Lawyers in the Avery v. State Farm class-action case filed a petition on September 8 with the Illinois Supreme Court asking it to restore the $1 billion dollar verdict against State Farm on the grounds that the insurer’s massive involvement in the election of the deciding Supreme Court Justice had biased his decision in favor of State Farm.
In 1999, the famous Avery v State Farm ruling awarded $1.18 billion to plaintiffs who argued they were damaged by State Farm’s use of aftermarket parts in the repair of their vehicles. State Farm appealed the decision only to have the Appellate Court confirm the decision in 2001. In 2002, State Farm again appealed the case to the Illinois Supreme Court who eventually voted 4-2 to overturn the Appellate Court decision in favor of State Farm.
According to last week’s petition, the 2005 Illinois Supreme Court decision would not have been possible without the deciding vote of newly elected Justice “Lloyd” Karmeier whose campaign, in turn was heavily supported, even orchestrated, by State Farm.
Prior to the Illinois Supreme Court decision, lawyers requested that Justice Karmeier not cast a vote in the case because the campaign support he received from State Farm might taint his judgment. State Farm acknowledged its support of the judge’s campaign but characterized its donations to Karmeier as “modest contributions” that, at the time, were believed to amount to approximately $350,000 in total.
According to court documents filed last week however, State Farm actually contributed at least $2.5 million and as much as $4 million to Karmeier’s election campaign for Supreme Court Justice, an amount that could equal approximately 50-75 percent of the total funds raised by Karmeier.
The new information was discovered after an in depth investigation by a retired FBI agent showed that State Farm not only donated much more money to the campaign than previously believed, but the insurer may have played a part in hand-picking Karmeier for the position and orchestrating his election campaign. The petition alleges that State Farm defrauded the Court by intentionally hiding the extent of its involvement in Karmeier’s election.
This tremendous amount of support, the plaintiffs now assert, created a “constitutionally unacceptable risk of bias” in Justice Karmeier and he should have recused himself from the case.
The Illinois Supreme Court will have to decide whether Karmeier should have recused himself from the 2005 decision. Interestingly, the Avery lawyers also filed an accompanying motion last week asking that Karmeier not vote in the upcoming decision regarding whether or not he should have voted in the 2005 case.
(via Collision Week)
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