American Family pleads to put dead plaintiff class action to rest

By Steve Korris | Oct 6, 2011



After 11 years on the losing end of a Madison County class action stronger than death, American Family Mutual Insurance pleads to put it to rest.

On Sept. 30, the insurer resisted a bid by Brad Lakin of Wood River to amend for the 10th time a complaint alleging improper reduction of medical payments.

"There are proper procedures and improper procedures; plaintiffs are attempting the latter," Anthony Martin of St. Louis wrote.

"American Family has identified and emphasized numerous pleading problems in multiple complaints for more than 11 years," he wrote.

"Indeed, Illinois courts have a significant history of denying motions for leave to file an amended complaints when, as in this case, the length of time between the original complaint and the amended complaint is considerable," he wrote.

He wrote that Lakin would change the definition of a class that former circuit judge Daniel Stack certified, by adding an "issues only" class alleging breach of contract.

"Never before September 9, 2011 did class counsel suggest to the court or defendant that it intended to pursue an 'issues only' class," he wrote.

"The present attempt to change the nature and composition of the certified class through the amendment of a complaint is an obvious attempt to avoid filing the appropriate motion addressing class certification," he wrote.

"Certainly they cannot be allowed to do so without a class certification hearing specifically dealing with this issue," he wrote.

He also claimed Lakin can't sustain the suit in light of Bemis v. Safeco, a Fifth District appellate court opinion that the Illinois Supreme Court chose not to review.

He also claimed the statute of limitations ran out.

Circuit Judge William Mudge plans a hearing on Oct. 14.

Lakin's original plaintiff, Manuel Hernandez, died in 2004.

Stack had certified him in 2002, to represent a class challenging payments in 17 states, back to 1990.

Lakin didn't report his death to Stack, who held hearings and signed orders in the case.

In 2005, as circuit judge, Stack eliminated five states from the action.

In 2006, American Family informed Stack that Hernandez died.

American Family moved to dismiss, arguing the action died with him because Lakin hadn't sent notice to the class.

Stack disagreed in 2007, and waited for Lakin to find substitutes.

Lakin found them in 2009, amending his complaint on behalf of chiropractors Matthew Chenault and Anthony Wolf, East Washington Chiropractic, Greenville Rehab and Pain Clinic, and Kruse and Manley Clinic of Chiropractic.

Stack retired last year, and Mudge took the case.

This June, American Family sealed and filed a motion to decertify the class.

In August, American Family claimed Lakin failed to tell Mudge that chiropractor Mark Kruse led a conflicting class action in Iowa.

Martin wrote that the Iowa action was replete with accusations against doctors Kruse represents in the Madison County action.

Lakin didn't respond directly, preferring to scrap the complaint.

Jonathan Piper of LakinChapman moved for leave to amend on Sept. 9, writing that the new version would narrow the class claims.

"There is no prejudice or surprise to defendant by making changes for clarification and proper procedure," he wrote.

Martin's reply expressed weariness, not surprise.

"Now in September 2011, during the 22nd year of the class period, during the 12th year of this case, nearly 12 years after the initial billing issue arose, more than 11 years after the filing of the original complaint, and nearly eight years after Mr. Hernandez's death, there is before the court a motion for leave to file yet another amended complaint," he wrote.

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