A Menagerie of Outspoken Opinions on Science, World Politics, and Geek Culture

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Score one for Judicial Common Sense

The Illinois Supreme Court in a 6-0 decision (one recusal) tosses out a class action decision against State Farm Insurance.

Lawyers had argued that the insured were defrauded when OEM parts weren't used in repairs, calling them "inferior generic replacement parts."

The justices found two reasons to reverse the lower court's decision. Damages were unproven:
McMorrow added that State Farm's use of non-original parts did not give rise to a fraud claim "based on the assertion that State Farm breached its promise to restore plaintiffs' vehicles to their 'pre-loss condition' or that State Farm breached its promise to repair plaintiffs' vehicles using parts of 'like kind and quality."

...and the Class had been improperly expanded to include out-of-state participants:
She also said the Illinois Consumer Fraud Act does not apply outside the state. "The only putative class that can exist in this case under the (Illinois) Consumer Fraud Act is a class consisting of policyholders whose vehicles were assessed and repaired in Illinois," she said.

It is of passing interest the slant some in the media choose to give the story. The Reuters article is surprising even-handed, giving quotes from both parties.

ABC & the Chicago Sun Times however, find quoting the Chief Justice in her opinion to be unnecessary, instead relying only on quotes from the plaintiff's lawyers:
"It is a total pity for the consumer that somehow the court system would find that State Farm's cheating isn't uniform enough to be actionable," she said.

I would imagine a Chief Justice could comment on a class-action lawyer's "cheating" in expanding the class beyond the limits of state statutes.

Said one lawyer for the plaintiffs:
"It's an empty day for automobile insureds in Illinois, and across the country," he said. "This can create a Balkanization in class-action cases."

Cry me a river.

So, In summary, Illinois' supreme court throws out a class action lawsuit.

Reuter's writes an even-handed report on it.

What's next? Dogs & cats living together?