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CONSUMER PROTECTION Bank of America told to pay $284M in damages San Francisco (AP)—A California judge wants to nearly quadruple the damages Bank of America must pay to an estimated 1.3 million customers whose Social Security accounts a jury found were illegally raided. The class action alleged that Bank of America collected some check overdraft and other fees by taking money from direct deposit accounts set up to receive Social Security benefits. In February, a jury awarded $75 million in damages to the bank’s customers, in addition to $1,000 in special damages to each one who proves the bank’s actions caused substantial emotional or economic harm. Now San Francisco Superior Court Judge Anne Bouliane, who presided over the trial, has increased the $75 million in general damages to $284 million-the amount of money she determined the Charlotte, N.C.-based bank siphoned from customers’ Social Security accounts. DESIGN DEFECT Sandra Bullock awarded $7M in building dispute Austin, Texas (AP)—Sandra Bullock was awarded about $7 million in damages when a state court jury agreed with her claim that a builder did shoddy work on her Lake Austin home. The star claimed that Benny Daneshjou, the builder of the lakefront home she never moved into, was responsible for $4 million in repairs needed to the 10,000-square-foot mansion, which was never finished. Witnesses testified that the house had water damage, faulty framing on the roof, wiring within the drywall that was too small and damage in the masonry. HAZARDOUS ACTIVITY $2M award for property owners over diesel spill Mandan, N.D. (AP)—A jury has awarded some $2 million in damages to property owners who sued Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroad over a downtown diesel spill. The spill was discovered in 1984, and estimates have ranged as high as 4 million gallons. The lawsuit was filed two years ago. BNSF settled with the state and the city of Mandan earlier for more than $30 million in cash and real estate. INTENTIONAL TORTS County pays out $1.6M to settle jail-death suit Bremerton, Wash. (AP)—Jefferson County has agreed to pay $1.6 million to settle a lawsuit filed over an inmate’s death while in restraints at the county jail. Kevin Bledsoe, 23, was arrested after a fight in a supermarket parking lot. His parents sued, claiming that he was sprayed in the face with pepper spray, tied up in a “hog-tie” position, had a hood placed over his bleeding head, brought to the Jefferson County jail rather than a hospital and held face down on the floor of an isolation cell until he lost consciousness. Instead of getting him medical aid, the officers removed his clothing and left him lying in a pool of blood. NEGLIGENCE ‘Vogue’ editor’s ex-nanny settles toxic fumes case New York (AP)—A former nanny who claimed that fumes she inhaled at the home of Vogue editor Anna Wintour caused her severe nerve and brain damage settled her case against several defendants for $2.21 million. The money will go into an annuity for Lori Feldt, 31, giving her a structured payout of between $5 million and $6 million over several years. Feldt, who went to work for Wintour in mid-1997, said the fumes came from paint thinner workers used to remove red paint that anti-fur activists had thrown onto the facade of Wintour’s Manhattan townhouse. Feldt testified that after inhaling the fumes, she went from excellent health and a physically active lifestyle to having headaches, numbness in her face and hands, and memory, balance and vision problems. TAXATION Company agrees to pay $99 million in back taxes Toledo, Ohio (AP)—Owens Corning has agreed to pay $99 million in back taxes and interest to resolve a dispute over challenged deductions. The settlement amount is less than the $481 million that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) had originally demanded. Owens Corning, which makes insulation, roofing, siding and composites, said in a bankruptcy filing that the tax dispute prompted a prolonged audit by the IRS. Payments over five years include $70 million in back taxes and $29 million in interest, but no penalties. WORKERS’ COMPENSATION $12.5 million award in factory accident case A Philadelphia jury has awarded $12.5 million to a Reading, Pa., automated factory line worker for permanent brain damage he claims he suffered when a stack of wood panels placed along the factory wall fell on him, driving his head onto the cement floor. However, due to the lack of insurance coverage of one defendant and a joint high-low agreement reached mid-trial with the other two defendants in the case, plaintiff Hafez Naddour may only be able to collect $250,000.—ALM

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