Paying for unneeded protection

The Madison County Record Sep. 10, 2011, 4:41am

If you've ever been to downtown St. Louis, or any similar downtown area, you may have encountered the young urban entrepreneur. When you park on the street in a slightly seedy area, he mysteriously appears just as you're stepping out of your car and offers to "watch" it for a reasonable fee.

The first time you encounter this phenomenon, it may perplex you and prompt an inquiry as to why you would want someone to "watch" your car.

The young urban entrepreneur has a ready response: "So nothing happens to it."

What could possibly happen?

"Someone might throw a brick through the windshield."

This is an eventuality that you probably had not foreseen. And yet, you're unlikely to feel a sense of gratitude for the warning and the proffer of service.

In fact, you're likely to detect something sinister, even threatening in the offer.

You may surmise that what seemed like an unlikely prospect of damage to your car is almost certainly a foregone conclusion – unless, of course, someone is paid to "watch" it.

You may conclude that you have no choice but to reward the young urban entrepreneur for his initiative and industry. If you're given to speculation, you may wonder about what choices he makes as an adult. Will he find ways to expand his protection racket skills or will he look to getting a higher education and mend his ways-maybe even become an attorney?

He could observe the activities of the LakinChapman law firm in Wood River that specializes in questionable class action suits against vulnerable businesses such as the one against Pekin Insurance on behalf of a group of chiropractors led by perpetual plaintiff Frank Bemis.

Madison County Circuit Judge William Mudge may have reduced LakinChapman's fee from $200,000 to $166,666, but that's still one third of the $500,000 settlement that Pekin Insurance has to pay to protect itself against legal attacks.

Unfortunately some lawsuits are much cheaper to settle than fight and the suing lawyers emerge as the big winners in the game of jackpot justice. Eventually the consumer, you, pays for it in higher prices for goods and services.

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