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L.A. court rules that Genentech owes $500M In a ruling that critics warn could jolt the biotechnology world, a California appeals court last week upheld more than $500 million in damages against Genentech Inc. The Los Angeles-based 2d District Court of Appeal ruled unanimously that there was “substantial evidence” that the South San Francisco-based biotech giant had acted fraudulently in failing to pay royalties on human insulin and human growth hormone developed by the City of Hope National Medical Center. The decision affirms a Los Angeles County Superior Court jury’s 2002 decision to award City of Hope more than $300 million in compensatory damages and $200 million in punitive damages. Brobeck deal challenged Former employees have entered the fray over Brobeck, Phleger & Harrison’s bankruptcy, hoping to prevent a deal that could short-circuit their claims against the failed firm. A group of former staffers objected last week to a proposed settlement in which Morgan, Lewis & Bockius would pay $10.2 million to the Brobeck estate. The deal would avoid potential claims by the estate, including claims to revenue from unfinished business that Brobeck lawyers took with them to Morgan Lewis. But it may also affect a separate federal suit filed by employees who say they are owed millions in severance pay. Calif. insurance chief to hire Lerach over AG An insurance probe initiated by New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer has landed in California with a bang. Lerach Coughlin Stoia Geller Rudman & Robbins has been hired by John Garamendi, California’s insurance commissioner, to represent the Department of Insurance in litigation against brokers who allegedly violated state law by directing customers to insurance companies that paid the brokers the highest commission. Gary Cohen, Garamendi’s chief counsel, said the state will join a suit that Lerach partner John Stoia Jr. filed on Oct. 14 in San Diego County Superior Court against insurance broker Universal Life Resources, alleging that the broker received kickbacks from insurers. Cohen said the state would seek injunctive relief-but not monetary damages-on behalf of California citizens. Murders don’t trigger insurer’s duty to defend A homeowners insurer does not have to provide coverage to a Pittsburgh-area couple sued for negligence after their adult son murdered five and severely wounded another during a April 2000 killing spree, a Pennsylvania appeals court panel has ruled. In Donegal Mutual Insurance Co. v. Baumhammers, 2004 Pa. Super. 397, the judges held that Donegal does not have a duty to defend parents Andrejs and Inese Baumhammers against the negligence claims, because none of the shootings amounted to “an occurrence” as defined in their Donegal policy. The Superior Court panel reversed a 2001 ruling that Donegal had a duty to defend the Baumhammers family for six separate occurrences, exposing the insurer to up to $1.8 million. Pa. high court rules gun database is not a registry The decades-old database of handgun sales maintained by the state police does not violate the Legislature’s prohibition on a government registry of firearm ownership, a split Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled last week. While the database may be a registry, “it is not a registry of firearm ownership,” the 3-2 majority concluded in Allegheny County Sportsmen’s League v. Rendell. The court rejected arguments made by a group of gun owners who had purchased handguns in the state and claimed that the registry, which has been maintained by the police since the 1940s, was barred by the state Uniform Firearms Act. County contractors to pay for jury duty, or else Employers doing business with Los Angeles County need to have a civic conscience-even if that means a bigger budget. The California 2d District Court of Appeal upheld a 2002 ordinance that forbids contracting with companies that don’t pay their employees for at least five days of jury duty. Chicago-based Burns International Security Services Corp. had challenged the county ordinance, saying it violated the California Constitution, which prohibits local entities from enforcing regulations outside their territories. According to the ruling, Los Angeles County enacted the code to prevent companies from reducing or eliminating compensation to employees for jury duty. Burns International Security Services Corp. v. Co. of L.A., No. B168209.

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