WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - A jury in Florida's 15th Judicial Circuit Court for Palm Beach County on Dec. 19 returned a defense verdict in a suit alleging that a longtime smoker's death from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) was caused by his addiction to cigarettes manufactured by R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. (Dorothy Haliburton, as personal representative of the estate of Andrew Haliburton v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., No. 502008CA000703, Fla. 15th Jud. Cir., Palm Beach Co.).
SAN FRANCISCO - The Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on Dec. 16 withdrew its prior opinion that a pension plan participant who challenged the termination of benefits following the plan's rediscovery that he had not met the plan's vesting requirements failed to demonstrate that he was entitled to any equitable remedies under Employee Retirement Income Security Act Section 502(a)(3), and the appeals panel filed a superseding opinion remanding to the district court to consider whether the participant was entitled to surcharge (Gregory R. Gabriel v. Alaska Electrical Pension Fund, et al., No. 12-35458, 9th Cir.; 2014 U.S. App. LEXIS 10553).
WASHINGTON, D.C. - The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Office of the General Counsel announced Dec. 19 that it has filed multiple consolidated complaints against McDonald's USA LLC and the company's franchisees, as joint employers, alleging violations of employees' rights.
NEW YORK - Although claimants asserted non-bankruptcy claims for violation of the Truth In Lending Act (TILA) and the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act, a New York federal judge on Dec. 18 found that proofs of claim asserted against a bankruptcy entity should be decided by a bankruptcy court (Ronald A. Eriksen, et al. v. Residential Capital LLC, et al., No. 14-CV-7205, S.D. N.Y.; 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 175001).
EAST ST. LOUIS, Ill. - Participants in two of Lockheed Martin Corp.'s 401(k) plans reached a provisional settlement on their claims that the plans' fiduciaries breached their duties under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act by causing the plans to pay excessive administrative expenses, by investing in a stable-value fund (SVF) that did not result in a rate of return that was sufficient for a retirement asset and by mismanaging the plan's company stock funds (CSFs), a Dec. 16 notice issued by the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois indicated (Anthony Abbott, et al. v. Lockheed Martin Corp., et al., No. 06-cv-701, S.D. Ill.).
CHICAGO - A federal magistrate judge erred in striking the testimony of an accident reconstructionist in a product liability lawsuit over a purportedly defective ladder, a Seventh Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals panel found Dec. 17, finding that it was for the jury to decide whether the expert's causation theory was correct (Kurt Stuhlmacher, et al. v. Home Depot U.S.A., Inc., et al., No. 14-2018, 7th Cir.; 2014 U.S. App. LEXIS 23757).
LONDON - Imperial Tobacco Canada, a subsidiary of British American Tobacco, will pay $575 million to settle asbestos-related litigation involving The Flintkote Co., the company announced Dec. 16 in a news release.
TAMPA, Fla. - The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA)'s contraceptive mandate infringes on religious beliefs, a Christian retirement community argues in a Dec. 18 reply filed in Florida federal court (Christian and Missionary Alliance Foundation Inc., et al. v. Sylvia Mathews Burwell, et al., No. 14-580, M.D. Fla.).
GALVESTON, Texas - Allegations that a defendant willfully infringed two patents will proceed, thanks to a Dec. 17 ruling by a Texas federal judge (RLIS Inc. v. Cerner Corporation, No. 12-209, S.D. Texas).
SAN FRANCISCO - The Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on Dec. 18 affirmed a court's dismissal of a wrongful foreclosure action, finding that the former property owner failed to state a claim under the Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP) (Rodolfo Velasquez v. Chase Home Financial LLC, et al., No. 12-16845, 9th Cir.; 2014 U.S. App. LEXIS 23893).
WILMINGTON, Del. - Defendants Amazon Inc. and Barnes & Noble Inc. on Dec. 18 won summary judgment that two patents relating to electronic document access and distribution are invalid under 35 U.S. Code Section 101 (Cloud Satchel LLC v. Amazon Inc. et al., Nos. 13-941, -942, D. Del.).
ROCHESTER, N.Y. - A federal judge in New York on Dec. 17 dismissed a lawsuit brought by residents who contended that their drinking wells were contaminated by the activities of an oil and gas exploration company, ruling that the plaintiffs' expert should be stricken because he did not review isotopic tests of the allegedly contaminated areas (Jason Baker, et al. v. Anschutz Exploration Corporation, No 11-6119, W.D. N.Y.; 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 174442).
WHEELING, W.Va. - Remand of an insurance bad faith lawsuit to state court is warranted, a federal judge in West Virginia ruled Dec. 16, because an insurer has failed to show that the amount in controversy would exceed statutory limits (James Breen v. Motorists Mutual Insurance Companies, d.b.a. Motorists Insurance Group, No. 14-148, N.D. W.Va.; 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 174129).
DENVER - A commercial general liability insurer has no duty to defend a construction defects lawsuit arising from an insured's alleged negligent work in a home, a Colorado federal judge ruled Dec. 17, finding that there was no "property damage" and, alternatively, that the "your work" exclusion applied (Cool Sunshine Heating & Air Conditioning Inc. v. American Family Mutual Insurance Co., No. 14-1637, D. Colo.; 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 174818).
HOUSTON - A federal judge in Texas on Dec. 17 awarded judgment to ExxonMobil Corp. after finding that the company did not violate the Clean Air Act (CAA) when emissions from its Baytown, Texas, refinery exceeded permitted levels and that the company properly investigated and remedied the problems (Environment Texas Citizen Lobby Inc., et al. v. ExxonMobil Corporation, et al., No. 10-cv-4969, S.D. Texas).
CHICAGO - An Illinois appeals court panel on Dec. 16 released a published version of an opinion previously released as an unpublished opinion in which it affirms a lower court decision that a reinsurer's certificates clearly provide a limit of coverage that includes both losses and expenses (Continental Casualty Co. v. MidStates Reinsurance Corp., No. 1-13-3090, Ill. App., 1st Dist., 2nd Div.).
ST. PAUL, Minn. - An appraisal panel did not err in determining for purposes of insurance coverage that the replacement of an insured's damaged siding panels with siding of comparable material and quality required replacement of all of the siding on the insured's buildings to achieve a reasonable color match, the Minnesota Supreme Court affirmed Dec. 17 (Cedar Bluff Townhome Condominium Association Inc. v. American Family Mutual Insurance Co., No. A13-0124, Minn. Sup.; 2014 Minn. LEXIS 661).