Polite attorneys in a class action against Illinois Bell have advised Madison County Circuit Judge Daniel Stack that they will soon start a fight.
Illinois Bell and class counsel can't agree on the best way to reconstruct $90 million in refunds that business phone customers received in 2001.
Plaintiff attorney Terrence O'Leary of Granite City wrote to Stack Oct. 10 that both sides agreed it was appropriate to notify him of their positions.
He passed along a statement that he attributed to Illinois Bell counsel Hans Germann and class counsel Thomas Londrigan.
Germann and Londrigan wrote that Illinois Bell possesses customer billing statements for September and October 2001, showing refund payments.
"Defendant has offered to make these billing statements available to plaintiff pursuant to a suitable protective order," they wrote.
"Because manually sorting through the billing statements would be extremely labor and time intensive, defendant is attempting to calculate a reasonable estimate of the information requested by plaintiffs using electronic data.
"Upon receipt of the foregoing information, counsel for both parties will confer to see if an agreement can be reached."
Lead plaintiff Big Sky Excavating sued Illinois Bell in 2003, claiming it broke state law by favoring certain customers in the distribution of refunds.
Illinois Bell had agreed to refund $90 million in a legislative compromise of consumer complaints about overcharging.
Circuit Judge Phillip Kardis certified Big Sky as a class action in 2004.
Kardis declared the compromise law unconstitutional.
He found it "narrowly designed and openly beneficial in conferring benefits" to the phone company.
On appeal, the Illinois Supreme Court reversed Kardis.
Kardis retired and Stack took the case.
Illinois Bell moved to dismiss.
At a hearing on the motion this April, Londrigan told stack that, "We are just saying that they paid the wrong customers."
Stack said, "You don't know who they paid."
Londrigan said, "Right."
Stack said, "How do we arrive at your damages?"
Plaintiff attorney Glenn Bradford said, "They know who they paid."
Stack said there was no standard for a judge to distribute the money. He said the Legislature and the Illinois Commerce Commission should do that.
Nothing has happened on the court docket since then, but O'Leary's letter showed that quiet negotiations continue.
O'Leary wrote, "While we hope that all parties are able to agree on the appropriate exchange of information without court intervention, it may become necessary to seek further guidance and ruling from the court.
"In the event that that situation presents itself, an appropriate motion will be filed with the court and a request made for an agreeable hearing date."
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