2 Lawyers' Cases Are in a Class of Their Own 'I Am Told We Have Made a Lot of Enemies'

By Robert Manor Of The Post-Dispatch | St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO), April 14, 1996 | Go to article overview

2 Lawyers' Cases Are in a Class of Their Own 'I Am Told We Have Made a Lot of Enemies'


Robert Manor Of The Post-Dispatch, St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)


They sue people who send them faxes. They sue casinos because gamblers lose money. They sue the state to collect on Civil War bonds.

Lawyers John Carey, 34, and Joseph Danis, 26, say they are bringing the benefits of class-action lawsuits to St. Louis.

Carey says he and Danis, in business together for a year as Carey & Danis, offer an aggressive approach to law. That approach includes militant application of class-action lawsuits. "Nobody else was doing class actions in St. Louis before us on any substantial basis," Carey said recently. "I am told we have made a lot of enemies." They have also earned a counter-suit and claims of unethical behavior from attorneys they have angered. Class-action lawsuits are nothing new. A lawyer takes on a client who feels wronged, then identifies a class of other people who have suffered in the same way and asks the court for permission to represent them too. If the case goes well, the class - whose members are often unaware that they are plaintiffs - wins money. The attorney takes a percentage. Class-action suits have compensated people crippled by asbestos, won refunds from companies that fixed prices and driven unsafe medical devices from the market. Class actions can also tie up the courts and increase the cost of doing business. "The courts started tightening up on class actions several years ago on cases that are far from economic reality," said William Lash III, a law professor and fellow of the Center for the Study of American Business at Washington University. "In some of these cases, I'd like to see a business owner bring a suit against a law firm for (wrongful) interference with business advantage and frivolous litigation," Lash said. Class-action lawsuits can be lucrative for the lawyers. Carey and Danis were among a group of attorneys who recently won $5 million from Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Missouri. They sued on behalf of 75,000 people allegedly overcharged by Blue Cross, which settled out of court. Eight law firms divided $1.7 million in legal fees, while the alleged victims got an average of $44 apiece. Some Carey & Danis class actions are more novel. The Fax Cases Last June, Carey and Danis filed a class action against several businesses, including KTVI (Channel 2). Their offense? Allegedly sending unwanted advertising faxes to attorney David Danis or his law firm. David Danis is Joseph Danis' father. Carey and the younger Danis share David Danis' office and fax machine in Clayton. Several years ago Congress passed a law allowing people to sue the senders of unsolicited advertising faxes and collect up to $500. Carey says a class action is the only logical way to proceed against fax offenders. "Who wants to file a lawsuit and fight a big law firm for $500?" he said. With a class action, the plaintiff can collect on behalf of every person who got the unwanted fax, yielding bigger fees for the attorney. Whether an unwanted fax merits a federal lawsuit is another question. In February, a federal judge chastised Carey and Danis after they brought a fax case to his court. The judge told the men they were wasting his time. Carey says fax lawsuits are justified. His office has only one fax machine and he doesn't want it tied up. He said he asked the senders to stop faxing advertisements - but only after he sued them. Some fax class actions were filed quickly. One fax sent on behalf of St. Louis Argyle TV, operator of Channel 2, to David Danis arrived in the early morning hours of June 9. Carey and Joseph Danis filed a class-action suit that afternoon. Altogether, they have sued four times on behalf of Joseph Danis' father. Attorney John Hessel is defending Channel 2. He said the fax case is a waste of time. Hessel said Carey offered to settle the suit in exchange for legal fees. "He said, `I will get back to you with a number' and I said, `If it is more than I've got in my pocket, don't bother,' " Hessel recalls. …

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