/raid1/www/Hosts/bankrupt/CAR_Public/010111.MBX              C L A S S   A C T I O N   R E P O R T E R

             Thursday, January 11, 2001, Vol. 3, No. 8


APRIA HEALTHCARE: Stull, Stull Announces on Securities Lawsuit in CA
ASBESTOS LITIGATION: Judge Allows Notification to Washington Homeowners
AUCTION HOUSES: Class Members Cannot Intervene Where They Can Object
AUGUSTO PINOCHET: Psychological Exams to Determine If Fit to Stand Trial
BIRD FIBERGLASS: Gilman and Pastor AnnounceS Final Hearing on Settlement

BURGER KING: Agrees to Buy Back 23 Restauransts Operated By Hawkins
CASHEL MANAGEMENT: Clients File Suits Accusing Advisory Firm of Bilking
DEPLETED URANIUM: Belgian Soldier from Bosnia Queries about Health Risk
ECONOMY CLASS SYNDROME: Qantas Knew About Dangers Of In 1989
ECONOMY CLASS SYNDROME: Singapore Airlines Not Notified Of Aussi Lawsuit

ECONOMY CLASS SYNDROME: Suits Rattle; Carriers Deny Link With Seats
GIULIANI: New York Will Pay $50 Million In 50,000 Illegal Strip-Searches
HOLOCAUST VICTIMS: French Banks May Sign Pact in the Month
LOCKFORMER CO: Expected to Respond to Cert. Request in TCE-in-Water Suit
MTBE: Former Bakersfield Mobile Home Part Residents Sue Equilon & Texaco

NORFOLK SOUTHERN: Va.-Based Rail Company Settles Discrimination Suit
NPC INTERNATIONAL: Announces Filing of Stockholder's Lawsuits
OAKWOOD HOMES: Announces Dismissal of Shareholder Lawsuit in NC
OIL COMPANIES: Antitrust Suits Seen As Means to Get a Raise in Pay
REZULIN LITIGATION: Action against Warner-Lambert Moves on Three Fronts

ROGERS FAMILY: Settles for Alleged Improper Handling of Remains
SCOTT HINKLEY: More Charges Filed Accusing of Bilking Investors
SEWAGE-TAINTED WATER: Officials Warn of Risk of Stockton Pipe Leak
TOBACCO LITIGATION: Smokers Denied Medical Cost from  Utah's Settlement
TODDLER BOOTS: Boca Raton Company Makes Recalls for Toggle on Laces

TOSHIBA AMERICAN: Black Workers' TN Suit Charges Lebanon Factory of Bias
WORKPLACE BIAS: Do Suits Bring Diversity Or Lucrative Fees Or Both?
U-HAUL INTERNATIONAL: May Appeal against CA Ruling over "Managers'" OT
VOTING SYSTEMS: Los Angeles Times Reports on 2 Suits Targetting Accuracy


APRIA HEALTHCARE: Stull, Stull Announces on Securities Lawsuit in CA
The following is an announcement by the law firm of Stull, Stull & Brody:

On January 5, 2001, the law firms of Weiss & Yourman and Stull, Stull &
Brody, attorneys for the shareholders in the Apria HealthCare Group
Securities Class Action Lawsuit, received notice of the Judge's ruling on
defendants' motions to dismiss the class action. The California Superior
Court Judge hearing the case ruled that the allegations in the complaint
against Apria HealthCare Group ("Apria") should not be dismissed and that
the case should proceed. This ruling was a victory for those Apria
shareholders who acquired their shares between March 2, 1995 and January
20, 1998, including those Apria shareholders who were former shareholders
of Abbey Healthcare Group, Inc. ("Abbey") and Homedco Group, Inc.

Apria was formed in June 1995 through a merger of Abbey and Homedco, both
of which were located in Orange County, California. The Complaint against
Apria, and certain of its officers and directors, alleges they committed
securities fraud by issuing false and misleading financial statements and
results for each reporting period between March 2, 1995 and January 20,
1998 in order to effect the merger of Abbey and Homedco, make the merger
appear successful, conceal the disarray of the internal operations of
Abbey, Homedco, and ultimately Apria, and otherwise artificially inflate
Apria's stock price until the merger and integration of Abbey and Homedco
could be completed.

Contact: Stull, Stull & Brody Timothy J. Burke, 1-888-388-4605
tburke@secfraud.com www.secfraud.com or Weiss & Yourman Leigh Parker,
1-800-437-7918 wyinfo@wyca.com

ASBESTOS LITIGATION: Judge Allows Notification to Washington Homeowners
Attorneys suing over asbestos-laced insulation will be allowed to notify
Washington homeowners that the product may have been installed in their

Spokane County Superior Court Judge Kathleen O'Connor said she will allow
the Spokane law firm of Lukins & Annis to issue the notice, informing
homeowners of the possible existence of Zonolite Attic Insulation in
their homes.

Lukins & Annis' lawsuit alleges the company contaminated thousands of
homes in Washington long after the company was aware of Zonolite's

An estimated 18,000 to 55,000 homes in Washington, and as many as 1
million nationwide, were outfitted with Zonolite insulation, made for
decades by Maryland-based W.R. Grace & Co.

Zonolite was made from vermiculite ore from a mine near Libby, Mont., for
more than 60 years. Grace purchased the Libby mine and a Spokane
manufacturing plant in the 1960s.

Grace closed the Spokane plant in 1973 after the Washington Department of
Labor and Industries found airborne asbestos contamination several times
greater than legal limits. The Libby mine produced vermiculite for
insulation, potting soil and other purposes. The mine's vermiculite,
however, is laced with tremolite asbestos, which can be deadly if inhaled
in large amounts.

The plaintiffs want to run advertisements, post notices on Web sites and
send fliers to hardware stores letting consumers know about the possible
presence and hazards of Zonolite insulation in their homes.

W.R. Grace attorney Lawrence Flatley said issuing the notice is
irresponsible and could cause "undue panic" among homeowners. Flatley
said the company's product poses no risk to the public. W.R. Grace
officials have maintained that the asbestos in Zonolite is at levels so
low that it isn't life-threatening.

Homeowners with Zonolite brand insulation in their attics are encouraged
to leave it alone.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has yet to complete studies done
on asbestos-laced vermiculite found in the insulation once manufactured
by the company, Flatley said.

Asbestos fibers are tiny needles that easily penetrate the lungs and
provoke inflammation. Asbestos can alter the DNA of lung cells. This
causes the cells to mutate, resulting in either lung cancer or

O'Connor will determine in a final ruling next month what the notice will
say. She has not ruled that Zonolite is potentially life-threatening. "At
this time I do not believe the plaintiff has demonstrated an 'emergency'
which would justify the court sanctioning a notice, and in effect,
prejudge the case," O'Connor said in her written opinion.

There are factual disputes about the quantity of asbestos in vermiculite,
O'Connor said. "The notice cannot imply that the court has ruled on the
merits of the plaintiff's claims," O'Connor said. O'Connor ruled that the
notice may let people know what the criteria for members of the
class-action suit are, and how potential class members can contact
plaintiffs' counsel, and how they can get information on the litigation
and the issues in the suit.

Attorneys for the plaintiffs will pay the cost of the public notices.
(The Associated Press State & Local Wire, January 10, 2001)

AUCTION HOUSES: Class Members Cannot Intervene Where They Can Object
In these class-actions alleging price fixing in the fine art and antiques
auction business, movants sought leave to intervene in all proceedings
relating to the proposed settlement on the theory that their interests
may not be represented adequately by plaintiffs' lead counsel. Movants,
unhappy with the proposed settlement, contended, among other things, that
they engaged in substantial transactions in foreign and domestic auctions
and that they would be treated unfairly if the compensation that class
members would receive would be based exclusively on overcharges in
connection with domestic auctions. The instant court denied their motion
for leave to intervene, citing Rule 24 (a) (2) of the Federal Rules of
Civil Procedure and noting that movants are free to appeal from any
judgment rejecting their position or could opt out of the class and
pursue their own action.

Judge Kaplan

consolidated class actions alleging price fixing in the fine art and
antiques auction business. The nature of the cases is explained amply in
prior opinions, familiarity with which is assumed. n1 Movants Fataihi
Company and its assignee, Swicorp, S.A., now seek leave to intervene in
these actions in all proceedings relating to the proposed settlement,
essentially on the theory that their interests may not be represented
adequately by plaintiffs' Lead Counsel.

n1 E.g., In re Auction Houses Antitrust Litig., 197 F.R.D. 71 (S.D.N.Y.
2000); id. 193 F.R.D. 162 (S.D.N.Y. 2000).


There now is pending before the Court a proposed settlement of these
cases for $ 412 million in cash and an additional $ 100 million payable,
at the option of the principal defendants, in cash or in discount
certificates that may be used in payment of sellers' commissions and
certain other charges at future auctions. The class has been notified and
afforded an opportunity to opt out. In addition, the Court has appointed
its own experts on matters relating to the proposed settlement, notably
the valuation of the discount certificates, and solicited the views of
the Antitrust Division of the Department of Justice.

Movants seek leave to intervene because they are unhappy with the
proposed settlement. Their asserted grievances are three:

1. They contend that the release that would be given if the proposed
settlement were approved would release claims against the defendants for
overcharges in both foreign and domestic auctions whereas the
compensation that class members would receive would be based exclusively
on overcharges in connection with domestic auctions. As movants claim to
have engaged in very substantial transactions in both foreign and
domestic auctions, they claim that they would be treated unfairly and
that their interests are not represented fairly by Lead Counsel.

2. They complain that the discount certificates that defendants propose
to issue as part of the settlement are worthless to them.

3. They assert that their ability to protect their interests by opting
out would be impaired by approval of the settlement because the
settlement might deplete defendants' funds or its approval determine
issues in a manner that would bind them adversely.


Rule 24(a)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides:

"Upon timely application anyone shall be permitted to intervene in an
action.... when the applicant claims an interest relating to the property
or transaction which is the subject of the action and the applicant is so
situated that the disposition of the action may as a practical matter
impair or impede the applicant's ability to protect that interest, unless
the applicant's interest is adequately represented by existing parties."

Rule 24((b), in relevant part, further provides that intervention may be
permitted "when an applicant's claim or defense and the main action have
a question of law or fact in common."

Movants' application is timely. There is no real doubt that they claim an
interest in the transactions at issue here and that their claims share a
substantial nucleus common to the main action. But the application
founders on the other aspects of the rule.

Turning first to the subject of intervention as of right under Rule
24(a)(2), movants have not show that they are so situated that
"disposition of the action may as a practical matter impair or impede
[their] ability to protect" their interests. Movants' grievances
concerning the settlement may be raised in the form of objections. If
they are, movants would be free to appeal from any judgment rejecting
their position. n2 Moreover, if they are dissatisfied sufficiently, they
could opt out of the class and pursue their own action. Moreover, in view
of the fact that movants claim to have been overcharged by some $ 6
million and already have retained a large, well known law firm, they have
both the economic incentive and the ability to do so. Their suggestion
that approval of the settlement would deplete defendants' assets or
result in preclusive rulings adverse to their interests are unsupported
by anything but their own speculation.

n2 See, e.g., In re Painewebber Ltd. Partnership Litig., 94 F.3d 49, 53
(2d Cir. 1996); In re Agent Orange Product Liability Litig., 818 F.2d
145, 161-74 (2d Cir. 1987).

Nor is there any warrant for permitting movants to intervene as a matter
of discretion. The same rights that permit them adequately to protect
their interests demonstrate the lack of necessity for any intervention at


The motion for leave to intervene is denied. (New York Law Journal,
January 2, 2001)

AUGUSTO PINOCHET: Psychological Exams to Determine If Fit to Stand Trial
Augusto Pinochet is to begin psychological exams on January 10 to see if
he is mentally fit to stand trial for alleged human rights abuses during
his 1973-1990 dictatorship, a judge said. Legal sources said Pinochet
shunned tests earlier this week but had a change of heart after pressure
from the army commander-in-chief. (The Toronto Star, January 10, 2001)

BIRD FIBERGLASS: Gilman and Pastor AnnounceS Final Hearing on Settlement
A hearing will be held on Wednesday, January 31, at the Merrimack County
Superior Court, 163 North Main Street, Concord, New Hampshire to
determine whether to approve a Class Action Settlement in an action
entitled JOHN PARADIS, et al v. BIRD INCORPORATED, No. 00-C-0235,
concerning BIRD Fiberglass Shingles.

The settlement will provide compensation to persons who own buildings
with homes and buildings with damaged BIRD SHINGLES (including the
following Bird product lines: Architect 90, Architect Limited Edition,
Fireline, Jet 80, Mark 80, PRC Seal King, Seal King, Wind Seal 80,
Woodline and Woodscape) that were manufactured and sold by Bird
Incorporated between July 1, 1985 and April 1, 1993.

The settlement is on behalf of current owners of buildings, homes or
other structures in Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland,
Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania,
Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia or West Virginia on which Bird Fiberglass
Shingles manufactured between July 1, 1985 and April 1, 1993 are or have
been previously installed. Under the terms of the Settlement, the
compensation formula has been significantly enhanced by Bird to pay
warranty claim payments for BIRD Fiberglass Shingles manufactured and
sold by BIRD from July 1, 1985 through April 1, 1993.

The Superior Court granted preliminary approval to the Settlement on
September 29, 2000. In the fall of 2000, Summary Notice of the Settlement
was provided through publication in newspapers throughout the fourteen
state region in which BIRD Fiberglass Shingles were marketed. In addition
a web site was established at www.birdshinglesclaims.com. Direct notice
was also provided to existing Bird warranty claimants, Bird Suppliers and
known Bird contractors.

Claimants may receive information concerning the settlement and a
Settlement Notice and Claims Package by contacting Bird at 800-247-3047
or writing to the Bird Claims Administrator at Bird Incorporated, 1077
Pleasant Street, Norwood, MA 02062.

The law firms of Gilman and Pastor, LLP of Saugus, MA and the Law Offices
of Paul A. Maggiotto of Concord, NH represent the Plaintiff Class. The
law firms of Morrison, Mahoney and Miller, LLP of Boston and Shapiro,
Haber & Urmy, LLP of Boston, MA represent Bird, Incorporated.

Contact: Kenneth G. Gilman, or John C. Martland, both of Gilman and
Pastor, LLP, 781-231-7811; or Mark S. Granger, Debra Walsh, or Anthony
Augeri, all of Morrison, Mahoney & Miller, LLP, 617-439-7500

BURGER KING: Agrees to Buy Back 23 Restauransts Operated By Hawkins
After more than a year of negotiations and lawsuits, Burger King and
franchisee La-Van Hawkins announced a settlement Tuesday that had
everyone claiming victory.

Burger King agreed to buy back the 23 restaurants operated by Hawkins'
UrbanCityFoods in Chicago, Detroit, Baltimore, Washington, D.C., and
Atlanta and end Hawkins tenure as a franchisee.

Financial terms of the settlement were not disclosed. It brings an end to
six lawsuits between the Miami fast-food chain and Hawkins.

It's hardly what Burger King envisioned when it stood on the steps of the
White House in 1996 and announced a partnership with Hawkins that it
hoped would be the fast-food chain's ticket to success in the inner-city.

The settlement satisfies Hawkins' debts with Burger King. The chain said
the Detroit franchisee owned almost $ 8 million in royalties, loans and
other items. Hawkins also owed another $ 8.4 million to Franchise
Acceptance Corp., a Burger King affiliate that lends money to franchisees
in the United States and Canada.

While Hawkins didn't receive the $ 1.9 billion he initially sought in
damages, the settlement payment was apparently enough to satisfy the once
staunch opponent of Burger King.

"They paid the cost for me to be the boss," said Hawkins, who was
planning a celebration including cases of Cristal champagne, caviar and
Cuban cigars. "I was made an offer I couldn't refuse. We've had our
differences in the past, but our differences have been set aside and now
we're moving on."

The settlement comes almost a month after a federal court in Michigan
threw out Hawkins' suit accusing Burger King of racial discrimination for
not allowing him to expand his operations as promised. The court
dismissed Hawkins' case because he had signed an agreement in 1999
releasing Burger King from any previous claims.

The New York State Supreme Court also ruled last month that Hawkins and
two of his companies must pay the $ 8.4 million he owed to Franchise
Acceptance Corp.

While the court rulings seemed to give Burger King an upper hand in the
case, the company decided it was in its best interest to end the dispute
that was putting a "continued strain" on management and resources.

There were four other related lawsuits between Burger King and Hawkins,
involving eviction proceedings and other disputes.

"When you looked at it from a business perspective, clearly we saw a
value in having this thing resolved," said Barry Blum, chief legal
counsel for Burger King. "We were confident in the facts of the case. But
the legal process works very slow."

The case had brought Burger King negative publicity, at a time when the
chain is trying to turn around declining U.S. sales so it can
successfully float a partial public offering.

Burger King had faced a boycott in New York City from the Rev. Al
Sharpton, who threatened to take his efforts nationwide and file a
class-action lawsuit against the company for racial discrimination.

But now Hawkins said he is confident that Burger King will fulfill its
promises to the black community.

"I'm going to make sure they're doing what they need to do to be
successful in the African-American community," said Hawkins, who will
focus his attention on his approximately 100 Pizza Hut restaurants and
kiosks in Michigan, as well as other restaurant ventures. "I'm going to
be their guardian angel. They have my commitment and my support as we go
forward in the African-American community."

Hawkins' restaurants will be transferred to Burger King's control on a
staggered schedule over the next several weeks. The chain will keep five
Atlanta restaurants to operate as company stores and distribute the
others to existing franchisees. Burger King hopes to avoid closing
restaurants for more than 72 hours during the transition.

Hawkins will keep two shuttered restaurants in Washington, D.C., and
Chicago, and operate them under a different brand name. (The Miami
Herald, January 10, 2001)

CASHEL MANAGEMENT: Clients File Suits Accusing Advisory Firm of Bilking
Seven clients of Cashel Management Inc. have filed lawsuits accusing the
Cleveland investment advisory firm of bilking them of at least $23
million in the last seven years.

The clients allege in three separate lawsuits that Cashel transferred the
money from their accounts to bolster RX Remedy Inc., a health care
publishing and Internet company in Westport, Conn. One of the lawsuits
was filed Dec. 12 in U.S. District Court in Cleveland, and two were filed
in Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas on Dec. 12 and Jan. 2.

Michael Ungar, a partner with Ulmer & Berne LLP in Cleveland, which filed
the federal lawsuit on behalf of one of the investors, said further
probing into the matter by the law firm has turned up several other
Cashel clients who claim they incurred major losses involving RX Remedy.
All three lawsuits allege that Cashel executives or members of their
families were early investors in RX Remedy and siphoned account funds to
the Connecticut company to keep it afloat.

"It's tragic, really," Mr. Ungar said. "It appears (Cashel) was doing the
same things to clients, albeit in different ways."

A preliminary injunction hearing on the federal lawsuit is sched- uled
for Jan. 19. No criminal charges have been filed against Cashel, and
Dennis Ginty, a spokesman for the Ohio Department of Commerce's Division
of Securities, said the state is not currently conducting an
investigation of the firm.

Robert Rotatori, a principal in the Cleveland law firm of Rotatori,
Gragel and Stoper LPA who represents Cashel and its principals, Thomas
Durkin and John Orin, said he would decline comment on the lawsuits
"until the appropriate time."

Attorneys for the seven plaintiffs allege that Cashel diverted money from
clients' accounts to RX Remedy in exchange for unsecured promissory notes
or for RX Remedy stock, which turned out to be worthless. On Dec. 20, RX
Remedy filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in U.S. Bankruptcy
Court in Connecticut. Company statements filed with the court indicate
that RX Remedy lost an average of $2.5 million a month in 2000.

Brian Eisenberg, a partner at Calfee, Halter & Griswold LLP who is
representing an Ohio family that claims to have lost $4.4 million through
Cashel, said as much as $60 million might have filtered through Cashel to
RX Remedy in the 1990s and 2000.

"I have been doing securities law for 30 years, and I do run across such
cases every couple of years, but none involving this kind of money," Mr.
Eisenberg said. "Some of these accounts were peoples' total net worth.
It's about the saddest thing I've seen and the worst conduct by a
financial management company."

In the federal lawsuit, Ulmer & Berne states that its client, a Cleveland
attorney who oversaw a private trust, approved a total investment of
$300,000 in RX Remedy stock in 1998. However, the lawsuit states that the
attorney later directed Cashel representatives to refrain from investing
additional money in RX Remedy after learning that more than $2 million in
trust funds had been given to the Connecticut company between February
and April of 1999.

The federal lawsuit claims Cashel officials ignored the client's
directive and "proceeded to raid and strip the trust of virtually all the
assets" -- an amount the lawsuit puts at almost $10 million. The attorney
and plaintiff in the federal lawsuit is Phillip Ranney of the Cleveland
law firm Schneider, Smeltz, Ranney & LaFond PLL.

The two lawsuits in Cuyahoga County describe similar alleged
misappropriation of client funds.

One of the plaintiffs in the suit filed Dec. 12 is John Bensman,
president of Ver-A-Fast Inc., a private information verification company
based in Rocky River. According to the lawsuit, Cashel representatives in
1998 and 1999, allegedly without the knowledge of Ver-A-Fast officials,
moved nearly $8 million from a Ver-A-Fast employee profit sharing trust
to RX Remedy in exchange for promissory notes and 27,000 shares of stock
in the Connecticut company. (Crain's Cleveland Business, January 8, 2001)

DEPLETED URANIUM: Belgian Soldier from Bosnia Queries about Health Risk
It all started about a year after he returned from Bosnia - muscle pains,
shortness of breath and stomach ailments. Five years later, Cpl. Guido
Fleurackers says he's still sick and wants to know why.

"I have problems with sleeping, I have pain in my legs, my arms and in my
muscles," said Fleurackers, a 20-year army veteran who served one tour in
Bosnia and another in Croatia. "I'm sure it's related to my service in
the Balkans."

Fleurackers is one of a growing number of Balkan veterans who fear they
are at risk from cancer and other ailments, possibly due to exposure to
ammunition containing depleted uranium.

Depleted uranium, a slightly radioactive heavy metal, is used in
anti-armor munitions because of its penetrating power. U.S. forces fired
weapons containing depleted uranium in Bosnia in 1994 and 1995, and in
1999, NATO fired such weapons during its bombing of Yugoslavia.

Studies into the effects of depleted uranium have not revealed any link
to cancer. But concerns among European nations have intensified since
Italy began studying the illnesses of 30 soldiers, seven of whom died of
cancer. Since then, similar cases have been reported in at least eight
other European countries, including four leukemia cases among Balkan
veterans in France and two in Denmark. In Belgium, five soldiers who
served in the Balkans have died of cancer and four more are suffering
from the disease.

Now Fleurackers is part of a class action suit planned on behalf of 1,600
Belgian service members. The Belgian soldiers are not blaming their
problems specifically on depleted uranium, but they claim the government
endangered their health by sending them to U.N. and NATO-led peacekeeping
missions in the former Yugoslavia.

Fleurackers says his health deteriorated drastically after he returned in
1994 from Bosnia, where he served in an engineering unit. Within months,
he says he noticed fatigue, muscle pains, shortness of breath and stomach
problems. "My work began to suffer," Fleurackers said. "Most people
around me can't understand what has happened. Some people think I'm not
really sick." Fleurackers was transferred to a desk job and then took
nine months of sick leave in 1997. He returned to duty, but seven months
ago was back on sick leave. Now, he's awaiting results of tests to
determine if he has cancer. Even if he does not, he's worried that he may
be discharged from the army for medical reasons.

Fleurackers maintains others are suffering from similar disorders but are
afraid to talk about them for fear of losing their jobs. "A lot of people
have bought houses, have cars, have a family, have kids, and they are
scared to lose their salaries every month," he said. "This is reasonable.
I'm also scared to lose my pay."

NATO and the United States insist there is no evidence linking depleted
uranium to cancer or other ailments among Balkan veterans. The European
Union and NATO have promised to accelerate research to determine if there
is a "Balkan Syndrome" and if so, what causes it.

Still, many European soldiers and veterans are worried.

At his home in Sardinia, former Italian peacekeeper Valery Melis looked
through photos of his time in the Balkans and wondered if the reason for
his illness lies there. He's 23 and suffering from Hodgkin's disease, a
form of cancer. Melis served in Albania and Macedonia from March to June
1999. He never got closer to Kosovo than about 15 or 20 miles. But he
still thinks he might have "inhaled" depleted uranium somehow. "At first
I didn't make the connection," Melis, an army corporal, said. But as the
debate over the health risks of depleted uranium heated up across the
continent, "the first doubts came along."

Then there is retired Capt. Frank Cop of Belgium, a Bosnia veteran who
served 30 years before an undetermined illness forced him to retire. "I
don't know if I came in contact with it," he said. "I did not receive any
warnings. I did not have any protective gear."

The Belgian government is at a loss to determine how to deal with people
like Fleurackers. The Defense Ministry has been swamped with letters from
parents and wives of soldiers serving in the Balkans, concerned about
possible health risks. "We know they are frustrated," Defense Ministry
spokesman Gerard Harveng said. "We want to give clarification to the
families. We can understand their plight."

For Fleurackers, there is little that can be done but await results of
the various investigations. "I don't know what my future holds," he said.
"I'm not afraid of a bullet. I'm not afraid of a grenade. But I am afraid
of this. This is scary." (The Associated Press, January 10, 2001)

ECONOMY CLASS SYNDROME: Qantas Knew About Dangers Of In 1989
Qantas allegedly knew about the dangers of deep-vein thrombosis as early
as 1989, according to correspondence that emerged.

The correspondence came to light as more than 1,000 airline passengers
joined a class action which will claim compensation over the potentially
fatal condition, said to be caused by prolonged inactivity, particularly
on long-haul flights.

The letter, which surfaced, involved a Melbourne solicitor who developed
deep-vein thrombosis (DVT) on a flight between London and Melbourne in

Qantas allegedly wrote back to the solicitor, saying that it did little
to warn passengers because DVT was extremely unusual.

Melbourne law firm Slater and Gordon, which is co-ordinating a
multi-million dollar lawsuit against up to 20 international airlines,
released the letter to the Nine network.

Qantas public affairs staff told AAP they would attempt to provide a
response from senior management to the latest claims.

Slater and Gordon managing director Andrew Grech told AAP that a woman
who wrote to an airline about a decade ago on the same matter was
politely fobbed off.

The woman's husband died from a blood clot and she wrote to the airline
telling it about the medical diagnosis, Mr Grech said. "Other than some
courteous correspondence, nothing ever happened," Mr Grech said. "There
are plenty of those stories around," he said. "We have to verify the
authenticity of those stories, but these people in particular have no
motivation to lie about their experiences.

Qantas previously said it had stepped up efforts to inform passengers
about in-flight health.

It carries exercise information on its web site and in-flight audio
program as well as in the in-flight magazine.

Mr Grech said there was strong evidence major airlines had known for
several years that DVT posed a "substantial risk".

"They knew there could be things done to reduce the risk, yet,
mysteriously, it appears they failed to warn passengers, or at least
adequately warn them."

The number of people represented by Slater and Gordon has grown from 800
to 1,000 over the past two days after publicity about the DVT law suit.

The potential litigants were from Australia and New Zealand and the
number of cases being handled by the firm involving deaths linked to DVT
had now risen to 40, he said.

DVT is caused by blood clots that form while sitting in cramped
conditions for extended periods.

Up to 30,000 people a year are thought to die from DVT, according to the
UK-based Aviation Health Institute, and new research by a British medical
team says the condition is linked to long-haul air travel.

One of the latest DVT victims in Australia is a senior Victorian
policeman diagnosed with DVT in December after a return flight to
Australia from Europe.

A police spokesman said the man had been on sick leave, but was expected
to return to work on Monday. (AAP Newsfeed, January 10, 2001)

ECONOMY CLASS SYNDROME: Singapore Airlines Not Notified Of Aussi Lawsuit
Singapore Airlines said Wednesday it has not been notified of a class
action lawsuit being brought against it and other major airlines in
Australian courts over the potentially fatal ''economy class syndrome.''

''We have not received notice of any lawsuits against SIA (Singapore
Airlines) arising from alleged cases of deep vein thrombosis,'' Singapore
Airlines spokesman Innes Willox said.

Australian law firm Slater and Gordon is preparing the suit on behalf of
800 people who allege they have suffered the thrombosis, or potentially
fatal blood clots, while flying economy class.

Australia's Civil Aviation Safety Authority issued a warning on the
Internet in October following the death of a British woman who developed
a blood clot during a flight from Sydney to London.

The plaintiffs, mainly from Australia and New Zealand, include the
families of 36 people who allegedly died of deep vein thrombosis after
flying, the law firm said.

The case will claim the airlines did not properly warn travelers about
the risks of developing blood clots caused by sitting in cramped
conditions for long periods during long flights.

Slater and Gordon said British Airways, Qantas, Japan Airlines, Air
Canada and Air France would also be named in the suit.  The firm expects
to initiate proceedings in February or March. (AP Worldstream, January
10, 2001)

ECONOMY CLASS SYNDROME: Suits Rattle; Carriers Deny Link With Seats
Airlines around the world are coming under growing pressure to answer
allegations that long flights can cause potentially fatal blood clots,
with the threat of legal action looming in both Australia and the UK.

A Melbourne-based law firm, Slater & Gordon, said it had almost 800
people signed up to a class-action lawsuit it was planning to bring
against a host of international airlines that serve Australia, including
Air France, Air New Zealand, British Airways and Qantas.

In the UK, two unnamed individuals represented by another law firm, Leigh
Day, are reported to be considering legal action against both British
Airways and a charter airline, Airtours, for injuries suffered from blood
clots that they alleged passengers suffered sitting in cramped seats on
long-haul flights.

The condition, known as deep-vein thrombosis (DVT) and often referred to
as "economy-class syndrome", can be caused by sitting immobile in cramped
conditions for long periods. So far there is no medical evidence directly
linking long-haul flights to DVT.

The Australian case rapidly gathered momentum after Slater & Gordon
announced in mid-December that 10 plaintiffs had signed up to a
class-action lawsuit.

The surge in would-be litigants followed publicity surrounding the death
last November of a 68-year-old Briton, Thomas Lamb. He had complained of
breathing difficulties after arriving in Melbourne from London on a
Singapore Airlines flight. He collapsed and later died in hospital from

The issue has also caused concern in Japan, after a doctor at Narita
airport in Tokyo disclosed that 25 of the 46 deaths at his clinic in the
space of eight years had been the result of thrombosis. Japan Airlines
has set up a team to study the issue.

British Airways said in October it was planning to join a Newcastle
University research project aimed at establishing whether air travel is
linked to blood clots. Past cases attempting to prove a direct link have
failed because airlines were able to show that the flight had exacerbated
an existing condition. (Financial Times (London), January 10, 2001)

GIULIANI: New York Will Pay $50 Million In 50,000 Illegal Strip-Searches
The Giuliani administration has agreed to pay up to $50 million to settle
a lawsuit filed on behalf of tens of thousands of people who were
illegally strip-searched after being arrested for minor offenses, many of
which fell under the city's crackdown on quality of life violations.

The searches were conducted by jail guards in Manhattan and Queens during
10 months in 1996 and 1997. Many of the victims of the illegal searches
were first-time offenders who were arrested for minor infractions like
loitering, disorderly conduct or subway offenses.

The $50 million class action settlement could be paid out to more than
50,000 people who were arrested during the 10 months. The lawsuit
recounts several cases of men and women with no arrest record who said
they felt humiliated as they were ordered to disrobe, lift their breasts
or genitals for visual inspections, and to squat and cough.

The minimum award will be $250, the maximum $22,500, though individual
plaintiffs can appeal if they think they deserve a higher award based on
their emotional suffering. A plaintiff who spent thousands of dollars on
psychiatric care in the aftermath of a strip-search could seek additional
damages to cover the fees, for example.

All told, the settlement would be the largest in a civil rights suit
against New York City, lawyers said, and appears to be one of the largest
civil rights settlements against a municipality anywhere. The agreement,
which is subject to approval by Judge John S. Martin Jr. of Federal
District Court in Manhattan, and has not yet been announced, comes after
two years of negotiations over how to compensate such a huge pool of

The deal includes a novel formula that seeks to tailor awards to the
circumstances of each search and the resulting emotional impact. Both
sides agreed that some victims had suffered more and therefore deserved
more, like first-time offenders or those who endured abusive conduct by
jail guards, or women who were menstruating.

But for others, the psychological impact may have been less. For example,
the settlement reduces the probability of larger awards for people who
previously served time in prison, where strip-searches are routine. This
part of the settlement would seem to address concerns that serious
criminals or people who did not suffer psychological injury could benefit

The city's Department of Correction has said that it adopted the policy
of strip-searching all people arrested on minor charges "for security
purposes." But a federal appeals court had ruled in 1986 that the Fourth
Amendment barred strip-searches of people charged with misdemeanors or
other minor offenses unless there was reasonable suspicion that weapons
or contraband were concealed.

"This is a precedent-setting settlement," said Richard D. Emery, the lead
lawyer for the plaintiffs, "because it recognizes the degrading and
dehumanizing aspects of a strip-search, and attempts to mold compensation
to the individual circumstances of each victim of the city's
ill-conceived policy." He added that given the large numbers of victims
involved, the sliding scale formula for damage awards, which adds or
subtracts points depending on the circumstances of the search and on
whether a plaintiff has a criminal record, was the best resolution to the
case. "It would be silly to deny that this is rough justice," Mr. Emery
said. "It's just better justice than any other alternative."

The city's corporation counsel, Michael D. Hess, said his office had
tried to address the case "in a way that is fair to the class of
plaintiffs as well as to the city." The settlement includes an aggressive
campaign to find eligible claimants. Citing the possibility that tens of
thousands will seek awards, Mr. Hess added: "We feel the settlement is
one that protects the taxpayers in the best possible way. The money
doesn't grow on trees. It must come from the taxpayers." Mr. Hess also
pointed to the aspects of the settlement that make it difficult for
people to recover larger sums if they have been through the criminal
justice system. "We don't want bad people to profit," he said.

There is some disagreement over when the strip-searches stopped, and
consequently, on how many people are eligible to file claims.

Both sides agree that the practice existed from July 1996 to May 1997, a
period in which the city's records show that about 58,000 people were
strip-searched, Mr. Emery said. He said the plaintiffs have evidence,
however, that the searches extended into June 1997, which would mean that
perhaps another 4,000 people were searched. Judge Martin will rule on how
long the policy lasted.

Correction officials rescinded the policy on May 27, 1997, shortly after
Mr. Emery's law firm filed the class-action lawsuit. Mr. Emery said that
one partner, Matthew D. Brinckerhoff, discovered that the city was
conducting illegal searches in the course of another lawsuit and that
their law firm alerted the city.

The policy was in effect when the current police commissioner, Bernard B.
Kerik, was first deputy commissioner of the Department of Correction. The
commissioner then was Michael P. Jacobson.

The settlement does allow for plaintiffs to "opt out" and file individual
lawsuits. If more than 150 people do so, the city has the option to void
the settlement, since New York would then face the possibility of both a
massive payout under the settlement and potentially staggering jury

In the first case to go to trial involving one of the illegal
strip-searches, a federal jury in Manhattan in May 1999 awarded Debra
Ciraolo, a Greenwich Village resident who was arrested in a domestic
dispute, $5 million in punitive damages and $19,600 in compensatory
damages. Although the punitive verdict was later thrown out, the
compensatory damages suggested New York faced a huge liability in
individual lawsuits.

The sliding scale for compensation works this way: any eligible person is
entitled to a minimum payment of $250 by filling out the proper forms.

Claimants may pursue a second step, in which points are awarded, worth up
to $500 each, up to a total of $9,750, depending on circumstances. Two
points are awarded to people searched without privacy. Men in Manhattan
were searched in groups, for example, while women were usually searched
individually. The formula also awards two points to women who can show
they were strip-searched during their menstrual cycle. Abusive conduct by
jail guards can result in eight more points. Claimants also get eight
points if they were ultimately acquitted of the offense for which they
were arrested. Point totals are halved for those previously convicted and

Claimants can pursue a third step by trying to show they suffered greater
psychological damage. Such claims, in which they could receive $12,500
more, for a total of $22,500, must be backed by medical records, or
possible evaluation by a court-appointed psychologist.

The class-action suit was originally filed on behalf of Danni Tyson and
other plaintiffs who were strip-searched in Manhattan and Queens, where
correction officials had assumed the responsibility for holding people
waiting to be arraigned. That had previously been a police job.

Ms. Tyson's case was typical, Mr. Emery said. On April 10, 1997, Ms.
Tyson, 48, a secretary in the United States attorney's office in
Brooklyn, was arrested for disorderly conduct and resisting arrest
stemming from an incident on a Manhattan subway train, the suit says. It
says Ms. Tyson, who had no prior arrest record, was taken to Central
Booking, next to the Criminal Court at 100 Centre Street, and ordered to
disrobe and lift up her breasts for an inspection while other guards
walked by. No contraband was found and the charges were later dismissed.

Under terms of the deal, the city is not obligated to pay $50 million if
the total number of claims results in less than that figure. But the
settlement includes a floor of $19.5 million. If the city's obligation
turns out to be less than that, Judge Martin will decide how the money
will be used, after consulting with both sides. (The New York Times,
January 10, 2001)

HOLOCAUST VICTIMS: French Banks May Sign Pact in the Month
Stuart Eizenstat, the US deputy treasury secretary, on January 10 said in
Paris he hoped to sign a pact between French banks and US lawyers acting
for Holocaust victims later this month. The move would end class action
lawsuits against the French banks, continuing a flurry of action over
Holocaust restitution ahead of the departure of the Clinton

Mr Eizenstat said at a conference with Lionel Jospin, the French prime
minister, that the pact would mean "legal peace".

The banks involved include Societe Generale, BNP Paribas, Caisse
Nationale de Credit Agricole, Credit Agricole Indosuez, Credit Lyonnais,
Natexis and CCF, which is now part of HSBC. (Financial Times (London),
January 10, 2001)

LOCKFORMER CO: Expected to Respond to Cert. Request in TCE-in-Water Suit
the predicament facing some village residents who recently discovered
their private wells were tainted by a chemical solvent, Lisle Mayor Ron
Ghilardi suggested that the village establish a time frame when residents
can apply for connection to the municipal water system and defer payment
to the village.

"As we go through this proposed budget, we can see we are investing
substantial amounts of money for improvements, such as for streets and
sewers," Ghilardi said during a workshop meeting with trustees on the
village's fiscal 2001 budget. "I want to suggest we consider a six-month
window where we will offer a deferred-payment plan allowing those
residents not hooked up to the municipal water system to do so."

Trustee Luke Brandonisio called the suggestion premature and better
suited for discussion at a regular Village Board meeting, but the mayor
said he was only responding to budget officer Michael Pippenger's
question whether there were any other items that might affect the
proposed $73.35 million budget.

"It's an opportunity once and for all to have the entire community on the
municipal water system," Ghilardi said. "They can apply for the
connection within a certain window of time and after that there will no
longer be an opportunity to defer payments."

The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency last week released the
results of its December tests on private wells south of the Lockformer
Co. plant at 711 Ogden Ave. The plant is the site of a decades-old spill
of the solvent trichloroethene, or TCE.

The chemical was found in the water of 34 of 48 homes tested by the
agency, with amounts in nine homes exceeding levels set by the federal

A group of residents living south of the plant filed a lawsuit in federal
court against the firm in November. The plaintiffs hired a testing firm,
which found TCE, a possible carcinogen, in some of their wells.

Lockformer is scheduled to file a response by Wednesday to a request by
the plaintiffs that their suit be certified a class action. "As a rule we
don't have many hookups in the course of one year, but if we were to have
700 to 800 in one year it could have an impact on the budget if it isn't
included as an expense," Ghilardi said, adding the cost most likely would
fall under the water fund's budget.

Village Manager Carl Doerr said the village's rate to run a line to the
system is based on front footage on the property and is $28 a foot.

To encourage residents to join the system, Ghilardi suggested that those
who sign up within a given time period be allowed to defer payments to
the village over perhaps two years. "Clearly this would be a benefit to
those concerned about Lockformer, but it also would be a benefit to the
entire village if everyone were on the municipal water system," he said.

"Then we wouldn't have to worry about a similar situation like Lockformer
arising in the future. Because there is no way to say that there is not
another form of pollution that could be found in the future in any well."
(Chicago Tribune, January 10, 2001)

MTBE: Former Bakersfield Mobile Home Part Residents Sue Equilon & Texaco
Former residents of a Bakersfield mobile home park are suing a major U.S.
refining company over a series of chemical leaks into groundwater at a
local gasoline plant. The former residents of the Gaslite Mobile Home
Park claim that MTBE leaks at an Equilon Enterprises LLC refinery tainted
their well water and caused serious illnesses to themselves and their

The assertions are included in a class action lawsuit filed against
Equilon and Texaco Inc., a 44 percent owner of Equilon, in Kern County
Superior Court. The lawsuit alleges that Equilon was negligent and
fraudulently concealed risks associated with drinking tap water drawn
from a well that served the park.

Equilon spokesman Cameron Smyth said the company couldn't comment on the
lawsuit because it had not been officially notified of the action.

In addition to unspecified damages for negligence and fraud, the lawsuit
asks the court to order Equilon to set up a comprehensive medical
monitoring program for former residents at the refining company's

Equilon is the fourth largest gasoline retailer in the nation, and the
seventh largest refiner, according to the company. Gross revenues in 1999
were $ 29.4 billion. (Calif. (AP))

NORFOLK SOUTHERN: Va.-Based Rail Company Settles Discrimination Suit
To settle a class-action discrimination lawsuit filed in 1993 by
African-American employees, Norfolk Southern will pay $ 28 million and
change the way it promotes rank-and-file employees to management
positions. About 7,700 current and former employees are eligible to
receive part of the settlement -- any African American who worked for
Norfolk Southern at any time between Dec. 16, 1989, and Dec. 22, 2000,
and who applied for a management position, or would have applied for a
management position if discrimination did not exist. The settlement
agreement was approved Dec. 22 by a federal judge in Alabama. The parties
jointly announced the settlement Tuesday.

"Like the other plaintiffs in the case, I am relieved that this lawsuit
is over and that it has been resolved fairly," said lead plaintiff Carol
Moore, quoted in the joint statement. "I am pleased that Norfolk Southern
has agreed to take aggressive measures to prevent discrimination against
its African-American employees in the future."

The suit was initiated in 1989 by Moore and other African Americans in
Alabama and Georgia who claimed they were victims of discrimination. The
lawsuit was filed in 1993 by Gordon, Silberman, Wiggins & Childs, a civil
rights law firm with offices in Birmingham, Ala., and Washington, D.C.
The group of plaintiffs certified in the class-action suit grew to
include essentially all African-American employees who felt they were
denied promotion to management on the basis of race since Dec. 16, 1989.

The case went to trial in 1997, but the judge did not rule so that the
two sides could work out an agreement.

"This is an extremely fair agreement, paying $ 28 million to the
company's African-American employees and their representatives and
providing for comprehensive, far-reaching injunctive relief to ensure
that discrimination does not occur at Norfolk Southern in the future,"
said a statement issued by plaintiff attorneys Robert F. Childs Jr. and
Robert L. Wiggins Jr. "We look forward to Norfolk Southern becoming a
model employer that provides equal opportunities for promotion to all its

The settlement also requires the Norfolk-based railroad to establish
good-faith goals for the promotion of African Americans to
management-level jobs.

Norfolk Southern agreed to make extensive improvements to its procedures
for identifying, training and selecting candidates for promotions. The
outlined actions include creating:

   -- A survey that will allow employees to identify their interest in
and qualifications for management-level positions.

   -- A new promotion assessment process designed to ensure that the
company selects without discrimination the best-qualified candidates from
among all employees who have expressed an interest in management-level

   -- A mentoring program for newly hired or newly promoted management

   -- A diversity council to assist management in establishing a
diversity process.

   -- Training for non-management employees about the process for seeking
and obtaining promotions to management-level positions.

   -- Training for all employees about the company's equal employment
opportunity policies and procedures.

Norfolk Southern has also agreed to name a major railroad facility for a
prominent African American involved in the civil rights movement or the
railroad industry. Starting in 2002, the company will also celebrate the
contributions of African Americans to the railroad industry during
African-American Railroader Month.

The company included $ 2.6 million in its 2001 capital spending plan to
begin implementing the new procedures.

"We are pleased to bring closure to this litigation through voluntary
mediation," said Norfolk Southern Chairman David R. Goode. "The agreement
builds on our continuing commitment to provide a workplace in which all
people are treated fairly and given equal opportunity."

African-American current and former employees who believe they are
eligible to receive part of the settlement must file claims by the close
of business on Feb.23. The law firm is expected to mail settlement
details to eligible people. The firm can be reached at (205) 328-0640.

The railroad has already accounted for the $ 28 million it will pay to
settle the suit, so the settlement cost will not accrue against
fourth-quarter earnings, Norfolk Southern Vice President Robert Fort

The company, which will report fourth-quarter earnings Jan. 24, has
already warned that fourth-quarter earnings are likely to be in the range
of 5 cents to 10 cents a share, which is below what analysts had

The settlement announcement came after the markets closed. Norfolk
Southern shares closed unchanged Tuesday at $ 16.13. (Virginian-Pilot,
January 10, 2001)

NPC INTERNATIONAL: Announces Filing of Stockholder's Lawsuits
NPC International, Inc. (Nasdaq:NPCI) announced on January 9 that three
lawsuits seeking certification as class actions have been filed against
the Company and several of its directors seeking to prevent the proposed
purchase of the minority interest of the Company by O. Gene Bicknell,
Chairman, Chief Executive, and owner of approximately 65% of the
outstanding stock of the Company.

The suits also seek damages in the event that the proposed transaction is

The lawsuits follow the announcement on December 13, 2000, that the
Company had received an offer from Mr. Bicknell to acquire the minority
interest of the Company for $11.40 per share in a cash transaction. After
the announcement, the board of directors of the Company formed a special
committee comprised solely of independent directors to evaluate the
fairness of the offer.

John M. Edgar, an attorney representing NPC International, Inc. and the
special committee, said that his clients "deny that they have done
anything improper, and plan to vigorously defend the suits."

For more information, contact John M. Edgar, Bryan Cave LLP

OAKWOOD HOMES: Announces Dismissal of Shareholder Lawsuit in NC
Oakwood Homes Corporation (NYSE: OH) reported on January 9 that the
Federal District Court of the Middle District of North Carolina has
dismissed with prejudice the consolidated amended shareholder lawsuit
naming the Company and certain of its present and former officers and
directors as defendants. The lawsuit was filed in November 1998, and
later amended in June 1999, on behalf of purchasers of the Company's
common stock for various periods between April 11, 1997 and July 21,
1998. The time for filing any appeal from the court's ruling has expired.
This resolves all shareholder action against the Company and its officers
and directors.

Oakwood Homes Corporation and its subsidiaries are engaged in the
production, sale, financing and insuring of manufactured housing
throughout the United States. The Company's products are sold through
approximately 376 Company-owned stores and an extensive network of
independent retailers.

OIL COMPANIES: Antitrust Suits Seen As Means to Get a Raise in Pay
Workers trying to force a reluctant employer to give them a raise,
generally have to threaten to strike or to leave. Now, though, a group of
Texas offshore oil workers has come up with a novel strategy for wringing
more money out of their bosses: antitrust litigation.

According to a complaint filed in federal court in Galveston, the rig
hands contend their employers have been meeting secretly the last 10
years or longer to set ceilings on wages and police the agreement. Such
activity constitutes price fixing, the complaint asserts, a felony.

"It would be a very rare case, but I see no reason why the theory
wouldn't work," said Gary V. McGowan, a former antitrust lawyer in
Houston and now a workplace mediator. "Conspiracy to set prices can
involve services as well as goods."

Price-fixing cases more typically involve sellers of goods like vitamins,
chemicals or art objects, and can land offending managers and executives
in prison. But the Texas case is a civil action, and the oil workers are
seeking not criminal convictions but more money.

Damages suffered in lost wages over 10 years "will easily exceed $5
billion," the complaint states. As lead plaintiff, Thomas Bryant, a
former electrician, says he represents a class of 100,000 fellow workers,
and seeks triple damages.

Mr. Bryant has chosen to match wits with a veritable pantheon of major
drilling contractors, independent oil companies and well-heeled corporate
defense lawyers. One defendant, Ensco International, was founded by the
Texas financier, Richard Rainwater, the friend and one-time investment
partner of President-elect George W. Bush. In their responses, the 20
named defendant companies denied that any secret meetings occurred. Their
lawyers say there is no huge "class" of aggrieved workers, only Mr.
Bryant and his creative lawyers.

Legal experts say that any price-fixing charge is difficult to prove. Mr.
Bryant's lawsuit mostly involves suspicions, not hard evidence of
collusion, and asks the court for broad latitude to discover evidence.

Even so, those suspicions are grounded in an economic puzzle: why wages
for oil-rig workers barely budged during labor shortages in 1997 and in
2000 after oil prices rose and drilling companies rushed to put idled
rigs into production.

In a free market, such shortages are supposed to push wages high enough
to lure departed workers. Instead, rig hands stayed away, and desperate
employers wound up trying to recruit parolees at prison gates or flying
in foreign oil workers. Texas radio stations even broadcast a tune whose
lyrics pleaded, "roughnecks come home."

Many managers blamed the abundance of retailing jobs at places like
Wal-Mart for their absence, but Mr. Bryant smelled a conspiracy. "Wages
paid offshore workers didn't rise even enough to keep up with inflation,"
said his lawyer, Anthony Buzbee, formerly of Susman Godfrey L.L.P., a
Houston firm known for its antitrust work. Mr. Buzbee left two years ago
to start a plaintiffs' practice.

It is a long way from these suspicions to a smoking gun, however. The
most clear-cut antitrust cases usually come to light in geographically
limited markets, said Jim Mutchnik, a former Justice Department
prosecutor, and in sectors where margins are thin and competition fierce.

Under such conditions, plant managers may decide they cannot undercut the
competition's price -- that would wipe out their profit -- so they
approach their crosstown rivals and propose to divide the market, Mr.
Mutchnik said. Dairies have been found guilty of fixing milk prices in
school districts, and gas station owners in Iowa were once caught rigging
the price of gas along a stretch of the Interstate highway system.

Mr. Mutchnik, now an antitrust and white-collar criminal defense lawyer
with the Chicago firm of Kirkland & Ellis, said the Justice Department
had also investigated wage fixing, in a case in which several hospitals
appeared to have colluded to fix the pay of health professionals.

The hospital case was a strong one, Mr. Mutchnik said, because all the
hospitals were in a single city and the aggrieved workers had skills they
could not easily sell elsewhere. He predicted the oil workers would have
a harder time proving a secret drillers' cabal because they were so
numerous and so spread out.

But that is not to say compensation experts do not think Mr. Bryant is
not onto something. Peter Capelli, a professor of management at the
Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, said he thought
gentlemen's agreements to suppress wages were "remarkably commonplace."

Large companies routinely hire consultants to survey one another's pay
scales, he said, and while that does not constitute price fixing, he has
seen employers cross the line. Corporate recruiters have long swapped
entry-level salary information before descending on college campuses, he
said. And in his own field, he recalled that the American Economic
Association for years held an annual "chairman's breakfast," at which
"the best universities all agreed on what they were going to pay" faculty

"Finally, someone pointed out to them that this was violating the law and
they'd better put an end to it," said Mr. Capelli, author of "The New
Deal at Work" (1999, Harvard Business School Press), a study of the way
market forces are shaping compensation practices in the new economy.

"It wouldn't surprise me that this went on in virtually every small town
in the United States," he said. "Particularly in mill towns, where
there's more than one employer looking for people to do the same type of
work. The problem is getting anybody to talk about it." (The New York
Times, January 10, 2001)

REZULIN LITIGATION: Action against Warner-Lambert Moves on Three Fronts
Efforts to hold drug manufacturer Warner-Lambert Company legally
responsible for the death and illness of individuals who took the
company's diabetes drug Rezulin are moving forward on three fronts.

The first is a national class action, the second is a California class
action and the third is the filing of individual personal injury cases,
according to Tina B. Nieves, an attorney representing individuals and
members of the federal and state actions and a partner in the Pasadena
law firm of Gancedo & Nieves.

Rezulin, a drug used to treat Type 2 adult onset diabetes, was pulled
from the market in March because it has been linked to more than 200
deaths from liver failure. According to the National Diabetes Information
Clearinghouse, diabetes is more common in Hispanics and African Americans
than for whites. "We want to particularly reach these communities so they
are aware of the risks associated with the drug," noted Nieves. "Not only
has Rezulin been known to cause severe liver disease, it has also been
shown to impair cardiac function. Through the class actions, we are
seeking medical monitoring, drug cost reimbursements and a disgorgement
of the profits that Warner-Lambert earned with its advertising and
promotion of the drug. Damages will be sought for actual illnesses
through the individual lawsuits."

More than 750,000 diabetes patients took Rezulin between 1997 and 2000.
The drug was approved in 1997 under the Food and Drug Administration's
(FDA) "fast-track" process. "The FDA approved the drug after only six
months of review instead of the traditional four-year review process,"
explained Nieves, "this, despite warnings by FDA officials that the drug
was unsafe. We believe Warner-Lambert failed to perform adequate testing
that would have shown Rezulin possessed serious potential side effects.
We've alleged that although Warner-Lambert realized Rezulin's
shortcomings after it was on the market, it continued to block attempts
to have the drug withdrawn for sale. Rezulin generated more than $1.8
billion in sales for Warner-Lambert."

Contact: Gancedo & Nieves LLP Tina B. Nieves/Hector G. Gancedo,
626/685-9800 or Rumbaugh Public Relations Diane Rumbaugh, 805/493-2877

ROGERS FAMILY: Settles for Alleged Improper Handling of Remains
In the class action lawsuit alleging the inappropriate handling and
storage of remains of deceased loved ones by the Rogers Family Funeral
Home and other defendants, class members are now able to obtain and
submit claim forms in the settlement preliminarily approved by the
Superior Court following a hearing on December 8, 2000. The mailing of
notices and claim forms to known class members has now started. Notices
will also be published in many newspapers in and surrounding Contra Costa
County. The Proposed Settlement provides that a total of all defendants'
known assets and insurance proceeds that might be used to satisfy class
members' claims, consisting of $4,053,115, will be distributed among the
relatives of decedents and others included in the class. Claims are due
by May 1, 2001.

Class members include persons whose deceased relatives were to receive
professional services from the Rogers Family Funeral Home, including
transportation, embalming, viewing, visitation, funeral ceremonies,
memorial services, cremation, burial, and other services.

All class members also have the right to comment or object to the
settlement before February 23, 2001, or appear at the hearing on March 2,
2001. To ensure that recovery is available to all members of the class,
and to prevent the class settlement fund from being unfairly or
disproportionately depleted, the Settlement creates a mandatory class
from which no class member can be excluded. Rogers Family Funeral Home
has agreed to pay all applicable insurance proceeds to the Settlement
Class, which will dismiss any class action lawsuits against them, and
which will bar any and all future suits against Rogers by any member of
the Class. Members of the settlement class may call 1-800-853-5941 or
visit the website on the internet at www.hilsoft.com/rogers for more
information and a claim form.

Class Members are asked not to contact the Court, the Clerk's Office, or
the Judge.

Contact: Class Counsel: Randall B. Aiman-Smith, Esq. 510-567-0500

SCOTT HINKLEY: More Charges Filed Accusing of Bilking Investors
Prosecutors now say an Iowa businessman accused of bilking hundreds of
Midwestern investors made off with $8 million before fleeing in a $1.3
million yacht.

Scott W. Hinkley Sr. of Oskaloosa pleaded innocent Tuesday in federal
court in Des Moines to additional money laundering and forfeiture charges
that could bring him more time in prison if he is convicted.

Hinkley, 52, was arrested Oct. 20 on the Caribbean island of St. Maarten.
The former college fund-raiser and Quaker minister now faces 21 charges
at an April trial.

Authorities have said the owner of Iowa and Missouri Rural Investment
companies fled the country last summer on the 65-foot luxury yacht as his
multimillion-dollar operation began to teeter.

A class-action lawsuit filed by more than 270 investors contends his
business pitch, to profitably buy and sell homes to the poor, was a con
from the beginning.

Late last year, a Mahaska County judge froze assets of Hinkley's wife,
Deanna, after she withdrew $205,000 from a joint bank account in the days
following her husband's flight. Deanna Hinkley is appealing the judge's

A former car salesman and failed landlord from Pennsylvania, Hinkley
spent 10 years as a Quaker minister in Indiana before moving his family
to Oskaloosa in the early 1990s. He had been hired as a fund-raiser for
the Quaker-affiliated William Penn University. He was fired in 1994 for
reasons college officials declined to disclose. Once recognized in
Oskaloosa by the luxury automobiles he drove, Hinkley is now represented
by a court-appointed public defender.

The trustee appointed in the civil class-action case pending against
Hinkley has sold Hinkley's rare Lamborghini for $205,200 to a collector
in Kentucky. Other Hinkley assets have been seized pending the outcome of
the class-action lawsuit, which will begin after his criminal trial. (The
Associated Press State & Local Wire, January 10, 2001)

SEWAGE-TAINTED WATER: Officials Warn of Risk of Stockton Pipe Leak
Health officials warned people Tuesday to stay out of the water near the
Port of Stockton after a broken pipe let an unknown amount of raw sewage
seep into the Delta.

The leak was discovered last Friday afternoon, prompting the city to shut
down a sewer main that crosses the Stockton Deep Water Channel near its
confluence with the San Joaquin River. But it wasn't until Tuesday that
scuba divers confirmed that the pipe, buried 10 feet below the bottom of
the channel, has a hole in it.

No sewage has leaked into the water since the line was shut down, said
Ralph Risso, a spokesman for the city's Municipal Utilities Division.

The closure will remain in effect until the pipe is repaired, which could
be a couple of weeks.

People exposed to sewage-tainted water have an increased risk of
contracting hepatitis A, tetanus, salmonella and other diseases.

Officials with the environmental watchdog group DeltaKeeper criticized
the city for not warning boaters and anglers out of the area as soon as
the leak was discovered. (STOCKTON, Calif. (AP), January 10, 2001)

TOBACCO LITIGATION: Smokers Denied Medical Cost from  Utah's Settlement
A federal judge has dismissed a suit by two women who contended their
costs for treating smoking-related illnesses should be paid from the
state's $1 billion tobacco settlement.

The lawsuit was modeled after a handful of class-action suits across the
country brought by smokers seeking a portion of the $206 billion
settlement reached in 1998 between the states and tobacco companies.

Most of the suits claim tobacco manufacturers settled various state and
federal claims with a stipulation that individuals no longer would have
any legal right to pursue the tobacco companies for medical expenses
arising from their tobacco-related illnesses.

Assistant Utah Attorney General Joel Ferre said that stipulation never
existed and that smokers are free to lodge their own claims.

In a ruling signed last Friday on Utah's motion to dismiss, U.S. District
Judge Dale A. Kimball agreed. "None of the plaintiff-smokers has had
their legal rights to redress against the tobacco manufacturers impaired
by the (settlement agreement), and thus they are not entitled to any
portion of the settlement proceeds," he said.

The ruling is expected to be appealed to the 10th Circuit Court of
Appeals, where a similar smokers' lawsuit from Colorado already is on
appeal. "Our expectation all along was to go there," said plaintiff
attorney Brent Hatch. "We've always expected this issue to have to be
decided before a much higher court."

The lawsuit began in late 1999 as an attempt by Linda K. Villagrana and
Renee Masich to block Utah from spending its share of the tobacco
settlement. They contended that Utah initially sued various tobacco
companies in 1996 to recover Medicaid funds spent to treat people like
themselves who had suffered illness or died because of tobacco use.

But attorneys for Utah maintain that the state's lawsuit only sought to
recoup its own costs, not the costs of individual smokers. U.S. District
Judge Dee Benson agreed and dismissed the case last May.

Two weeks later, Villagrana and Carolyn Malm, who replaced Masich, filed
the current lawsuit against Gov. Mike Leavitt and Attorney General Jan
Graham, seeking class-action status for any Utahn with smoking-related
Medicaid bills. (The Associated Press State & Local Wire, January 10,

TODDLER BOOTS: Boca Raton Company Makes Recalls for Toggle on Laces
A Boca Raton company is recalling almost 38,000 pairs of toddler boots
with the Crayola brand name because a toggle on the laces poses a choking
hazard to children. BBC International Ltd. distributed the boots --
manufactured by Rallye Footwear Inc. of Canada -- and recalled them
Tuesday in cooperation with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.

The boots -- sold in sizes 6 through 10 -- come in girls and boys styles.
The toggles are meant for tightening the laces, but are dangerous if they
become detached. The boys' boots are blue and black with a toggle on each
boot. The girls' boots are white with pink and lavender trim, and also
have a toggle on the laces.

No injuries involving the toggles have been reported, the CPSC said.
(Sun-Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, FL), January 10, 2001)

TOSHIBA AMERICAN: Black Workers' TN Suit Charges Lebanon Factory of Bias
Black workers at a television factory in Lebanon have filed a lawsuit
charging discrimination.

The lawsuit filed Monday in U.S. District Court for Middle Tennessee
charges that managers at Toshiba American Consumer Products Inc.
systematically pass over black employees for promotions. It also charges
that Toshiba maintains a racially hostile work environment.

Plaintiffs Fred Burton, Lula Smith and Schalayoda Kelly are seeking
class-action certification to include hundreds of past and present black
employees. Burton is a former employee. Smith and Kelly currently work at
the plant.

Toshiba denies the charges, said Chet Dilley, vice president of human
resources at the Toshiba plant. "We think we have a very representative
racial profile in the structure of our business here, including
supervisors and managers," Dilley said. "I think the facts will bear that
out." (The Associated Press State & Local Wire, January 10, 2001)

WORKPLACE BIAS: Do Suits Bring Diversity Or Lucrative Fees Or Both?
Critics cite lucrative fees; advocates say cases bring progress.

When Cyrus Mehri decided to take on Coca-Cola, he spent months scouting
for another law firm to join in his David vs. Goliath battle. The
Washington lawyer went to six major firms in cities such as Atlanta and
New York, hoping they would help him represent African-American employees
who claimed the soft-drink giant had discriminated against them. No one,
he says, wanted in. "They wouldn't dare touch it," Mehri says. "They'd
say, 'Suing Coke in Atlanta is like suing the Pope in the Vatican.' "

They may be regretting it now. Coca-Cola decided in November to settle
the case for $ 192.5 million, and attorneys' fees are expected to top $
20 million. Under the agreement, class members will divide $ 92.4
million, based on service, for compensatory damages, back pay and
promotion-achievement awards. Coca-Cola also will allocate an estimated $
43.5 million to pay equity adjustments and invest $ 36 million in
diversity-reform programs.

But as lucrative settlements and racial-discrimination cases mount,
questions are being raised about how effective such high-stakes lawsuits
are at bringing about change. To plaintiffs and their lawyers, the legal
victories are a sign that minorities are wielding unprecedented clout as
they use the courts to accomplish change. Critics argue that legal fees
are so staggering, lawyers are bringing frivolous claims that hurt
diversity efforts rather than help.

The debate is intensifying because the legal arena is fast becoming a new
civil-rights battleground for business-related claims. From Lockheed
Martin to Boeing to Amtrak, companies that have faced
racial-discrimination lawsuits in the past decade read like a Who's Who
of business.

Texaco in 1996 paid $ 176 million to settle claims. Shoney's settled a
race-discrimination case in 1993 for $ 132 million. Winn-Dixie Stores
agreed in 1999 to settle claims for $ 33 million. This month, a
racial-discrimination lawsuit against Microsoft was broadened to seek
class-action status and $ 5 billion in damages.

Racial-harassment charges filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity
Commission (EEOC) have mushroomed from about 10,000 in the 1980s to
nearly 50,000 in the 1990s. Such charges made up 3% of all race-based
complaints in the 1980s, compared with 23% of all race-complaint charges
in fiscal year 2000. Civil-rights complaints in U.S. district courts more
than doubled between 1990 and 1998, in an increase that the Justice
Department attributes primarily to more employment-related cases.

"People are starting to speak up more, especially African-Americans,"
says Linda Ingram of Marietta, Ga., a former senior information analyst
at Coca-Cola who was part of the class-action lawsuit against the
company. "It's a wake-up call."

                        A Rise in Litigation

But critics contend that the increase in cases is not necessarily about
justice. They point to the Civil Rights Act of 1991, which made it
possible for employees bringing claims of racial discrimination, sexual
harassment and similar civil cases to obtain punitive and compensatory
damages. The damages are capped at $ 300,000 per person for large firms,
but employment lawyers say the new financial incentives have turned
companies into vulnerable targets.

Because of the legislation, some say it has become too risky for
companies that deny charges to let cases get to court. Instead, they must
agree to large settlements for fear they will have to pay even more if
the lawsuit goes before a jury, corporate lawyers say.

And they say the high-stakes settlements actually may undermine diversity
efforts, alienating non-minorities and forcing companies to surrender too
much control to outside diversity task forces. "It's hard to say there's
more discrimination today than 20 years ago, but if you look at the
numbers, you'd say we've regressed. That's ridiculous. Employers are
legitimately afraid of being sued," says Larry Lorber, a Washington
employment lawyer at Proskauer Rose.

"The lawyers in Coke got $ 20 million, and I don't think they ever set
foot in court . . . Looking at some of these cases, this was not what the
civil-rights fight in the 1960s was all about. Everybody's afraid. It's
real damaging. Does it build in a disincentive to hire women or
minorities? I think yes."

But a number of plaintiffs and their lawyers deny that the balance of
power has seesawed too far in favor of minority employees, and they say
it is still a Herculean task to find lawyers willing to take on
formidable corporations. Because mounting a legal battle against big
business' legion of lawyers is a costly risk, many still balk. They say
just because a case may bring about a lucrative settlement doesn't mean
the claims are not legitimate.

Legal fees like those obtained in the Coca-Cola settlement are not
excessive, they say, because lawyers may devote years and spend
substantial amounts of their own money building a case.

What's more, they say, minorities are turning to the courts as a last
resort because they're so frustrated by the glacial pace of progress.
Minority women are more than twice as likely as white women to say
there's been no change in advancement opportunities in the past five
years, according to a 1999 study by New York-based research advisory
group Catalyst.

"Frankly, people are mad as hell, and they don't want to take it
anymore," says George Eddings of Houston, a former employee of
Coca-Cola's Minute Maid division and a plaintiff in the class-action
lawsuit. "There's nothing you can really do to explain to the critics the
vicious hate and pang of racism. Unless they don the skin of a black man
or woman and deal with the slights, some overt, that rob you of your
spirit and will to compete, they just won't understand."

In the Coca-Cola lawsuit, plaintiffs alleged that the company
discriminated against African-Americans in pay, performance reviews and
promotions. Former employees say they were denied mentoring relationships
and passed over for promotions, while others with lower performance
ratings got ahead.

The company denied the allegations.

No matter what the reasons for the rise in claims, the lawsuits are
having an impact on companies. Some employers who have been sued are
continuing to increase minority hires years after settling race
discrimination claims.

Shoney's settled a lawsuit brought by plaintiffs who alleged they were
discriminated against -- passed over for promotions and kept in
low-visibility and low-paying jobs. Some black employees say they were
denied any management jobs.

Now Shoney's has seen the number of blacks who are managers grow from
about 14.5% in 1993 to 38.9% today, officials say. The settlement
agreement has led to programs such as internal complaint procedures,
mandatory diversity training for managers and performance evaluations
linked to retention of minorities.

Texaco took a public relations thrashing over tape-recordings of
executives referring to African-Americans as "black jelly beans." It has
since increased minority hires despite a slowdown in its employment
growth. The percentage of minority employees at Texaco has inched upward
from 21% in 1991 to 22%, according to a diversity task force report last

In that case, plaintiffs alleged that the oil company systematically
discriminated against minorities in promotions. Workers say they endured
racial prejudice and name calling.

Since the settlement, there have been challenges as well as
accomplishments. An independent task force established to monitor
Texaco's diversity efforts found that "a continuing challenge is that
'backlash' comments are still repeatedly heard from a vocal minority of
employees. Comments along the line of ' . . . because of the lawsuit, the
company is only promoting women and minorities' were reported at every
location we visited."

"We're dealing with backlash. It deals with white males feeling
disenfranchised," says Angela Vallot, director of corporate diversity
initiatives at Texaco in White Plains, N.Y.

                       Unintended Consequences

While the lawsuits may help bring change, some employment lawyers, such
as Memphis-based Timothy Bland, warn that they can also have troublesome
repercussions. The lawsuits may leave "some companies gun-shy about
hiring minorities," Bland says. "Corporations may hold onto employees
with performance problems for longer periods of time."

The rise in employment claims, such as those alleging racial
discrimination, is having unintended consequences that some employment
lawyers warn may inalterably sour employee-employer relations. Many
employers who never before thought about being sued are buying employment
liability insurance with unprecedented zeal; the plans generally provide
up to $ 50 million in coverage for compensatory damages, settlements,
legal fees and related costs.

To avoid damaging lawsuits, more companies are requiring employees to
arbitrate claims rather than air them in court. To some, arbitration is a
welcome reprieve from contentious legal duels, while others say it strips
workers of their right to a trial.

As the claims mount, plaintiffs' lawyers vow to press on. The victories
most relished aren't the lucrative settlements, they say. Rather, it's
the ability to bring national attention to racial discrimination, an
issue they say is often ignored. In fact, many a lawsuit has become a
cause clbre championed by such prominent figures as Johnnie Cochran and
Jesse Jackson.

They also say the lawsuits will continue because they lead to
improvements that last long after the cases are settled. That's because
more settlements now require companies to heed compliance officials or
task forces that oversee future diversity efforts. Coca-Cola, for
example, agreed to the creation of an outside task force that will issue
binding findings and provide independent oversight of company diversity
efforts. If the company disagrees with the task force's recommendations,
plaintiffs' lawyers say the only way it can get around them is to seek
relief in the courts.

"It's important to avail ourselves of the best thinking, whether it be
inside or outside the company," says Ben Deutsch, a spokesman at
Coca-Cola. "The task force will help us take our current and future
programs and either validate them or make them better."

To plaintiffs such as Elvenyia Barton-Gibson, such arrangements are the
real prize. For years, she says, her former employer, Coca-Cola, denied
African-Americans the opportunity to achieve career success. There were
no informal mentors and no one to help, she says. She believes that an
independent task force is more imperative than money for implementing
long-term reforms.

"The most powerful thing we achieved was the ability to change the
organization," says Barton-Gibson of Missouri City, Texas. "It's easier
for someone to give you their money than to concede power. We just used
the law to find justice, plain and simple."

U-HAUL INTERNATIONAL: May Appeal against CA Ruling over "Managers'" OT
U-Haul International Inc. is considering appealing a Los Angeles court
decision that 480 current and former employees were improperly classified
as managers and denied overtime wages, said Bill Kannow, an attorney
representing the Phoenix-based company. In a hearing set for April, the
plaintiffs will argue they are owed more than $ 10 million in overtime
pay, said Matthew A. Kaufman, an attorney representing the current and
former employees participating in the class-action lawsuit. Los Angeles
Superior Court Judge J. Stephen Czuleger ruled this week that U-Haul had
failed to show that the employees spent more than 50% of their time
engaged in management duties, Kaufman said. Kannow said the judge agreed
that U-Haul had met the four other criteria entitling the company to
exempt the workers from overtime, including paying them at least double
the minimum wage. The case is one of the first of several brought under
California's overtime law. (Los Angeles Times, January 10, 2001)

VOTING SYSTEMS: Los Angeles Times Reports on 2 Suits Targetting Accuracy
Two class-action lawsuits aimed at reforming voting procedures used in
future elections were filed Tuesday challenging the longtime use of
punch-card voting systems with prescored cards, commonly known as
"Votomatic" systems.

One of the lawsuits, filed in Tallahassee, Fla., on behalf of the state's
voters, challenges approval of the Votomatic system by Florida Secretary
of State Katherine Harris and the use of the system by 15 Florida

The suit alleges that the Votomatic has serious, inherent defects that
render it unable to count votes accurately and that its use therefore
deprives Floridians of equal voting rights under the U.S. and Florida
constitutions. It further alleges past failure to comply with Florida
state law requiring voting equipment to count votes accurately.

In the second suit, filed in St. Clair, Ill., voters in 28 states that
use Votomatic systems have named as defendants the companies that sell
products and services necessary for ongoing use of the Votomatic. Voters
allege that these companies sell and market Votomatic products and
services while failing to provide notice of serious defects in the
Votomatic system that render it unable to count votes accurately. "It has
been known for at least 30 years that the Votomatic is inherently
defective and unable to count votes accurately," said Washington attorney
Matthew F. Pawa, a prominent class-action lawyer. "There is no excuse for
its continued use." A representative of Votomatic declined comment
pending review of the lawsuit but said that the system has been used
reliably for many years. Florida officials were not immediately available
for comment.

Joining Pawa's firm in the actions was the Cincinnati law firm of Waite,
Schneider, Bayless & Chesley, which also specializes in class-action
work. Both suits are being handled on a pro bono basis. (Los Angeles
Times, January 10, 2001)


S U B S C R I P T I O N  I N F O R M A T I O N

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