Duke Energy Ohio plans to settle a suit alleging it gave preferential treatment and kickbacks to certain large business and industrial customers from 2005 to 2008. The kickbacks, according to plaintiffs, were for these larger customers withdrawing their objections to a rate increase. The rate increase was later passed. Duke will pay $81M to settle the suit.
Verdicts & Settlements
The blast at the West Fertilizer plant killed 15 people altogether, injured 170, damaged nearby buildings and over 150 homes in the city of West, obliterating the plant, and even caused the equivalent of a 2.1 magnitude earthquake. With jury selection set to begin on Monday, authorities for the county told hundreds of prospective jurors on Sunday evening that they would not be needed for the trial involving the plant’s ownership and suppliers and the families of the deceased; Kevin Sanders, William Uptmor and Kenneth Harris. Waco District Court Judge Jim Meyer had divided the litigation regarding the explosion into three separate lawsuits, with the aforementioned case serving as a potential bellwether for the other two cases, which will contain hundreds of plaintiffs.
Although the deal is finalized, various sources have differed in how the payout will be calculated. The New York Times is reporting that $5 billion of the $8.8 total allotment for environmental restoration will go to Louisiana, the state hardest hit by the disaster, payable over an 18-year period. $5.5 billion will go to Clean Water Act penalties, payable over a 15 year period, the largest environmental fine in history. $4.9 billion will also go towards economic damages to the states affected by the spill. The Wall Street Journal reports that a total of $8.1 billion will go towards environmental damages to the U.S. and the Gulf states. BP had already agreed to a separate criminal penalty of $4 billion in 2013.
Johnson & Johnson and its subsidiary, Ethicon, won the first case involving the company’s Gynecare Prosima pelvic mesh to go to trial. The plaintiff, Carol Cavness, had asked for $9.5M in damages for past and future medical expenses, pain & suffering and an unspecified amount in punitive damages. The jury decided in favor of J&J with a 10-2 vote.
Berkeley’s cellphone ordinance requiring sellers to tell consumers that keeping their phones too close to their bodies could expose them to dangerous radio-frequency radiation was upheld by a federal judge. The only part that didn’t pass must is a line stating that the risk is even greater for children, which has yet to be proven.
Adventist Health System, a Florida-based healthcare company, has agreed to pay a $118.7M settlement to the federal government and four involved states over a whistleblower suit alleging an intricate system of kickbacks to doctors for referring patients. Adventist was allegedly offering doctors bonuses, inflated salaries and permission to overbill in exchange for patient referrals.
In what turns out to be one of the largest – and grossest – settlements for bedbugs in a hotel in the state of Maryland, Stacey Belle just got $100K! She stayed one night at the Red Roof Inn at Prince George’s County. She awoke the next morning with itchy welts all over her hand and arms. Upon looking under her pillow, she discovered a swarm of visibly crawling bedbugs.
Soble ruled that the ballots will not be counted, writing, “As a result of the employer’s unlawful support and assistance, I am setting aside the decertification election and dismissing the decertification petition.” Gerawan attorney Ron Barsamian admitted to the violation, however claiming that it was not the crux of the issue, saying “The payment to the decertification petitioners to go to Sacramento was from a source outside Gerawan and may be a technical violation, but it also fails to consider the fact that they were going anyway. The money didn’t make them decide.” The case became the lengthiest labor hearing ever in the state of California, involving over 100 witnesses and six months of testimony.
Tolan’s mother Marian said about the resolution, “Though I still have my son, I’ve had to watch his dreams and part of his spirit die. We’ve given up so much as a family for a chance at justice, a chance at peace, a chance at being whole again. This has been a horrific experience.” While the attorney for the Tolan family Daryl Washington told reporters outside the courthouse, “As Mrs. Tolan has said and as Robbie has said on many occasions this is not about black versus white this is about right versus wrong,”
It is likely that General Motors got off easy both in comparison to Toyota and to future corporate federal prosecutions. Last week, Deputy Attorney General Sally Q. Yates announced major policy changes in the Justice Department for corporate investigations, focusing on prosecuting individuals who are responsible for wrongdoing instead of offering the deferred agreements and taking financial penalties in lieu of criminal charges. The change in policy discourages the probationary deferred prosecution agreements and requires companies to point out wrongdoing by specific employees to receive any kind of prosecutorial credit.GM as a company had been charged with felonies, according to the New York Times, sources familiar with the settlement say no individuals will be charged in the agreement.