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State Farm's appeal to Illinois Supreme Court denied

The Illinois Supreme Court denied on Feb. 24 State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co.'s motion for an expedited appeal of a $1.2 billion class action judgment against the company.

The full text of the Supreme Court's ruling is as follows: "Motion by appellant for direct appeal to this court pursuant to Supreme Court Rule 302(b). Motion denied."

Back in October 1999, a Marion, Ill., judge and jury found that State Farm violated consumer-fraud laws when it failed to disclose to policyholders the quality and use of aftermarket crash parts in vehicle repairs. Aftermarket crash parts, such as hoods, fenders, and bumpers, allegedly did not return policyholder vehicles to pre-accident condition, a guarantee provided by the auto insurance policy.

State Farm filed the motion with the state's Supreme Court in January 2000. Normal court procedure is for the appellant to plead its case before an appeals court before a higher court will hear the case.

"We know that such motions are rarely granted, but we thought it was necessary to raise the issue at the Supreme Court level," says Dick Luedke, a spokesperson for State Farm. "This is merely a procedural setback."

An attorney for the class, Michael Hyman of Chicago-based Much Shelist Freed Denenberg Ament Bell & Rubenstein, says he is surprised by the speed of the Supreme Court's ruling, but not by the outcome. "The ruling is exactly what we expected and affirms what we thought: That this was an inappropriate attempt by State Farm."

Earlier in February, Illinois' high court rejected several "friend of the court" briefs filed by the National Association of Independent Insurers and the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, among others, on State Farm's behalf.

State Farm will now submit its appeal to Illinois' 5th District Court of Appeals in Mt. Vernon, Ill. There's no word on when the appeal will be heard.

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