An Illinois businessman outraged by a court order that he return more than $500,000 in insurance money related to a 2001 wreck that killed his teenage son wanted to pay the money back in pennies in protest, only to recognize that was unfeasible.
So, Roger Herrin settled on quarters — four tons of them.
Packed in 150 transparent sacks weighing about 50 pounds each, the $150,000 in coins were nearly one-third of the money an appellate court required Herrin to pay back to resolve years-long legal feuding among the crash’s survivors over how $800,000 in insurance proceeds were apportioned.
Obtained from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, the backbreaking load of quarters was brought in Wednesday by an armored vehicle and delivered on a flatbed truck to two law firms that represented other victims of the wreck.
“There was no satisfaction from doing that,” Herrin, who also serves on the Southern Illinois University system’s governing board, told The Associated Press on Thursday. “The loss of a child is the loss of a child, and all the money doesn’t replace that.
“I just wanted to draw attention to what went on here,” the 76-year-old man added, before mustering a laugh. “I really wanted to do it in pennies.”
It ended the legal wrangling that’s happened since Herrin’s 15-year-old son, Michael, was killed in June 2001. He was a passenger in a Jeep Cherokee that was broadsided by a truck that blew through a stop sign near Raleigh in southern Illinois’s Saline County. Three other occupants of the Jeep were injured.
Roger Herrin got $1.6 million in compensation through his own coverage. Of an additional $800,000 paid out through other insurance, the Herrin estate got the bulk of it because of Michael Herrin’s death, with the remainder of that money distributed to survivors.
Those survivors appealed and won when the Mount Vernon, Ill.-based 5th District Appellate Court ruled against Roger Herrin, a retired foot surgeon whose business holdings include three southern Illinois nursing homes. Herrin has owned seven community banks, but he’s sold those off in recent years.
Herrin complied in paying back the money, but “obviously in protest” with the plastic-sacked quarters.
“I’ve had 10 years to think about this a little bit, and I’m very, very bitter at this ruling,” he said. “It’s wrong, and everybody knows it’s wrong.”
Mark Prince, an attorney for the Jeep’s driver and her son, who was also a passenger, declined to discuss the case’s merits Thursday, calling that “counterproductive” and a potential violation of a confidentiality agreement.
While saying Herrin’s choice of repayment method was his prerogative, Prince said he did find the unannounced delivery “surprising” — and a burglary risk for his law firm in Marion, Ill., given the media attention instantly foisted onto the thousands of dollars in coins.
“We’ve been on pins and needles because we had a lot of cash suddenly laying around; it was publicized,” Prince said. “We don’t have safes or vaults, and we lock our front door. Advance notice would have been nice, because we could have made arrangements to have it delivered to the bank.”
Douglas Dorris, an attorney for the Jeep’s fourth occupant, agreed.
“I am not going to criticize a man who lost his son, who is obviously upset with the decisions of the court,” he said. “But I believe the decisions of the appellate court follow the law correctly.”