Judge Allows Discovery
PHILADELPHIA — A federal judge presiding over the multidistrict litigation in which plaintiffs allege over-the-counter Tylenol led to liver injuries will permit discovery into the compensation paid to witnesses who are executive-­level employees or former executive-level employees of Johnson & Johnson or McNeil PPC.
U.S. District Judge Lawrence Stengel, who is presiding over the MDL with more than 120 cases pending, found on Feb. 26 that the compensation paid to current or former employees was relevant at least to credibility issues.
The judge limited discovery into a witnesses’ compensation to executives with decision-making authority that could affect the Tylenol brand.
Verdict in Pipeline Case
Energy Transfer Partners L.P. won at least $319 million on March 4 in its lawsuit alleging that Enterprise Products Partners L.P. improperly backed out of a pipeline development deal between the two companies.
A state court jury in Dallas returned a verdict that Energy Transfer and Enter­prise Products formed a valid partnership to build a crude oil pipeline between Oklahoma and the Gulf of Mexico. Jurors rejected Enterprise Products’ argument that the companies’ partnership discussions were nonbinding.
The jurors ordered Enterprise Products to pay $319 million in breach-of-contract damages. In a separate part of the verdict, jurors estimated that Enterprise Products earned $595 million in ill-gotten profits. The judge will decide whether to award Energy Transfer anything on top of the $319 million.
Irell Attorneys Booted
SAN FRANCISCO — A federal judge has barred attorneys at Irell & Manella from representing a company in a patent lawsuit against the firm’s former client Radware Ltd.
U.S. District Judge Ronald Whyte on March 6 granted Radware’s motion to disqualify Irell from representing A10 Networks Inc., a rival in the networking industry. Radware argued that the law firm had confidential information about its products, financing and decision-making after representing it in two matters.
Irell claimed it did not have a conflict because its work for Radware involved different patents. But Whyte found that the firm’s obligations to its current and former client were at odds.
Radware sued F5 Networks and A10 in July for infringing two patents. Irell previously represented Radware in a dispute with F5.
30-Year Evidence Ok’d
NEW YORK — The state’s attorney general can use evidence of a 30-year-old dismissed rape charge to bolster its case for the civil confinement of a convicted kidnapper accused of sex crimes, a trial court judge has ruled.
Justice Peter Forman ruled that evidence of a 1984 occurrence is “sufficiently reliable and probative to permit expert testimony about that incident.”
Forman said that even though the first-degree rape charge against Dean Germano was reduced to sexual misconduct and subsequently dismissed and sealed, evidence related to the incident was admissible under a November decision by the New York high court in Matter of State of New York v. Floyd Y.
Jail for Deadbeat Dad
SACRAMENTO (AP) — A California businessman who declared bankruptcy and then hid his assets to avoid paying child support and alimony following a contentious divorce has been sentenced to more than 17 years in prison.
The 50-year-old Steven Zinnel was also ordered on March 4 to pay a $500,000 fine and forfeit assets worth more than $2.8 million. U.S. District Judge Troy L. Nunley described Zinnel as “narcissistic,” citing the defendant’s repeated lies in bankruptcy and family courts. The couple, who have two teenage children, split in 1999.
Zinnel’s co-defendant, attorney Derian Eidson, will be sentenced later this month for her role in facilitating his crimes.
Wal-Mart Beats Suit
U.S. District Judge Ronald Leighton in the Western District of Washington on March 6 ruled that Wal-Mart Stores Inc. did not violate the Americans With Disabilities Act when it fired pharmacist James Bryan in 2011.
Bryan alleged he lost his state license after he became addicted in 2002 and was charged with forging prescriptions. After undergoing rehabilitation, those charges were dropped, but he surrendered his license for five years. After he got his license back, he became a pharmacist at Wal-Mart. In 2011, the company fired him, citing a new policy not to employ anyone who has been penalized by a state pharmacy board. The judge found a distinction between addiction and addiction-related mis­conduct, and determined that the plaintiff was not fired because he was disabled but because of the board penalty due to his forgery.
Phone Records Allowed
An Illinois judge has allowed Nicor Gas Co. to submit a sample of recorded customer calls in a consumer class action after concluding that doing so would not violate an Illinois privacy statute.
The case was filed on behalf of Illinois customers who accused Nicor of misrepresenting the benefits of a gas line repair warranty service known as ComfortGuard. During discovery, Nicor, now part of AGL Resources Inc., has sought to introduce recorded calls that its representatives made to customers as a sampling of what its employees actually said to customers.
On March 4, Judge Mary Mikva allowed Nicor to submit a sample of 400 recorded calls but also permitted the plaintiffs to file a motion to reconsider her decision within 21 days.
Same-Sex Partner Loses
PHILADELPHIA — A trial judge has ruled that the same-sex former domestic partner of a deceased man is not entitled to life insurance benefits because he was not able to prove he was the designated beneficiary.
Judge John W. Herron denied Joseph Hallman’s motion for summary judgment and granted the summary judgment motion of Stephen Gallagher’s estate, finding that the lack of a clear designated beneficiary required that benefits be awarded to Gallagher’s parents.
Herron found that Hallman failed to provide any written or electronic evidence showing that Gallagher had selected him to be the beneficiary of his life insurance policy.
Hallman and Gallagher lived together from 2005 until their relationship ended in late 2008, according to the judge’s decision.
U.S. Sues Phone Co.
SAN FRANCISCO — The United States has sued Sprint Communications for charging too much to carry out court-authorized wiretaps and other surveillance.
A complaint filed on March 3 alleges that Sprint inflated its bills to law enforcement agencies for wiretaps, pen registers and trap devices by 58 percent, running up more than $21 million in added costs to the government. Sprint and other carriers are permitted to bill law enforcement agencies for the costs they incur complying with court-ordered surveillance. The Federal Communications Commission has barred carriers from recovering the costs of upgrades to equipment and facilities in order to comply with the requests. Sprint continued to include those charges in its bills to the government from 2007 to 2010, according to the complaint.
Protracted Suit Settles
SAN FRANCISCO — Tessera Inc., a designer of semiconductor miniaturization technologies, announced on Feb. 26 that Powertech Technology Inc. had agreed to pay $196 million to settle a long-running patent licensing dispute.
In 2003, Powertech agreed to license a Tessera patent. Last month, U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken ruled that Powertech had breached a contract with Tessera by withholding millions in royalties and therefore couldn’t terminate its licensing agreement with Tessera.
Pursuant to the settlement, Powertech will make two payments this year and quarterly recurring payments from 2015 to 2018, after which the litigation will be dismissed.
Verdict in Whitener Suit
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Two men have been found guilty of stealing an Ameri­can company’s secret recipe for making a chemical used to whiten products from cars to the middle of Oreo cookies and selling it to a competitor controlled by the Chinese government.
The federal jury found Robert Maegerle and Walter Liew guilty of economic espionage. Each could face 15 years or more in prison.
The two men were convicted of stealing Delaware-based E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Co.’s method for making titanium dioxide, a chemical that fetches $17 billion a year in sales worldwide.