EAST ST. LOUIS – Lawyers preparing for a $9 billion racketeering trial against State Farm, under orders to admit or deny statements, pinned almost all their admissions on one lawyer and a class of plaintiffs who lost a case in 2005.
On a spreadsheet that class representative Mark Hale filed on Jan. 9, plaintiff attorney Robert Clifford of Chicago admitted statements in 33 documents that State Farm might use at trial.
Hale alleges that State Farm corruptly secured the election of Lloyd Karmeier as Supreme Court Justice in 2004, in order to reverse a judgment against State Farm.
On Clifford’s spreadsheet, he admitted that investigators who made statements in 16 documents were plaintiffs’ agents when the documents were created.
He also admitted that statements of plaintiffs’ counsel in 15 documents concerned matters within the scope of an agency relationship with plaintiffs. And, he admitted that plaintiffs’ counsel who made statements in two documents were plaintiffs’ agents.
Among 18 other lawyers on record for Hale, not one admitted any statement.
Each time Clifford admitted a statement, he denied it as to Hale’s class.
He also denied it as to the class in the case from which the current case sprang, Avery v. State Farm.
He admitted statements in 86 documents as to Avery’s class but not Hale’s.
He admitted statements in four documents as to Hale’s class but not Avery’s.
The documents didn’t appear in the record, but quotations appeared where Clifford sliced sentences out of documents he otherwise admitted as to Avery’s class.
He denied agency relationships among counsel, class, and investigators as to the sentence, “Has Gordon Ball developed any thoughts on the statute of limitations for fraud, RICO, etc.?”
Ball belongs to the plaintiff team that Clifford leads.
Clifford denied agency relationships as to sentences in a document that, “Bob and CLO are still on the case, sharing expenses,” and, “I think it’s a smart move.”
He composed his longest admission in response to a request for admissions that investigators made two statements as agents of plaintiffs’ counsel.
“Plaintiffs admitted that the author of the document was an agent of Clifford Law Office for non-Avery or Hale purposes at the time the document was created,” Clifford wrote.
“Plaintiffs denied the request as to all other aspects as the Avery case was believed to be dead and there were no Hale Class claims at the time.”
Hale sued State Farm in 2012, to recover a billion-dollar judgment that Avery’s class won in Williamson County and lost at the Supreme Court.
Hale seeks interest, which would roughly triple the original verdict.
He also seeks triple damages under provisions of federal racketeering law.
The original suit started in 1997, alleging that State Farm provided inferior parts for crash repairs in 48 states.
Jurors awarded more than $400 million in 1999, and associate judge John Speroni added $600 million in punitive damages.
Fifth District appellate judges affirmed the judgment in 2001.
State Farm appealed to the Supreme Court, which could not reach a decision.
In 2004, Fifth District voters chose Karmeier over Gordon Maag to replace retiring Justice Philip Rarick.
Avery petitioned to disqualify Karmeier, who didn’t disqualify himself.
The Court reversed the judgment in 2005, finding individual issues predominated over class issues.
The Justices limited the application of Illinois consumer fraud law to Illinois.
Avery tried to reopen the case at the Supreme Court in 2011, claiming he found new evidence of State Farm’s support for Karmeier, but the tactic failed.
That ended Avery’s involvement, but his lawyers turned to federal court.
Last year, District Judge David Herndon certified Hale to lead a class action.
Herndon has set trial May 7.