Supreme Court denies Missouri team in vapor case

By Steve Korris | Oct 18, 2006

SPRINGFIELD-The Illinois Supreme Court has denied a lawyer's request to overturn Madison County Circuit Judge Daniel Stack's decision in a contentious battle of dueling lawsuits.

On Aug. 28, Stack granted preliminary approval to an Edwardsville's firm proposed settlement of a class action for Hartford residents exposed to petroleum vapors.

Justice Lloyd Karmeier of the Fifth Judicial District did not participate in the decision handed down Oct. 13.

Attorneys from Missouri asked the justices to overturn Stack's order. The legal team skipped the appeals court and on Sept. 5 petitioned the Supreme Court for a supervisory order against Stack.

At one point last year, the Missouri team won certification of a class action on behalf of everyone near oil refineries that deposited an underground petroleum pool beneath Hartford.

Attorneys at Mark Goldenberg's Edwardsville firm, who represented about 125 Hartford residents in individual claims, quietly negotiated a class action settlement with defendants Equilon, a Shell Oil affiliate, and Premcor.

The Missouri team learned of the deal when a Goldenberg client told one of their clients about it.

The Missouri team moved to block the deal and asked Stack for immediate certification of their case as a class action.

Stack denied the motions.

The Goldenberg firm filed a new suit for lead plaintiff Harry Goforth, incorporating the terms of the deal with Equilon and Premcor. The Goldenberg firm asked Stack for preliminary approval. He granted it and set a fairness hearing for January.

The Missouri team in their motion for a supervisory order apparently argued that Stack abused his discretion.

The Missouri team also moved for an emergency stay of proceedings in Madison County.

Elizabeth Heller of the Goldenberg firm moved the Supreme Court Sept. 11 for summary denial of the motion for a supervisory order. She wrote, "The motion raises no issue for which the normal appellate process will be unable to afford adequate relief."

That same day Equilon attorney Gregory Mollett of St. Louis opposed the motion for an emergency stay.

He wrote that the Missouri team wanted "a new rule of litigation in Illinois that dueling lawsuits preclude parties from entering into a reasonable settlement if the clients of the first filed lawsuit feel that they are not sufficiently benefited."

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