Heather Isringhausen Gvillo Dec. 22, 2015, 9:37am


With a little over a week left of the year, roughly 1,641 cases have been filed in the Law Division of the Madison County Circuit Court so far in 2015.

The Law Division is a division of the court’s civil docket in which plaintiffs seek damages in excess of $50,000.

This number is down by almost 100 cases from last year’s case filing numbers, where Madison County saw 1,784 cases filed in the Law Division.  

Of those 1,641 cases filed this year, three of the cases were class action lawsuits. One of the class actions has since been removed to federal court, but the other two are still being litigated in Madison County.

On Feb. 17, Donald Weeks filed a class action against Walgreen Co. through attorney Thomas Rosenfeld of the Goldenberg Firm in Edwardsville (15-L-203). He alleges the defendant sells dietary supplements including Gingko Biloba, St. John’s Wort, Ginseng, Garlic and Echinacea under the private house name “Finest Nutrition.”

Weeks claims that he purchased Gingko Biloba, which is said to have an ability to improve memory, from a store in Edwardsville several times within the last three years. He alleges the Walgreens-brand Gingko Biloba does not contain gingko biloba. Instead, it contains oryza, commonly known as rice, the suit states.

The class action was filed after a recent investigation by the New York Attorney General revealed that the Walgreens dietary supplements did not contain “DNA matching the product label.” The supplements were found to contain botanical material other than what was on the label or no plant DNA at all, the suit states.

“Using established DNA barcoding technology, analytic testing disclosed that five of the six tested dietary supplement products (all but the Saw Palmetto) were either unrecognizable or a substance other than what they claimed to be,” the complaint states.

The suit says that only 18 percent of the tests yielded DNA matching the product label; 45 percent tested for botanical material other than what was on the label; and 37 percent yielded no plant DNA at all.

The global market for herbal dietary supplements is estimated at $100 billion, according to the complaint.

“Herbal supplements are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, but not to the same extent as prescription pharmaceuticals,” the suit says. “They have not been subjected to the same scientific scrutiny as prescription drugs.”

The World Health Organization states that the adulteration of herbal products is a threat to consumer safety, the complaint states.

The New York State Attorney General issued a cease and desist letter on Feb. 2, resulting in numerous class action lawsuits against Walgreens and other retailers across the country, the defendant claims.

The Madison County class action lists claims for violation of the Illinois Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act and for unjust enrichment on behalf of Weeks. He defines the putative class as “all Illinois consumers who, within the three years preceding the filing of this complaint purchased Walgreens Finest Nutrition herbal dietary supplements in the State of Illinois.”

Walgreen Co. removed the class action to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois on April 2 through attorney Nicole E. Wrigley of Winston& Strawn LLP in Chicago.

On Oct. 15, Gary Patrick Sterr filed a class action through attorney Thomas Maag of Wood River (15-L-1337).

Maag claims that on Oct. 6, Sterr was wrongfully charged $1 more than state statute allows when he applied for a $10 firearm owner identification card (FOID). The extra fee was part of a convenience fee through the Illinois E-pay program for processing applications online.

Maag filed the class action against Jessica Trame in her capacity as Firearms Services Bureau chief and Michael Frerichs as Treasurer of Illinois.

Maag argues that statute 430 ILCS 65/5 expressly states that the FOID fee is $10.

By charging an additional $1, Trame is unilaterally imposing without statutory authority a 10 percent surcharge on FOID cards, he claims.

He further claims it is impossible to get a FOID card without paying the extra fee on top of the $10 mandatory cost (except for certain members of the military who are exempt all together) because the Firearms Services Bureau stopped accepting paper applications early this year that allowed people to mail $10 checks or money orders.

"Defendants have charged a minimum of ten thousand people, and possibly substantially more, well into the hundreds of thousands or millions of class members," Maag wrote.

In 2011, the state received 321,000 FOID applications, he wrote.  

He notes that in order to lawfully possess a firearm in Illinois, "it is generally required to have in a person's possession a currently valid" FOID card.

Represented by Assistant Attorney General Bilal Aziz in Springfield, Trame and Frerichs filed a motion for an extension of time to plead. On Dec. 14, Circuit Judge Dennis Ruth approved their motion for an extension of time.  

On Nov. 17, William A. Coleman and Mary A. Coleman filed a class action against Sentry Insurance Mutual Company through attorney Christopher A. Koester of Taylor Law Offices of Effingham and attorneys Irwin Levin, Richard Shevitz, Vess Miller and Lynn Toops of Cohen & Malad in Indianapolis (15-L-1484).

The Colemans argue that Sentry has offered the payback program and payback agreement since 1986 to persuade safe drivers to purchase its insurance with the promise that if a driver remained claim-free for 5 years, the defendant would start to refund them half of their earlier paid premiums and would continue to do so for each claim-free year.

In addition, the suit alleges, the defendant said it would continue to renew those safe driver policies. However, the suit says, as the plaintiffs and others began qualifying for the refunds, Sentry "non-renewed" the policies and failed to execute the paybacks.

The suit says this is in breach of the insurance contracts, in breach of the defendant's duty of good faith and in violation of Illinois consumer protection laws. Further, the defendant continued to sell these policies even after it said it would not renew the payback program, the complaint states.

The defendant has not yet answered the complaint.

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