State Farm has responded to the recent petition asking to overturn the voided $1 billion judgment in the Avery vs. State Farm case, saying that it is "without merit" and that overturning the state Supreme Court’s 2005 decision would rock the Illinois justice system.
The petition was filed Sept. 8 by the attorneys for the plaintiffs in the 1997 Michael Avery, et al. v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company case. Initially, a jury awarded $465 million to some State Farm customers, while $730 million was awarded to other policyholders. The 5th District Appellate Court upheld the decision on appeal in 2001, but then State Farm appealed to the Illinois Supreme Court. According to the petition, the court delayed a decision during the 2004 election in which Karmeier sought a seat. The plaintiffs asked Karmeier to recuse himself due to having received $350,000 in campaign donations from State Farm, but he did not, the petition said, and the court ruled in State Farm’s favor, overturning the $1 billion judgment.
The plaintiffs, who claimed to represent 4.5 million State Farm customers, allege that State Farm covered up its support of Justice Lloyd Karmeier in his 2004 reelection campaign against former 5th District Appellate Justice Gordon Maag. In its 41-page response, State Farm notes that the plaintiffs have brought the complaint about Karmeier before the court three times already without success and claims its arguments are without merit.
The insurer’s response also takes issue with the plaintiffs’ claim that they have found new facts to support their complaint that were allegedly concealed by State Farm previously, extending the two-year statute of limitations. State Farm denies any concealment and says the plaintiffs’ complaint is the same as it was in previous years, making the petition too little, too late.
State Farm also raised concerns that overturning a Supreme Court decision would be "disruptive in the extreme" to the Illinois legal system, as the decision has been cited in numerous other decisions.
Overturning an elected judge’s decision, the insurer said, could also "impermissibly chill participation in the judicial electoral process," discouraging overall donations and participation in campaigns by businesses, organizations and individuals.
State Farm argued that since the plaintiffs have failed to produce "competent or legally sufficient" evidence in their complaint, the petition to overturn the 2005 judgment should be denied.