EAST ST. LOUIS – Insurer AIG, facing a motion for sanctions from lawyer Brian Wendler in a defamation suit, answers that Wendler should face sanctions.
Eric Mattson of Chicago wrote on March 12 that contrary to Wendler's argument, AIG has complied with discovery orders of U.S. District Judge James Stiehl.
Wendler moved on March 6 for sanctions that would amount to victory in his bid to fix blame on AIG for a message that appeared on the Internet seven years ago.
Wendler's motion seeks a declaration that the message originated from AIG.
It would prohibit any defense that the message came from anywhere else and preclude any claim that AIG possessed no information about it.
In reply Mattson derided the motion as "the equivalent of table pounding."
"Plaintiff's irritation over defendant's inability to determine who posted the Internet message that is at the heart of this lawsuit is no excuse for filing a baseless motion for sanctions," Mattson wrote.
He offered a short answer to Wendler's assertion that AIG refuses to disclose any information pertinent to the source of the message.
"Defendants have stated time and again, the reason they have not produced such information is simple: They do not have it," he wrote.
"Even though AIG informed plaintiff's counsel as early as 2003 that it could not determine the source of the posting, plaintiff persisted in his case," he wrote.
"It may have had a right to do that, but it does not have a right to try to obtain through a baseless motion for sanctions relief that it cannot get through the regular course of litigation," he wrote.
"It is impossible to produce information that does not exist," he wrote.
Wendler represents Teamster union members in personal injury suits.
In 2002, someone posted on the Teamster website a newspaper article about his arrest on a domestic battery charge.
A message with the article warned, "Don't make the same mistake me and my husband did – it's a waste of money."
Wendler sued AIG at Madison County circuit court in 2003, claiming an independent investigation traced the message to the insurer.
AIG removed the suit to federal court, where Stiehl granted summary judgment in favor of the insurer in 2006.
Stiehl ruled that AIG couldn't trace the message to its source.
Wendler appealed to the Seventh Circuit in Chicago on several points, and judges there affirmed Stiehl on every point but one.
They held that Stiehl shouldn't have granted summary judgment without resolving a pending discovery motion from Wendler.
They remanded the case to Stiehl, who has not resolved the discovery motion.
AIG, the world's largest insurer, nearly collapsed last year due to defaults on credit transactions it insured.
Taxpayers bailed out AIG and took 80 percent ownership.