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FREEDOM OF SPEECH Jury awards doctors $5.5M in suit against Yale Waterbury, Conn. (AP)-A jury on July 23 awarded $5.5 million to three doctors who accused Yale University of retaliating over complaints about poor patient care in its radiology department. Arthur Rosenfield, Morton Burrell and Robert Smith, doctors teaching at Yale’s medical school, complained to administrators that cost-cutting measures were putting patients at Yale-New Haven Medical Center at risk. They alleged that nonspecialists were involved in diagnostic studies and teaching physicians approved studies interpreted by residents without checking their accuracy. The doctors said Yale retaliated by cutting their pay and removing them from their leadership positions. The doctors sued in January 2000, accusing Yale of violating their right to freedom of speech and academic freedom. At trial, Yale portrayed the doctors as disgruntled employees worried about protecting their turf and maintaining a comfortable workload. NEGLIGENCE Largest settlement yet in Staten Island ferry crash New York (AP)-A woman who was injured in the Staten Island ferry crash last fall settled with the city last week for $1.125 million, the largest deal reached so far following the accident, which killed 11 people and injured dozens. Laura Diaz, 41, fractured her femur and pelvis when the ferry strayed off course and slammed into a concrete pier after crossing New York Harbor from Manhattan on Oct. 15, 2003. About 150 more lawsuits stemming from the accident are outstanding. Federal prosecutors have indicated that a grand jury might return criminal indictments by mid-August. PERSONAL INJURY Woman, brain-damaged in accident, gets $6M Honolulu (AP)-The family of a woman who suffered brain damage in a 2002 traffic accident has received a $6.15 million settlement. Kathy Mueller, now 38, was left comatose and underwent brain surgeries after she was struck in the head by a 13-pound metal hydraulic jack-head extension from a truck. The metal cylinder was kicked up through her windshield by the rear tires of an American Movers Inc. semi-trailer hauling welding equipment. Mueller is now wheelchair-bound and, according to a family attorney, will require 24-hour-a-day care. The family’s suit alleged that the metal object was improperly loaded and secured to the truck, causing it to fall onto the road. American Movers, which went out of business last year, admits no liability. The settlement, approved by the probate court, will be paid by insurance companies for American Movers and the Muellers’ insurance policy. REGULATORY ACTION Parmalat in SEC accord on corporate reforms Washington (AP)-Italian dairy giant Parmalat, accused by U.S. regulators of one of the biggest financial frauds in history, agreed last week to a settlement accord that entailed corporate reforms but no fines. The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) announced the settlement with the insolvent company, which is being restructured in a plan subject to Italian government approval. In a civil suit filed in December, the SEC accused the company of selling nearly $1.5 billion in bonds and notes to U.S. institutional investors and misleading them by grossly overstating its assets. The SEC sought fines, restitution and a permanent injunction against future fraud. Parmalat has neither admitted to nor denied the SEC allegations but did agree to abide by its injunction. The settlement must be approved by the federal court in Manhattan, where the SEC filed the suit. The company agreed to have its board of directors elected by shareholders and for a majority of directors to be independent of company management. Restitution is not part of the accord because investors are being compensated through a restructuring plan, and fines levied on Parmalat would hurt them. At the time of the bankruptcy filing, Parmalat had annual sales of around $9 billion and produced and sold food products around the world. SHAREHOLDER SUIT Utility pays $90 million to settle blackout suit Akron, Ohio (AP)-FirstEnergy Corp. has agreed to pay $89.9 million to settle shareholder suits stemming from last summer’s blackout, an extended outage at its Davis-Besse nuclear power plant and its earnings restatement. FirstEnergy said that its insurers would pay $71.9 million of the settlement, and the company’s $17.9 million share would result in a charge against second-quarter earnings of 3 cents per share. The utility said the agreement didn’t amount to an admission of wrongdoing. In April, a joint U.S.-Canadian task force report on last year’s blackout leveled much of the blame on FirstEnergy lines and procedures. In August 2003, Philadelphia law firm Berger & Montague sued FirstEnergy on behalf of anyone who may have purchased stock in the company between April 24, 2002, and Aug. 5, 2003, when it announced plans to restate its earnings. The restatement reduced FirstEnergy’s income by $99 million.

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