Madison - St. Clair Record

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Lakin seeks to remand insurance dispute from federal court to Madison County

Federal Court

By The Madison County Record | Jan 9, 2020

Tom Lakin

BENTON – Former lawyer Tom Lakin, no longer anonymous in his suit against Geico, moved to remand it from U.S. district court to Madison County on Jan. 3. 

His lawyer, Rodney Caffey of Alton, argued that the suit doesn’t meet the $75,000 minimum for federal jurisdiction. 

Lakin signed an affidavit expressly disclaiming damages exceeding $74,000. 

Caffey had amended the complaint on Jan. 2, to identify Lakin as the John Doe who filed the suit at Madison County court in November. 

In the original complaint, Caffey alleged breach of contract and vexatious refusal to pay benefits and unreasonable conduct in a coverage dispute from a traffic collision. 

He referred to a $600,000 arbitration award but didn’t specify damages. 

Geico counsel John Gilligan of Chicago removed the suit to district court on Dec. 13, identifying Geico as a corporation in Maryland. 

He wrote that the underlying claim was $50,000, and that John Doe sought further recovery up to $60,000. 

He wrote that John Doe also sought attorney fees. 

He inserted a footnote that the policy in question belonged to Lowell T. Lakin. 

The court clerk assigned Senior District Judge Phil Gilbert, who sent Lakin to prison on drug distribution charges in 2008. 

On Dec. 18, Gilbert ordered John Doe to explain his need for anonymity. 

“Litigating a federal case anonymously is generally not permitted,” Gilbert wrote. 

He wrote that a party must show that the harm from disclosure exceeds the harm of impeding public access to the facts of a case. 

He wrote that an amended complaint with the true name would be adequate. 

Caffey acted on that suggestion and then pleaded to leave Gilbert’s court. 

“Defendant cannot show by a preponderance of the evidence that the amount in controversy exceeds $75,000,” Caffey wrote. 

He wrote that Geico paid the policy limit of $50,000. 

He wrote that the penalty for vexatious refusal is 60 percent of the recovery, or $60,000, or the excess of a recovery over any settlement offer. 

“Sixty percent of $50,000 is only $30,000, and the defendant admits that it has paid plaintiff $50,000,” he wrote. 

He wrote that damages are conceivably limited to the $60,000 penalty.

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