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EMPLOYMENT Firing found retaliatory, back pay, punies granted A Texas chemical plant worker was awarded a $612,000 verdict by a Texas jury that found that he had been wrongly terminated for filing a workers’ compensation claim. Victor Skrabanek, 57, made a claim for harm to his hearing caused by noise at the Hoechst Celanese chemical plant in Bay City, Texas. In late 1999, the claim was denied. In early 2000 Skrabanek was fired after incorrectly loading a chemical. He claimed that other workers made the same mistake and were not fired for it. Celanese maintained that Skrabanek was already on probation and that he was offered an opportunity to retire rather than be fired. The award included $312,000 for lost wages and $300,000 in punitives. Skrabanek v. Celanese, No. 01-14-0232C (Matagorda Co., Texas, Dist. Ct.). PLAINTIFF’S ATTORNEY: Gregg M. Rosenberg, Gregg M. Rosenberg & Associates, Houston DEFENSE ATTORNEY: John Arthur Prestage, Houston FRAUD Shrimp business investor wins $5 million award A woman who sued to recover her $20,000 investment in a Kemah, Texas, shrimping business was awarded more than $5 million by a Texas jury on July 25. Tho Thi Phung, who is in her 70s, alleged that Lang Van Huynh and his son, Sonny K. Huynh, committed fraud and breach of contract by failing to return her investment and a percentage of the net profits from the business’ sale. The jury found that in addition to the $20,000 investment, $40,000 in out-of-pocket and benefit-of-the-bargain damages, and $21,775 in attorney fees, Phung should receive punitive damages of $2.5 million from each defendant. The jury also determined that the exemplary damages caps would not apply as the Huynhs had tampered with a document with the intent to harm Phung. Phung v. Huynh, No. 752102 (Harris Co., Texas, Ct. at Law No. 4). PLAINTIFF’S ATTORNEYS: David Tang, Tammy Tran & Associates, Houston; Lloyd E. Kelley, Lloyd E. Kelley & Associates, Houston DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Larry J. Hysinger, Hysinger & Pearson, Houston INTENTIONAL TORTS Toys ‘R’ Us liable for imprisonment of family A New Jersey couple and their two children were wrongfully detained and searched by security guards at a New Jersey Toys ‘R’ Us store, an Essex County, N.J., jury found on July 30. It awarded the family $75,000. Mark Smith was shopping at the store with his wife and children. They alleged that the guards grabbed Smith by the arm and ordered him and his family into a back room where guards performed pat-down searches of all of them, turning up no stolen goods. The family was allowed to leave after 20 minutes. They sued Toys ‘R’ Us and Internal Intelligence Service of Newark, N.J., the contractor that provided the guards at the store, alleging assault of Smith, false imprisonment and intentional infliction of emotional distress. The defendants stipulated to liability. Smith v. Toys ‘R’ Us Inc., No. ESX-L-3383-01 (Essex Co., N.J., Super. Ct.). PLAINTIFFS’ ATTORNEY: James Meszaros, McCusker, Anselmi, Rosen, Carvelli & Walsh, Chatham, N.J. DEFENSE ATTORNEYS: Thomas Foti, Weston, Block, Stierli & McFadden, Parsippany, N.J.; Seth Malkin, Levine & Malkin, Hackensack, N.J. LAND USE Utah must pay owner his price for taken land A man whose land was taken for construction of a Utah highway was awarded $393,000 by a Utah jury on July 29. The Utah Department of Transportation was in the process of taking land from private owners in Wasatch, Utah, through eminent domain proceedings to build the Legacy Highway. John Stathis, 43, refused the state’s offer of $266,000 for three acres of his land, which he owned in two parcels of roughly equivalent size. Stathis asserted that his land was worth $380,000. The state sued, claiming that Stathis admitted to removing 1,094 loads of dirt from one parcel of his land which it would have to replace to correctly grade the highway. Stathis said he only removed dirt that he had brought onto the land after purchasing it. Utah Dep’t of Transp. v. Stathis, No. 010700172 (2d Dist. Ct. Utah). PLAINTIFF’S ATTORNEY: Edward O. Ogilvie, Utah Attorney General’s Office, Salt Lake City DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Todd D. Weiler, Parry Anderson & Gardiner, Salt Lake City MEDICAL MALPRACTICE Botched delivery results in $19 million verdict A child who was born brain-damaged as a result of a physician’s repeated attempts to use a suction device during delivery was awarded $19 million by a federal judge on July 24. Complications arose during Javan Coleman’s birth at Touchette Regional Hospital in Centreville, Ill. To avoid a C-section, the treating physician attempted to deliver the baby with the aid of a vacuum extractor which attaches to the baby’s head using a suction cup. He tried 15 times despite an explicit warning on the device to quit after three unsuccessful tries. Javan’s mother, on his behalf, sued the hospital and the U.S. government, which subsidized the hospital, for medical malpractice. She claimed that babies have soft heads and the suction cup constricted some veins, cutting off oxygen to Javan’s brain. Coleman v. United States of America, No. 01-CV-314 (W.D. Mo.). PLAINTIFFS’ ATTORNEYS: Ray Alexander, Ronald Brown and John E. Tresslar, Brown & Crouppen, St. Louis DEFENSE ATTORNEYS: James Hipkiss, Assistant U.S. Attorney, St. Louis; Charles J. Swartwout, Gundlach, Lee, Eggman, Boyle & Roessler, Belleville, Ill. NEGLIGENT SUPERVISION $150,000 for strip-search of boy during class trip The District of Columbia on July 9 agreed to a $150,000 settlement with a 14-year-old boy who was strip-searched while on a class trip to a district jail. There was no admission of liability. Joseph Bennett, a student at W. Bruce Evans Middle School, went with 15 classmates and two teachers to the jail for what they thought was an ordinary field trip. What the students, all boys identified by the school as having behavior problems, experienced was demonstration of “tough love,” including being yelled at by guards and ordered to strip, bend over and spread their cheeks. A prior suit against the District of Columbia over a similar incident resulted in a $150,000 jury award, and that figure was used as the basis for this settlement. Bennett v. The District of Columbia, No. Civil Action 02-729 (D.D.C.). PLAINTIFF’S ATTORNEY: Nina Kraut, Washington DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Robert DeBerardinas, District of Columbia Corporation Counsel, Washington SECURITIES FRAUD Bank settles allegations of abetting Ponzi scheme More than 500 alleged victims of a Ponzi scheme, who claimed that a Miami-based bank and its securities arm aided and abetted a breach of fiduciary duty, on Aug. 11 settled their class action for $5 million. The plaintiffs, who had invested in Cyprus Funds Inc., an off-shore mutual fund based in Belize, claimed that new money was used to pay off earlier investors, resulting in significant losses when Cyprus ran out of money. The investors sued First Union National Bank and First Union Securities (now both part of Wachovia Corp.), claiming that the defendants enabled Cypress to defraud them. First Union denied any knowledge of the fraud and argued that it acted in accordance with industry standards. Smith v. First Union National Bank, No. 00-4485-CIV-Marra (S.D. Fla.). PLAINTIFFS’ ATTORNEYS: Harley S. Tropin, Thomas A. Tucker Ronzetti and Cheryl E. Zuckerman, Kozyak Tropin & Throckmorton, Miami; Robert C. Gilbert, Coral Gables, Fla. DEFENSE ATTORNEYS: Stephen Gillman, Galleway, Gillman, Curtis & Vento, Miami; Mark Bideau, Lori Gleim and Paddy Hinrichs, Greenberg Traurig, West Palm Beach, Fla. 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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