Reagan denies LakinChapman's motion to strike in H&R class

Steve Korris Aug. 12, 2010, 7:44am


EAST ST. LOUIS – U.S. District Judge Michael Reagan has denied a motion from the LakinChapman firm to strike six affidavits and 50 exhibits H&R Block submitted after a class certification hearing.

"The motion does not serve to refine issues and aid in a more expeditious resolution of this matter," Reagan wrote on Aug. 4.

"Rather, the motion has generated another round of briefing that the Court must read before it can reach the merits of plaintiffs' motion for class certification," he wrote.

"Stated simply, no piecemeal and time consuming editing is needed," he wrote.

"The Court is well able to distinguish and disregard any exhibits and affidavits that are inadmissible for purposes of determining class certification issues or are otherwise improper," he wrote.

The former Lakin Law Firm sued H&R Block companies in 2001, in Madison County, on behalf of Lorie Marshall and Debra Ramirez.

They claimed H&R Block sold unnecessary "peace of mind" coverage guaranteeing a defense against the Internal Revenue Service in case of error.

Associate Judge Ralph Mendelsohn certified national plaintiff and defendant classes, but later decertified the defendant class and shrank the plaintiff class to 11 states.

H&R Block Tax Services, the only remaining defendant, removed the case to federal court under the national Class Action Fairness Act.

H&R Block argued that Mendelsohn turned an old case into a new one for purposes of the Act, which steers new multi state actions from state courts to federal courts.

Reagan disagreed and remanded the case to Madison County, but Seventh Circuit appeals judges in Chicago reversed him and ordered him to preside over it.

Reagan scrapped Mendelsohn's order and held a class certification hearing on April 30.

H&R Block lawyers sprang surprising evidence on plaintiff lawyers and also surprised Reagan, who pronounced a pox on both houses.

He asked for affidavits of authentication, and H&R Block delivered abundantly.

In June, LakinChapman teammate Frank Janecek of San Diego moved to strike the affidavits and the exhibits.

"Block's new affidavits describe and comment on entirely new documents that were not in the record at the time of the hearing," Janecek wrote.

LakinChapman lawyer Mark Brown has also argued the case.

For H&R Block, John Clear of St. Louis answered that the exhibits established beyond doubt that preparers did not follow a uniform script as plaintiffs alleged.

He wrote that preventing the court from considering vital evidence on procedural rules was hypocritical and unfair.

Reagan agreed.

"A review of plaintiffs' motion and the exhibits that plaintiffs seek to strike leads the Court to conclude that this is not the rare case where a motion to strike should be granted," he wrote.

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