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California regulator sues four insurance giants Four major insurance companies paid a broker tens of millions of dollars in hidden kickbacks in exchange for winning contracts with some of the largest U.S. companies, California Insurance Commissioner John Garamendi alleged last week. A lawsuit filed in San Diego Superior Court names MetLife Inc., Prudential Financial Inc., Cigna Corp. and UnumProvident Corp. An attorney for Cigna said he does not believe the company violated any laws or regulations. A Prudential spokesman said the company had not yet been served, and had no comment. The other companies did not immediately return phone calls seeking a response. Ill. Court tosses gun suits The Illinois Supreme Court threw out two lawsuits accusing gunmakers of knowingly letting weapons fall into the hands of gang members and other criminals, ruling last week that the manufacturers cannot legally be blamed for street violence. Both rulings were unanimous, but five of the seven justices were so disturbed by allegations raised in the case that they wrote a separate opinion urging the Legislature to create tougher gun regulations. The lawsuits claimed the defendants created a public nuisance by pouring guns that are used to kill into the Chicago area. Med-mal payouts on Web chills settlements Nearly five months after a New Jersey state government Web site began posting doctors’ malpractice histories, the publicity may be having a chilling effect on settlements. Lawyers on both sides of the aisle say that some doctors, faced with a confidential settlement ending up on the Internet, are opting to take their chances in court. They are exercising the right available under most medical malpractice policies to withhold their consent to settle, even when it goes against the wishes of their carriers. “Doctors do not want to settle at all now that it has to be reported to the databank for any payment whatsoever,” says defense lawyer Richard Amdur. Amdur used to settle about a third of his cases but estimates that the figure has dropped recently to 10% to 15%. The impact is mainly felt in cases under $100,000, said Amdur of Eatontown, N.J.’s Amdur, Maggs & McGann. Stolen porn suit nixed Credit card companies aren’t liable when someone uses their charge card to buy purloined pornography, a federal court in San Jose, Calif., ruled last week. Ruling from the bench, U.S. District Judge James Ware tossed out a copyright and trademark infringement suit brought against Visa International Service Association and MasterCard International Inc. by Perfect 10 Inc., which publishes an adult magazine and operates an adult Web site. Perfect 10 claims hundreds of Web site operators around the world are selling its trademarked images of women-and that the credit card companies that process these transactions are liable for contributory and vicarious copyright infringement. Perfect 10 v. Visa Int’l, No. 04-0371. Wolf Block hikes salaries After thinking about the firm’s place in the shifting marketplace for nearly six weeks, management at Philadelphia’s Wolf, Block, Schorr and Solis-Cohen has announced that it will raise starting salaries from $107,000 to $115,000. The move becomes effective at the beginning of the firm’s next fiscal year, Feb. 1, 2005. Lawyers in the firm’s Philadelphia and Cherry Hill, N.J., offices will receive the raises, but firm officials said they were still deciding what to do for associates in offices in New York; Roseland, N.J.; Wilmington, Del.; and Harrisburg, Pa. Judge levels 55-year sentence, urges appeal Utah U.S. district Judge Paul G. Cassell sentenced a man to 55 years and a day in prison last week for first-time drug and weapon offenses. Cassell questioned the longevity of the sentence in State v. Weldon Angelos, No. 02-CR-708 (D. Utah 2004), calling it “out of the realm of reason,” but beyond his power to change because of mandatory minimum sentencing. He urged Angelos to appeal. The case garnered attention due to an amicus brief filed to the court by 29 prominent former judges, urging Cassell to declare the sentence unconstitutional. [NLJ, Aug. 23.].

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