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.
In the course of the attorney-client relationship, Wyss advised McLaughlin she might have a claim against Alliance Mortgage, holder of the first mortgage. Wyss believed Alliance Mortgage might have broken the law by charging a $60 fax fee when she refinanced.
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.
The Lakin firm filed a class action complaint against Alliance Mortgage in 2003. The complaint identified the Chicago firms and Campbell and Brinkley as other attorneys of record, but not Wyss.
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[In a deposition, Defendant Alliance Mortgage's attorney Don] Brown asked Wyss if he was McLaughlin’s attorney for purposes of this litigation.
Wyss said, “I am one of her attorneys.”
Brown asked if he was her attorney at the time Centerre Title closed the loan.
Wyss said, "no."
“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?” Brown asked.
Wyss replied, “That is right. It oversimplifies it, but that is correct.”
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In December, [after a motion by Brown, presiding Circuit Judge Phillip Kardis] ordered Alliance Mortgage to add Centerre Title and Wyss himself as third party defendants.