Chiropractor fights to keep three class actions in line

Published: 2010-06-05 15:01:47
Author: Amelia Flood | The Record | March 4, 2010

Belleville area chiropractor Kathleen Roche is attempting to adjust three class action suits filed in two counties to her favor, despite settlement of one, the potential dismissal of a second and a motion to dismiss a third.

Roche is the sole class member who wants a $1.25 million settlement of a Madison County class action case against First Health Insurance Group overturned.

Her objection has played out dramatically in court against a backdrop of sparring attorneys who used to work together -- Richard Burke of St. Louis and Brad Lakin and his band of lawyers from Wood River. Since parting ways, they have become foes in this case and others.

Roche objected in part to the settlement of the Madison County First Health suit because she wants a St. Clair County class action suit she leads against First Health - with virtually identical claims -- to continue.

However, under the settlement judgment entered by Madison County Circuit Judge Daniel Stack in January, Roche's St. Clair County suit could be nullified because, as a class member, she would be barred from pursuing the same claims as were litigated in the prevailing case led by fellow area chiropractors Lawrence Shipley and Richard Coy.

And in the middle of her objections to the Shipley-Coy settlement, Roche filed another class action against Zenith Insurance Company with similar claims made by Shipley-Coy.

Shipley-Coy attorneys at LakinChapman argue that Roche's suit against Zenith is evidence that Roche doesn't believe her own "objection" arguments. They say it undermines Roche's argument that the Shipley-Coy settlement is unfair to the class.

Zenith is seeking to dismiss Roche's case.

While Roche has filed to appeal the $1.25 million Madison County Shipley-Coy settlement, the other parties have filed a cross appeal asking an upper court to throw out her attorney, Richard Burke, for alleged conflicts of interest.

The suit that started it all

The case that ties all three class actions together was filed in 2004 by lead plaintiffs Shipley and Coy, who have led several other class action suits filed in Madison County against insurance companies.

In their class action against First Health, the two have alleged that they and a state-wide class of health care providers were gypped out of money they were owed by a so-called "silent PPO."

Under a normal PPO, insurance companies are given discounts by the providers in their network in exchange for steering additional patients and clients to the health care provider. Volume then makes up for the discounts.

In a silent PPO, the insurer takes the discounts but does not steer more patients to providers.

The parties in the 2004 Shipley-Coy case against First Health announced the suit's settlement in early 2009. Roche moved to intervene in April of that year.

Not surprisingly, a spat erupted between Burke and his former colleagues from the Lakin firm, who filed to have Burke thrown out of the case.

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