Madison - St. Clair Record

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Lakin class actions falling by the wayside

By Steve Korris | Mar 1, 2007

Eighty days after Madison County Circuit Judge Nicholas Byron gave the Lakin Law Firm 30 days to rewrite a class action complaint demanding change on gift card purchases at Wal-Mart, the firm has not rewritten it.

A similar Lakin suit demanding change from K-Mart has grown even colder. Nothing has happened to it for six months.

In these and other class actions the firm has all but run up a white flag.

Two of the firm's first class action claims, against Farmers Insurance and Allstate, have stalled since last fall.

The firm sued the insurers in 1999, claiming they underpaid medical claims from auto accidents.

Last fall the Lakin firm faced hearings on a motion to dismiss from Farmers and a motion for class decertification from Allstate.

Neither hearing came to pass. The Lakin firm and the insurers agreed to reset the hearings on request.

No one has requested a hearing. Nothing has happened in either suit.

Since the Lakin firm jumped into the class action craze in 1999, it has always filed more cases than it actively pursued.

The slow cases reflected a strategy of filing class actions in batches.

Some claims clicked and some fell by the wayside.

A class action against Ford Motor Company from 2001 remains open though it has not advanced since 2003.

A class action against American Bankers Life remains open though it has not advanced since 2004.

Three Lakin suits that screeched to a halt on the same day almost two years ago have remained at a standstill.

The suits asserted class claims against General Motors, Union Fidelity and Lincoln Benefit Life.

Daniel Cohen of the Lakin firm moved in March 2005 to stay briefing on class certification in all three cases.

In the General Motors case he wrote that the defense filed a 74-page brief with an appendix of 758 pages.

He wrote that the brief compelled him to seek further discovery.

Circuit Judge Daniel Stack granted stays in two cases in April 2005, and Circuit Judge Andy Matoesian granted a stay in the third case.

Nothing has happened in any of the cases since.

On top of those disappointments, the firm has abandoned dozens of class actions that Gary Peel managed until a year ago.

Peel left the firm after a federal grand jury indicted him on charges of obstructing justice, bankruptcy fraud and possessing child pornography.

Another Lakin suit fell behind Feb. 14.

Circuit Judge Barbara Crowder had set that date for the firm to submit a brief on class certification in a claim that insurer AIG underpaid medical bills from auto accidents.

As of Feb. 27, the firm had not submitted a brief.

AIG had honored Crowder's Jan. 17 deadline for amending its answer to the claims of plaintiff Thomas Springman.

AIG attorney Joseph Whyte wrote that Springman accepted a total injury settlement of $6,000 plus other costs of $916.36 as final payment.

Whyte wrote that AIG sent four checks to Springman's medical providers, who cashed the checks.

Crowder plans a case management conference May 30.

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