Hearing set Monday in contested First Health settlement

Amelia Flood Nov. 23, 2009, 7:00am




Madison County Circuit Judge Daniel Stack is set to once again hear arguments related to a disputed Preferred Provider Organization (PPO) class action settlement.

The settlement has already warranted three fairness hearings.

Shortly after the final fairness hearing in the case in August, an objector filed a nearly identical St. Clair County suit which the plaintiff class and defendant point to as evidence as to why Stack should give their deal the go ahead.

The hearing is set for Nov. 30 at 9 a.m.

Class member Kathleen Roche objects to the settlement agreement worked out between the class represented by chiropractors Lawrence Shipley and Richard Coy. She claims it does not financially compensate the class and that it would kill a nearly identical class action suit she heads against First Health in St. Clair County.

The proposed Shipley-Coy settlement in Madison County would grant $10,000 to each of the lead plaintiffs, nearly $600,000 in legal fees to the LakinChapman law firm that represents the class and $1.25 million to nonprofits to further medical education.

The First Health class action is one of a number that are currently pending over allegedly improper PPO reductions taken from the bills of health care providers in Madison and St. Clair counties.

Roche filed her newest St. Clair County suit over the PPO reductions two days after the August fairness hearing. The other parties to the First Health case filed a motion of supplemental authority for approval of the settlement shortly after, citing the newest suit as evidence that Roche's attorneys did not believe their own arguments to Stack about her other St. Clair case's viability.

Roche counters that the newest lawsuit has nothing to do with the First Health settlement.

The settlement fight has provided another battleground for former firm mates Robert Schmieder III and Richard Burke. Schmieder represents the Shipley-Coy class. Burke represents Roche. Burke left the Lakin firm in 2007 and has since faced his former colleagues in several cases.

Eric Brandfonbrener and Thomas Hennessy III represents First Health.

The Madison County First Health case is case number 04-L-1055.

The competing First Health case in St. Clair County is case number 07-L-224.

The newest Roche suit filed in September is St. Clair case number 09-L-452.

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