a number of PPO discount class actions filed against insurers in both Madison and St. Clair counties.

Roche is represented by Burke in her two current St. Clair County class actions as well as her objection to the Madison County suit's settlement.

Bradley Schmeider III represents the Shipley-Coy class.

Eric Brandfonbrener and Thomas Hennessy III represent First Health.

No attorney is currently listed for Zenith in the St. Clair case.

The Shipley-Coy case is Madison case number 04-L-1055.

Roche's initial competing St. Clair class action was filed in 2007 and is St. Clair case number 07-L-224.

The latest Roche filing currently at issue is 09-L-452.

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