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February 2015 Archives

Class Action Lawsuit Against Purina Claims Food Harmed Thousands Of Dogs

A class action lawsuit against Purina alleges that additives and toxins in Beneful dog food caused serious illness and death.

A class action lawsuit filed in California claims that Beneful dry kibble dog food -- a popular brand from Nestle Purina PetCare promoted as "wholesome" with "quality nutrition" -- contains toxins that injured and killed thousands of dogs, according to NBC News. Pet owner Frank Lucido alleged that his family began feeding their three dogs exclusively on Beneful in late December or early January and that the animals were kept in separate houses because of some home construction. By the end of January, all three dogs had become seriously ill and one died. Two of the dogs showed bleeding in the stomach and liver lesions. The dead dog, an 8-year-old English bulldog, showed signs "consistent with poisoning," according to a veterinarian quoted in the lawsuit. Jeff Cereghino, an attorney representing Lucido, emphasized that all three dogs ate the same food and were in different buildings. "So you take away the automatic assumption that the neighbor didn't like the dogs or whatever," he said. "He was feeding them Beneful at the start of this, and one got sick and died, the other two were very ill. And then he started doing a little research, and he realized the causal link, at least in his mind, was the food." Liver, Kidney Issues The website ConsumerAffairs shows close to 800 one-star ratings of Beneful out of a possible five stars. Many posted stories allege that dog owners saw their pets become ill and often die from what appeared to be liver and kidney failure. The association between Beneful and claimed harm to pets isn't new. Rumor-busting site Snopes.com said that unproven claims about problems go back to at least 2007. "We believe the lawsuit is baseless, and we intend to vigorously defend ourselves and our brand," a company representative said in a statement sent Wednesday to DailyFinance. "Beneful had two previous class action suits filed in recent years with similar baseless allegations, and both were dismissed by the courts." The suit claims that propylene glycol and mycotoxins are potentially harmful substances that are in Beneful. Propylene glycol is "clear, colorless liquid with the consistency of syrup," according to manufacturer Dow Chemical. It is used in a wide variety of applications, including hydraulic fluids, automobile antifreeze and cosmetics, but is also approved by the Food and Drug Administration as a food additive. Propylene Glycol and Mycotoxins To put the combination of uses into some perspective, water is used in food preparation and in antifreeze as well. Still, the site DogFoodAdvisor said that propylene glycol has a "proven ability to cause a serious type of blood disease" in cats and that the FDA banned its use in cat food. Norway, Sweden and Finland last fall recalled cinnamon-flavored Fireball Whiskey over levels of propylene glycol, according to the Huffington Post. Mycotoxins are substances produced by some types of fungi, according to the National Institutes of Health. They can be poisonous, but they are also used in a variety of drugs, including antibiotics. Some types of mycotoxins are associated with damage to liver and kidneys. The Association for Truth in Pet Food said that it tested some popular dog foods and found that Beneful Original had a significant enough mycotoxins level to pose a "high risk" to animal health. Last year, Nestle Purina PetCare was one of two companies that settled a class action lawsuit by creating a $6.5 million pet owner compensation fund, according to NBC News. The suit claimed that jerky treats caused illness and death in thousands of dogs. Originally posted by Erik Sherman on Dailyfinance.com. Class Action Lawsuit Against Purina - Ball & Bonholtzer Trial Attorney - Los Angeles

Reed Smith Says Legal Malpractice Suit Should Be Sent To Arbitration

The firm cites a mandatory arbitration agreement in its objections to a legal malpractice suit surrounding its negotiation of a $20.5 million property insurance settlement.

Plaintiff Jerald Batoff attempted to pre-empt that argument in his complaint, noting such mandatory arbitration provisions violate public policy. Batoff said the arbitration clause was unenforceable because he was not represented by independent counsel when he signed the engagement letter with Reed Smith and partner Douglas Widin, also a defendant in the suit.

Bank Clients File Legal Malpractice Suit Against Winstead

Winstead is fighting a legal malpractice suit filed by bank clients who seek to recover over $20 million in damages due to alleged professional negligence.

filed in NexBank v. Winstead, which was filed in Dallas County's 193rd District Court on Feb. 13. "We intend to hire counsel and vigorously defend the lawsuit," Campbell said. "And we believe we will be vindicated, because we do not believe our lawyers committed malpractice." The allegations in the lawsuit concern the foreclosure on a complicated $62 million loan for two office buildings located in Farmer's Branch, TX. When the borrower defaulted on the loan, NexBank and Highland Capital Management hired Winstead for representation in the loan workout and foreclosure for hourly rates as high as $620 per hour because of the firm's "extensive experience," according to the petition. Instead, the bank client ended up in wrongful termination litigation with the borrower and guarantor--a lawsuit that was eventually settled for substantially less than the outstanding deficiency, according to the petition. "If at trial the foreclosure that Winstead had orchestrated was found wrongful, then plaintiffs would not have recovered any of its $30 million-plus deficiency," according to the petition. "Plaintiffs, on behalf of themselves and the noteholders of the loan, therefore file this suit to recover from Winstead more than $20 million in damages caused by its professional negligence and negligent misrepresentations," the petition alleges. Deborah Deitsch-Perez, a partner in Dallas' Lackey Hershman who represents NexBank and Highland Capital Management, declined to comment. Originally posted by John Council on Texaslawyer.com. Legal Malpractice Suit - Ball & Bonholtzer Trial Attorney - Los Angeles

Attorney Convicted Of Fraud Sentenced To Six Years In Prison

Kathleen Niew, a former Chicago attorney convicted of fraud, will spend six years in federal prison for stealing more than $2.3 million from her clients. 

Prosecutors said Niew led an Oak Park couple to believe she would hold the money for them for use at closings on commercial real estate deals but then misappropriated the money for herself, financing purchases of gold mining operations around the globe in an ill-fated scheme to garner hefty finder's fees. The couple, Jamal and Leda Khoury, never saw the money again.

Attorney Convicted Of Fraud Gets Six Year Prison Sentence

Kathleen Niew, a former Chicago attorney convicted of fraud, will spend six years in federal prison for stealing more than $2.3 million from her clients. 

Prosecutors said Niew led an Oak Park couple to believe she would hold the money for them for use at closings on commercial real estate deals but then misappropriated the money for herself, financing purchases of gold mining operations around the globe in an ill-fated scheme to garner hefty finder's fees. The couple, Jamal and Leda Khoury, never saw the money again. U.S. District Judge Harry Leinenweber said Niew's risky investments were tantamount to "putting it all on some long shot" at the racetrack. Prosecutors had sought a 10-year prison term for Niew, who had pleaded guilty to 10 counts of fraud last June. Before her indictment, she was a self-styled real estate and probate law guru known for her Saturday morning call-in radio show on WIND-AM 560. The judge said Niew's betrayal of her clients played a part in his decision to sentence her to five years and 10 months in prison. He also ordered her to pay restitution of $2.34 million, but it was unclear if Niew would be able to come up with any of the money. "Something has to be done when a case like this comes up," he said. Leinenweber also found Niew responsible for defrauding another client out of $500,000. Niew had led the client to believe she needed the money for her upcoming divorce proceedings, but prosecutors said that the divorce was a fiction and that Niew blew the money in the same way. Niew, 58, rose unsteadily to address the judge, asking for forgiveness from both Leinenweber and the victims. "It's my fault that the money is gone," Niew said. "What I thought was taking place was not what was taking place. I regret every action that was taken." Niew turned to face Leda Khoury, saying, "I do ask for your forgiveness." Khoury's husband did not attend the court hearing. Prosecutors said Niew repeatedly lied about what happened to the money, producing fake documents to cover her tracks and assuring the couple that they would be making a large profit on their investment. Assistant U.S. Attorney Sunil Harjani said Niew continually displayed "greed and arrogance." "All she did was lie to conceal and throw people off her scent so she could get away with this," Harjani said. "Her time has come." Niew's attorney, Thomas Breen, pointed out that Jamal Khoury faces charges in the same courthouse. He was indicted in November for wire fraud in an alleged food stamp scam while operating a Chicago grocery store. Leda Khoury tearfully read a lengthy statement to the judge at the hearing, saying Niew's deceit humiliated her family and caused great emotional pain in addition to the heavy financial loss. "Mrs. Niew had no moral or legal red lines that she was not prepared to cross in pursuit of her deception," Khoury said. Khoury said the loss of the money prevented her from providing medical care for her ailing father and forced her to stop in vitro fertilization treatments in an effort to have a child. "We had no idea we were hiring a thief lying in wait for her next victim," Khoury said. "We blame ourselves for trusting her so blindly." Originally posted by Patrick M. O'Connell on Chicagotribune.com. Also posted on the

Attorney Charged With Fraud To Appear Before Federal Judge

Wilson Smith, an attorney charged with fraud and aggravated identity theft, will appear Tuesday before a federal judge. The Georgia lawyer allegedly stole more than $1 million of his clients' settlement money.

Smith, 63, will be taken before U.S. Magistrate Judge G.R. Smith to be informed of the charges against him and is expected to enter a not guilty plea. The case is assigned to U.S. District Chief Judge Lisa Godbey Wood in Brunswick.

$15 Million Sought In Serious Injury Lawsuit Against GPS Manufacturers

Serious injury lawsuit filed by victims of 2013 Pennsylvania bus crash claims bus struck bridge when faulty GPS instructions guided driver into height-restricted area.

The lawsuit filed last month in Suffolk Superior Court alleges that TomTom NV, Garmin International Inc., and their subsidiaries sold GPS units to consumers without warning against their use on commercial vehicles, which are prohibited from some roads because of height restrictions. The devices also distract drivers, said Philadelphia lawyer Jim Ronca, who represents an 18-year-old high school student who was paralyzed from the waist down in the crash. "People rely on these things and tend not to remember that they have flaws, too," Ronca said in a recent interview. The driver, Samuel J. Jackson, told police he drove the 11-foot-high bus onto Soldiers Field Road, which is off-limits to vehicles more than 10 feet high, because he was "following the GPS." At least one sign warning of this restriction was missing or damaged, and construction on the Harvard Street overpass obstructed other warning signs, the suit said. In total, 35 people were hurt around 7:30 p.m. on Feb. 2, 2013, when the bus struck the Western Avenue bridge. The roof of the bus collapsed backward, causing the luggage rack and television monitors to fall onto the heads and necks of passengers, the suit says. The passengers included a group of high school students and their chaperones from the Philadelphia area who were visiting Harvard University for the day with the Destined for a Dream Foundation Inc. The organization serves underprivileged and disadvantaged youth, according to its website. The crash happened just minutes after the bus started heading back to Pennsylvania. Ronca's client, Matthew Cruz, then 16, was the most seriously hurt in the accident, suffering an injury to his spinal cord. Ronca said that he had not heard of any previous lawsuits against Global Positioning System device manufacturers that address the problems of distracted driving and other accidents caused by GPS units that give faulty directions onto height-restricted roadways. A month after the crash, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration issued official recommendations for GPS systems approved for use in commercial vehicles to reduce accidents caused by low bridges. The agency also created visor cards to warn commercial vehicle drivers about the dangers of using GPS systems that lack instructions about low bridges. The suit alleges that TomTom and Garmin "acted in disregard of a foreseeable and foreseen risk of serious injury to passengers in vehicles who were sent on roadways with height restrictions at the direction" of the GPS devices. Jackson is believed to have had two GPS devices with him at the time of the crash, but it is unclear which one he was using, Ronca said. One was made by TomTom and seized by police at the scene, he said. Jackson said he took the other, which was made by Garmin, with him after the collision, according to Ronca. Neither device was designed for use in a commercial vehicle, though both companies make units for such purpose with features that account for height restrictions, Ronca said. The models cited in the complaint do not warn about height restrictions, do not warn against their use in commercial vehicles, or give drivers the option to enter the height of their vehicle in order to avoid height-restricted roadways, the suit said. Representatives for TomTom and Garmin declined to comment. A Brighton Municipal Court jury acquitted Jackson in September of a criminal charge of negligent operation of a motor vehicle, though a judge found him civilly liable for operating a bus on a restricted roadway and for failing to obey road signs. A telephone listing for Jackson was not in service. His criminal defense attorney did not say whether he was representing Jackson in the civil suit. Jackson's employer, Raymond Talmadge, operator of Calvary Coach in Philadelphia, said Thursday he could not answer questions. The suit also names Prevost Car Inc., manufacturer of the bus that crashed, and the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation as defendants. DCR is responsible for Soldiers Field Road. Both declined to comment. Ronca said Cruz, a former track runner and basketball player, now has limited use of his arms and cannot extend his fingers. Despite his physical limitations, Ronca said, Cruz has learned to get around in a wheelchair, sign his name, and use his knuckles to type on a screen keyboard like an iPad. "His attitude has been very mature for the most part about trying to improve himself," he said. Originally posted by Laura Crimaldi on Bostonglobe.com. Serious Injury Lawsuit - Ball & Bonholtzer Trial Attorney - Los Angeles

Georgia Lawyer Accused Of Fraud Seeks To Halt Legal Malpractice Suit

Attorney Wilson Randolph Smith, who faces both a legal malpractice suit and criminal charges, has asked a judge to halt discovery in the lawsuit.

The action by Smith’s attorneys is joined by his co-defendants, Smith’s law partner, attorney Robert L. Jenkins, and Smith and Jenkins, their law firm.

Kentucky Hospital Will Pay $17.5 Million In Medical Malpractice Lawsuit

T.J. Samson Community Hospital found negligent in the medical malpractice lawsuit filed by parents of a boy who suffered a brain injury during his delivery. 

The $17.5 million settlement, signed by Barren Circuit Judge Phil Patton, came a few months after a jury ordered the hospital to pay $18.27 million to Tristan Hamilton and his mother, Brittney Hamilton. Tristan Hamilton has required persistent care since suffering the injury in 2007 during delivery. His mother, acting as Tristan's guardian and conservator, filed a lawsuit against the hospital and the obstetrician/gynecologist who delivered the baby. A civil trial held in November resulted in a jury finding that the hospital acted negligently in deviating from the accepted standard of care for Tristan, with the negligence being a substantial factor in causing the child's injury. Kelly Dirig, the OB/GYN who delivered the baby, was cleared of any liability by the jury. Louisville attorney Tyler Thompson, who represented the Hamiltons, said he agreed to a reduction in the financial settlement from the jury verdict in exchange for the hospital declining to appeal the verdict to the Kentucky Court of Appeals. The $17.5 million is for medical, hospital and prescription-related expenses to date and in the future and also accounts for mental anguish and pain and suffering in the past and future and impairment of power to earn money. "It sounds like a lot of money, but when you factor it out over the course of (Tristan's) life expectancy, he's going to need it," Thompson said. "It's hard to envision this money lasting until 2070, because that's what it's going to have to do and hopefully will." Thompson said Brittney Hamilton was glad to have the case behind her. "She's got security now knowing that if something happens to her, (her son) will be taken care of," Thompson said. "That was first and foremost in everybody's mind." Glasgow attorney Jeff Herbert, who represents the hospital, did not return a message seeking comment. Originally posted by Justin Story on bgdailynews.com. Medical Malpractice - Ball & Bonholtzer Trial Attorney - Los Angeles

Texas Man Seeks $1-10 Million In Legal Malpractice Suit

The plaintiff in a legal malpractice lawsuit alleges that the Austin lawyer who represented him in an automobile accident claim refuses to turn over his settlement money.

Bill Chumley of Katy, Texas brings negligence, breach of contract, conversion, and money had and received causes of action against Carl Barry, of Barry Law Group.

Chumley alleges that Barry is "holding" money received from settlement of his case that belongs to him.

Shell To Pay $90 Million In Personal Injury Claims & Legal Fees To Carson Residents

Settlement approved in personal injury class action lawsuit against Shell Oil Company by Carson residents who live above a contaminated former waste oil site. 

In the sixties, developers built homes in the Carson Carousel neighborhood atop what had once been open pits of waste oil. Over decades, residents and their pets developed nosebleeds, tumors and other health problems they attribute to lingering contamination.  Shell had owned and operated the facility before selling it to developer Barclay Hollander. This settlement, approved by Los Angeles Superior Court Judge William Highberger, will pay for personal injury claims and lawyer's fees from a class action lawsuit.  Barclay Hollander, now owned by Dole Foods, has not settled, and remains a target in the suit, which is scheduled for trial later this year. "We are pleased that the court has approved the settlement," said Shell spokesman Alan Caldwell, in a written statement, adding that it "brings the Mayor, City Council members, the residents and Shell closer to resolving issues in the neighborhood." Residents, regulators and Shell continue to spar over the extent of cleanup still required. The settlement doesn't end Shell's responsibility for the contamination, Caldwell acknowledged. "The health, safety and well-being of the residents in the Carousel community continues to be the priority for Shell," he said. The Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board has ordered the company to pay for remediation of soil and groundwater around and under nearly 300 homes. Tests show that waste oil, once about 10 feet deep, now lies as much as 50 feet below the surface.  The water board's executive officer, Sam Unger, characterized the site as unique. "Most of the industrial sites we have are contaminated by industrial chemicals or refined petroleum products. This is a site primarily characterized by refined crude oil," Unger said. "Consequently, how the contamination may or may not move underneath the site is more uncertain. And given that uncertainty we've been developing high-quality data on which to base future plans." Regulators are now weighing public comments on proposed cleanup, anticipated to cost $146 million. Unger says he expects to finalize a clean-up plan later this year. Orginally posted by Molly Peterson on scpr.org. Personal Injury - Ball & Bonholtzer Trial Attorney - Los Angeles

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