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CONTRACTS Chevron to pay $111M for royalty underpayment Chevrontexaco Corp. was directed by a state jury to pay $111 million to the state of Louisiana to compensate for the underpayment of royalties, on March 18. The state leased the land to Chevron USA Inc., now ChevronTexaco, and claimed that it was paid royalties on the value of oil produced from its land based on an artificially low market price. The state argued that Chevron sold the oil to a buyer for a certain price, and then bought it back from the buyer at a slightly higher price, making it appear as though the origin of the oil was the buyer. Chevron was alleged to have then sold the oil on the market for an even higher price. Louisiana v. ChevronTexaco Corp., No. 93658 (Lafourche Parish, La., Dist. Ct.). PLAINTIFF’S ATTORNEY: Spencer Hosie, Hosie Frost Large & McArthur, San Francisco DEFENSE ATTORNEY: G. William Jarman, Kean, Miller, Hawthorne, D’Armond, McCowan & Jarman, Baton Rouge, La. LANDLORD AND TENANT Woman gets $3.7 million for apartment fire burns A woman who sustained third-degree burns in an apartment complex fire was awarded more than $3.7 million by a California jury in a suit against the property owner, on March 11. Elizabeth Berry, then 52, sustained the burns when a fire broke out in her apartment. She sued property owner Jerry Keeton for negligent maintenance, contending that neither Keeton nor his management team regularly checked the smoke detectors as they claimed. Keeton claimed that he saw Berry’s roommate disconnect the smoke detector. Berry v. Keeton, No. NC031449 (Los Angeles Co., Calif., Super. Ct.). PLAINTIFF’S ATTORNEY: C. Michael Alder, Law Office of C. Michael Alder, Beverly Hills, Calif. DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Juan C. Delgado, Michael Maguire & Associates, Costa Mesa, Calif. LEGAL PROFESSION False Claims Act suit against law firm settles A Chicago law firm settled a suit brought against it under the federal False Claims Act for $676,852 on March 16. Chris Jones, a mortgage company employee, claimed that, during an approximately eight-year period when Fisher & Fisher of New York was representing mortgage companies in foreclosures, it was charging the companies for publishing legal notices that were never published. Many of the approximately 250 loans at issue were insured by the Veterans Administration and Federal Housing Administration, which had reimbursed the mortgage companies for the $250-per-loan publication fee. Jones sued the firm and, after investigating, the United States intervened though a qui tam claim. Jones will get 25% of the settlement amount. United States v. Fisher & Fisher, No. 00-L-4050 (N.D. Ill.). PLAINTIFF’S ATTORNEYS: Thomas Beyer, Gencon Business Legal Services PC, La Grange, Ill.; Jonathan C. Haile, U.S. attorney’s office, N.D. Ill., Chicago DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Daniel M. Purdom, Hinshaw & Culbertson, Lisle, Ill. NEGLIGENT SUPERVISION Post-trial ruling nullifies verdict against coach A jury award to a father and daughter who accused a school district of negligent supervision and violation of the father’s First Amendment rights, originally $3.1 million, was ultimately reduced to $100,000. A New Jersey jury, on March 2, found for the family, but $3 million of the award was reduced by 51% for comparative negligence. Judge Paulette Sapp-Peterson, on April 8, ruled that Jennifer Besler failed to satisfy the Tort Claims Act’s requirement that injuries be permanent for pain and suffering damages to be awarded. The $100,000 for the civil rights claim of her father, Phillip Besler, was upheld. Jennifer claimed that her West Windsor-Plainsboro High School basketball coach, Daniel Hussong, asked her to lose 10 pounds before basketball season, causing her to develop an eating disorder. Her father claimed that when he tried to complain about Hussong’s conduct during a school board meeting, the president refused to allow him to speak. The defense contended that Hussong’s conduct was not as egregious as claimed. Besler v. West Windsor-Plainsboro School District, No. MER-L-000236-98 (Mercer County, N.J., Super. Ct.). PLAINTIFFS’ ATTORNEYS: Daniel Fleming and Linda Wong, Wong Fleming, Princeton, N.J. DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Sharon H. Moore, Gebhardt & Kiefer, Clinton, N.J. PREMISES LIABILITY Cable kills ATV rider, family denied recovery The estate of a man who was killed when he drove into a cable was denied recovery by an Illinois jury on March 24. Curtis Marcum, 28, was riding his all-terrain vehicle (ATV) without permission on farmland owned by John White. It was broad daylight when Marcum, who was riding on the property for the first time, struck the cable, which was stretched across a field entrance. He injured his chest and died within minutes. Marcum’s estate sued White and the farmer who leased the property, Eldon Puls. The defendants argued that the cable was there to keep trucks out, but was easily visible to someone on an ATV. The defendants claimed Marcum was contributorily negligent for riding at high speeds, estimated at 20 to 25 mph by a witness. Estate of Marcum v. White, No. 02 L 11 (Logan Co., Ill., Cir. Ct.). PLAINTIFF’S ATTORNEY: Francis J. Lynch, Wolter, Beeman & Lynch, Springfield, Ill. DEFENSE ATTORNEYS: Paul P. Gilfillan, Quinn, Johnston, Henderson & Pretorius, Peoria, Ill.; Theresa M. Powell, Heyl, Royster, Voelker & Allen, Springfield 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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