Billions? With a B?

A federal district court has issued a ruling that clears the way for Knoxville attorney Gordon Ball to proceed with a lawsuit with a potential judgment in the billions of dollars.

The Seventh Circuit Court ruling allows Ball to begin discovery in his RICO lawsuit against State Farm Insurance of Illinois. Ball won a judgment of $1 billion in the case years ago but it was set aside by the Illinois Supreme Court. Since that time two things have happened. The U.S. Supreme Court, in a West Virginia case, ordered a new trial for a defendant who spent a huge sum of money to help elect a state Supreme Court justice who decided the case, ruling that it was improper.

Ball, using retired FBI agents, has since gathered evidence that the Illinois insurance company and its executives allegedly used a variety of front groups to funnel thousands of dollars to the successful election campaign of one of the judges in his case.

Ball has filed suit under the RICO act, claiming the action was improper and asking for damages. The damages would consist of the original $1 billion, plus 10 percent interest each year. And the total would be tripled per the RICO statute. A lower court judge had ruled the case could proceed and the insurance company had appealed the decision to the Seventh Circuit. The Seventh Circuit declined to intervene, so the case can go forward. It is a major turning point in the case.

Given the opportunity for motions and appeals, and the amount of money involved, the case will likely take several more twists and turns. In the original case the insurance company was accused of requiring body shops to use after-market parts, rather than factory parts, to make repairs.

Ball recently announced plans to run for the U.S. Senate.