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GENOCIDE Insurer settles suit by Armenian descendants Los Angeles (AP)�A landmark $20 million settlement was approved in a lawsuit over unpaid insurance benefits for descendants of Armenians killed nearly a century ago in the Ottoman Empire. U.S. District Judge Christina A. Snyder formally approved the settlement on July 30. She had granted preliminary approval for the unpaid death benefits earlier this year. Attorneys said they filed the class action to raise awareness of the deaths as well as to win money from New York Life Insurance Co. “We were able to bring to court a lawsuit that brings some recognition of the genocide,” said attorney Brian S. Kabateck, who, like co-counsel Mark Geragos, is Armenian-American. It is believed to be the first legal agreement involving what Armenians say was the death of 1.5 million people from 1915-23 in a campaign to force them out of eastern Turkey. Turkey claims that the death count is inflated and that Armenians were killed or displaced along with others as the collapsing Ottoman Empire tried to quell civil unrest. France and Russia are among 15 countries, along with a United Nations human rights panel, that have recognized the killings as genocide. The United States has not made such a declaration. One plaintiff, 89-year-old Martin Marootian, will receive $250,000. His mother first sought benefits in 1923 for Marootian’s uncle, who bought a policy in 1910 and was killed in 1915. New York Life’s attorney, John Carroll Holmes, said that the settlement was fair and that the company acted “nobly” to settle the claims. New York Life sold about 8,000 policies in the Ottoman Empire beginning in the 1880s, with fewer than half of those bought by Armenians. It stopped selling insurance there in 1915. NEGLIGENCE Kmart settles suit over gun sale to suicidal man Salt Lake City (AP)�Retail giant Kmart Corp. has reached a confidential settlement in a lawsuit over the sale of a gun to a schizophrenic Park City, Utah, man who used it to commit suicide. A second trial in the case had been scheduled before U.S. District Judge Ted Stewart, who threw out a $3 million award to Philip and Sandra Eslinger after declaring deliberations were tainted by a juror who did Internet research on the outcome of a similar lawsuit in Florida. In their 1997 lawsuit, the Eslingers claimed that Kmart was negligent in selling a 12-gauge shotgun the year before to their son Ryan, who killed his pet dog and himself the same day. The couple said store employees failed to require proper identification and should not have sold a firearm to a mentally ill person. Kmart attorneys responded that its employees did nothing wrong and relied on a passport for identification. A jury unanimously decided that Kmart was negligent in 2001, awarding $3 million in general and punitive damages. That verdict was overturned last year after Kmart blamed the juror’s research for tainting the panel’s discussion. PATENTS Calif. jury awards $43M for patent infringement Santa Ana, Calif. (AP)�An Orange County federal jury awarded $43.5 million in damages to a surgical products company that claimed industry giant U.S. Surgical Corp. infringed on its patent for a device used in laparoscopic operations. The Central District of California jury ruled on Aug. 3 that U.S. Surgical, a division of Tyco International Ltd., willfully violated the patent of Applied Medical Services of Rancho Saint Margarita, Calif. The finding allows Judge Cormac Carney to triple the damages and award attorney fees, actions which he is set to consider at a Sept. 20 hearing. Applied Medical argued that U.S. Surgical violated its patent on a sealing mechanism for a trocar, a tube that surgeons insert in patients to handle instruments during laparoscopic surgeries. U.S. Surgical, based in Norwalk, Conn., has discontinued using the disputed version of the product. The case is the second of three related federal lawsuits that Applied Medical filed against U.S. Surgical. A federal court in Virginia awarded $15 million for patent infringement in 1997, and a judge added $5 million more. A third suit is scheduled for a hearing before Carney in March. SECURITIES FRAUD Bristol-Myers Squibb settles fraud suits Washington (AP)�Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. is paying $150 million to settle allegations of major accounting fraud as federal regulators, on Aug. 4, accused the company of manipulating its inventory of drugs to inflate earnings and meet Wall Street targets. The pharmaceutical giant, which also recently settled a lawsuit by shareholders for $300 million, still faces a criminal investigation by the Justice Department. In its settlement of the civil case with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Bristol-Myers agreed to pay a $100 million civil fine and an additional $50 million, both of which will go into a fund for shareholders. Bristol-Myers neither admitted nor denied wrongdoing in the accord but did agree to abide by a permanent injunction against future violations. It is one of the largest SEC penalties in years for alleged accounting violations against a still-operating company. The $150 million payment dwarfs the $10 million fine levied on Xerox Corp. in 2002, the largest ever at the time, to resolve allegations of accounting fraud.

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