Illinois Civil Justice League: Lawyer: Sue Thyself

March 10, 2005

Lawyer: Sue Thyself

As if there needed to be anymore evidence that an Madison and St. Clair counties have an overly litigious legal environment, now the Madison County Record reports that an Alton lawyer has resorted to suing himself.

According to the Record:

Alton attorney Emert Wyss thought he could make money in a Madison County class action lawsuit, but he accidentally sued himself instead. Now he has four law firms after his money - and he hired all four.

Wyss’s boomerang litigation started in 2002, when he invited Carmelita McLaughlin to his office at 1600 Washington St. in Alton. Acting as her attorney when she bought a home in Alton and when she refinanced it, on both occasions she had chosen Centerre Title--a company that Wyss owned--to close her loans.

He produced a retainer agreement providing for his legal services and those from the Lakin Law Firm of Wood River, Campbell and Brinkley of Godfrey, Freed and Weiss of Chicago, and Diab and Bock of Chicago. McLaughlin signed.

It then gets a little complicated, but suffice to say that it doesn't present the Madison County class action system in any better light. Wyss refers the plaintiff and case to the Lakin firm, which then files the class action suit against Alliance Mortgage.

According to The Record, from the depositions in the case:

"Emert Wyss, wearing his hat of Centerre Title company, collects the fees from Ms. McLaughlin, and now we have six, seven, eight months later, Emert Wyss wearing his hat as Ms. McLaughlin’s attorney suggests she file suit over the very fees his title company collected from her, is that right?" [Alliance Mortgage attorney Don] Brown asked.

Wyss replied, "That is right. It oversimplifies it, but that is correct."

Brown asked Wyss if he had an agreement with the Lakin firm, and he responded that he had a verbal agreement.

When Brown asked what it was, Wyss replied, “I am to receive 10 percent of the attorney fee collected on these cases.”

I guess when you buy a house in Madison County, you never know when you might be signing up for a class action lawsuit. Now, Judge Kardis has added Wyss and his title company as third-party defendants in the case, setting up a scenario where Wyss might be liable for part of the final judgment. And, unfortunately for Wyss, he might not get his 10 percent referral fee now.

The Record reports: Apparently, Wyss surrendered his ten percent. Kardis wrote, “Defendants were provided with a fee renunciation letter.” Kardis sealed the letter.

[Alliance attorneys] asked Kardis to disqualify all of McLaughlin‘s attorneys for improper solicitation, arguing that they used Wyss as a straw man to obtain cases from Centerre Title clients whom they could not directly approach.

Kardis denied the motion to disqualify McLaughlin’s attorneys.


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