Case management set in St. Clair County PPO class action against Zenith Insurance

Amelia Flood Oct. 5, 2010, 11:00am


The setting of a status conference is the first action since last year in a St. Clair County class action suit against Zenith Insurance Co. brought by plaintiff chiropractor Kathleen Roche.

In December Zenith filed a motion to dismiss the case involving allegations that the insurer allegedly gave improper Preferred Provider Organization (PPO) discounts.

The suit has been stalled since the settlement of a nearly identical case in Madison County against defendant First Health Insurance Co. Roche unsuccessfully tried to stop that settlement.

She is now appealing the First Health case at the appellate court in Mount Vernon.

The status conference in the Zenith case is set for Dec. 9 before St. Clair County Circuit Judge Patrick Young.

Both the Madison County and St. Clair County class actions center on claims that the insurers operated "silent PPO" networks and that they took improper discounts from claims submitted by Roche and other healthcare providers.

The Madison County case was filed in 2004 by the former teams of the Freed & Weiss Law Firm and Lakin Law Firm, now Lakin Chapman LLC.

Its settlement was announced last year and eventually netted $10,000 for lead plaintiff chiropractors Richard Coy and Lawrence Shipley.

Their attorneys from LakinChapman, led by Robert Schmieder III, netted more than $650,000 in fees.

The remainder of the settlement was to be paid for continuing medical education to various non profits.

Roche, represented by Schmieder's former firm mate, Richard Burke, filed an objection in April 2009 claiming the Madison County settlement was unfair.

She claimed it would shelve a competing class action against First Health that she had filed in St. Clair County.

Roche then filed the Zenith class action in St. Clair County last year as well.

Schmieder and defense attorney Eric Brandfonbrener of Perkins Coie pointed to the filing of the Zenith suit as proof that Roche's attorneys did not believe in the merit of their previously filed class actions and their arguments against the fairness of the First Health settlement in Edwardsville.

Burke claimed that Brandfonbrener had colluded with Schmieder and that the defense attorney had engaged in bad-faith settlement negotiations with Burke in Belleville.

Madison County Circuit Judge Daniel approved the $1.25 million over Roche's objection.

Zenith moved to dismiss the August 2009 class action against it, claiming that it is the fourth time Roche has tried to sue it on behalf of a class.

It claims it honored its agreements with Roche and that her claims must be overseen by a regulatory body such as the Illinois Industrial Commission.

The motion to dismiss remains pending.

The Zenith case is St. Clair case number 09-L-452.

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

The competing Roche First Health class action in St. Clair is case number 07-L-224.

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