A Georgia cosmetics company is suing a subsidiary of CAN Financial Corp. in Georgia federal court, alleging the insurer breached their insurance agreement in dodging providing coverage for the producer in a lawsuit that claims its talc-based cosmetics contained asbestos and caused cancer.
Broadview Investments LLC, along with its PTI Royston LLC and PTI Union LLC subsidiaries, filed the complaint Wednesday. The companies claim that Continental Casualty Co. initially said it would cover PTI Union in Schacke v. 3M Co. et al. However, the insurer ultimately changed its position, denying Broadview’s claim.
The Schackne lawsuit alleges that Michael Schackne developed mesothelioma due to asbestos exposure from talc-based PTI Union cosmetics.
Upon receiving notice that PTI Union was a defendant in the case, Broadview notified Continental in February. An April coverage letter from Continental indicated the companies’ coverage applied to all lawsuits over “asbestos-related cancers, including mesothelioma.” Additionally, Broadview says the letter directly referenced the Schackne lawsuit specifically. The letter specified coverage exclusions in the companies’ policy that might limit their coverage. However, according to Broadview, an asbestos exclusion was not among them.
In a July letter, Continental flatly denied any duty to defend or indemnify PTI Union in the Schackne lawsuit. Furthermore, it said it would only pay the case’s defense costs through September.
Broadview says the insurer “arbitrarily” took out “asbestos-related cancers, including mesothelioma” from its definition of claims that it had included in the April letter. The July letter defined these “related claims” as those listed in the April letter that directly includes references to Schackne.
Broadview indicates that another letter in August further altered the related claims criteria. This time the insurer removed the entire category of “asbestos-related claims” but failed to define those.
“What is clear, however, is that Continental unjustifiably transformed its coverage position established in its April 11, 2018, formal coverage letter by improperly disavowing any duty to defend or indemnify Schackne,” Broadview wrote.
Broadview is requesting damages, costs and expenses, as well as a declaratory judgement that Continental has an obligation to defend the Schackne claim and any future lawsuits against the cosmetics company relating to asbestos exposure.
BJ’s wholesale club claims that Tyson, Perdue, and other chicken producers colluded to inflate chicken prices, overcharging consumers by more than $3 billion per year over an eight-year period.
BJ’s filed the complaint against Tyson on Tuesday in Illinois federal court. According to the allegations, the chicken producers coordinated efforts to raise prices and limit the number of chickens in the market by destroying chicken eggs and breeder hens. The producers used a data company to determine competitors’ production statistics and coordinate their actions to fix the market.
BJ’s is also accusing the producers of manipulating the Georgia Department of Agriculture’s market benchmark price between 2008 and 2016. Consequently, chicken prices have risen significantly since 2008 even though other costs have gone down. BJ’s purchased billions of dollars of chicken during this time, so the collusion directly harmed its business.
“The consequence of Defendants’ cuts in 2008 and 2011-2012 has been a nearly 50% increase in wholesale chicken prices since 2008, by one measure, despite input costs (primarily corn and soybeans) falling roughly 20% to 23% over the same time period,” BJ’s wrote. “The rise in chicken prices relative to input costs has led to record profits for Defendants.”
This group of chicken producers is also the subject of several other lawsuits currently pending in Illinois federal court over the price-fixing scheme.
In June, Albertsons, Kroger, and Hy-Vee sued the producers over the same allegations. Furthermore, consumers, as well as direct and indirect purchases, have brought a class action over the matter that is currently ongoing. Several stores and meat distributors also filed their own chicken price-fixing suit in May.
According to BJ’s, the companies violated the Sherman Act by reducing broiler production and artificially raising prices.
Eli Lilly & Co. subsidiary Agri Stats allowed the producers to coordinate with one another. The company reports on the industry and also faces charges in the lawsuit. The reports had data that was supposed to be anonymous. However, it was easy to decipher which company was producing what.
The lawsuits indicate that the producers also worked together to manipulate the benchmark price, which was the basis of many buyers’ purchasing decisions. The producers knew that price was dependent on data from certain producers. Consequently, they colluded to report artificially high prices.
Pennsylvania’s attorney general is leading the charge in the latest scathing indictment against the Catholic church, saying the Vatican knew about a cover-up of sex abuse allegations against priests.
“I can’t specifically speak to Pope Francis,” Attorney General Josh Shapiro told the “Today” show Tuesday.
However, he indicated that his office has “evidence that the Vatican had knowledge of the cover-up.”
Shapiro did not provide specifics as to the evidence his office has that suggests the Vatican knew about the cover-up.
Vatican spokesman Greg Burke told CNN on Tuesday that the Vatican requires more details regarding this evidence before commenting.
Shapiro announced the release of a grand jury report two weeks ago, indicating that hundreds of “predator priests” had abused children in six Pennsylvania dioceses throughout the past seven decades.
Shapiro told “Today” that 23 grand jurors met for two years and discovered more than 301 predator priests who had sexually exploited more than a thousand Pennsylvania child victims.
“They found that there was not only widespread sexual abuse, rape of children, but they found that there was a systematic cover-up that went all the way to the Vatican,” Shapiro said.
The dissemination of the grand jury’s report has prompted Catholic clergy investigations in other states. During the two weeks since the report’s release, Pennsylvania’s clergy abuse hotline has received more than 730 calls. However, it remains unclear how many of these cases, if any, the case can still prosecute within the statute of limitations.
While the internal documents covered in the grand jury’s report show more than 300 predator priests sexually abused more than 1,000 child victims, the grand jury indicates that the real number is likely much higher.
“We believe that the real number of children whose records were lost or who were afraid ever to come forward is in the thousands,” the grand jury wrote.
“Priests were raping little boys and girls, and the men of God who were responsible for them not only did nothing; they hid it all,” the report continued. “For decades. Monsignors, auxiliary bishops, bishops, archbishops, cardinals have mostly been protected; many, including some named in this report, have been promoted.”
According to the grand jury, the church’s methods were “a playbook for concealing the truth” after federal agents identified a series of practices in the diocese files.
The grand jury report delves into clergy sexual abuse dating to 1947 in six dioceses – Allentown, Erie, Greensburg, Harrisburg, Pittsburgh, and Scranton.
Earlier grand jury reports have covered Pennsylvania’s two other dioceses, Philadelphia and Altoona-Johnstown. These reports found similarly damaging information about clergy and bishops in those dioceses.
“There have been other reports about child sex abuse within the Catholic Church. But never on this scale,” the grand jurors wrote in Tuesday’s report.
“For many of us, those earlier stories happened someplace else, someplace away. Now we know the truth: it happened everywhere.”
However, the grand jurors indicated that almost every instance of abuse is too old for prosecution, but two priests are still facing charges.
“We learned of these abusers directly from their dioceses — which we hope is a sign that the church is finally changing its ways,” the grand jurors said. “And there may be more indictments in the future; investigation continues.”
Two Virgin Island juries slammed RJ Reynolds on Friday with simultaneous verdicts totaling $113.3 million in two consolidated tobacco trials alleging Newport cigarettes’ marketing caused addiction and death from smoking-related illness.
The legal nonprofit Public Health Advocacy Institute (PHAI) indicates that two St. Thomas juries found that RJ Reynolds, as Lorillard Tobacco’s successor-by-merger, was accountable for the death of Newport smokers Patrice Brown and Lucien England. Thanks for Newport’s aggressive marketing campaigns that blatantly targeted younger consumers, both plaintiffs began smoking as minors. Consequently, they became addicted and ultimately succumbed to smoking-related illnesses. According to the nonprofit, Brown died from lung cancer, while England passed away due to bladder cancer.
The jury awarded England’s estate $30 million in punitive damages Friday, after awarding $1 million in compensatory damages on August 20. The other jury returned with $12.3 million punitive damages verdict August 23 for Brown’s estate on top of an August 21 award of $70 million in compensatory damages.
According to PHAI president and Northeastern University law professor Richard Daynard, the organization was “delighted” the two juries found that the Newport cigarette companies “sold an unreasonably and unnecessarily dangerous product, marketed it by use of fraud, fraudulent concealment, and conspiring with the other major cigarette producers, and acted in callous disregard of the rights and safety of smokers.”
Co-counsel for Brown and England with PHAI attorneys told Law360 on Friday that the consolidation of the cases for trial was the right decision.
“For us it’s pretty easy: It’s the same fraud, the same conduct, they both died, they were smoking the same brand at the same time,” he said. “If you look at it from tobacco’s side, none of their clients were individuals.”
The lawyer continued that the trial proceeding was empaneled by a pair of six-person juries, with three alternatives apiece. They shared a jury box for most of the the cases’ testimony. However, one jury or the other would leave when a specific witness, such as a medical doctor, was testifying about issues relating to only one of the plaintiffs.
PHAI attorneys concurred, saying the consolidation of the tobacco trials made sense since the same reprehensible conduct by tobacco companies was at the heart of both cases, adding that they hope it “becomes a model for trials across the United States.”
England and Brown filed their claims in November and December 2010, respectively. In 1960, England encountered a Lorillard marketing campaign while visiting New York with his mother that involved leaving free packs of Newport cigarettes on the doorknobs of public housing projects. Consequently, the 10-year-old England would come home from school in the Bronx and take the free cigarettes before his mother got home from work, fueling an addiction that would last until 2005.
Also, in 1960, Virgin Islands native Brown was 16 years old and attending a Florida boarding school. She started smoking Newports due to brand’s “beautiful Caribbean advertisements.”
Both plaintiffs died while the litigation was ongoing with their children taking up each of their claims – Christian Brown for Patrice Brown and Jevon Gerald for Lucien England. Reynolds became a defendant in the cases following its 2015 merger with Lorillard.
In July 2017, Judge Michael Dunston granted the plaintiffs’ motion for the consolidation of the tobacco trials.
Las Vegas mass shooting victims are asking the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) to reject MGM’s recent motion to consolidate more than a dozen lawsuit over the fatal shooting, denouncing the company’s legal tactics as “reprehensible” that amount to “forum shopping.”
The group of mass shooting victims and their families are striving to hold MGM Resorts International accountable for the 2017 Las Vegas shooting that killed 58 attendees at the Route 91 Harvest country music festival. The group told the JPML on Wednesday that the gaming and hospitality behemoth most likely already filed preemptive lawsuits in July against nearly 2,000 potential claimants in eight states to increase its chances of receiving federal consolidation.
“MGM’s conduct leading up to the filing of the instant motion is reprehensible,” the group said in a 20-page filing. “It is abusive of the courts, amounts to forum shopping, and is nothing more than an attempt to limit the victims’ access to justice.”
The mass shooting victims originally filed in Nevada state court but claim MGM removed their case to federal court with the “flawed” argument that a federal anti-terrorism law absolves the company of liability and controls the case’s jurisdiction.
In July, MGM announced that it has “no liability of any kind” pertaining to the mass shooting victims due to a 2002 anti-terrorism statute. The company asserts that the SAFETY Act prevents victims from blaming injuries and deaths on its Mandalay Bay hotel, where shooter Stephen Paddock launched his attack on people attending the concert from the 32nd floor.
MGM says that since security for the concert was through Contemporary Services Corp (CSC), a crowd management security company with Department of Homeland Security certification under the SAFETY Act, all claims relating to the shooting fall on CSC.
However, the group is calling MGM’s SAFETY Act argument “absurd” since the basis of its lawsuit is that the hotel and its staff acted negligently in the days leading up to the shooting, which has nothing to do with the concert’s crowd security.
Additionally, the mass shooting victims argue MGM can’t claim that consolidation is necessary to prevent inconsistent SAFETY Act rulings due to the company’s own aggressively strategic decision to file preemptive suits in eight different states for declaratory judgements.
A Florida judge ordered the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) Tuesday to release public records from a pedestrian bridge collapse at Florida International University (FIU) near Miami that killed six people.
Tallahassee Circuit Judge Kevin J. Carroll ruled that FDOT must turn over records from February 20 through March 15 that the Miami Herald has requested from the bridge collapse, ruling that federal regulations restricting the dissemination of information by a party to a National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigation isn’t applicable to records from before an investigation has started.
FDOT argued that since it had supplied records to the NTSB for its investigation, it could not produce them for a public records request. However, the judge ruled the records in question were created before the bridge collapse and FDOT became a party in the NTSB’s investigation.
“Simply put, under Florida law, it is clear that furnishing a document (which was a public record when it was made or created record) to an investigating agency would not alter its status as a public record and it would remain available for public inspection,” Judge Carroll wrote.
The judge noted the federal government’s stance that investigative information releases could impair NTSB’s work and conceded there could be a legitimate concern over the disclosure of information from private sources. However, he said that it’s a different matter when the records are at the state-level.
“This court, however, has difficulty envisioning how that argument applies to materials maintained by the State of Florida which were already public records at the time they were provided to the NTSB,” Judge Carroll said.
He further said the court could reasonable consider records created after the bridge collapse to be obtained during an investigation and would not be privy to the Herald’s public records request.
The Harold’s attorney argued the language of the federal regulation in question was clear and did not apply to these records.
“The law has always been that a public record does not lose its status as a public record because it is later given to an investigative agency,” he said.
The FIU pedestrian ridge was intended to be a safe passageway for students who live in apartments across Southwest Eighth Street, which is eight lanes wide, to campus. The bridge was constructed in response to pedestrian deaths from trying to cross the busy street in recent years. The bridge collapse occurred just one week after its installation and was still not accessible to pedestrians when it fell. The collapse killed one worker on the bridge and five other who were in their cars at a red light underneath it.
Following recent reports detailing lead poisoning cases at installations nationwide, a group of bipartisan senators asked the U.S. Army on Friday to provide an explanation as to its efforts to alleviate the effects of lead paint exposure in its on-base housing and the possibility of holding contractors accountable for the serious issue.
D-VA Senators Tim Kaine and Mark Warner, as well as R-GA Senators Johnny Isakson and David Perdue, wrote a joint letter to Army Secretary Mark Esper, expressing substantial concerns abut the reports. Lead is toxic to the brain and the kidneys. Exposure to lead or lead compounds can significantly affect brain development in children, causing substantial behavioral and learning difficulties.
“The health and safety of our service members and their families are of the utmost importance,” they wrote.
In their letter, the senators cited a 2015 U.S. Department of Defense Office of Inspector General report which indicated there were “significant lead paint hazards” at Ft. Belboir in Virginia. They also pointed to a more recent Reuters report that showed causes of lead poisoning stemming from on-base housing at five different Army bases. This included one each in Georgia, Kentucky, and Louisiana, as well as two in Texas.
In the Reuters report, researchers tested five homes at Fort Benning in Georgia and found hazardous levels of deteriorating lead paint in all the homes with one of them exhibiting levels “far exceeding” the federal danger threshold.
The report also noted records from an Army medical center in Texas, indicating that more than 1,050 young children living on Army bases across the county tested positive for elevated lead levels between 2011 and 2016. Furthermore, the report raised concerns about the Army discouraging testing to identify deteriorating lead paint, alleging that base hospitals also did not report children’s lead poisoning cases to proper state health authorities.
The senators are asking Esper to provide a detailed briefing as soon as possible, detailing the Army’s immediate and long-term strategies for mitigating lead paint exposure on its bases and providing medical treatment for lead exposure. They also requested the Army secretary to outline possible legislation that could hold maintenance contractors accountable.
“As the report points out, these on-base homes, managed and operated largely through private partnerships, are putting families and children at risk,” the senators wrote.
Lead exposure is not the only contamination issue that the Army is currently facing. In 2017, the Army managed to escape a lawsuit to hold it liable for injuries and deaths from negligent disposal of toxic chemicals at Fort Detrick, a Maryland base that was once home to a biological weapons program.
Also, water supply contamination at several military bases and in surrounding communities has been traced to the use of firefighting foams containing toxic perfluorinated chemicals.
A Texas federal judge denied Exxon Mobil Corp’s motion to dismiss a putative securities fraud class action that claims the oil company actively concealed its climate change knowledge, ruling Tuesday that investors have cited sufficient misstatements and had met the heightened pleading standard involved with bringing the suit.
Exxon argued that lead plaintiff Greater Pennsylvania Carpenters Pension Fund was trying to create a securities fraud claim out of an allegation from former New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s company probe, accusing Exxon of duping investors by misleading them that it considered one set of proxy greenhouse gas emissions costs, which basically approximated government-related climate change action costs. However, the company was allegedly using a second set of lower proxy costs in its internal business planning calculations.
District Judge Ed Kinkeade concurred with the oil company’s contention that investors did not prove that one of its top officials, Jeffrey J. Woodbury, played a conscious part in the concealment conspiracy. However, he otherwise rejected Exxonmobil’s motion to nix claims against the company and other executives, including former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.
The judge found that the pension fund brought forth adequate allegations that Exxon publicly stated a different proxy cost value than it was applying in internal calculations.
“This disparity in proxy cost values sufficiently alleges material misrepresentations arising from statements made referencing these proxy costs,” Judge Kinkeado wrote in his order. “A reasonable investor would likely find it significant that Exxonmobil allegedly applied a lower proxy cost of carbon than it publicly disclosed.”
In June 2017, Schneiderman originally tossed the lawsuit’s proxy allegations after Exxon produced compelling evidence during his investigation over the company’s investor deceptions pertaining to its climate change knowledge. Exxon vehemently fought Schneiderman’s investigation since its launch in 2015 and is taking the same aggressive attitude toward investor allegations. The company argued in its dismissal motion that the pension fund class action “parrots the baseless insinuations and irresponsible allegations raised by that office.”
Investors filed the proposed class action in November 2016, amending the complaint in July 2017 to include more details about the doctored proxy costs. According to the complaint’s amendments, Exxon publicly said that it applied proxy costs of $60 per ton of greenhouse gases (GHG) by 2030. However, the company was using a $40 per ton figure for its internal planning and budgeting.
According to the pension fund, this discrepancy constitutes clear violations of the Securities Exchange Act on the part of the company, as well as Woodbury and Tillerson, plus current Senior Vice President Andrew P. Swiger and Principal Accounting Officer David S. Rosenthal.
Exxon continues to maintain that regulatory-induced proxy costs are inherently different from the company’s own GHG costs, claiming that regulatory-induced costs aren’t directly imposed on the company. The company argued in its dismissal bid that it shouldn’t come as a surprise that GHG costs to calculate expenses on a specific project may differ from proxy costs the company uses to analyze global fossil fuel demands.
However, Judge Kinkeade rejected these assertions Tuesday, writing “whether the two differing proxy cost values represent two different costs or the same cost with different values applied internally than publicly purported to be applied is a factual dispute and cannot be determined at this motion to dismiss stage.”
Exxon also challenged the operative complaint’s allegation that the oil company failed to acknowledge red flags that one of its gas operations was visibly impaired. The oil giant argued that investors simply had a different opinion about the value of its assets. But, Judge Kinkeade ruled the alleged failures are “not opinion statements but create a fact question.”
“The Amended Complaint alleges the material misstatements included an embedded statement of fact that was objectively false,” the judge wrote, citing a 2015 form that indicated Exxon Mobil had valued the operation in question by applying cost of carbon. However, the investors allege this cost wasn’t actually applied.
Regarding the investors’ claim the company’s Canadian bitumen businesses were operating at a loss, while Exxon continued asserting they were making more than $5 a barrel, the judge ruled “Pension Fund sufficiently pleaded ExxonMobil made a material misstatement by failing to disclose the Canadian Bitumen Operations operated at a loss for three months.”
According to the judge, ExxonMobil’s knowledge of the misinformation was supported by investors’ claims that the company’s management committee, including Tillerson and Swinger, had signed off on a 2014 annual publication that stated different proxy costs that what was being used in business operations.
“These specific allegations of receiving regular, detailed information on carbon related risks and proxy costs as members of the Management Committee provide more than mere conclusory allegations that Defendants Tillerson and Swinger must have had knowledge based on their executive positions within ExxonMobil,” Judge Kinkeade wrote.
The judge also found the investors’ allegations that Exxon had motive to maintain that its credit rating was sufficient to support “a strong inference of scienter as to all defendants.”
Regarding pleading damages, Judge Kinkeade ruled that “it is plausible that over the course of the alleged partial corrective disclosures, the market became aware of ExxonMobil’s alleged fraud and reacted each time with ExxonMobil’s common stock falling.”
As for Woodbury, the judge found the pension found adequately pled control person liability. However, it did not “provide factual allegations” to show the former VP made misleading statements “with scienter, as opposed to mere negligence.”
A new report indicates that a Michigan military base may have caused local drinking water contamination, putting base workers, veterans, and other area residents at an elevated risk for cancer.
The Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry (ATDSR) published a draft report July 27. The report notes contaminants in the drinking water in Oscoda, Michigan. Specifically, these contaminants are volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Formerly the home of Wurtsmith Air Force Base (WAFB), the report warns that people who drank or had skin contact with water in and around the base could face increased cancer risks.
The ATSDR came to three pertinent conclusions in the draft report. First, children and adults who used trichloroethylene (TCE) contaminated water in their homes could be at risk for dangerous non-cancer side effects. Second, people who used drinking water wells in the area could have increased risks for cancer. Third, on-base employees may have been exposed to benzene water contamination in Building 5008 for numerous years and face increased risks of both cancer and hematological side effects.
The report emphasizes that these exposures happened decades ago. The Michigan drinking water in the area is currently safe. The government decommissioned the base in 1993.
“Most of the past exposures occurred before 1980,” the report states. “Today, the majority of on-base and off-base facilities, residences, and camps receive their drinking water from the Huron Shores Regional Utility Authority, a source that is not located near WAFB and that meets all federal and state drinking water quality standards. A few wells that are still in service are being monitored by local authorities.”
TCE is a popular chlorinated solvent. It’s frequently used as a degreaser to clean machinery, adhesive solvent, and paint stripper, as well as etching process applications and is sometimes an ingredient in paints and varnishes. Previous studies have already shown that chemical exposure causes cancer in animals when inhaled or large quantities are absorbed through the skin.
The World Health Organization (WHO) classified TCE as a human carcinogen in 2012. However, many still believe that low levels of exposure to the chemical is unlikely to cause significant harm. Consequently, the United States continues to accept the chemical’s wide-spread use.
The ATSDR report suggests that TCE exposure from drinking water could result in heart malformations, adult immunological effects, and developmental immunotoxicity. It can also cause significant birth defects, including fetal heart malformations and cardiac heart defects even if exposure to the pregnant woman is less than three weeks.
In 2013, a study linked TCE exposure to increases in risks for liver, cervical and kidney cancer.
Benzene is an industrial chemical. Studies have linked it with the development of several lethal forms of cancer, leukemia, and other conditions, including AML, acute lymphotic leukemia (ALL), chronic lymphotic leukemia (CLL), chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML), non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, multipole myeloma, hairy cell leukemia (HCL), myelodysplastic syndrome (MDL), myeloid metaplasia, aplastic anemia, myelofibrosis, and thrombocytopenic purpura.
Elevated benzene in the environment can lead to a multitude of complications from exposure to the chemical. Benzene is a colorless or light-yellow liquid at room temperature. It has a sweet odor and is highly flammable. Benzene evaporates rapidly into the air. However, the vapor is heavier than air, causing it to sink and collect in low areas.
Benzene only partially dissolves in water. Since it floats on top, it poses a danger to drinking water, wildlife, and those who go in the water. Exposure to the chemical can occur from leaks in underground storage tanks or hazardous waste sites that contaminate well water. Those in the oil industry that make or use benzene face the highest exposure risks.
Studies have shown that long-term benzene exposure can cause anemia, as the chemical inhibits the bone marrow’s ability to produce red blood cells, which can cause immunological damage. The Department of Health and Human Services has found that long-term exposure to benzene can damage blood cells to the point that cancers like leukemia develop.
The ATSDR is accepting public comments on the draft report until September 30, 2018. Individuals are asked to submit comments in writing to ATSDRRecordsCenter@cdc.gov or by mail to:
Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry
Attn: Records Center
Re: Former Wurtsmith Air Force Base (Oscoda, MI)
4770 Buford Highway, NE (MS F-09)
Atlanta, Georgia 30341