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CONSUMER PROTECTION Colorado reaches $24M settlement with insurer Denver (AP)-An insurance company agreed to refund about $24 million to consumers after state investigators claimed that the firm gave kickbacks to homebuilders, lenders and real estate agents. Colorado Governor Bill Owens said the kickbacks cost consumers millions of dollars nationwide and involved other major title insurers in a complex financial scheme that began in 1997. The arrangement kept the cost of title insurance artificially high and may have violated state and federal laws. First American Title Insurance Co. agreed to give back the money to consumers across the country, Owens said. DEFAMATION ‘Boston Herald’ must pay libeled judge $2.1M Boston (AP)-A jury has ordered the Boston Herald to pay $2.1 million for libeling a Superior Court judge, saying it had misquoted him as telling lawyers that a 14-year-old rape victim should “get over it.” The jury found that the newspaper and reporter David Wedge libeled Superior Court Judge Ernest B. Murphy in articles that portrayed him as lenient toward defendants. Murphy claimed that Wedge misquoted him as telling lawyers involved in the case about the teenage rape victim: “Tell her to get over it.” The quote was included in a February 2002 series of Herald articles that said Murphy had been criticized by prosecutors for lenient sentences. Murphy sued the paper, claiming that his comments about the 14-year-old, made in a closed-door meeting with lawyers, were misquoted and taken out of context. MEDICAL MALPRACTICE Insurer must pay $15.3M in arbitrated awards Newark, N.J.-More than a dozen patients who sued a New Jersey eye surgery clinic have won $15.3 million in arbitration, and Princeton Insurance Co., the doctor’s carrier, will have to pay out. The arbitration awards, made in secret last year, included $3.5 million for a patient whose cornea burst during laser surgery in the clinic run by Dr. Joseph Dello Russo, according to Judge Lawrence Smith of Bergen County, N.J., Superior Court. Princeton had opted out of the arbitration and sought to avoid indemnification by arguing at a declaratory judgment trial in November that the award process bordered on collusion among the claimants, the doctor and their attorneys at the carrier’s expense. But Smith found the arbitration process fair and the awards reasonable. -alm REGULATORY ACTION CIBC Mellon to pay $6M to settle SEC charges Washington (AP)-CIBC Mellon Trust Co. has said that it will pay more than $6 million to settle Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) charges that it failed to prevent a senior manager from being bribed by officers of a company for which it acted as transfer agent. The CIBC Mellon fines consist of a $5 million civil penalty and the return of $889,773 in money to investors who lost money as a result of the bribery scheme. The SEC also charged $140,270 in interest. CIBC Mellon, a joint venture of Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce and Mellon Financial Corp. of Pittsburgh, also was accused of acting as a transfer agent and a brokerage firm without being registered with the SEC. SEXUAL HARASSMENT Two women get $1M each over office voyeur West Palm Beach, Fla. (AP)-Two women who were secretly videotaped under their desks by an office voyeur won $1 million each in a lawsuit against their former employer. A Florida circuit court jury agreed that Patti Kidder and Katherine Dean had suffered mental anguish and emotional trauma when Ocwen Financial Corp. managers and co-workers teased them about the videotapes. Their problems began in 1999 after a co-worker, Ronald Minnis Jr., told police he sold the under-the-desk video to pornographic Web sites. The women sued the company for sexual harassment, permitting a hostile workplace and job retaliation. They testified that Minnis spied on them as they used the restroom, and said management failed to investigate their allegation adequately. Ocwen fired Minnis after learning of the videotapes. WORKERS’ COMPENSATION PECO settles injury suit for more than $1 million Philadelphia-A former power plant security guard who claimed that she was shocked by stray static electricity after operating a keypad to open a sliding gate while on the job has settled her action against PECO Energy Co. for $1,065,000, her lawyers said. Rhonda Eshleman, who worked at the Peach Bottom Nuclear Power Plant in York County, Pa., asserted that the electric shock left her with extensive burns on her left arm and rendered her left hand virtually useless. - ALM WRONGFUL TERMINATION Hospital ordered to pay ex-nurse more than $2M Charleston, W.Va. (AP)-Thomas Memorial Hospital has been ordered to pay more than $2 million in damages to a former nurse who claimed that she was fired because she complained about the hospital’s operations. A Kanawha County jury awarded $769,000 in compensatory damages and $1.25 million in punitive damages to Nancy Cartwright. Cartwright claimed she was fired because she complained about understaffing and the unusually large number of C-sections being performed. Expert witnesses testified during the trial that Thomas’ C-section rate of 49% was too high. The national average is about 25%.

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