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DWI Drunken-driving victim’s family awarded $24.7M Houston (AP)-A Texas state jury on Aug. 11 awarded $24.7 million to the family of a woman who died in a crash with a drunken driver four years ago. The Harris County civil jury found Jeffrey Lamont Tate responsible for $14.82 million and his insurance company and a rental car agency responsible for $4.94 million each. The award is subject to the approval of state District Judge Randy Wilson, who heard the week-long trial. According to the plaintiff’s attorney, Progressive County Mutual Insurance Co. arranged for Tate to get a rental vehicle from Enterprise Leasing Co. in November 2000 even though a month earlier Tate had been cited for driving while intoxicated and his license had been suspended. A day after renting the car, Mithoff said Tate “was intoxicated and in a high-speed crash struck” 56-year-old Helen Nettles’ pickup truck, causing it to slam into a light pole and burst into flames. Nettles died in the fire. FAMILY LAW Husband hit for $36M for bad-faith litigation A New Jersey woman has won a $35.8 million divorce award plus alimony and fees for her lawyers and experts. Instead of valuing marital assets at the time of the divorce filing, Essex County Superior Court Judge James Convery determined that the woman, Adele Ciasulli, was entitled to some of the huge growth of her husband’s business eight years after she filed her complaint. Convery said the increase was largely due to the economic boom, not the husband’s management acumen. The judge attacked the defendant husband, car dealer Robert Ciasulli Jr., for litigation strategies he characterized as being in bad faith. The judge objected to his hiring a valuation expert with the sole motive of undervaluing his business to deprive his wife of her fair share of the equitable distribution. The judge accused Ciasulli of concocting a story that the 50% interest of the business he had by 1983 was a gift from his father. Gifts are exempt from equitable distribution in a divorce. The judge said that Ciasulli had earned his 50% share by working tirelessly for his father for more than 20 years. - American Lawyer Media PATENTS Filter maker must pay $15.8M for infringement Minneapolis (AP)-Donaldson Co. Inc. has been ordered to pay $15.8 million to an Iowa manufacturer of air and filter monitoring products for patent infringement. The judgment in favor of Engineered Products Co. of Waterloo, Iowa, was entered on Aug. 12 in an Iowa federal court. A jury determined in May that Minneapolis-based Donaldson, which makes filtration products, had infringed Engineered Products’ patent and set damages at $5.3 million. Judge Mark W. Bennett trebled the damages. Donaldson said it will appeal the decision. The case involved the Filter Minder air filter restriction indicating device, patented in 1984. Engineered Products contended that Donaldson had willfully infringed its patent and that, as a result, it had lost a contract to supply its Filter Minder product for a major SUV and light-truck platform. The contract was awarded to Donaldson. SEX DISCRIMINATION Restaurant chain accused of not hiring men settles Indianapolis (AP)-The Jillian’s restaurant chain will pay $360,000 to settle a lawsuit that accused it of discriminating against men by hiring only women as servers, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) said on Aug. 13. The Louisville, Ky.-based chain will pay the money to men who worked or applied for jobs at an Indianapolis restaurant, the EEOC said. Jillian’s, which did not admit any wrongdoing, agreed to take steps to prevent sex-based hiring. The lawsuit, filed in 1999, alleged that men who applied for certain jobs-chiefly high-paying tip jobs as servers-”didn’t get hired because the job they wanted wasn’t available to men,” said EEOC attorney Nancy Dean Edmonds. Jillian’s agreed to prepare sex-neutral job descriptions, train its managers in laws about sex-based hiring and to report complaints alleging discrimination to the EEOC as part of the settlement. SHAREHOLDER SUIT $22M settlement over failed deal bonus payout Miami (AP)-Shareholders of Florida’s largest public utility company have agreed to a $22.25 million settlement over bonuses paid to top executives before a merger with Entergy Corp. fell through three years ago. Eight current and former executives and insurers with FPL Group Inc. agreed to the payment on Aug. 13 to end a lawsuit filed after the collapse of a $9 billion deal with Entergy, the New Orleans-based utility holding company. Shareholders claimed that top FPL officials should not have been able to pocket money when the deal went bad. Executives had insisted that they were going by the language of the agreements in place at the time, merger or no merger. FPL shareholders approved the merger on Dec. 15, 2000. Five days later, FPL started raising questions about Entergy’s finances but also paid $92 million in bonuses to 696 employees. The suit challenged more than $62 million paid to the eight senior executives. The merger was called off on April 1, 2001.

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