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CONTRACTS Whistleblower suit ends in $4.5M settlement A $4.5 million settlement has been reached in a whistleblower suit that had accused a Pennsylvania technology company of exploiting for financial gain a contract it had with the U.S. Department of Energy (DoE) to develop recycling technology. A 1992 contract with DoE permitted Vortec Corp. to seek DoE reimbursements for costs incurred during the project. According to the qui tam complaint filed by whistleblower Donald Eastmond, the company submitted reimbursement forms for equipment that was never purchased and for personal expenses. “In reality, Vortec canceled the purchase orders and pocketed the government’s money,” according to the complaint. Eastmond alleged in his complaint that he had been fired by the company for questioning its billing practices. Under terms of the settlement, Eastmond will receive $1.08 million. - American Lawyer Media EMINENT DOMAIN Las Vegas settles with family over seized land Las Vegas (AP)-City officials have approved a $4.5 million settlement to end a long-running eminent domain dispute involving a downtown parking garage. The settlement with the Pappas family concerns the 1993 seizure of their 7,000-square-foot property for the Fremont Street Experience garage. The seizure of the property, which cost the family more than $60,000 a year in income, was ultimately declared a lawful public use by the Nevada Supreme Court. The $4.5 million figure was first offered by the city several years ago. ENVIRONMENTAL LAW Industries to pay $56M for Indiana river cleanup Gary, Ind. (AP)-U.S. Steel Corp. and seven other companies that polluted the Grand Calumet River have agreed to pay $56 million to settle a lawsuit to pay for its cleanup. The settlement follows years of investigation by environmental regulators. Pittsburgh-based U.S. Steel will pay $21.5 million of the settlement, with chemical company E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Co. paying $10.5 million, steelmaker Ispat Inland Inc. paying $8.3 million and Atlantic Richfield Co. paying $6 million. The four other companies will pay between $2.4 million and $2.6 million. The companies have five years to pay the money with interest. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has estimated that the river and the Indiana Harbor contain 5 million to 10 million cubic yards of contaminated sediment up to 20 feet deep. GASOLINE SPILL Texaco told to pay $15M for 1955 pipeline leak Great Falls, Mont. (AP)-A Cascade County jury has ordered Texaco to pay $15 million to finish cleaning up a 1955 gasoline pipeline spill in the small town of Sunburst, and $25 million in punitive damages for not having done it sooner. The class action revolved around a 19-acre underground plume of contaminants left after a pipeline leak at the now-defunct Sunburst Works Refinery. The company did pump some of the gasoline from the ground in the two years after the pipeline leak, but gasoline-related toxins, including the carcinogen benzene, remain in Sunburst’s groundwater and soil. The class action, with 82 plaintiffs that include the Sunburst school district, was filed in 2001. PREMISES LIABILITY $20M verdict for family of migrant shot on ranch Laredo, Texas (AP)-A Webb County jury awarded $20 million in damages to the family of an undocumented immigrant shot to death last year by a ranch hand who claimed he mistook the man for a wild hog. Jesus Barrera Vazquez, 24, was hiding in thick brush on the 17,000-acre Hurd-Villegas Ranch near Laredo when he was shot by Juan Mendoza Garza on June 1, 2003. A manslaughter charge against Mendoza was dropped by the Webb County district attorney’s office. Barrera’s family, from central Mexico, asked for $25 million in damages in the lawsuit filed against the 36-year-old Mendoza, the Hurd Ranch and John R. Hurd of San Antonio, a former diplomat who owns the ranch. The jury found Hurd liable for 75% of the damages and Mendoza 25%. VICARIOUS LIABILITY Gun dealer must pay in shooting of 7-year-old Philadelphia (AP)-A gun dealer agreed to pay $850,000 to a woman whose 7-year-old son was killed with a revolver the dealer sold to a middleman who illegally resold the gun on the street. Perry J. Bruce bought small handguns from Jon K. Sauers, the owner of Sauers Trading, and resold them illegally. On April 19, 1999, children found one of the guns that Bruce bought under a parked car. A child pointed the revolver at Nafis Jefferson, 7, and pulled the trigger, killing him. Police believe a drug dealer had hidden the gun under the car. Bruce pleaded guilty to federal gun trafficking charges in 1998. Sauers had testified in a deposition that he complied with state and federal law in each sale to Bruce, but that he never asked Bruce why he bought 10 small handguns from him between 1994 and 1997.

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