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Hale v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co.

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

September 16, 2016

MARK HALE, TODD SHADLE, and LAURIE LOGER, on behalf of themselves and all others similarly situated, Plaintiffs,
v.
STATE FARM MUTUAL AUTOMOBILE INSURANCE COMPANY, EDWARD MURNANE, and WILLIAM G. SHEPHERD, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          DAVID R. HERNDON DISTRICT JUDGE.

         I. Introduction and Background

         Now before the Court is plaintiffs' motion for class certification (Docs. 438 & 492). Naturally, defendants strongly oppose the motion (Docs. 467 & 468).[1] After extensively reviewing the voluminous pleadings and the various related motions (which include the briefings on the motions to exclude experts and the June 2, 2016 Memorandum and Order (Doc. 541) regarding those motions) and the applicable law, the Court finds the class certification is proper and grants the motion for class certification.[2]

         On May 29, 2012, plaintiffs Mark Hale, Todd Shadle and Carly Vickers Morse, on behalf of themselves and all others similarly situated, filed a two-count Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (”RICO”), 18 U.S.C. § 1961 et seq., class action complaint against State Farm, Ed Murnane, William G. Shepherd and Citizens for Karmeier (Doc. 2).[3] Count One alleges violations of 18 U.S.C. §1962(c) and Count Two alleges violations of 18 U.S.C. §1962(d) by conspiring to violate 18 U.S.C. §1962(c).

         On November 4, 2014, plaintiffs filed a first amended complaint containing the same counts as the original complaint (Doc. 289). This first amended complaint added Mark Covington and Laurie Loger as named plaintiffs.[4] According to the first amended complaint, Hale is a citizen of New York; Shadle is a citizen of Texas and Loger is a citizen of the State of Illinois. State Farm is a mutual non-stock company, organized and existing under the laws of Illinois, having its principal place of business in Bloomington, Illinois. Shepherd is a citizen of Illinois and was employed by State Farm. Murnane is a citizen of Illinois and was the president of the Illinois Civil Justice League (“ICJL”).

         In the first amended class action complaint, plaintiffs allege in their Introduction and Nature of Action section the following:

1. From 2003 to the present, State Farm, Murnane, and Shepherd (collectively, “Defendants”) created and conducted the RICO enterprise described below to enable State Farm to evade payment of a $1.05 billion judgment affirmed in favor of approximately 4.7 million State Farm policyholders by the Illinois Appellate Court.
2. Plaintiffs bring this class action for damages against Defendants for violation of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (“RICO”), 18 U.S.C. § § 1961 et seq., in particular, §§ 1962(c), (d); and 1964 for perpetrating a scheme through an enterprise specifically designed to defraud Plaintiffs and Class out of a $1.05 billion judgment.
3. Plaintiffs were each named plaintiffs, class representatives and class members in Avery v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company (“Avery Action”), a class action litigated in the Illinois state court system. The Avery Action was certified as a class action, tried to jury verdict on a breach of contract claim, and tried to the Court on a claim under the Illinois Consumer Fraud Act (“ICFA”), resulting in a judgment of $1.18 billion.
4. The Illinois Appellate Court upheld a $1.05 billion judgment, sustaining the compensatory and punitive damages, and disallowing disgorgement damages as duplicative. See Avery v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co., 321 Ill.App.3d 269, 275, 292 (Ill.App.Ct. 5th Dist. 2001)(A true copy of the Avery Appellate Court decision is attached hereto as Exhibit “A”).
5. On October 2, 2002, the Illinois Supreme Court accepted State Farm's appeal. The appeal was fully-briefed, argued and submitted as of May 2003, yet the matter remained under submission without a decision until August 18, 2005.
6. From the fall of 2003 until November 2004, Trial Judge Lloyd Karmeier (“Karmeier”) and Appellate Judge Gordon Maag waged a judicial campaign for a vacant seat on the Illinois Supreme Court, ultimately resulting in Karmeier's election. In January 2005, having received reliable information that State Farm had exerted financial and political influence to achieve Karmeier's election, the Avery plaintiffs moved to disqualify Karmeier him [sic] from participating in the appeal of the Avery Action.
7. On or about January 31, 2005, State Farm filed its response to the disqualification motion, grossly misrepresenting the magnitude of State Farm's financial support (and the degree of participation by its executives, surrogates, lawyers and employees) of Karmeier's campaign.
8. Plaintiffs' motion was denied, and on August 18, 2005, with now-Justice Karmeier participating in the Court's deliberations and casting his vote in State Farm's favor, the Illinois Supreme Court issued a decision overturning the $1.05 billion judgment. See Avery v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co., 216 Ill.2d 100, 835 N.E.2d 801 (Ill. 2005). (A true copy of this decision is attached hereto as Exhibit “B”).
9. In December 2010, spurred in part by a recent United States Supreme Court decision vacating a West Virginia Supreme Court ruling in a case which featured similar facts, i.e., involving a party's political and financial influence to elect a justice whose vote it sought for its appeal, Plaintiffs' counsel launched an investigation into State Farm's covert involvement in the Karmeier campaign. The investigation, led by a retired FBI Special Agent, uncovered evidence that to gain reversal of the $1.05 billion judgment in the Avery Action, State Farm - acting through Murnane, Shepherd and the Illinois Civil Justice League (“ICJL”) - recruited Karmeier, directed his campaign, had developed a vast network of contributors and funneled as much as $4 million to the campaign. Then, after achieving Karmeier's election, State Farm deliberately concealed all of this from the Illinois Supreme Court while its appeal was pending.
10. On September 9, 2011, based on the information uncovered in the Reece investigation, the Avery plaintiffs petitioned the Illinois Supreme Court to vacate its decision overturning the $1.05 billion judgment. Responding on September 19, 2011, State Farm again deliberately misrepresented its role in directing and financing Karmeier's campaign. On November 17, 2011, the Illinois Supreme Court denied Plaintiff's petition, without comment.
11. Reece's investigation had revealed, among other things, that, having been ordered on April 5, 2001 by the Appellate Court to pay a 1.05 billion judgment to the Avery class, and having succeeded in persuading the Illinois Supreme Court to accept its appeal, State Farm had next developed an elaborate plan to obtain reversal of the judgment. The initial component of the plan was to recruit a candidate for the open Fifth District seat on the Illinois Supreme Court for the November 2004 election who would support State Farm once its appeal came before the Court for disposition. Of course, there was no guarantee for State Farm that the appeal would not be decided before the November 2004 election, but the risk - a $2 to $4 million investment for a possible $1.05 billion return - was sufficiently minimal to make it a worthwhile gamble.
12. Defendants' scheme was developed and implemented in two distinct but related phases. In the first phase, State Farm sought to recruit, finance, direct, and elect a candidate to the Illinois Supreme Court who, once elected, would vote to overturn the $1.05 billion judgment. As Plaintiffs describe below, Defendants ultimately succeeded in obtaining this objective. Nine months after his election, Karmeier voted in favor of State Farm to overturn the $1.05 billion judgment of the Appellate Court.
13. Once the initial phase of the scheme had succeeded, the second phase featured two spirits of affirmative fraudulent activity, each furthered by use the of the U.S. mails: the 2005 and 2011 written misrepresentations to the Illinois Supreme Court. Specifically, this phase consisted of: (a) a continuing concealment of these facts to permit Karmeier to participate in the deliberations and cast his vote to overturn the judgment in 2005 (this was accomplished, in part, by State Farm's January 31, 2005 filing), and (b) withholding information from the Illinois Supreme Court that would have conceivably led it to vacate the decision in 2011 (this was accomplished, in part, by State Farm's September 19, 2011 filing). Again, both filings were made through the U.S. mail, having been mailed to the Clerk of the Illinois Supreme Court and to Plaintiffs' counsel in several states, including Illinois, Louisiana, Mississippi and Tennessee.
14. From its inception, Plaintiffs and the other Class members in the Avery Action were the targets of and ultimate victims of the racketeering acts and the RICO enterprise - stripped of hundreds or even thousands of dollars each, seized of a class-wide judgment totaling $1.05 billion which compensated them for their losses - as a proximate result of Defendants' actions and the actions of the Enterprise participants.
15. In both the 2005 and 2011 filings, State Farm continued to hide and conceal its role in Karmeier's campaign, and deliberately misled the Court by omitting and concealing material facts regarding State Farm's role in Karmeier's campaign, which it directed through Shepherd, Murnane, the ICJL and Citizens for Karmeier, including: (a) recruiting Karmeier to be a candidate; (b) selecting Murnane to direct Karmeier's campaign; (c) creating Karmeier's judicial campaign contribution network; and (d) funding Karmeier's campaign.
16. To carry out and conceal this elaborate and covert scheme, Defendants created and conducted a continuing pattern and practice of activity through an association-in-fact Enterprise consisting of, among others, the following: Shepherd; Murnane; Murnane's nonprofit organization, the ICJL; the Shepherd-led ICJL Executive Committee (“Executive Committee”); Citizens for Karmeier (the campaign committee of Karmeier); JUSTPAC (the ICJL's political action committee); and the United States Chamber of Commerce (“US Chamber”).
17. The ICJL and the Executive Committee, through Murnane and Shepherd, respectively, aided by the Citizens for Karmeier, functioned collectively as State Farm's vehicle to: (a) recruit Karmeier as a candidate; (b) direct Karmeier's campaign, (c) lend credibility to that campaign via endorsement, and (d) assure that Karmeier's campaign was well-funded. Campaign finance disclosures show that State Farm secretly funneled to Karmeier's campaign as much as $4 million (over 80%) of Karmeier's total $4.8 million campaign contributions. Led by Murnane and Shepherd, the ICJL and its Executive Committee were the “glue” that held together the many pieces of State Farm's judicial campaign contribution network.
18. The utilization of the U.S. mail throughout every stage of Defendants' scheme - to solicit, receive and direct contributions, to conduct conferences and disseminate communications and campaign strategies, and to conceal the extent of State Farm's role in Karmeier's campaign - was essential to the conduct of this Enterprise.
19. Various Enterprise participants and co-conspirators also used electronic mail to carry out the initial phase of Defendants' scheme throughout 2003-2004 to communicate details regarding the direction, management and financing of the campaign to fellow Enterprise participants.
20. As the following paragraphs illustrate, the motivation for this seven-year-long-cover-up is both plausible and demonstrable. State Farm's misrepresentations and deception directed toward the Illinois Supreme Court by its mailed court-filings, and the continuing use of the mails by Defendants and Enterprise participants to carry out the scheme (to evade payment of the $1.05 billion judgment) constitutes a pattern and practice of knowing and ...

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