Dr. Roger Herrin, a retired surgeon from Illinois who lost his son in a car accident, smoldered with rage. An appellate court had ruled that his family had over-collected insurance benefits. He was left with no choice but to pay back $500,000 to other passengers who survived the accident.
So the doctor exacted his revenge — in quarters.
On Wednesday, he delivered the money to the other parties, complying with a court-ordered settlement. But to their astonishment, he paid $150,000 of it in quarters.
An armored Brink’s truck drove 150 bags of loose quarters from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis to a Marion, Ill., bank. The bags were then piled on flatbed trucks that the doctor had borrowed from a friend.
The trucks then rumbled through a busy downtown square, parked outside of two law firms, where the bags were dumped in the lobbies.
The 76-year-old doctor told Law Blog that his coin trick — reported by the Southern Illinoisan newspaper — was a “protest against the ruling.”
The coins weighed close to four tons or about as much as 70 regular-sized couches. If you lined up the quarters, they’d stretch across more than 11 football fields, or more than a kilometer.
“They were not happy. They didn’t know what they were going to do with it. And I wasn’t real congenial,” Dr. Herrin told Law Blog. “We have cash and checks. Which part don’t you want?” his attorney told the nonplussed lawyers and receptionists who gathered around the bags, according to Dr. Herrin.
“They decided they wanted it all,” said the doctor.
“If he wants to pay in quarters, that’s his business,” said Mark Prince, a lawyer representing two of the other passengers.
In 2001, Dr. Herrin’s son, Michael, and two teenage friends were riding in a Jeep Cherokee driven by one of the boys’ mothers when a farm truck failed to stop at an intersection and rammed the vehicle. Michael was killed and the other passengers suffered injuries. One of the kids, the worst of the injured, had to undergo several knee surgeries.
Dr. Herrin, who had purchased his own family insurance policies through nursing homes he owns, settled a wrongful-death claim with two insurance companies, which paid his family $1.65 million, according to court documents. The other passengers had no claim on that money.
There was also a pool of $800,000 in aggregated under-insured-motorist coverage from the crash vehicle for claims by all the passengers, but a trial court came up with a formula that gave the son’s estate most of that money.
Many years and lawsuits later, an appellate court ruled that the lion’s share of the common pool should go to the other passengers. “Frankly, I don’t need the money,” said the doctor. Most of it, he said, had gone to his ex-wife. He said he just didn’t think it was fair to have to return the cash when the only life lost was that of his son.
The doctor, who lives on a 20-acre estate in Harrisburg, had one of his grounds workers help with the hauling Wednesday. “He said he’s very sore from lifting the bags,” said the doctor.