/raid1/www/Hosts/bankrupt/CAR_Public/000208.MBX                C L A S S   A C T I O N   R E P O R T E R

               Tuesday, February 8, 2000, Vol. 2, No. 27


CENTURY BUSINESS: Lead Counsel to Expand Period of OH Securities Suit
CHRISTIE'S INT'L: Schiffrin & Barroway Files Suit in NY Re Price Fixing
CHRISTIE'S, SOTHEBY'S: European Union Probes into Alleged Collusion
COMMUNITY COLLEGES: Part-Time Instructors in WA Win Case for Retirement
COMPS.COM: Information Provider Agrees to Settle Securities Suit in CA

CRUISE LINES: Miami-Dade Circuit Court Upholds Suit over Port Fees
FARBMAN GROUP: Emergency Hearing for Indian Village Manor Lawssuit
GUN MANUFACTURERS: Press Briefing at Office of the Press Secretary
HMO: Nevada Ct Approves $ 28.8 Mil Settlement for RICO Claims V. Humana
HMOs: Study Predicts Profits to Soar 60%; Not-For-Profits to Struggle

METLIFE, CA: Retired Judge Sues over Fraud in Retirement Annuities
MITSUBISHI MOTOR: Fd Judge OKs Racial Bias Suit But Invites Review
MOBIL OIL: CASA Says Fuel Crisis Grounded Fewer Planes Than Feared
ONTARIO: Lawsuit over Arsenic at Deloro Mine Site May Include Thousands
PAYDAY LENDERS: Edelman, Combs Sues Check 'n Go & CheckSmart in Indiana

PEDIATRIX MEDICAL: Announces Amended Securities Complaint Filed in FL
PNC BANK: Ohio Appeals Ct Reinstates Action on Loan Payment Deferrals
PRUDENTIAL INSURANCE: Some See Flaws in Settlement for Case Re Policies
SHIGELLA OUTBREAK: Keller Rohrback Files Nationwide Suit in CA
SOTHEBY'S INC: Schiffrin & Barroway Files Suit in NY over Price Fixing

TOBACCO LITIGATION: Flight Attendants File More Second-Hand Smoke Suits

* MD Lobbyists on Late-Fees Bill and Lawyers Disagree over Amount


CENTURY BUSINESS: Lead Counsel to Expand Period of OH Securities Suit
The Law Offices of Steven E. Cauley, P.A., court-appointed co-lead
counsel in a class action filed in the United States District Court for
the Northern District of Ohio, Eastern Division on behalf of purchasers
of common stock of Century Business Services Inc. (Nasdaq: CBIZ) last
September, announced on February 4 that they will be amending the
complaint to include purchases of common stock between November 9, 1999
and January 28, 2000, inclusive.

Co-Counsel moved for class certification on December 15, 1999, and filed
a consolidated complaint on January 28, 2000 for purchasers of common
stock between February 6, 1998 and November 23, 1998.

Contact: Law Offices Of Steven E. Cauley, P.A. 2200 N. Rodney Parham
Road, Suite 218, Cypress Plaza, Little Rock, AR 72212, E-mail:
CauleyPA@aol.com or 1-888-551-9944 - toll free

CHRISTIE'S INT'L: Schiffrin & Barroway Files Suit in NY Re Price Fixing
The law firm of Schiffrin & Barroway, LLP filed a class action lawsuit
in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New
York on behalf of all persons who purchased art, jewelry, musical
instruments and a variety of other items through Christie's
International auctions during the period January 1, 1992 through the
present, and on behalf of sellers of such items during the period March
1995 through the present.

The complaint alleges that, in approximately January 1992, Christie's
fix the price of commissions charged to buyers at 15% of the first
$50,000 of merchandise purchased and 10% of any amount over the $50,000.
Prior to that time, buyers were charged a flat 10% commission. The
complaint further alleges that in approximately March 1995, Christie's
fix the price of sellers' commissions by adopting with another
auctioneer identical detailed sliding-scale commission rates to the
sellers. Christie's has supplied evidence of the price fixing of auction
commissions to the United States Justice Department, which has been
investigating anti-competitive practices in connection with Christie's
and Sotheby's auctions.

For more information concerning this suit, please contact Stuart L.
Berman, Esq. of Schiffrin & Barroway, LLP, toll free at 1-888-299- 7706
or 1-610-667-7706, or via e-mail at info@sbclasslaw.com

CHRISTIE'S, SOTHEBY'S: European Union Probes into Alleged Collusion
The European Union has launched a probe into Sotheby's Holdings Inc. and
Christie's International PLC, the world's two leading art auctioneers,
over alleged limited competition on commissions, an E.U. spokesperson
says. Michael Tscherny, spokesperson for competition issues at the
European Commission, said on January 6 in a telephone interview from
Brussels that the probe had been launched a week ago. He said he could
give no more details of the investigation.

The news comes days after antitrust litigation in the United States
against Sotheby's and Christie's escalated with the filing of five new
suits alleging the two auction houses conspired to set commission prices
on art and antique sales.

On February 4 Christie's announced that it told the U.S. justice
department that behaviour by previous management might be relevant to
the government's probe into alleged price-fixing of commissions in the
art world, a disclosure that appeared to give new life to the probe that
began in 1997.

At least eight antitrust suits seeking class-action status were filed
against the auctioneers. The first alleged that, as early as 1992, the
auction houses agreed to stop competing with one another on the basis of
price. The suit alleged the firms conspired to raise their commissions
to the same levels.

COMMUNITY COLLEGES: Part-Time Instructors in WA Win Case for Retirement
Part-time faculty at state community colleges have won a significant
victory in their ongoing legal battle over retirement benefits. King
County Superior Court Judge Steven Scott ruled that community colleges
must count part-time instructors' work hours outside the classroom in
addition to the in-class teaching hours when determining eligibility for
retirement benefits and service credit.

"This is a very significant decision because the state has always
maintained that only in-class hours count towards retirement," said
Stephen Strong, an attorney representing the part-time teachers. "The
part-time instructors were never informed about their retirement
eligibility and they therefore lost a valuable benefit." Attorneys for
the plaintiffs argued that hundreds, perhaps thousands, of instructors
lost out on benefits because their work hours were calculated

The class-action lawsuit was filed against the state Board for Community
and Technical Colleges, and Department of Retirement Systems in December
1998. Attorneys for the state could not immediately be reached for

Until recent changes, state law said that part-timers who worked 70
hours a month were entitled to retirement benefits. State officials had
interpreted that to mean 70 hours in the classroom.

The use of part-time faculty in the state's 33 community and technical
colleges has grown in the past decade. In 1990., part-timers taught 34
percent of all community college courses. By fall 1998, they were
teaching 40 percent. (The Associated Press, February 4, 2000)

COMPS.COM: Information Provider Agrees to Settle Securities Suit in CA
COMPS.COM, Inc. (Nasdaq:CDOT), a leading national commercial real estate
information provider, has reached an agreement in principle that
provides for the dismissal with prejudice of a purported shareholder
class action lawsuit, which was filed following COMPS' November 4, 1999
announcement that it had entered into a merger agreement and plan of
merger with CoStar Group, Inc.

The lawsuit, which alleges claims for breach of fiduciary duty against
COMPS and four of its directors, was filed on November 8, 1999 in the
Superior Court of California, County of San Diego. A similar class
action was previously filed on November 4, 1999 in the Court of Chancery
in the State of Delaware but was subsequently voluntarily dismissed. The
completion of the settlement is subject to Court approval.

COMPS and the individual defendants deny the allegations in the lawsuit
and claim that resolution of the claims is to avoid the costs of further
litigation. As a result of the resolution, the parties have agreed to
the following modifications relating to the proposed merger. The Merger
Agreement provides that each holder of a share of COMPS' common stock
may elect to receive either $7.50 in cash or 0.31496 shares of CoStar
common stock, but these elections will be adjusted so that 50.1% of the
COMPS shares receive CoStar common stock and 49.9% of the COMPS shares
receive cash. Defendant COMPS directors Christopher A. Crane, Robert C.
Beasley, and Greg Avis, on behalf of himself and Summit Partners and
their affiliates, had intended to elect 100% CoStar stock in the
proposed merger in exchange for their collective 7,091,567 COMPS shares.
Pursuant to the settlement, each of Avis, Beasley and Crane now agree to
elect to receive (a) 89.8% of these shares in CoStar stock at the
exchange ratio provided for in the Merger Agreement, and (b) 10.2% of
these shares in cash at $7.50 per share. This will have the effect of
reducing the amount of stock consideration that Crane, Beasley, and Avis
will receive, and increasing the amount of stock consideration that
other shareholders will receive. The defendants also have agreed to
advance attorneys' fees to plaintiff's counsel for their fees and
expenses. The closing of the proposed merger between COMPS and CoStar
currently is scheduled to occur on February 10, 2000 following a special
meeting of COMPS shareholders to consider approval of the transaction.

CRUISE LINES: Miami-Dade Circuit Court Upholds Suit over Port Fees
Plaintiffs who filed a class-action suit against Carnival Cruise Lines,
Costa Cruise Lines N.V. and Kloster Cruise Lines in 1996 won an appeal
in Miami-Dade Circuit Court on January 31, allowing them to proceed. Now
consumers across the country will finally have their day in court, said
Robert C. Gilbert, who represents the plaintiffs.

The plaintiffs allege the cruise lines pocketed a portion of port
charges paid by passengers.  They allege the overcharge of port fees
from mid-1992 to the late 1990s amounts to hundreds of millions of
dollars. The alleged overcharging of passengers for port fees, which
were part of the ticket price, amounts to an unfair and deceptive trade
practice, the plaintiffs claim.

The first lawsuit was filed in 1992. In 1996, the plaintiffs filed their
class-action suit in Miami Circuit Court in an attempt to get the cruise
lines to repay the overcharges. The plaintiffs appealed after the court
denied class certification in March 1999. The plaintiffs claim the
charges should have gone directly from passengers to the ports.

In the late 1990s, all cruise lines modified their port charge practices
at the request of the Florida attorney general. Cruise line passengers
are now charged lump sums, without itemizing port charges.

The bottom line is theres all sorts of issues that remain to be
litigated, said defense attorney Joel Perwin of Podhurst Orseck
Josefsberg Eaton Meadow Olin & Perwin. This [decision] simply tells them
they got into the court house. Now they have to prove their case and our
next step is to defend the defendant. (Miami Daily Business Review,
February 4, 2000)

FARBMAN GROUP: Emergency Hearing for Indian Village Manor Lawsuit
According to Herman J. Anderson, the lead class action plaintiff in a
lawsuit against the Farbman Group (FG), powerful and politically
well-connected southeastern Michigan real estate developers, because
Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Louis F. Simmons, Jr., refused to allow
them to evict Anderson from the Indian Village Manor Condominiums, the
FG Attorneys, in a scurrilous, vicious, personal and racially motivated
attack on Judge Simmons's judicial integrity, are asking Wayne County
Circuit Chief Judge Michael Sapala to "provide counsel and assistance to
Judge Simmons (and) take steps to effect compliance by Judge Simmons
with applicable court rules..."

The hearing is scheduled for 9:00 a.m. Mon. Feb. 7, 2000 before Wayne
County Circuit Chief Judge Michael Sapala, Courtroom 701 Coleman A.
Young Municipal Center.

Contact: Herman J. Anderson of Anderson, Anderson & Associates,

GUN MANUFACTURERS: Press Briefing at Office of the Press Secretary
Office of the Press Secretary - Press briefing by Secretary of Treasury
Larry Summers, Director of Domestic Policy Council Bruce Reed, Director
of ATF Brad Buckles, Under Secretary of Treasury for Enforcement Jim
Johnson, The Briefing Room

(Contents related to gun control are extracted and presented below.)

MR. KENNEDY: We have with us Secretary Summers; Director of the Domestic
Policy Council, Bruce Reed. Also with us is Jim Johnson, Under Secretary
for Enforcement; and Brad Buckles of the ATF. Thank you.

MR. REED: Today's announcement is further proof that we will do
everything in our power this year to keep guns out of the wrong hands.
We're fighting a two-front war on gun crime, first with the most
aggressive enforcement efforts in history and, second, by pressing
Congress to strengthen our gun laws.

On enforcement, we announced earlier this year that federal gun
prosecutions are up 16 percent since we took office, up 25 percent in
the last year alone, and that the average sentence of those convicted of
federal gun crimes is two years longer than it was when we took office.
It has gone from six years to eight years. Overall, gun prosecutions,
federal, state and local, are up by an even greater percentage, at a
time when gun crime has dropped by a third.

Today's report, which the Secretary will talk about, shows that the
number of licensed gun dealers has dropped from 284,000 in '92 to just
104,000 today. Today's action, which the President announced, is the
most aggressive regulatory effort on suspect dealers in history.

It builds on the findings of the Commerce in Firearms Report that the
Secretary will talk about and as the President mentioned, on the work of
Chuck Schumer from New York. And, finally, we asked Congress for a $280
million increase for gun crime enforcement to hire 500 new agents and
inspectors at ATF; to hire 1,000 new federal, state and local gun
prosecutors, and take other measures. If Congress is serious about
enforcing gun laws, our budget gives them the chance to put their money
where their mouth is.

As the President said, we also need to strengthen our gun laws this
year. Our top priority is passing the gun bill to close the gun show
loophole. The President called in the State of the Union on Congress to
make that the first order of business. We've also proposed other
measures to make it easier for ATF to do its job, by allowing three
unannounced inspections a year, for example, instead of one, which is
current law. And the President has called for photo licensing, requiring
all new handgun buyers to have a photo license that demonstrates they
passed a Brady background check and a gun safety course.

We will continue to take executive actions all year long to keep guns
out of the wrong hands, and to press Congress to do its part.

So, now, let me turn it over to Secretary Summers, who has made fighting
gun crime a top priority at Treasury, and who has assembled a very
impressive team with Deputy Secretary Eizenstat, Under Secretary Jim
Johnson and the new Director of ATF, Brad Buckles.

SECRETARY SUMMERS: I want to acknowledge the hard work of Jim Johnson,
Brad Buckles, Susan Ginsberg, Wally Nelson, Neal Wolin, on the report
that is being announced today. This is the first Annual Report on
Commerce and Firearms in the United States. It represents new analysis
leading to new measures. Let me highlight six measures.

First, the ATF will conduct intensive inspections of the one percent of
dealers that account for over half of all crime guns traced last year.
If violations of law are found, we will take action against these

Second, ATF will require a subset of those dealers, those whose guns
fall especially quickly into criminal hands, to provide it with
information on all used guns taken into inventory. This will allow us,
for the first time, to trace used guns sold by those dealers when
they're recovered in crime.

Third, ATF will require dealers who fail to cooperate with crime gun
trace requests, to produce all their firearms transaction records for
the past year and on an ongoing basis. This will enable us to make sure
that those uncooperative dealers follow the law and revoke their
licenses when appropriate.

Fourth, based on our finding that large numbers of guns are lost or
stolen in transit each year, the ATF will require - is proposing to
require all firearms dealers to maintain close tabs on their firearms by
conducting inventories and notifying ATF within 48 hours of losses or

Fifth, ATF will tell manufacturers which of their guns are used in
crimes, information that responsible manufacturers can use to make sure
that they do not sell their guns to problem dealers.

And, sixth, we are proposing - reiterating our proposal to hire 500 more
ATF agents, agents and inspectors, and to increase the budget for gun

This represents an aggressive set of measures directed at enforcing more
fully and effectively the laws on the books so as to reduce gun crime.

. . .

Q A question on the ATF report. One percent of the gun dealers account
for 57 percent of gun crime traces. How many - what percentage of gun
sales do those dealers account for?

SECRETARY SUMMERS: We don't have that number. We will get it for you. I
think it's considerably less.

Q And another question. You said you were going to give gun
manufacturers information on which of their weapons and maybe which of
their dealers are being used in crimes. Are you going to make that
information public as well so that the press and the public can have
access to it?


Q Mr. Secretary, at least initial comments from the National Rifle
Association regarding these new initiatives reported in The New York
Times today, basically NRA is saying, nothing new here, the
administration is making a lot of show about stuff that it already is
able to do, I believe. What's your response to that?

SECRETARY SUMMERS: We welcome the NRA's agreement that we are acting
within our legal authorities. But this is something new. This is an
intensified focus and allocation of enforcement resources in the most
effective way.

This is a kind of approach with which all Americans ought to agree,
because the steps are steps that are specifically targeted at gun crime
and at a more effective strategy for tracing guns that are used in
crime, and preventing violations of law with respect to the sale to
criminals. So this is not an approach that is in any way punitive with
respect to guns in general, but it is an approach of assuring that our
resources are targeted as effectively as possible at reducing the
incidents of gun crime. And so I would hope that it would be widely

Q To follow up on that, one of the criticisms of the NRA has also been
that we don't need new gun laws, we need better enforcement of the ones
on the books. What you're doing is better enforcing gun laws, using the
ATF. Why, if that's so important, hasn't it already been done?

SECRETARY SUMMERS: Well, we have worked in recent years to expand
substantially our capacities in gun tracing. And as - I began my
statement by saying that new analysis is leading to new measures.

For the first time, we've had the most comprehensive gun tracing data
available, and that's what has led us to the conclusion that a large
part of the problem comes from a small part of the population of
dealers, and to the focus that's been announced today.

Q I'm wondering what the administration is doing about the problem of
completing background checks within the three business days, as
required. We're finding that guns are going to criminals because the
background checks just weren't completed in a timely fashion.


MR. BUCKLES: The background checks, of course, are conducted through the
national Insta-Check system. And that system is very successful in
completing the overwhelming majority of cases. But there are cases where
they're not being completed in time.

The difficulty in the federal government fixing that problem is the fact
that it generally involves limitations on state and local authorities to
be able to produce the records that are necessary in time, because not
all state and local systems are computerized. And there has been
additional monies, as part of the overall Brady law, that were made
available to upgrade those state systems, and those actions are
continuing to take place.

Q How serious is that statutory constraint that there can only be one
inspection per year - or one unannounced, random inspection per year?
And how will you conduct these focused inspections if you have to
operate within that constraint?

MR. BUCKLES: The statute permits one standard regulatory inspection a
year. There are circumstances under which we can gain access to dealer
records that require some sort of - depending on what it's for - some
level of suspicion of something that's going on. We can go in anytime if
we need a record for purposes of completing a criminal investigation. We
can go in at other times if we have reason to believe that there's some
violation going on. But for purposes of checking up on people to make
sure that the routine records are being kept, that is the situation
where we're limited to one inspection a year.

Q And you could do these focused inspections as part of that?

MR. BUCKLES: These will be using our one inspection a year.

Now, what we will see out of this is that, with the 1,000, some small
number of those, or some percentage of those, will be people we've done
recently, already, because of our previous inspection. They weren't
picked out because of this process. But we'll find that when we look at
it, some of those will already have undergone intensive inspections. So
with those people, we're not going to be able to go back and do a second
inspection within the calendar year.

. . .

Q One more question on guns for Bruce. Bruce, I wonder if you can tell
us what the status is of the administration's potential negotiations
with the gun industry over this national class action lawsuit, and
whether the administration talked with the gun industry about this new
proposal it's announcing today, and if the gun industry is supportive of
this crackdown on rogue gun dealers?

MR. REED: Well, to the first question, as the President said today, we
continue to believe that there are responsible voices within the gun
industry who will want to join with us to make progress. We had planned
to meet in Las Vegas two weeks ago to have those discussions and, under
pressure from the gun lobby, some of the gun manufacturers refused to go
forward. But we continue to believe that we will be able to make
progress on it this year, however we are prepared to go forward with the
lawsuit if we need to.

As to today's announcement, I think these steps should be welcomed by
the gun industry. They have long sought the information that ATF is now
going to make available to them about gun traces and I think that, as
Secretary Summers said, there should be no debate about the need to
intensify our efforts to enforce gun crime laws.

Q Do you think they are two separate entities, the NRA and the gun

MR. REED: I do.

Q And one isn't supported by the other?

MR. REED: I think there are a number of responsible manufacturers who
have not been well-served by the gun lobby. The gun lobby has
consistently tried to shoot down every legislative effort to make
progress and we have had a good working relationship with many gun
manufacturers who have supported legislative efforts. So I think that
they are two distinct entities.

SECRETARY SUMMERS: Can I just add that in this area, there are,
obviously, a range of views and there is, obviously, room for
substantial controversy over some aspects of this agenda. But I would
hope that the idea that we should be trying to design and market
firearms in a way that reduces the likelihood that children will be
killed in accidents, that we should be trying to design and market
firearms in a way that reduces the risk that they will come into the
hands of felons is something that we can all agree on. This is not about
politics, and we in the Treasury and at the ATF are committed to working
with responsible manufacturers of firearms towards the achievement of
those important objectives.

Q Why isn't the figure of 12 children killed every day more publicized
by the government?

SECRETARY SUMMERS: Helen, I think the President - neither the President,
nor Bruce, nor I, nor Brad has been - nor the Attorney General have been
reticent in the use of that figure in any way. We believe that if one
child is killed on one day, that is one too many.

And we are very committed to an agenda of strengthening the available
resources, strengthening the targeting under existing law, and
strengthening the legislative framework. And each of those three things
can make an independent contribution, and that's our approach to
something that I think the President in the State of the Union made very
clear was one of his major priorities.

MR. REED: And, Helen, if I could just say, the American people are not
the problem here. The American people overwhelmingly support what we're
trying to do. They were shaken by the tragedy in Columbine 10 months
ago. The problem here is that Congress has failed to act on the American
people's concerns.

THE PRESS: Thank you.

HMO: Nevada Ct Approves $ 28.8 Mil Settlement for RICO Claims V. Humana
A Nevada federal court has approved an approximately $ 28.8 million
settlement agreement in a Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations
Act and antitrust claims action against Humana Inc. (Mary Forsyth, et
al. v. Humana Inc., et al., No. CV-S-89-00249-DWH [LRL], D. Nev.; See
11/24/99, Page 16).

The settlement includes $ 11.8 million in attorneys' fees and $ 900,000
in court costs.

The agreement for the class action was filed Aug. 12 with the U.S.
District Court for the District of Nevada. The suit alleges Humana
Health Insurance of Nevada Inc. received large discounts from its own
hospital whereby its beneficiaries paid significantly more than the 20
percent payment for which they were responsible, and Humana paid
significantly less than its obligatory 80 percent.

Under terms of the settlement, the co-payor class will receive $
11,986,200, or 7.38 times the difference between the two methods of
calculation. The premium payor class will receive $ 4,113,800, a 3.6
percent refund of the total premiums paid during the class period.

Humana will then be released from any and all claims that were brought
or could have been brought by any class member, including claims
involving co-insurance payments, premium payments or payments to any
hospital services at Sunrise Hospital.

According to Humana's memorandum in support of the joint motion for
preliminary approval of settlement, plaintiffs' counsel will petition
for an award of attorneys' fees amounting to $ 11.8 million and costs of
$ 900,000. Humana said in the memo it does not believe the request is
unreasonable given the 10 years of litigation involved.

Humana is represented by Dennis L. Kennedy of Lionel Sawyer & Collins in
Las Vegas; Jeffrey W. Kilduff and Neil K. Gilman of O'Melveny & Myers in
Washington, D.C.; and Linda J. Smith and David Garcia of O'Melveny &
Myers in Los Angeles.

Representing the class are J. Randall Jones and Will Kemp of Harrison,
Kemp & Jones in Las Vegas, Kevin R. Stolworthy of Jones Vargas in Las
Vegas and W.B. "Bill" Markovits of Markovits & Greiwe in Cincinnati.
(Mealey's Managed Care Liability Report, December 22, 1999)

HMOs: Study Predicts Profits to Soar 60%; Not-For-Profits to Struggle
With for-profit companies leading the way, managed care industry profits
are expected to top $3 billion this year, up 60% from 1999, a new study
finds, as the industry faces intense political and legal challenges.
"Managed Care in the New Millennium," published by Corporate Research
Group, warns that big losses at not-for-profit HMOs are raising concerns
about the ability of not-for-profits to survive in an increasingly
cut-throat economic climate.

Corporate Research Group says industry revenues should grow to $176
billion from $162 billion in 1999. Almost all the increase will come
from higher rates, with enrollment expected to rise by only 1%.
After-tax margins of publicly owned HMOs hit 2.6% in the third quarter
of 1999, after averaging between eight-tenths of 1% and 1.6% for the
previous two years.

The return to profitability does not extend to a number of the leading
not-for-profits, including two Massachusetts HMOs -- Harvard Pilgrim
(Brookline, MA), which lost $150 million last year, and Tufts Health
Plan, which lost $45 million. Kaiser Permanente, the biggest
not-for-profit, is only now returning to profitability after two years
of losses.

Author Carl Mercurio says, "The industry's strategic underpinnings also
seem to be crumbling," in the face of a consumer backlash against HMOs
and now, a legal onslaught by class action lawyers. He predicts that
plaintiffs "will have difficulty obtaining class action status" and says
most suits will be dismissed or settled at little cost. Mercurio also
predicts that "high-profile face-downs" will continue as HMOs, hospitals
and physicians battle for healthcare dollars. The largest managed care
companies, based on estimated 1999 revenues, are United Health Group,
$19.5 billion; Aetna, $19.3 billion; Kaiser, $16.6 billion; and Cigna,
$13.5 billion. Others in the top 10 are Humana, PacifiCare, Foundation
Health Systems, Wellpoint, Oxford and Harvard Pilgrim.

The 135-page report contains 45 company profiles and 50 charts and
tables, and is priced at $1195. Companion reports cover managed care in
12 states -- Arizona, California, Florida, Illinois, Massachusetts,
Michigan, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania and
Texas. (Source: Corporate Research Group, Inc.)

METLIFE, CA: Retired Judge Sues over Fraud in Retirement Annuities
A class action law suit was filed Friday, February 4 in Los Angeles
Superior Court by retired Judge Robert P. Schifferman, age 72, on behalf
of himself and other retired California State employees in Schifferman,
et. al., v. Metropolitan Life Insurance Company, et. al. (MetLife),
(Case No. BC22435). Howarth & Smith announces the class action lawsuit
which impacts retired state employees who invested in State's "Savings
Plus Program" and Purchased Annuities sold by major insurance companies.

The complaint alleges fraud, misrepresentation and concealment over
responsibility for the payment of taxes on annuity investments offered
through the State's "Savings Plus Program." Also named as defendants are
Travelers Life and Annuity Company, United of Omaha Life Insurance
Company, Mutual of Omaha, Aetna Life Insurance Company, Pacific Mutual
Insurance Company, Transamerica Occidental Life Insurance Company, and
the State of California. Plaintiffs seek injunctive relief, general and
punitive damages. Class Action Department 59 will handle pre-trial
proceedings. Plaintiffs are represented by Don Howarth and Suzelle M.
Smith with the Los Angeles law firm of Howarth & Smith.

Judge Schifferman became a Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge in
1973 and retired in 1991. As a State employee, Judge Schifferman was
entitled to participate in and enrolled in the State's "Savings Plus
Program" (the Plan), a deferred compensation program offered through the
California State Department of Personnel Administration (Personnel) by
which retired employees can invest in annuities sold by the insurer

Under the Plan, the Judge invested in a joint life for a term certain
annuity from MetLife with the entire balance of $612,231.71 in his Plan
account and was promised a monthly annuity of $4,143.06, beginning June
1, 1998. MetLife gave him a statement showing that he had been required
to pay a 2.35% State tax, resulting in a $14,387.45 reduction in the
amount available to invest in the annuity. He believed the tax was a
lawfully imposed tax on the purchaser/investor under State revenue
statues, rather than a tax on the insurer. Once an annuity is purchased,
it cannot be increased or decreased.

In August and October 1998, Judge Schifferman contacted by fax an
"annuity representative" working for the Plan for information about the
legislative authority for the 2.35% State tax, but received no response
to his request. He later contacted a MetLife Sales Coordinator, who
finally sent him copies of California Revenue & Tax Code, ss.ss. 12201
to 12204. The Judge then discovered that it is the legal responsibility
of the insurer, not the purchaser of an annuity, to pay the State tax.

The complaint alleges that Judge Schifferman also discovered the
existence of a "sweetheart deal" his annuity provider, MetLife, had made
with State Personnel and which was concealed from him. The deal,
entitled "Group Annuity Contract," was designed to misrepresent the
nature of the State Tax and impose it on retired employees.

"As a retired person, I appreciate the fact that every penny counts,"
said Judge Schifferman. "Many State retired employees may have been
injured by this. As a former Judge and officer of the Court, I cannot
let it pass now that I have discovered what has been hidden from other,
innocent retirees over the past decade.

"This 'sweetheart deal' was wrong," added Judge Schifferman, "because it
breached the fiduciary duty of MetLife and the State not to disclose the
true facts of what was being done, thus misleading retirees into paying
2.35% of their savings for MetLife's taxes. In my experience, people do
not usually question the statement that they have to pay a 'State tax'
and assume that this is an act of the Legislature, which is undeniably

"What Judge Schifferman unearthed," explained Don Howarth, "is a
deception of significant proportion against retired California State
employees by powerful insurance companies wrongfully enriching
themselves by potentially millions of dollars."

"Whom can you trust," asks Suzelle M. Smith, "when companies like
MetLife using the State, have apparently conspired to conceal an
arrangement that has collectively harmed thousands of unsuspecting
victims? This is a blatant abuse of power. Those who have served our
State and are now retired, our judges and others, do not deserve this
kind of treatment."

The time period alleged for the Class begins in 1990 and continues
through May of 1999. Class members are defined as retired State of
California judges and other retired State employees who purchased an
annuity from one of the named insurance companies.

Defendant insurance companies are incorporated as follows: Aetna Life
Insurance Company in Connecticut; Metropolitan Life Insurance Company in
New York; Mutual of Omaha in Nebraska; Pacific Mutual Insurance Company
in California; Transamerica Occidental Life Insurance Company in
California; Travelers Life and Annuity Company in Connecticut; and
United of Omaha Life Insurance Company in Nebraska.

MITSUBISHI MOTOR: Fd Judge OKs Racial Bias Suit But Invites Review
A federal judge has ruled that a racial discrimination lawsuit against
Mitsubishi Motor Manufacturing of America can proceed despite a lawyer's
failure to conform to several court-imposed deadlines. But U.S. District
Judge Michael Mihm, sitting in Peoria, also invited higher court review
of his decision on February 3. He said established law fails to address
the issue directly.

At issue is whether Mitsubishi or the United Auto Workers union, also
named as a defendant when the lawsuit was filed in March, were properly
served with the lawsuit within 120 days of filing as required.

Attorney Michael Riley, who filed the lawsuit, contends he mailed copies
of the lawsuit. But Mitsubishi and the UAW deny getting the complaint
until October, more than six months later, prompting a federal
magistrate to recommend dismissal.

The lawsuit alleges that supervisors at Mitsubishi's plant in Normal
denied black workers promotions and transfers and allowed other acts of

Riley no longer represents the 21 workers who filed the lawsuit. Most of
them are now represented by lawyers who filed a separate class-action
lawsuit on behalf of all of the Normal plant's minority workers. Those
attorneys say they hope to consolidate the two lawsuits.

Failure to serve legal documents to the other side is usually sufficient
to dismiss a lawsuit, but Mihm made an exception. The judge said that
Riley through inaction ceased to act as his clients' advocate only weeks
after the lawsuit was filed.

Mihm suggested the automaker's lawyers appeal his decision. I am not
going to feel comfortable about this ruling," he said. (Chicago Daily
Law Bulletin, February 4, 2000)

MOBIL OIL: CASA Says Fuel Crisis Grounded Fewer Planes Than Feared
Canberra Departmental officials said BP, which had supplied about 700
planes with fuel sourced from Mobil, had received 11 applications for
compensation and paid out up to $10,000 from a separate fund.

Mobil is also facing a class action for damages for loss of income and
profits, the cost of inspecting and cleaning aviation fuel from aircraft
and the cost of replacing components.

Mr Toller said CASA was also evaluating an alternative cleaning method
to rid engines of the contaminant ethylene diamine (EDA), in addition to
the water flush currently recommended. "Nothing would please us more
than to find a solution that doesn't use water," he said. "(The
alternative involves) a proprietary form of detergent being mixed with
avgas and flushed through the system; we need to know what's in that
detergent because we need to know whether it's going to have any other
effect on the aircaft." The testing would likely take several weeks.
(AAP Newsfeed, February 7, 2000)

ONTARIO: Lawsuit over Arsenic at Deloro Mine Site May Include Thousands
Brenda Brett was told to wear gloves last summer when she wanted to
garden in the toxic soil around her well-kept home in the eastern
Ontario village of Deloro. She says the advice came from provincial
environment ministry officials as a precaution, even though a government
study had concluded the arsenic- tainted soil in the village around a
defunct gold mine and refinery posed no health threat to residents. But
Brett has little faith in government assurances.

The 54-year-old former Pickering resident - along with Tom Wells, who
owns property in the village about 45 kilometres north of Belleville -
has started a $50 million class-action lawsuit against the federal and
provincial governments and companies associated with the mine. ''This is
the worst case of bureaucratic bungling I have ever seen,'' Brett said.

None of the allegations has been proved in court. Provincial officials
refused comment. ''It's before the courts, so we are limited to what we
can say,'' said environment ministry spokesperson John Steele.

The 200 residents of the two-street village learned only last summer
about the arsenic in their soil - while government records showed the
ministry had been aware of the contamination since 1987.

The lawsuit alleges in part that the government has failed to adequately
clean up the site and village. It also makes a claim for compensation
for lost property values. Brett says her home - for which she paid
$112,000 11 years ago is now worth just $50,000. The 350-hectare site of
the former mine and refinery has long been considered the most
contaminated piece of land in Ontario - an admission made by the
ministry several years ago after estimating it could take up to $30
million to stop piles of toxic waste from leaking into the Moira River.

The ministry took control of the site in 1979 when its owners declared
they were unable to afford clean-up operations. It has since spent more
than $12 million.

Soil in the town contains levels of arsenic 30 times higher than what
the province considers to be an acceptable level for exposure, according
to ministry tests. Exposure to small amounts of arsenic over a long
period can cause nausea, headaches and anorexia. Larger quantities are
deadly. After the Deloro Smelting and Refining Co. closed the gold mine
in the early 1900s, the company continued refining cobalt, silver and
nickel from other Ontario mines for another 50 years. Pesticides were
made from waste arsenic. During the 1940s and '50s, the company
extracted cobalt from radioactive waste shipped from a uranium
processing plant in Port Hope. The company closed in 1961 and sold the
homes in Deloro that it had built for its workers.

The lawsuit could eventually include several thousand people with homes
stretching south along the Moira River to Moira Lake, said Toronto
lawyer Doug Cummings, who has taken on the case. Class-action lawsuits
can't proceed until they have received approval from the Superior Court
of Justice. No hearing date has been set.

Included in the lawsuit are the provincial environment, health, labour,
and northern development and mines ministries. Also included are the
federal departments of fisheries and oceans, energy, mines and resources
and environment. (The Toronto Star, February 7, 2000)

PAYDAY LENDERS: Edelman, Combs Sues Check 'n Go & CheckSmart in Indiana
The Chicago law firm of Edelman, Combs & Latturner and Indiana attorney
Lemuel Stigler have filed class action lawsuits against Check 'n Go of
Indiana, Inc. and Hoosier Check Cashing of Ohio, Ltd., which does
business as CheckSmart.

The complaints allege violation of the Truth in Lending Act and Indiana
law in connection with "payday loans." They were filed in the federal
district court in South Bend. Bonds v. Hoosier Check Cashing of Ohio,
Ltd., 3:00CV70 (N.D.Ind.); Niblac v. Check 'n Go of Indiana, Inc.,
3:00CV72 (N.D.Ind.).

One of the Indiana laws alleged to have been violated is the Indiana
Uniform Consumer Credit Code. The Code (i) prohibits lenders from
charging interest of more than 36% per annum interest, (ii) allows a
flat fee not exceeding $33, and (iii) prohibits lenders from using
multiple agreements to obtain more finance charges than would otherwise
be permitted. Plaintiffs allege that by imposing a finance charge that
purports to be justified by the $33 exception to the general 36%
limitation on a series of two-week loans -- producing finance charges in
the hundreds of dollars and an effective annual percentage rate in
triple digits -- the lenders violated the rate restrictions in the
Indiana Uniform Consumer Credit Code.

A survey conducted by the Indiana Department of Financial Institutions
disclosed that the average payday loan borrower "rolls over" her loan
about 10 times, so that the loan actually remains outstanding for 5-6
months (5,350 borrowers obtained 54,508 loans and rollovers, with the
average loan/rollover lasting 13.67 days). The average annual percentage
rate was 498.73%, or more than 10 times the 36% maximum. The average
finance charge was $27.29 for each loan or rollover, showing that the
lenders tried to use the $33 exception on each loan/rollover. One
borrower "rolled over" her loan 66 times, or for about three years. A
survey conducted by the Illinois Department of Financial Institutions
produced similar results. "Payday lenders" are thus well aware of the
fact that borrowers generally cannot pay their loans off in two weeks.

The complaints also allege violation of another Indiana statute that
makes it unlawful to charge more than 72% interest in any case. Ind.
Code, Section This statute was the subject of the Attorney General's
recent opinion.

Finally, each lawsuit alleges failure to comply with the disclosure
requirements of the federal Truth in Lending Act and the Indiana Uniform
Consumer Credit Code.

Similar lawsuits are pending against Ace Cash Express, E-Z Payday Loans,
Advance America, Fast Cash USA, Check Into Cash, All Checks Cashed, and
GRT, Inc. (A-1 Payday Loans and Castleton Cash Advance) in the federal
courts in Indianapolis and Hammond. Rowings v. Ace Cash Express, Inc.,
IP 99-1887-C-B/S (S.D.Ind.); Livingston v. Fast Cash USA, Inc.
IP99-1226-C-B/S (S.D.Ind.); Rowings v. DSA, Inc., d/b/a E-Z Payday Loans
IP 00-0060-C-B/S (S.D.Ind.); Wallace v. Advance America 2:00CV123JM
(N.D.Ind.); Wilson v. Check Into Cash of Indiana, LLC, IP00-0166C-H/G
(S.D.Ind.); Smith v. All Checks Cashed, Inc., IP00-0165C-T/G (S.D.Ind.);
Hudson v. GRT, Inc., IP00-0163C-M/S (S.D.Ind.).

Edelman, Combs & Latturner concentrates in the representation of
consumers against lenders, car dealers, debt collectors, and other
businesses. The firm has sued numerous "payday lenders" in Illinois,
Indiana and elsewhere.

Contact: Daniel A. Edelman of Edelman, Combs & Latturner, 312-739-4200,
or 800-644-4673, or fax, 312-419-0379

PEDIATRIX MEDICAL: Announces Amended Securities Complaint Filed in FL
Pediatrix Medical Group, Inc., (NYSE:PDX) learned on February 4 that the
plaintiffs in the class action complaint filed against it and several of
its officers have filed an amendment to their complaint with the U.S.
District Court for the Southern District of Florida.

On January 19, the court dismissed the class action complaint, but in
its opinion the court permitted the plaintiffs to attempt to cure the
deficiencies found in their pleadings by filing a further amendment to
their complaint by no later than February 3, 2000.

Pediatrix and its officers have not received a copy of the amended
complaint, and therefore are not in a position to comment on the merits
of the complaint.

PNC BANK: Ohio Appeals Ct Reinstates Action on Loan Payment Deferrals
that individual issues of law and fact did not predominate over issues
common to the class of borrowers who accepted their lender's deferment
offer, the Ohio Court of Appeals reversed the trial court's denial of
the motion for class certification. Begala, et al. v. PNC Bank, Ohio,
No. C-990033 (Ohio Ct. App. 12/30/99).

John Begala obtained a 60-month loan from Central Trust Co. N.A., the
predecessor of PNC Bank, Ohio N.A. In connection with his automobile
loan he received nine unsolicited letters from PNC offering him a
one-month deferral in exchange for paying an extension fee. Begala's
loan documentation did not contain a provision regarding deferrals.

The form letter from Central Trust read in pertinent part: "The
authorization form attached below lists a loan extension fee which is
the payment you make now in order to postpone your regular payment.
Simply sign the authorization and forward it along with your extension
fee payment. Your loan term will automatically be extended by the one
payment you're postponing now. That's all there is to it."

Begala accepted all nine deferral offers and paid more than 400 in fees
to the bank. Subsequently, he discovered that the deferrals cost him
1,000 in interest. He then filed a class action against PNC alleging the
bank's failure to disclose the finance charges and compound interest
violated the Truth in Lending Act. (See Consumer Financial Services Law
Report, Jan. 22, 1999, p. 4).

Begala claimed the letters were misleading because the true cost of the
"holiday payment" plan including the extension fee plus compound
interest charges over the life of the loan.

The trial court struck out all class-action allegations including claims
of fraud, breach of contract, negligence, rescission, promissory
estoppel, unjust enrichment, breach of fiduciary duty and civil
conspiracy. It held that the requirements of Fed. R. Civ. P. 23(B)(3)
were not satisfied because individual issues of reliance predominated
over those issues common to the class.

On appeal, the Court of Appeals concluded that the plaintiffs did
satisfy the predominate test of Rule 23(B)(3) because PNC's alleged
misrepresentation regarding the true cost of the "payment holiday" was
common to the entire class. The questions of law or fact in Begala's
action arose from identical form contracts, said the court. Thus, said
the court, "[t]he gravamen of every complaint within each subclass is
the same and relates to the use of standardized procedures and

The court was unpersuaded by PNC's argument that the sentence "[y]our
loan term will automatically be extended by the one payment you're
posting now," advised borrowers of the financial consequences of the
deferment. Nor did the court accept PNC's contention that the issue of
reliance presented individual issues of proof. Instead, the court found
each class member represented his or her reliance upon the information
provided in the uniform letter by signing the standardized acceptance

In summary, Judge Gorman opined that "[c]ertification of the class also
insulates PNC against the prospect of facing endless litigation by its
loan customers." The court reversed the trial court's decision; however,
Begala's TILA disclosure claim has not yet been decided.

Paul DeMarco, Stanley M. Chesley and Fay E. Stilz of Waite, Schneider,
Bayless & Chesley Co. in Cincinnati represented Begala. Glenn V.
Whitaker and Phillip Smith of Vorys, Sater, Seymour & Pease in
Cincinnati represented PNC. (Consumer Financial Services Law Report,
January 25, 2000)

PRUDENTIAL INSURANCE: Some See Flaws in Settlement for Case Re Policies
Eleven years after Tommy Coffin's death from esophageal cancer, The
Prudential Insurance Company of America has not paid his widow, Ruth
Coffin, a dime from the $ 75,000 policy on his life. Last October, an
arbitrator awarded her the full $ 75,000 as part of a 1997 class-action
settlement designed to repay the victims of Prudential's rampant sales
abuses in the Eighties and early Nineties.

But Prudential has ignored the arbitrator's decision, telling Coffin,
49, of Wood-Ridge that she has no business receiving the benefit because
her husband's policy had lapsed shortly before his death. "This company
has tried to wear me down," said Coffin, a postal worker and mother of
two grown children. "It's disgraceful. This was hard enough 11 years
ago. Now I'm going through the aggravation again."

Coffin's case is one of 640,000 claims in a class-action settlement,
approved by a federal judge in Newark in 1997, covering charges that
Prudential's agents tricked policyholders into buying more insurance
than they needed, or in Coffin's case, wrongfully canceling policies
that should have been left in good standing. The abuses took place over
14 years, beginning in 1982, affecting more than 1 million people.
Hundreds, perhaps thousands, have complained about the settlement,
sparking an inquiry into Prudential's conduct in handling policyholder
claims. "This company is playing by its own rules, and if policyholders
don't like it, too bad,"Coffin said. Letters she sent and phone calls
she made to Prudential over several years proved fruitless. The company
repeatedly denied the claim.

Prudential says it has handled all claims properly. "We are confident
that the vast majority of policyholders are happy with their
settlement," said Prudential Vice President Bob DeFillippo.

However, when contacted by The Record about Coffin's claim, DeFillippo
said:"We're going to go back and take a fresh look at this case. This
woman should expect a phone call from someone shortly."

Tommy and Ruth Coffin worked together at the U.S. Postal Service Bulk
Mail Center in Jersey City. They purchased a $ 75,000 life insurance
policy on Tommy's life in 1984, paying premiums every month until his
diagnosis with cancer in September 1988. "He was going to Memorial
Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York for treatment, and it was the
accumulation of everything that built up. We missed one or two
payments," Coffin said. In late October, she called the Prudential
agent, Roger Smith, who had sold them the policy, telling him they were
late and wanted to make a payment. But Smith said the policy had lapsed
and couldn't be reinstated because of Tommy Coffin's cancer. The company
gave the Coffins no warning that the policy would be canceled. He died
two months later, at 34, leaving Ruth Coffin with no insurance benefit.
"I had no idea where to go for help," she said. She contacted the
company several times but claims managers wouldn't listen. Because the
policy was canceled, she received nothing.

Several years later, Coffin heard about the class action, which was
prompted by a multistate investigation into Prudential's allegedly
fraudulent sales practices. As part of the settlement, Prudential
offered to refund Coffin the $ 1,323 in premiums the couple had paid
from 1984 to 1988, plus interest.

There was no mention of a death benefit. Coffin was allowed to appeal
the offer, and she did. Her claim made its way to a binding arbitration
hearing, a four-way telephone conversation in which Coffin was joined by
her Prudential-appointed lawyer, an attorney for Prudential, and the
arbitrator, Thomas C. Harris, of Fort Mill, S.C. Under the settlement,
Prudential is paying for claimants legal counsel.

The Prudential lawyer then offered to settle for $ 20,000, Coffin says.
The lawyer insisted that because Tommy Coffin's policy had lapsed, the
full death benefit should not be awarded.

The arbitrator disagreed. The Coffins had simply missed one or two
payments. Enough premiums had built up in the policy over four years to
keep it in good standing even after Tommy Coffin's death. The agent was
wrong in canceling the policy. Harris awarded Ruth Coffin the full $
75,000. In letters he wrote to Coffin following the arbitration, Harris
said,"A reinstatement of the policy at the time of death is in order.
The full death benefit is awarded. The agent has a disciplinary
history." Harris, who is a member of the American Arbitration
Association, said his decision is supposed to be "final and binding,"
and suggested that Coffin contact the lawyer who represented her.

Coffin did contact her lawyer, a woman named Merrill Berland, who no
longer can be reached at the number she gave Coffin. "The last time we
talked," Coffin said, "she told me she'd fought the case well, maybe too
well, and perhaps I should accept the refunded premiums."

Since 1997, Prudential has paid more than $ 2 billion to cover
settlement claims. A federal appeals court upheld the settlement in
1998, questioning only the $ 90 million in legal fees paid to plaintiffs
lawyers. In New Jersey, thousands of people have received checks in the

But critics say Pru has unfairly treated many policyholders such as
Coffin, stalling unnecessarily with some claims and failing to consider
evidence in other claims that could result in higher awards. Many people
have complained that the settlement is too confusing. "You've got a lot
of people who just did whatever Pru suggested, and took a nickel on a
thousand dollars and just ate it,"said Cincinnati resident Gary Day, who
1 NEW3 was persuaded to buy insurance in 1982 that drained assets from
other Prudential policies he owned. "There's no fairness in this

Day said he paid a Hackensack private investigator $ 1,200 last fall to
spend one day snooping around Prudential's remediation call center in
Edison. Phone conversations he had with company officials there had left
Day confused and upset. Several times, he was contacted and urged to
settle his claim for $ 2,000. "I never got a call from the same person,"
he said. "Everyone claimed they were lawyer representatives, but their
conversations with me were very amateur. Upon talking with so many of
these wild people, I wanted to know who they were, if they were lawyers
at all."

Day said his investigator found a call center with 400 people, few of
whom were lawyers. A Prudential spokeswoman said several call centers
exist across the country, employing hundreds of people trained in
handling claims. Now, Day says his claim may go to arbitration.

Lawyers for policyholders and the judge presiding over the settlement in
Newark, U.S. District Judge Alfred M. Wolin, have been investigating
Pru's conduct for several months. The investigation was prompted by
job-bias lawsuits filed by employees against the company in federal
court in Minneapolis last year. The complaints allege that remediation
center supervisors objected to some workers efforts to obtain the
highest level of relief available for policyholders. In some instances,
Prudential provided incentives to employees to speed cases along,
holding contests and awarding prizes to those who moved the most cases
off their desks.

"We went quickly because, frankly, we were asked to go quickly by
everyone involved," Prudential's DeFillippo said. "We've tried to move
the process along as quickly as we could without sacrificing quality."

Last year, Coffin unsuccessfully sought help from then-Attorney General
Peter G. Verniero, and recently she wrote letters to congressional
representatives and to Wolin.

A clerk in Wolin's chambers in Newark said the judge has received "boxes
full of letters"from claimants over the last two years. "It's very
depressing,"said the clerk, Gail Hansen.

If policyholders still haven't settled their claim, Hansen urged them to
contact Mark Budoff, a claims manager in Newark, at (800) 798-9823. (The
Record (Bergen County, NJ), February 4, 2000)

SHIGELLA OUTBREAK: Keller Rohrback Files Nationwide Suit in CA
Keller Rohrback, L.L.P., of Seattle and Zimmerman Reed, P.L.L.P, with
offices in Minneapolis and Phoenix, have filed a nationwide class action
lawsuit in San Francisco Superior Court against Senor Felix's Gourmet
Mexican Food, Inc., a California corporation that manufactured
shigella-contaminated bean and salsa dips implicated in the recent
shigella outbreak.

The named plaintiffs are Meredith Berkovich, and her two daughters,
Angela and Tiffany Berkovich, who live in Oregon. Managing Partner Lynn
Sarko reports that the shigella-contaminated dip was purchased from
Trader Joe's grocery store in Beaverton, Oregon. Ms. Berkovich's
daughters consumed the contaminated dip and subsequently became ill.
Meredith Berkovich was unknowingly exposed to the shigella bacteria
while caring for her daughters. Meredith became so ill that her family
took her to the emergency room where she was admitted to the hospital.
All three Berkovich's have confirmed cases of shigellosis.

Senor Felix recalled the dip last month after it was linked to the
recent shigellosis outbreak. The recall applies to five-layer dip sold
under the following brand names: Senor Felix's Five-Layered Party Dip,
Delicioso 5-Layer dip, Trader Joe's Five-Layered Fiesta Dip, or The
Carryout Cafe Mexican Fiesta Party Dip 5 Layer.

Keller Rohrback is now aware of over 60 confirmed cases of shigellosis
linked to the shigella-contaminated bean and salsa dip. Most of these
cases are being reported in California, Washington, Oregon, and Idaho,
although reports are also trickling in from other areas.

Sarko states that, "Keller Rohrback and Zimmerman Reed filed the
Berkovich case on behalf of all persons injured by the
shigella-contaminated dip to compensate these persons for their injuries
and to hold Senor Felix accountable to produce safe products and to
ensure that only wholesome food enters the marketplace."

Persons who ate the contaminated dip and became ill should consider
consulting their physician. Laboratory testing of a person's stool
sample can determine whether shigella is the cause of a person's
illness. To insure proper testing, the laboratory should be instructed
to look for the shigella organism.

People who cared for persons who ate the contaminated dip and became ill
should also consider consulting their physician. Lynn Sarko warn,s "Like
Meredith Berkovich, many people simply do not realize that they can
contract shigellosis while treating their family members for what
appears to be a simple case of the flu. People who care for persons
experiencing the flu-like symptoms that are characteristic of
shigellosis should therefore pay very close attention to hygiene to
prevent the further spread of this potentially serious and highly
contagious disease to themselves and others."

Contact: Keller Rohrback, L.L.P. 800/776-6044 Lynn Sarko Britt Tinglum
Amy Hanson Jennifer Tuato'o

SOTHEBY'S INC: Schiffrin & Barroway Files Suit in NY over Price Fixing
Schiffrin & Barroway, LLP commenced a class action lawsuit in the United
States District Court for the Southern District of New York on behalf of
all persons who purchased art, jewelry, musical instruments and a
variety of other items through Sotheby's Holdings, Inc and Sotheby's Inc
auctions during January 1, 1992 through the present, and on behalf of
sellers of such items during March 1995 through the present.

The complaint charges that, in approximately January 1992, Sotheby's fix
the price of commissions charged to buyers at 15% of the first $50,000
of merchandise purchased and 10% of any amount over the $50,000. Prior
to that time, buyers were charged a flat 10% commission. The complaint
further charges that in approximately March 1995, Sotheby's fix the
price of sellers' commissions by adopting with another auctioneer
identical detailed sliding-scale commission rates to the sellers.
Christie's International, an auctioneer company, has supplied evidence
of the price fixing of auction commissions to the United States Justice
Department, which has been investigating anti-competitive practices in
connection with Sotheby's auctions.

Contact: Stuart L. Berman, Esq. of Schiffrin & Barroway, LLP, toll free
at 1-888-299- 7706 or 1-610-667-7706 or at info@sbclasslaw.com via

TOBACCO LITIGATION: Flight Attendants File More Second-Hand Smoke Suits
Flight attendants who claim second-hand smoke caused their health
problems filed another round of lawsuits in Miami-Dade Circuit Court.
The 300 suits filed recently are in addition to 300 filed Jan. 20
against Philip Morris Inc., R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., Lorillard Tobacco
Co. and Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corp. The flight attendants were part
of a class-action suit filed in 1991 that was settled. (Broward Daily
Business Review, February 4, 2000)

* MD Lobbyists on Late-Fees Bill and Lawyers Disagree over Amount
A powerful Maryland senator is pushing legislation backed by the
business community that would allow companies to once again charge late
fees that the state's highest court recently found to be excessive.

The legislation sponsored by Senate Finance Committee Chairman Thomas L.
Bromwell (D-Baltimore County) would effectively erase the court's ruling
and shield companies from having to refund consumers who were

The legislation stems from a Maryland Court of Appeals decision last
June that found a Baltimore cable company's policy of charging late fees
in excess of 6 percent a year violated a provision of the state
constitution. The justices ordered the cable service to return $ 7.59
million to its subscribers.

Bromwell's bill is pitting dozens of trial lawyers, many of whom have
already started working on class-action suits aimed at recouping
excessive fees, against some of the largest corporations operating in
Maryland. It could affect everyone from the tenant who is late paying
rent to the health club member who hasn't paid dues. "We have a huge
stake in this," said Paul D. Gleiberman, a Washington attorney for more
than 1 million residential telephone users in a class-action suit
against Bell Atlantic Corp. "They were charging their customers well in
excess of what the constitution provides," he said. "Now they're asking
the legislators here to reach back and change the law so they can keep
the money they took illegally. It's not just. It's not proper."

Sean M. Looney, a lobbyist for Bell Atlantic, said his company acted
properly but recognizes the serious threat posed by class-action suits.
"If the lawyers are successful in stopping this bill, it could cost us
millions of dollars, and all that would be passed on to the majority of
customers who have been paying on time," Looney said.

Neither side is opposed to the idea of allowing companies to charge a
reasonable late fee to help prod customers into paying their monthly

The 6 percent annual rate permitted by the constitution would mean
lobbyist James J. Doyle Jr.'s clients, who rent out storage space, would
be able to charge a monthly late fee of only 25 cents on a unit that
costs $ 50. "If that's all the hammer you have, nobody's going to pay
their bill on time," Doyle told the 11 members of the Senate finance
committee during a hearing on February 1. "It will upset the whole way
these companies do business."

But as the bill is currently drafted, it would leave setting the fees up
to the companies, something Sen. Delores Kelley (D-Baltimore) said could
lead to customers being gouged.

Bromwell suggested that senators discuss the possibility of setting a
reasonable limit, so fees don't go overboard. He also suggested a
minimum grace period, so fees aren't charged too soon after a bill comes

The stickiest issue at hand, though, will be whether to keep the bill
retroactive, absolving the companies of liability back to 1995, roughly
corresponding with the statute of limitations.

Laurence Levitan, a former Montgomery County senator who now is a
lobbyist for the Cable Telecommunications Association of Maryland, said
companies should not be held responsible because before the court
ruling, they had no idea that the late fees would be considered

But Kelley referred to the high court's ruling, which said United Cable
of Baltimore LP, formerly owned by Tele-Communications Inc., was using
the fees as a way to "swell its coffers of profitability, at the expense
of the public." The fees, the ruling said, far exceeded the expense that
companies incurred when people paid late. Shortly before the Maryland
decision, a jury in the District issued a similar ruling, ordering TCI
to reimburse subscribers $ 6.7 million.

Holding up a newspaper advertisement looking for people who were charged
with late fees, lobbyist Paul A. Tiburzi, who represents telephone
companies, told senators to expect a "feeding frenzy" if the bill
doesn't pass. "If you're a lawyer in Maryland," he said, "get in line."
(The Washington Post, February 2, 2000)


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