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ASBESTOS Jury awards $5.2 million in fatal asbestos action The family of a deceased refinery worker was awarded $5.2 million by a Texas jury on Feb. 24 against Quigley Co., the maker of Insulag, a powdered, asbestos-containing insulation. Luis Ytuarte Jr., 77, claimed he was exposed to the material from 1948 through the mid-1980s while working at a refinery in El Paso, Texas. In 2002, he was diagnosed with mesothelioma and died nine months later. The verdict includes punitive damages of $2.5 million. Quigley, which manufactured and sold the product until 1974, was the only defendant. Both a $668,000 settlement credit and a statutory cap on punitives will apply. Quigley contended that Ytuarte’s employer was solely responsible for any injury that Ytuarte suffered. A separate lawsuit is pending against Ytuarte’s employer. Espinoza v. Quigley Co., No. 2003-573 (El Paso Co., Texas, Ct. at Law). PLAINTIFFS’ ATTORNEYS: Allen M. Stewart, Chris Panatier and Tiffany L. Newlin, Baron & Budd, Dallas; Enrique Moreno, Law Office of Enrique Moreno, El Paso, Texas DEFENSE ATTORNEYS: James H. Powers, Powers & Frost, Houston; Timothy J. Hogan, Beirne, Maynard & Parsons, Houston; Carlos Rincon and Stacy Zavala, Delgado, Acosta, Braden & Jones, El Paso CONSUMER PROTECTION Lawyers found liable for asset-protection scam The state of Colorado secured a $1.7 million judgment on Feb. 4 against two attorneys accused of bilking 334 elderly people out of their money. In 2000 and 2001, attorneys Robert Mason, Harry Hochstetler and Claude Ray Page invited older Coloradans to estate planning seminars, where they marketed “family asset protection” plans, claiming that the plans would allow participants to qualify for Medicaid by keeping their assets free from income-eligibility limits. The participants paid an average of $2,000 for the program, but it accomplished nothing for most of them. The state sued under Colorado’s Consumer Protection Act. Mason is liable for almost all of the judgment. Page settled before trial for $1.4 million. State of Colorado v. Mason, No. 01 CV 3219 (El Paso Co., Colo., Dist. Ct.). PLAINTIFF’S ATTORNEY: Jay B. Simonson, Colorado attorney general’s office, Denver DEFENSE ATTORNEYS: Jeffrey I. Tompkins, Colorado Springs, Colo; William C. Speers, Colorado Springs GM finance unit settles loan discrimination suit The auto finance unit of General Motors Corp. settled a class action alleging that it discriminated against blacks by allowing its dealerships to hike interest rates at their discretion. The suit against General Motors Acceptance Corp. (GMAC) alleged that blacks were more likely than other borrowers to be subjected to a higher interest rate. Maintaining that it did not tolerate discrimination in any form, GMAC on Feb. 9 agreed to reduce the markup on 60-month loans and cap the interest rate on extended loans, to offer more than 1 million loans with no markup to qualified minority buyers over the next five years, and to contribute $1.6 million to programs designed to educate consumers on intelligent buying. Coleman v. General Motors Acceptance Corp., No. 3-98-0211 (M.D. Tenn.). PLAINTIFF’S ATTORNEYS: Stuart Rossman, National Consumer Law Center, Boston; Wyman O. Gilmore Jr., Gilmore Law Office, Grove Hill, Ala.; Gary Klein, Grant & Roddy, Boston; Darnley Stewart, Bernstein Litowitz Berger & Grossmann, New York; Michael E. Terry, Terry & Gore, Nashville, Tenn.; Clinton W. Watkins, Law Offices Of Clint Watkins, Brentwood, Tenn. DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Thomas E. Dutton, Kirkland & Ellis, Chicago EMPLOYMENT Consensual relationship undoes harassment case A Los Angeles transit worker lost her harassment claim in state court on Feb. 5 after the defendant agency argued that she had been in a consensual relationship with her accused co-worker. Karen Austin, a bus custodian, contended that the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority did nothing about her claims that a co-worker sexually harassed her by making inappropriate comments and touching her, creating a hostile work environment. She sued the authority and the co-worker. The defense said there was no harassment, and that Austin and her co-worker previously were in a consensual relationship which had ended, leaving hard feelings. Austin v. LACMTA, No. BC275095 (Los Angeles Co., Calif., Super. Ct.). PLAINTIFF’S ATTORNEY: Marvin L. Mathis, Law Offices of Marvin L. Mathis, Los Angeles DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Richard P. Chastang, office of county counsel, Los Angeles ENVIRONMENTAL LAW Dallas settles claim that leak contaminated lake The city of Dallas settled its suit with the owner of a pipeline that allegedly contaminated its water supply for $8.25 million on Feb. 18. The deal, after 13 days of a jury trial, settled claims that an Explorer Pipeline Co. line spilled reformulated gasoline into a creek that feeds Lake Tawakoni, which supplied 30% of Dallas’ water. After the leak, levels of the gasoline additive MTBE were very high, causing the city to build a connection to another lake for water. It sued to recover the costs of building the emergency connection. The city alleged that Explorer knew that its pipeline was cracking and corroding before it ruptured. Explorer argued that state regulators said the water was safe before Dallas decided to build the emergency connection and that MTBE levels in other Dallas lakes and in Lake Tawakoni were higher before the gasoline spill than after the spill. City of Dallas v. Explorer Pipeline Co., No. 00-09678 (Dallas Co., Texas, Dist. Ct.). PLAINTIFF’S ATTORNEYS: Ted B. Lyon and Marquette Wolf, Ted B. Lyon & Associates, Mesquite, Texas DEFENSE ATTORNEYS: John Clayton, David C. Myers and Gordon M. Shapiro, Jackson & Walker, Houston MEDICAL MALPRACTICE $4 million awarded for delay in removing fetus The family of a woman who died following surgery to remove a dead fetus were awarded nearly $4 million by a California jury on Feb. 13. On Oct. 4, 2000, Sandra Renteria, 36, who was 28 weeks pregnant, went to San Bernardino Community Hospital in California with complaints of decreased fetal movement and cramping. She was seen by a midwife employed by Woman-to-Woman OB/GYN Medical Group, who contacted obstetrician Irene Donley-Kimble, a member of the hospital staff. Although a sonogram indicated fetal demise, Donley-Kimble discharged Renteria. It wasn’t until Oct. 8 that surgery to remove the fetus was performed. Renteria died from sepsis following the surgery. Her children sued Donley-Kimble and the medical group, alleging medical malpractice. The defense contended that removal of the fetus was not unreasonably delayed. Rodriguez v. Donley-Kimble, No. SCVSS81705 (San Bernardino Co., Calif., Super. Ct.). PLAINTIFFS’ ATTORNEYS: Bruce G. Fagel and Thomas E. Donahue, Bruce G. Fagel & Associates, Beverly Hills, Calif. DEFENSE ATTORNEYS: Nancy Menzies Vaessen and Greg C. Middlebrook, Middlebrook, Kaiser & Popka, Palm Springs, Calif., and San Bernardino, Calif. NEGLIGENCE Hawaii hospital liable for surgeon hurt by machine A surgeon who claimed that her career was cut short by half by injuries she sustained when struck by a machine was awarded $1.95 million by a Hawaii jury on Feb. 1. Elizabeth Pohlson, 49, said she suffered from knee and lumbar injuries, as well as reflex sympathetic dystrophy (a neurologic disorder), as a result of being hit on her knee by the arm of a 750-pound mobile X-ray machine while it was being moved by a technician. Pohlson sued Kapi’olani Hospital of Honolulu for negligence, alleging that the technician who moved the X-ray machine was not properly trained to move it. The hospital admitted liability, but argued that her injuries did not have the negative effect on her career that she claimed, and contended that, after relocating to Lubbock, Texas, she was able to work and earned more money than she did in Hawaii. Pohlson v. Kapi’olani Hospital, No. 02-1-1784-07(VSM) (Honolulu Co., Hawaii, Cir. Ct.). PLAINTIFF’S ATTORNEY: Jan Weinberg, Law Offices of Jan Weinberg, Honolulu DEFENSE ATTORNEYS: Richard Kowen, William Hunt and Jan Vernon, Alston Hunt Floyd & Ing, Honolulu More information about these cases, as well as full reports on other verdicts and settlements, can be found in the VerdictSearch Publications or at www.VerdictSearch.com. To submit a case, call (800)352-8412, fax (212)313-9145 or use the form at http://www.verdictsearch.com/jv3_submit_a_case. For subscription information or jury verdict research, call (800)832-1900.

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