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EMPLOYMENT Jury award for worker pressed to join a church A man who claimed that his employer pressured him to join a church, then fired him when he resisted, was awarded $496,600 by a federal jury on July 17. Michael Lee Johnson, 51, was a manager at Healthworks International in Franklin Parish, La., a distributor of health-related products. He claimed that owners Ivan Hawthorne and Sam Noble pressured him to join their church, the Apostolic Tabernacle. He also claimed that, when it became clear that he would not join, he was demoted, harassed and, finally, fired. He sued Healthworks for religious discrimination under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and state law. Johnson v. Hawthorne, No. 01-CV-1683 (W.D. La.). PLAINTIFF’S ATTORNEY: Matthew M. Courtman, Monroe, La. DEFENSE ATTORNEYS: James A. Rountree, Monroe; Stephen G. Dean, Winnsboro, La. LEGAL MALPRACTICE Missed filing deadline costs attorney $30M A development company that lost international rights to an enzyme screening tool was awarded $30 million by a California judge on July 28. San Diego-based Kairos Scientific Inc. invented the tool, called KCAT. Attorney John Land of Fish & Richardson, a national law firm, was hired by Kairos to obtain U.S. and foreign rights to the invention. He obtained the U.S. rights. But, he missed the deadline for filing the Patent Cooperation Treaty application and, with it, lost foreign rights to the KCAT. Kairos sued Land and his firm. The defendants admitted duty and breach, but denied causation and damages. Kairos Scientific Inc. v. Fish & Richardson, No. 415736 (San Mateo Co., Calif., Super. Ct.). PLAINTIFF’S ATTORNEY: Natasha Roit, Law Offices of Natasha Roit, Malibu, Calif. DEFENSE ATTORNEYS: Ronald E. Mallen and Bradley Zamczyk, Hinshaw & Culbertson, San Francisco MEDICAL MALPRACTICE Patient’s medical history sows seeds of settlement The estate of a 55-year-old woman who died within two weeks of having 10 teeth extracted settled with her oral surgeon for $175,000 on July 24. The plaintiffs claimed that when Robert H. Hale took Carriean Kirton’s medical history, he failed to ask about her liver problems. Had he learned of this, he would have known she was at risk for developing bleeding problems. Within hours of the extraction, Kirton was hospitalized for excessive bleeding. It was controlled within 48 hours, but 10 days later, she died of liver, kidney and respiratory failure. Hale contended that Kirton should have told him she had end-stage liver disease. Jackson v. Hale, No. C0202561 (Contra Costa Co., Calif., Super. Ct.). PLAINTIFFS’ ATTORNEY: James Rosati, Law Offices of Steven J. Choi, Oakland, Calif. DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Patrick McCarthy, Law Offices of Patrick McCarthy, Oakland PREMISES LIABILITY Building owner liable for porch accident at party Seven plaintiffs were awarded a total of $958,500 by a Tennessee jury for injuries they sustained when a porch collapsed. Several guests were standing on the second-story porch at a Memphis party hosted by Chris Young and Jesse Robertson. Half of the porch collapsed, dropping several guests to the ground. The plaintiffs sued Young, Robertson and the building’s owner, Peabody Properties. The defendants argued that the weakened condition of the porch was not apparent. The jury on July 24 found the building’s owner liable, but not the hosts. Morman v. Covington, No. 303-403-9 (Shelby Co., Tenn., Cir. Ct.). PLAINTIFFS’ ATTORNEY: John J. Heflin III, Bourland, Heflin, Alvarez & Minor, Memphis, Tenn. DEFENSE ATTORNEYS: William A. Lucchesi, McDonald Kuhn, Memphis; Craig B. Flood II, Stewart & Wilkinson, Memphis; Bruce A. McMullen, Thomason, Hendrix, Harvey, Johnson & Mitchell, Memphis PRODUCTS LIABILITY Private plane crash case yields $3M settlement The children of a couple that was killed when the propeller fell off their private airplane settled for a combined sum of $3,154,500 on July 16. Donald Mercer, 72, was flying his 1975 Cessna aircraft with his wife, Edith, 69, as passenger. While flying over Farmington, Mo., the propeller disengaged from the crankshaft. The Mercers died in the ensuing crash. Their four children sued Teledyne Continental Motors Inc. of Mobile, Ala., the manufacturer of the engine and crankshaft, and Sensenich Propeller Co. of Lititz, Pa., which repaired the propeller years earlier. Teledyne paid $3 million, Sensenich paid $154,500. Mercer v. Teledyne Continental Motors, No. 01-CV-229274 (Jackson Co., Mo., Cir. Ct.). PLAINTIFFS’ ATTORNEYS: Gary Robb and Anita Robb, Robb & Robb, Kansas City, Mo. DEFENSE ATTORNEYS: Michael McQuillen, Adler, Murphy & McQuillen, Chicago; John Waldeck, Niewald, Waldeck & Brown, Kansas City, Mo. These jury verdicts were collected and reported by VerdictSearch, an American Lawyer Media affiliate serving lawyers nationwide. More information about these cases, as well as full reports on other verdicts and settlements, can be found in the VerdictSearch National Reporter or at www.VerdictSearch.com. To submit a case, call (212) 313-9057, fax (212) 313-9145 or use the form at www.VerdictSearch.com/submit. For subscription information or jury verdict research, call (800) 832-1900.

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