New class action filings in St. Clair County have tripled since last year, from four in 2008 to 12 so far this year.
In Madison County, the number also has increased, but not as dramatically as in neighboring St. Clair County. Seven class actions were filed in Madison County in 2008; eight so far this year.
Ed Murnane, president of the Illinois Civil Justice League, said the trend is "disturbing."
"If class actions are starting to pop back up with a disturbing frequency, that causes us some concern," he said.
While the Lakin Law Firm (renamed LakinChapman) had been the most prolific filer of class action lawsuits in local courts – the firm was responsible for most of the 106 class action cases in Madison County's peak year of 2003 – a new group of lawyers is appearing on the scene.
Robert Sprague of Belleville has filed four class action lawsuits this year – two in St. Clair County and two in Madison County involving alleged violations of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act.
Co-counsel includes Brian Wanca of Anderson and Wanca in Rolling Meadows, Phillip Bock of Bock and Hatch in Chicago and Max Margulis of Margulis Law Group in Chesterfield.
Sprague serves as the St. Clair County Democratic Central Committee chairman.
Edwardsville attorney Thomas Maag has filed four class actions this year -- three in Madison County and one in St. Clair County.
Maag's cases involve check cashing services, two suits over lending practices for personal injury claimants and another related to DVD rental fees.
Peter Maag, brother of Thomas Maag, serves as co-counsel in the suits against lenders and Redbox. Mary Kelly and Jeffrey Millar of Brent, Coon and Associates in St. Louis serve as co-counsel in the suit against Shop N Save. And, James Kelly and Millar are co-counsel in the Redbox suit.
LakinChapman is responsible for four new class actions this year -- three in Madison County and one in St. Clair County. Two involve customers who received less cash back for returning items at retail stores with lower sales tax rates than from where their purchases took place. One involves underinsured motorist policies, and the other is a preferred provider organization insurance claim.
Of the other 2009 class action suits filed in Madison and St. Clair counties, three have come from a group of lawyers associated with St. Louis attorney Richard Burke.
Burke is a former Lakin Law Firm lawyer who since his departure has teamed with former Lakin ally Freed and Weiss of Chicago on numerous cases. Their new 2009 class action cases filed in St. Clair County involve claims against makers of cold medicines and a preferred provider organization insurance claim.
Another two class action suits have been filed by attorneys John Driscoll -- formerly with Brown & Crouppen in St. Louis -- and Christopher Cueto of Belleville. The two have formed a new firm in Belleville, Driscoll and Cueto, and have jointly filed numerous product liability claims in St. Clair County.
Their class action suits take aim at Baxter over its anti-coagulant drug Heparin.
Christopher Cueto is the brother of sitting St. Clair County Circuit Judge Lloyd Cueto.
Another class action has been filed by Belleville lawyer Bernard Ysursa and Troy lawyer Pat Ducey over loan interest rate charges.
And two other cases have been filed by local lawyers on behalf of out of state lawyers in St. Clair County-- one against Sears regarding lawn mower horse power and another on behalf of Sauget residents sickened by PCB exposure.
In the Sears' case, JoDee Favre of Belleville is lead attorney. Co-counsel includes Vincent Esades, Renae Steiner and Scott Carlson of Heins, Mills and Olson in Minneapolis, Brian Sund, Joshua Hauble and Jackson Bigham of Morrison, Fenske and Sund in Minnetonka, Minn., and William London and Douglas Millen of Freed, Kanner, London and Millen in Bannockburn.
In the case brought by Sauget residents, the proposed class is represented by Robert Leslie Palmer, Gregory Cade, H. Gregory Harp, Christina Wall and Mark Rowe, of Birmingham, Ala.
Paul G. Schoen of Schoen, Walton, Telken and Foster in East St. Louis and James Wright of Austin, Texas will also be representing them.