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NEGLIGENCE AT&T agrees to $25M fuel tanks settlement San Jose, Calif. (AP)-AT&T Inc. has agreed to pay as much as $25 million to settle charges that the company failed to maintain a network of underground storage tanks throughout California. The settlement stems from a lawsuit filed in California state court by Attorney General Bill Lockyer and several local prosecutors. The suit alleges 17 violations of the state’s health and safety code and unfair competition law. During the past five years, AT&T repeatedly failed to comply with laws requiring it to inspect its 531 underground facilities and fix any faulty systems, according to the complaint. The violations risked “catastrophic” dumping of the gasoline additive MTBE and other toxic chemicals into areas surrounding the tanks. PRICE-FIXING Utility to pay $100M to overcharged customers Chicago (AP)-Gas and electric utility Peoples Energy Corp. said that it has settled charges related to its gas prices from 2000 to 2004 and will pay $100 million in refunds to customers as part of the deal. The $100 million will be paid in two $50 million installments, with the first appearing on customer bills 30 days after the settlement is approved by the Illinois Commerce Commission. The second will come a year later. PRODUCTS LIABILITY $80 million verdict against GM overturned Kansas City, Mo. (AP)-A Missouri appellate court has overturned an $80 million verdict against General Motors Corp. in connection with a September 2000 driveway accident that left the driver of an Oldsmobile in a vegetative state. Ordering a new trial, the court said that the circuit judge in the original case allowed improper evidence that prejudiced the jury. The family of Constance Peters of Blue Springs, Mo., said she was injured when her 1993 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme suddenly sped backward out of her driveway, striking a tree and landscaping timbers. At the 2002 trial, attorneys for the family claimed that the car’s cruise control was defective and not in use when it raced backward. Jurors awarded Peters $20 million in compensatory damages, her husband $10 million, and $50 million in punitives. In its decision, the appellate court said that Jackson County Circuit Judge Marco A. Roldan had unfairly prejudiced the jury by allowing seven people to testify about their own accidents involving sudden acceleration in GM vehicles and by admitting into evidence 139 complaints of sudden acceleration against GM. REGULATORY ACTION Hedge fund pays $10M to settle securities charges Trenton, N.J. (AP)-Defunct hedge fund Canary Capital Partners LLC has agreed to pay the state of New Jersey $10 million to settle allegations that it stacked the deck against ordinary investors. Secaucus, N.J.-based Canary, two of its units and managing principal Edward J. Stern were accused of trading after hours, when mutual fund prices are frozen, to reap profits from after-hours events that affect a stock’s price the next day. In addition, Canary and Stern were accused of engaging in the practice of market timing, or making trades into and out of funds to take advantage of short-term market fluctuations at the expense of long-term shareholders. TORTS Asbestos settlement price tag may be $955M New Orleans (AP)-A Louisiana federal judge has approved McDermott International Inc.’s plan to settle as many as 300,000 asbestos injury claims with a price tag that will range from $375 million to $955 million for the company, depending on whether Congress creates a national trust fund to handle all such cases. The agreement was contained in a bankruptcy reorganization plan for Babcock & Wilcox Co., a wholly owned McDermott unit that has been the target of asbestos claims. Babcock & Wilcox once used asbestos, which has been tied to lung disorders, to insulate boilers. McDermott, an energy services company, put the unit under bankruptcy protection in February 2000 after the potential cost of the claims skyrocketed. Congress is considering the establishment of a $140 billion trust fund to compensate people sickened by exposure to asbestos. The trust fund would be set up in exchange for an end to the multimillion-dollar lawsuits brought by people with asbestos-related diseases. WRONGFUL DEATH $14.1M award to family of car crash victim Las Vegas (AP)-A Nevada state jury has ordered three companies owned by Terrible Herbst Inc. to pay a total of $14.1 million to the family of a woman killed by the drunken driver of a Terrible Herbst industrial truck in 2001. Rosa Delegado was getting into her car when Darwin Ray Ellison drove the large truck into her. Delegado’s family filed a civil lawsuit in 2001 against Las Vegas-based Terrible Herbst, which operates 80 convenience stores and gas stations in Nevada. They alleged that Terrible Herbst and others were negligent in hiring Ellison, who had a history of drinking.

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