Trial lawyers try a lot of cases, but now and then they hit a home run. Some years ago Knoxville attorney Sid Gilreath won a multi-million dollar judgment in a case involving a chemical dump in West Tennessee and established himself as a go-to- guy in the tort world. Knoxville attorney Gordon Ball seemingly grabbed the brass ring in 2001 when he and his colleagues won a $1.1 billion—that's with a b—judgment against State Farm in Illinois.
State Farm was accused of having a network of approved body shops and the shops were required to use aftermarket car parts for repairs instead of original equipment. When the case got to the Illinois Supreme Court it was struck down. The swing vote in the case was believed to have been supported in his election campaign by State Farm and Ball appeal on that basis, but couldn't get a hearing.
Recently the Supreme Court sent back a case from West Virginia for retrial because the judge in the case had received substantial contributions from the coal company that won the suit. Ball sent a retired FBI agent to Illinois last year who discovered that State Farm, State Farm employees and PAC fronts had funneled almost $4 million to the judge's election campaign.
So Ball's associates have gone to Illinois and have filed for a rehearing to restore the initial judgment. Ball has won multi-million dollars judgments since the State Farm case, but few attorneys have ever won a judgment as large as the State Farm case.
To add a little glamor to the proceedings, former U.S. Sen. Fred Thompson, R-Tenn. has joined the Ball forces to get the case reinstated.