It's no surprise that doctors have occasional disputes with Preferred Provider Organizations (PPOs). Doctors naturally want to maximize service payments and PPOs naturally want to minimize them.

But when doctors build a history of leading class action suits against PPOs, one might began to question certain ethical standards.

We reported in the Record this week that Madison County Circuit Judge William Mudge has taken under advisement a disputed claim allegedly worth more than $500,000 in a 2005 PPO discount class action brought by Alton chiropractor Frank Bemis.

The Bemis-led class of 32,000 health care providers claimed that the Cincinnati Insurance Company and the Cincinnati Casualty Company wrongfully took PPO discounts from workers' compensations bills.

According to the settlement approved last September, lead plaintiff Bemis netted $5,000. Brad Lakin and other class attorneys collected more than $700,000 in fees.

Bemis, as noted in our report on the case, has been the lead plaintiff in several PPO class actions filed by the former partnership of Alton's Lakin Law Firm and Chicago's Freed and Weiss. Fronting class actions, seems to be something of a sideline for Bemis.

Surely Madison County justices see the pattern as well. Shouldn't one ask, "What's up, Doc? What's with all these class actions you're leading? Are you constantly in conflict with PPOs, or are you attracted to earning easy supplemental income?"

Brad Lakin should get a grilling, too – not about his relationship with Freed and Weiss--but about his partnership with Bemis. The first question could be, "How'd this one man wind up as the lead plaintiff in multiple class actions?"

There are questions the public should be asking as well, such as, "How long does a community have to tolerate the potential damage done by ethically-challenged individuals using the legal system as a tool for personal gain?"

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