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CIVIL RIGHTS Couple gets $1.5 million on discrimination claim An Italian-American couple were awarded $1.5 million by a Massachusetts jury in a discrimination case they lodged against the Town of Hopkinton and two of its former officials, on Dec. 15. The verdict, which included $223,501 in punitive damages, arose from the couple’s claim that the town thwarted their attempts to develop their property because of their ethnicity. Peter and Carolyn Porcaro owned property in the town. They claimed that Selectman Mary E. Harrington and town building inspector Richard Bowker denied them permits on the basis of no access, even though many other developed properties had similar access issues. They also claimed that Bowker said of them, “All you Italians are a bunch of thieves.” The award was for federal and state civil rights violations, as well as for fraudulent misrepresentation. Porcaro v. Town of Hopkinton, No. 96-5438 (Middlesex Co., Mass., Super. Ct.). PLAINTIFFS’ ATTORNEY: Peter Brooks, Seyfarth Shaw, Boston DEFENSE ATTORNEYS: Patrick J. Costello, Boston; Kurt B. Fliegauf, Boston EMPLOYMENT Pension fund ordered to restore man’s benefits A New York man was wrongly denied pension benefits for work he performed before a career hiatus, a federal judge found on Nov. 15. From 1957 to 1969, and from 1980 to 1992, Alfred Veltri worked as a union elevator operator and doorman. Upon his retirement, Service Employees International Union local 32B-J told him that its pension plan included a break-in-service provision that prevented him from receiving benefits for his work prior to 1980. Veltri sued the pension fund. U.S. District Judge Harold Baer Jr. found that Employee Retirement Income Security Act � 204 precludes a break-in-service provision that limits benefits accrual-even if the provision predates ERISA, as was the case in this claim. The fund was ordered to restore Veltri’s benefits. Veltri v. Building Service 32B-J Pension Fund, No. 02 Civ. 4200 (S.D.N.Y.). PLAINTIFF’S ATTORNEY: Robert J. Bach, New York DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Ira A. Sturm, Raab, Sturm & Goldman, New York GOVERNMENT Chicago cops’ pursuit ends in crash, liability The estate of a 51-year-old woman who was struck by a vehicle being pursued by police was awarded $2 million by an Illinois state jury on Dec. 12. Chicago police officers Ben Martinez and Thomas Benya were chasing Jesus Gomez for running a red light. At an intersection, Gomez’s vehicle struck a truck. At this point, the police policy required that the pursuit be terminated, but the cruiser went on to rear-end Gomez’s vehicle, causing him to lose control, crossed the center line and hit decedent Dalia Santillana’s vehicle. The jury found Gomez 75% liable and the city 25% liable, but under Illinois law, a defendant found at least 25% liable is responsible for the entire verdict amount. Estate of Santillana v. City of Chicago, No. 00 L 8327 (Cook Co., Ill., Cir. Ct.). PLAINTIFF’S ATTORNEYS: Timothy J. Cavanagh and Matthew Rundio, Lloyd & Cavanagh, Chicago DEFENSE ATTORNEYS: Ann Collins-Dole and Scott Jebson, City of Chicago corporation counsel’s office HOTEL Boiler installer, owners of spa liable for poisoning Carbon monoxide poisoning that killed a man and left his wife brain-damaged resulted in damages awards totaling $17.5 million by a federal jury on Dec. 16. Dr. Randall Williams, 51, and his wife, Joette, 50, were found unconscious in the Snake River Lodge and Spa in Jackson Hole, Wyo. Carbon monoxide from a faulty boiler beneath their room had seeped through their window air-conditioning unit. The hotel’s 51% owner, Vail Resorts Development Co. of Colorado, and its subsidiaries (one of which owned the other 49%) were collectively found 47.5% at fault. The boiler installer, Mech Co. Inc. of Jackson, Wyo., was also found 47.5% at fault. A nonparty was found 5% at fault. Joette Williams was awarded $7.5 million; Randall Williams’ estate was awarded $10 million. Estate of Williams v. Vail Resorts Development Co., No. 02-CV-017-J (D. Wyo.). PLAINTIFF’S ATTORNEYS: Robert P. Schuster, Robert P. Schuster P.C., Jackson, Wyo.; Mark Carman and J. Nicholas Murdock, Nick Murdock & Associates, Casper, Wyo. DEFENSE ATTORNEYS: Patrick Murphy, Williams, Porter, Day & Neville, Casper; Peter Rietz, The Rietz Law Firm, Dillon, Colo. PATENTS Lacrosse stick infringes rival company’s design A New England maker of sports equipment won $1.9 million in damages on its claims that a rival company infringed its patents on lacrosse sticks. A federal jury handed down the findings on Nov. 17. Brine Inc. of Milford, Mass., said that two patents that applied to the offset-head design of its Edge line of lacrosse sticks were infringed by sticks later produced by STX of Baltimore. STX argued both that no patents were infringed, and that the design features at issue were not patentable. The jury determined that one of the two patents, covering sticks produced by STX from August 1999 through August 2003, was infringed, that the infringement was willful and that the patent was valid. Brine Inc. v. STX LLC, No. 99-40167-NMG (D. Mass.). PLAINTIFF’S ATTORNEYS: John O. Mirick, Brian M. Dingman and Jenifer E. Haeckl, Mirick, O’Connell, DeMallie & Lougee, Worcester, Mass. DEFENSE ATTORNEYS: Eileen M. Herlihy, Palmer & Dodge, Boston; John A. Artz and John S. Artz, Artz & Artz, Southfield, Mich.; John T. Bennett and Erin D.E. Joffre, Palmer & Dodge, Boston PRODUCTS LIABILITY Ford cleared of liability in death of rammed officer Ford Motor Co. won a defense verdict when a state jury rejected claims that its door design was responsible for the death of a New Jersey state trooper. The Dec. 18 verdict rejected an estate’s argument that an off-center impact to the front of a Crown Victoria can cause the doors to jam, preventing egress. Scott Gonzalez, 35, was driving a 1997 Crown Victoria Police Interceptor in pursuit of a suspect when he was rammed by the suspect’s vehicle. Gonzalez’s estate claimed that after the impact, the doors of his car jammed shut, preventing him from fleeing the suspect, who shot and killed him. Ford refuted the claim that the doors were prone to jamming, arguing that 90% of police forces in America utilize the vehicle and haven’t experienced that problem. Gonzalez v. Ford Motor Corp., No. L461-99 (Warren Co., N.J., Super. Ct.). PLAINTIFF’S ATTORNEY: Dennis Donnelly, Blume Goldfaden Berkowitz Donnelly Fried & Forte, Chatham, N.J. DEFENSE ATTORNEYS: James S. Dobis, Dobis & Reilly, Livingston, N.J.; Jim Feeney and Brian B. Smith, Dykema Gossett, Bloomfield Hills, Mich. Long-time smoker denied recovery Two tobacco giants successfully defended products liability claims raised against them by a Florida man who developed lung cancer after 55 years of smoking. A state jury found for R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. and Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corp. on Dec. 10. Emmett Hall began smoking in 1943 at the age of 15. He continued smoking, in particular, brands made by R.J. Reynolds and Brown & Williamson until 1998, when he developed lung cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Hall sued under negligence and strict products liability, claiming defective design and failure to warn. The defense maintained that Hall assumed the risks of smoking and that there was no feasible, safer alternative cigarette design that would have prevented the diseases. The jury found that Hall failed to prove that warnings would have made any difference in his decision to smoke or that the cigarettes he smoked were defective. Hall v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., No. 00-1061 (Hillsborough Co., Fla., Cir. Ct.). PLAINTIFF’S ATTORNEYS: Howard M. Acosta, Law Offices of Howard M. Acosta, St. Petersburg, Fla.; Bruce H. Denson and Kent G. Whittemore, Whittemore, Denson, St. Petersburg; Gregory H. Maxwell and Norwood S. Wilner, Spohrer Wilner Maxwell & Matthews, Jacksonville, Fla. DEFENSE ATTORNEYS: Stephanie E. Parker and John F. Yarber, Jones Day, Atlanta; Thomas Campbell and Andrew McGaan, Kirkland & Ellis, Chicago; Troy A. Fuhrman, Hill, Ward & Henderson, Tampa, Fla.; William A. Gillen Jr., Gray, Harris, Robinson, Shackleford & Farrior, Tampa 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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