It's not about me

by The Madison County Record |
Aug. 30, 2009, 4:28am

Professions of altruism rarely can be taken at face value. When issued from the mouths of some trial lawyers, the words can sound downright laughable.

Plaintiff's attorney Robert Schmieder last week insisted when he's prosecuting a class-action suit that's likely to redound almost entirely to his firm's financial benefit, that he's only "thinking about my clients and the class."

(We'll pause for a moment while you regain your composure).

Yes, that's what he said during final arguments over the fairness of a settlement that will allow him and the Lakin Law Firm to pocket $650,000, while the clients and the class, in effect, walk away empty-handed.

That kind of altruism gives selfishness a good name.

The Lakin Law Firm filed suit against First Health Insurance Company in 2004 on behalf of chiropractors and other physicians participating in their Preferred Provider Organization (PPO) network, charging that plaintiffs were cheated out of due compensation by improper claims adjustments.

After five years of legal wrangling, First Health decided to cut its losses. Without admitting guilt, it agreed to pay Lakin & Co. $650,000 in fees and expenses and make a $1.2 million donation to an unnamed charity.

What do the plaintiffs get? Nothing. Not a cent. Did the plaintiffs deserve anything in the first place? Is the case about them anyway? They're the questions we all should be asking.

That might have been the end of it, had not the settlement been contested on behalf of a single class member by Richard Burke, a former Lakin partner. He also says he has a client to think about.

When it was first proposed in May, Madison County Circuit Judge Dan Stack confided that the settlement in Shipley, Coy v. First Health "makes his brain hurt." We understand. It makes our brain hurt, too.

But we know a way to make the judge's brain, and ours, feel better. Give the plaintiffs' attorneys exactly what the plaintiffs got: nothing.

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