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ALLSTATE DEFENSE SEEKS NEW JUDGE.

Byline: Gregory J. Wilcox Staff Writer

The law firm representing Allstate Insurance in what is described as one of the largest fraud lawsuits ever has asked that the judge be removed from hearing the case.

Attorney Dennis B. Kass of Manning & Marder, Kass Ellrod, Ramirez claims in court documents that Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Marvin Lager has become biased against his firm and Allstate, which in 1998 sued nearly 50 businesses and individuals for allegedly operating a ring that defrauded the insurer out of $107 million.

Orange County Superior Court Judge Frederick Horn will rule on Kass' request.

Judicial ethics preclude Lager from commenting on the development, said Los Angeles County courts spokeswoman Jerrianne Hayslett.

The judge, in a filing Thursday, indicated he would dismiss Allstate's case because it was based on information that was previously disclosed in an action filed by Manning & Marder on behalf of Financial Indemnity Co., an auto insurer, against the same group of lawyers, doctors, chiropractors and office staffers.

In his ruling, Lager cited Insurance Code section 1871.2, which prohibits private actions based upon information that has already been publicly disclosed.

Nearly all of the defendants in the Financial Indemnity case settled, attorneys said.

Allstate investigated 99 crashes and collisions involving 326 individuals between January 1992 and April 1996. The company said it obtained confessions from 78 former claimants and also got a statement from a woman who said she had participated in nearly 5,000 staged crashes.

Kass said this is the first time he has requested that a judge be removed from a case.

And his filing contained some blunt language.

``A person aware of the facts underlying the present case might reasonably entertain a doubt that Judge Lager would be able to be impartial,'' he wrote. ``Judge Lager went out of his way to vilify and express his ill feelings for Manning & Marder and its client. (He) unfairly branded a Manning & Marder attorney and secretary liars.''

Kass also claims that the judge ``grossly'' distorted facts and painted the law firm and Allstate as unethical and manipulative.

He also notes that a relative of Lager's had a claim dispute with Allstate after the Northridge Earthquake.

Kass' action angered attorney Maxim Vaynerov, who represents a Santa Monica area chiropractor.

``It reminds me of an old law school adage. When the facts are against you, argue the law. When both the facts and the law are against you, argue procedure, and when all else fails, attack your adversary. Unfortunately, these attorneys not only attacked their adversary but also the tribunal itself,'' he said.
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Title Annotation:Business
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jan 9, 2001
Words:430
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