The Class Action Fairness Act--on track for congressional approval--will have a direct impact on the dockets of Madison County Circuit Judges, which for right now are chock full.
For Judge Andy Matoesian, March will come in like a lion--if he sticks to his calendar. He has six hearings set on defense motions--dismissals, a transfer and a challenge to standing--in class action cases March 1 and 2.
If Matoesian denies the motions, the cases can proceed to the question of whether the plaintiffs represent classes.
To certify a class action, a judge must find that the number of plaintiffs makes joinder impractical, that common questions predominate over individual ones, that counsel can adequately represent the class, and that class action is fair and efficient.
When asked to comment on procedure, Matoesian remarked, "A judge should not talk to reporters."
With dozens of class certification motions pending in his court, none is set for hearing. Most of his class actions have stalled, with attorneys jointly delaying conferences and hearings.
In 2001, Matoesian certified three class actions, but he has not done it since except when entering judgment on settlements.
On March 1, attorneys for DaimlerChrysler will argue for summary judgment against Charles and Deborah Spratt and their son Daniel Spratt, on grounds that they lack standing. The Spratts claimed in a 2002 suit that the company cheated them through an extended service contract on Daniel’s 1996 Dodge Neon.
DaimlerChrysler argues that all the Spratts have filed for bankruptcy, so none of them has an interest in any damages. The company’s motion for summary judgment raises other issues, but Matoesian said he would limit the hearing to the question of standing.
Matoesian also plans to hear a motion of Samsung Communications to transfer venue in a complaint that James Brooks of Bethalto filed in August. Brooks charged that he bought a defective cellular phone, turned it in and got a defective replacement.
Samsung argues that it has no office or employees in Madison County, sells no phones there and does no business there. The company, which has asked to transfer the case to DuPage County where Samsung has an office, argues that Brooks bought the phone in Lewisville, Texas.
Matoesian also plans to hear a motion of Continental Western Insurance to dismiss Madison County chiropractor Mark Eavenson’s complaint that the insurer improperly reduced payments on workers compensation bills.
Eavenson sued in 2003, charging unjust enrichment and consumer fraud. Continental Western’s motion to dismiss includes a challenge to Eavenson’s standing as a consumer.
Matoesian also plans to hear a motion of Farmers Insurance to dismiss Madison County physician Lawrence Shipley’s complaint that the insurer improperly reduced payments on bills resulting from an auto accident. Shipley sued in 2003.
On March 2, Matoesian will hear a motion of State Farm Fire and Casualty to dismiss a complaint of chiropractor Daniel Jones that the insurer improperly reduced payments on workers' compensation bills. Jones sued in 2003.
State Farm argues that the state Industrial Commission holds jurisdiction and can bind both parties. According to a Jan. 25 affidavit of a State Farm employee, claims in the case are open and ongoing at the Industrial Commission. State Farm also argues that it did not insure Jones or the patient.
Matoesian also plans to hear a motion of First Colony Life Insurance to dismiss a complaint of Metro Petroleum and Emert L. Wyss Jr. The plaintiffs charge that the insurer collected premiums in a risk-free period between the issue date of a $300,000 policy on Wyss and the date when coverage took effect.
Metro Petroleum filed the suit in 2003, without Wyss. First Colony moved to dismiss, arguing among other points that Metro lacked standing because it transferred ownership of the policy to Wyss. Metro amended the complaint and added Wyss as a plaintiff.
Meanwhile, four of Matoesian’s cases grind toward hearings on class certifications.
He plans a certification hearing for Carmelita McLaughlin of Alton in her suit against Citibank, after he receives the last brief on Feb. 27. McLaughlin sued in 2003, claiming Citibank collected a freight fee of $27 when she refinanced her home mortgage. She claims that the bank paid less than that for freight service and kept the rest.
Matoesian plans a certification hearing for Angela Knight of Granite City in her suit against Homecomings Financial Network, after he receives the last brief on March 11. Knight contends that Homecomings improperly collected a $25 expediting fee when she refinanced her home mortgage.
Matoesian has given plaintiff Christopher Booher until Feb. 15 to reply to the class certification brief of General Motors in Booher’s claim that the company cheated him through a service contract on a 1996 Ford Taurus. Booher sued in 2001.
Plaintiff Sandra Ragan moved on Feb. 4 for a hearing on the class certification motion in her complaint against AT&T. She charges that the company improperly made a profit on a universal connectivity charge.
AT&T company argues that it followed federal law in assessing the charge and made no profit. Its last brief ridiculed co-plaintiff Dennis Mangiaracino, stating that he "has no idea what he is claiming AT&T did wrong."