/raid1/www/Hosts/bankrupt/CAR_Public/000908.MBX              C L A S S   A C T I O N   R E P O R T E R

             Friday, September 8, 2000, Vol. 2, No. 175


ADELAIDE SHOW: Mechanical Failure Blamed for Collapse of Ride
ANNE ARUNDEL: Developer Challenges County's Policy of Paying to Build
BEHR PROCESS Judge Orders To Notify Customers In Paint Mildew Case
BRIDGESTONE/FIRESTONE, FORD: Attorney Contemplates Consumer MDL
BRIDGESTONE/FIRESTONE: Judge Denies Request to Expand Tire Recall

GUN MANUFACTURERS: Judge to Rule On Class-Action Status of Lawsuit
HARSHAW CHEMICAL: On-the-Job Uranium Exposure Risk off Record
HOLOCAUST VICTIMS: French Railway Company Ste Nationale Sued for Role
INMATES LITIGATION: Suit against 2 CA Women’s Prisons Won’t Be Reopened
LAND REFORMS: Annan Gives Conditional Support to Zimbabwe’s Program

LOS ANGELES POLICE: L.A. Times Reports on Criticism on Suing under RICO
NY CITY: AIDS  Homeless Lack Evidence of Subpar Benefits for Injunction
PCB POLLUTION: Logan Martin Lake Residents May Get Payments in 6 Months
RAMPART CASES: Court Reassigns Pretrial Proceedings to One Judge
RIO TINTO: Denies Legal Claims Levelled at Bougainville Mine

SBARRO INC: Restaurant Managers Sue in Washington and CA for OT Pay
TEL-SAVE SECURITIES: PA Suit Can Include Stock and Option Holders
OBACCO LITIGATION: 2 Makers Said to Discuss Settling All Smokers' Suits
TOBACCO LITIGATION: More Than 2000 Flight Attendants’ Suits Expected
TOBACCO LITIGATION: Philip Morris Will Vigorously Defend Latest Attack

USDA: Former Justice Sees National Class in Non-Black Farmers' Suit
WHITMAN, PEPSIAMERICAS: Served with Complaint in DE on Proposed Merger

* The Lawyers Weekly Publishes General Review on Class Action in Quebec


ADELAIDE SHOW: Mechanical Failure Blamed for Collapse of Ride
Mechanical failure has been blamed for the collapse of the Spin Dragon ride
at the Royal Adelaide Show last Saturday, injuring more than 30 people.
South Australian Workplace Relations Minister Rob Lawson said a preliminary
report on the incident revealed that a number of bolts on the ride had
sheared off, allowing the passenger carriage to crash to the ground.
However Mr Lawson said just what caused the bolts to fail was still to be

"Specific mechanical components from the Spin Dragon, such as gears,
bearings and pinions, have been removed for testing by independent
metallurgical experts in an effort to determine the cause," the minister
said. "We will leave no stone unturned to ascertain the cause of this

Mr Lawson said the government would not release the report as Crown law
advice indicated the investigation and any possible prosecutions under
occupational health, welfare and safety legislation could be compromised if
it was made public. He would not comment if criminal charges were possible.
"We are continuing our lines of inquiry and we are continuing with the
scientific tests," he said. The minister said he had no reason to believe
there was any deficiency in the inspections of the rides before the show
began last Friday September 1.

When the Spin Dragon collapsed on Saturday night, 37 people were injured -
including 27 who were admitted to or treated in hospital. As at Thursday,
four Chinese students, who were partly crushed as they waited to board the
ride, remained in hospital, three listed as serious and one stable. Earlier
this week the operators of the ride said the Spin Dragon was four years old
and had been maintained according to design specifications and Australian
safety standards.

However, Wittingslow Amusements spokesman Des Wittingslow declined to
comment on what caused the collapse. "Until workplace safety and the
independent engineers can tell us what has happened we do not want to
engage in any speculation as to the cause of the accident," Mr Wittingslow

On Thursday September 7 a class action was launched in the SA District
Court alleging Wittingslow Entertainment Pty Ltd failed to properly
maintain the ride. The action was instigated on behalf of 30 people,
although the lawyers involved said they expected more to join. Their claim
for compensation alleged Wittingslow operated the ride without due care or
skill, saying the company knew or ought to have known it was unsafe. It
alleged operators allowed people to enter the ride when they knew or ought
to have known "the ride presented a danger to those people using it". (AAP
Newsfeed, September 7, 2000)

ANNE ARUNDEL: Developer Challenges County's Policy of Paying to Build
A Silver Spring developer has filed a $ 50 million class-action lawsuit
against Anne Arundel County, challenging its long-standing policy of
extracting money from builders in exchange for permission to proceed with
new housing projects.

Halle Development Inc. called the county's policy "extortion" and accused
planning officials of routinely violating part of the county code called
the Adequacy of Public Facilities law--which expressly forbids trading
waivers for money.

The outcome of the suit, which was filed Tuesday in the county's Circuit
Court, could have wide implications for this fast-growing suburban region.
Should it succeed, it could force the county to refund millions in school
construction costs that already have been borne by developers.

In theory, it could also drastically slow the pace of development, because
the county would have to upgrade schools and roads before granting future
developers permission to build.

But county spokesman John Morris said developers were never forced to pay.
"In areas where schools exceeded capacity, they could either wait, build
additional capacity themselves or pay the county for the additional
capacity," he said. "The waiting was always an option."

Former county executive O. James Lighthizer, who is among four county
executives named in the suit, said he is baffled by the contention that the
policy is improper. "It has been a long-standing practice of most suburban
counties in Maryland," he said. "Why they would challenge it is beyond me."

Under the adequacy of facilities law, Anne Arundel has always reserved the
right to reject housing developments that place an excessive burden on
roads, sewer lines and schools. But only since 1988, under Lighthizer, has
the county employed a policy through which officials can waive those

For years, the question of how the county has doled out those waivers has
been a source of contention among developers, who argued that the process
favored those who were politically connected.

For Halle, the issue has not been fairness, but cost, according to the
suit. The company has built a number of residential subdivisions in Anne
Arundel--including Seven Oaks, with 4,500 homes in Odenton. In exchange for
waivers needed to build that project, county officials said, Halle agreed
to pay Anne Arundel $ 4.7 million in per-pupil fees and give the county 16
acres for a future school. (The Washington Post, September 7, 2000)

BEHR PROCESS Judge Orders To Notify Customers In Paint Mildew Case
A judge has ordered paint manufacturer Behr Process Corp. to prepare for
mildew damage claims that a lawyer for complainants says could total more
than $ 100 million. At issue are Behr exterior finishes and sealants found
to actually cause mildew. Grays Harbor County Superior Court Judge David
Foscue ordered Behr to make an initial payment of $2 million toward the
cost of handling claims, including local television advertising to notify
customers of their right to recover damages.

The products are sold and used throughout the United States and Canada,
though Foscue's judgment was issued in a class action lawsuit filed on
behalf of Western Washington consumers. A lawsuit on behalf of Eastern
Washington consumers of Behr products was filed Wednesday, and additional
complaints are pending in California, said attorney Michael Withey, whose
firm represented plaintiffs in the original case. "It might be that a
national class will be certified," Withey said. "That hasn't been decided

Officials with Behr's parent company, Masco Corp. of Taylor, Mich., said
they are confident Foscue's judgment, along with a May jury verdict in the
case, will be overturned. "The judgment just continues a pattern of errors
that we think will be reversed on appeal," said spokesman Samuel Cypert at
Masco, a building and home-improvement company. Masco, which earned $4.35
billion in 1998, acquired Behr about a year ago. "We will definitely
aggressively defend our position - that the product, when it's applied
properly, will work properly," he said, adding that Santa Ana, Calif.-based
Behr "always stands behind its products."

Cypert contends Behr was not permitted to offer any evidence to counter
allegations made during the trial. "I might add that this product has been
sold for years. We have thousands of people who have bought the product and
many repeat customers."

Foscue's mid-August judgment - disclosed by Withey, who represented nine
original plaintiffs - follows a May jury verdict against Behr that awarded
between $14,000 and $87,000 to the plaintiff families, depending on the
size of their homes.

Jurors found Behr had concealed outdoor-exposure test results that showed
that Behr's Super Liquid Rawhide Nos. 12 and 13 and Natural Seal Plus Nos.
80 and 92 caused mildew damage within three to six months of application.
That test is "one of the things that is in question," Cypert said.

Foscue has awarded additional damages of $10,000 each to nine families to
penalize Behr for engaging in "unfair and deceptive business practices,"
according to a news release from Withey's Seattle law firm.

In addition to blaming its customers for the mildew damage that discolored
their homes, Behr tried to sell them more products to restore the natural
wood finish, Foscue said.

Cypert said he could not say Behr's products were misapplied in every case.
"But we think when the facts are brought out in an appeal that the decision
will be reversed," he said. (The Associated Press State & Local Wire,
September 7, 2000)

BRIDGESTONE/FIRESTONE, FORD: Attorney Contemplates Consumer MDL
A few days after Bridgestone/Firestone Inc. recalled 6.5 million of its
tires, lawyer Michael Burk of Austin, Tex., bought the name
"firestonelitigation.com"-and 40 other variations on that Internet address.

Despite his 41 soapboxes, Burk has yet to actually file a suit. He says
he's talking with other plaintiffs' lawyers across the nation who plan to
file a consumer class action against Ford Motor Co. and Firestone "in the
near future."

The Internet addresses will all funnel back to a single Web page containing
as-yet-undetermined information about the suit.

Lawyers all over the country see opportunity in the escalating legal,
commercial and public relations disaster for Ford and Firestone.
Plaintiffs' lawyers report scores of contacts from nervous consumers and
from accident victims who think their crashes are worth a look.

Class action lawyers have filed at least 20 cases across the country. More
or less, they cover similar legal terrain, although the specific
allegations seem to change with each day's newspapers.

In New Orleans, lawyer Stephen Rue expects to file a class action soon,
based on information from recently launched federal and state
investigations of Firestone and Ford. "We're letting the government do the
discovery for us," says Rue, who has bought rights to the name

While there is no telling which of the overlapping class actions-if
any-will eventually hit pay dirt, Rue says he hopes the consumer litigation
will be consolidated into a multi-district litigation in federal court.

                           A Federal Case

At first, the government lagged behind the plaintiffs' bar on the Firestone
problem. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration pressed
Firestone and Ford to recall the tires only after 75 death and injury cases
had been filed, according to Tab Turner, a Little Rock, Ark., lawyer who
has networked with other lawyers suing the companies. Turner believes that
as many as 20 have filed suits since the recall, based on deaths and
injuries allegedly caused by defective Firestone tires.

Now the government is catching up-with a vengeance. Federal regulators are
investigating, and on Aug. 31 they raised their tally of U.S. deaths
allegedly caused by faulty Firestone tires to 88. The Senate and House are
holding hearings. State attorneys general have begun to sue. In addition,
Venezuela has urged prosecutors to pursue criminal charges against Ford and
Firestone. "Everyone on the defense side is so busy with the government and
the media, the litigation has been slowed substantially," says Turner.

Longtime accident victims' lawyers such as Tom Dasse of Scottsdale, Ariz.,
previously armed with the best data, are hustling to keep up with the fresh
statistics the companies are releasing-in between potential clients
calling, other lawyers calling to offer cases for a cut of the winnings,
and then the lawyers calling again to take back their cases.

There's also the need to update open files. "I had a case I had filed
before all this broke" involving a tire blowout on a Ford sport utility
vehicle that tipped, killing one teen-ager and injuring another, says
Dasse. He sued only Firestone.

"Traditionally, you sued Ford if it was a handling and stability case-you
know, if the vehicle began to tip while it was on pavement," he says. "This
case is not a good handling and stability case because the SUV didn't start
to tip until it went way out into the desert. But I am going to amend to
bring in Ford on the basis that Ford had knowledge it concealed concerning
these overseas accidents and then failed to recall or warn."

Despite Ford's attempts to distance itself from Firestone, Turner says, the
carmaker provided Firestone with the specifications for the faulty tires.
Ford also recommended that drivers inflate the tires at a low pressure,
which helps to stabilize the vehicle but adds to the risk of a tire
blowout, he says. "Ford and Firestone are both up to their eyeballs in this
problem," he says.

To make matters worse for Ford, it may have a second recall to organize. On
Aug. 30, an Oakland, Calif., state court judge said in a preliminary order
that he intends to order the recall of up to 2 million Fords with ignitions
that allegedly cause them to stall unexpectedly. (Howard v. Ford Motor Co.,
7637852-2 Cal. Super. Ct. Alameda Co.). Ford says that it plans to oppose
the order in a hearing set for Sept. 28.

                                No Class

Some lawyers representing plaintiffs in personal injury cases are rolling
their eyes at the sudden interest of other lawyers-particularly class
action lawyers-in joining a battle they have been fighting for years.
"They've been such tough cases, nobody wants them. I was the only lawyer in
Phoenix who did these cases," says Dasse. "Now a thousand lawyers in
Phoenix do tire cases."

Class action lawyers, unlike Dasse, will seek to recover the costs to
consumers forced to replace their tires. Damages for each person would be
low but could be multiplied by millions of class members.

Lawyers for people injured and killed in crashes will likely go it alone,
pursuing individual cases in hopes of getting big awards, possibly
including punitive damages. Typically, these cases will be brought in state
court, to avoid the delay of federal multi-district litigation. (Fulton
County Daily Report, September 7, 2000)

BRIDGESTONE/FIRESTONE: Judge Denies Request to Expand Tire Recall
A federal judge has refused to order Bridgestone/Firestone to expand its
recall of defective tires. U.S. District Judge David Herndon on Wednesday
said the tire maker hasn't had enough time to make its case in a lawsuit
filed by an owner of defective tires.

Lawyers representing owners of Firestone tires also wanted a speedier tire
exchange program, more public notice of possible dangers, and a mandatory

The lawsuit is one of more than 40 class-action lawsuits pending in courts
across the country over the tires, which are suspected of shredding their
treads at highway speeds.

Attorney Jonathan Selbin represents a group of about 150
Bridgestone/Firestone customers who claim their tires failed. Selbin says
the current voluntary recall is so slow it's unsafe. Currently,
Bridgestone/Firestone is recalling an estimated 6.5 million of its tires.

The tire maker announced a recall on Aug. 9 of the P235/75R15 size ATX and
ATX II models as well as Wilderness AT tires in the same size. Many of the
tires were made at the company's Decatur plant. The tires are standard
equipment on some Ford models, including the Explorer. (The Associated
Press State & Local Wire, September 7, 2000)

GUN MANUFACTURERS: Judge to Rule On Class-Action Status of Lawsuit
Depositions from five plaintiffs involved in a class-action lawsuit against
the firearms industry will be taken so a judge can determine if they
represent others who have lost loved ones to gun violence, attorneys said.
The depositions are to be finished before the next hearing on Oct. 31.

Attorneys for the five plaintiffs, who include the father of slain Chicago
Police Officer Michael Ceriale, and attorneys representing the firearms
industry, appeared before Cook County Circuit Judge Jennifer Duncan-Brice.
The plaintiffs all are from families who have lost loved ones in Chicago
shootings committed with handguns by assailants under age 18, said their
attorney Locke Bowman. Family members have filed suit seeking undisclosed
damages from more than a dozen gunmakers, distributors and retailers, who
plaintiffs say should pay for results of gun violence survivors have

At issue is whether family members constitute a class because their shared
experience mirrors that of other victims of gun violence in the city, he

Although Duncan-Brice dismissed claims of negligence against the gun
industry in May, she ruled that parts of the lawsuit that attempt to hold
the firearms industry accountable under "public nuisance" laws can stand.
(Chicago Tribune, September 7, 2000)

HARSHAW CHEMICAL: On-the-Job Uranium Exposure Risk off Record
In January 1948, Bernard Wolf came here to assure workers at Harshaw
Chemical Co. that the uranium they secretly processed for the government's
nuclear weapons program posed no threat to their health.

In fact, Wolf, a medical director with the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission,
had evidence of serious dangers. His staff had done classified studies at
Harshaw's restricted "Area C" plant and found that concentrations of
radioactive uranium dust in the air reached 200 times the safety limits of
the day.

Having alerted Harshaw to the problems, Wolf wanted workers' urine checked
for signs of kidney damage. But company officials worried that the tests
might alarm employees, so they asked that he come out first to allay any
fears among the men. "It is easy to understand that extensive sample-taking
of this character may cause (workers) to wonder about their health," Wolf's
boss wrote to Harshaw executives just after the doctor's trip. "It was for
this reason that Dr. Wolf (visited) to explain to them that all of our
records indicated that no unusual hazard existed."

Actually, the severe hazards already documented at Harshaw were getting
worse. By late 1948, medical officials in the nuclear weapons program were
reporting that nearly all of the 100 workers at Area C were overexposed to
radioactive dust, with a third of them breathing 140 to 374 times the
safety limit. Wolf, who is now deceased, raised concerns that the exposures
could cause cancers, kidney problems and other illnesses that might not
show up for decades. "Workers (at Harshaw) will have to be followed
medically very carefully in the future to detect the earliest signs of any
damage," Wolf's staff reported.

But after Harshaw's work for the nuclear weapons program ended in the
mid-1950s, no one returned to check the workers' health or tell them of
their risks.

Here and elsewhere, thousands of workers were left in the dark about the
often severe hazards they faced while working for private companies that
were hired secretly in the 1940s and '50s to process radioactive and toxic
material for nuclear weapons. Fifty years later, many of the survivors have
increased chances of cancer, as well as kidney, lung and other diseases as
a result of their work. But there's been almost no effort to learn whether
such illnesses have occurred or contributed to any deaths.

Now, with Congress and the Clinton administration trying to account for
illnesses among nuclear weapons workers, people who labored at commercial
facilities employed by the arms program in its early years may be missed
again. Congress is expected to vote in the coming weeks on legislation to
provide special compensation to men and women with health problems linked
to nuclear weapons jobs, but that legislation promises mainly to cover
those who were employed at government-owned sites that ultimately assumed
most weapons-production operations.

"The people at these (private) places have essentially been forgotten,"
says Michael Sprinker of the International Chemical Workers Union, which
represented people at some companies.

"They paid a huge price for fighting the Cold War," he adds. "It would have
been one thing if they'd made the choice: 'OK, I'll take the risk because
this is important for the country or because it's a good job that can
support my family.' But they didn't make that choice. They were told this
stuff wouldn't hurt them. The government has to take some responsibility."

As USA TODAY reported Wednesday, hundreds of companies quietly shifted
their plants, mills and shops to nuclear weapons work under classified
contracts and subcontracts with the weapons program in its early years.

Many of the sites did only limited work, but dozens handled large volumes
of material, sometimes for a decade or more before the government finally
had its own weapons-making facilities ready to take over in the mid-1950s.

The newspaper conducted scores of interviews and studied 100,000 pages of
records on the operations, many of them recently declassified and never
before made public. Findings:

For decades, the government suppressed classified reports on dozens of
contracting sites where workers faced extreme levels of radiation and
airborne toxins from beryllium, fluorides and other dangerous chemicals.
One 1949 survey of hazards at seven firms processing uranium in St. Louis
and Cleveland and at facilities outside Pittsburgh and Buffalo found high
radioactive dust levels at every one. Of 648 workers at those sites, the
partially declassified survey noted, 40% had average exposures at least
five times the safety limit; 10% were at least 125 times the limit.

Federal officials and executives at contracting companies often misled
workers about their risks because of fears that they would seek hazard pay,
sue for damages or demand safer conditions. The weapons program repeatedly
killed plans to give workers details on their radiation exposures. "It is
necessary to consider whether (such a policy) would serve merely to alarm
employees unnecessarily, invite baseless claims, and complicate collective
bargaining," noted a 1956 memo circulated to top program officials.

Recommendations for reducing workplace dangers often were shelved because
the government thought they might interfere with production and the
contractors didn't want to spend the money. In a 1949 report, medical
officials in the weapons program urged that hazards be cut "despite
existing operational pressures." But noting the need "to keep costs to a
minimum," they suggested that an incremental approach "seems more logical
than assuring safe results by over-designing" protections.

The lack of medical follow-up on people who did nuclear weapons work at
private facilities makes it impossible to say how many of the 10,000 or so
people those facilities employed over the years may have gotten sick.

But experts hired by USA TODAY to review some of the old health studies
estimate that workers in the most hazardous jobs have substantially higher
risks for cancer and other illnesses.

"Most all the guys are dead now. Cancer, kidneys, lung problems, you see a
lot of that," says John Smith, 87, a Harshaw retiree who worked on the
uranium-processing operation. "I feel lucky to be alive, but I'm worried.
It makes you bitter, them knowing about the risks and not telling. If I'd
known, I would have quit." Wednesday, USA TODAY revealed the untold story
of the role played by private companies in the Cold War. This is the story
of what happened to the workers.

                          Calculated risks

Soon after the first private companies were hired during World War II to
help build the first atomic bombs, the government launched a highly
classified effort to measure workers' exposure to hazardous substances and
monitor the effects. Plants were checked for radiation and air quality;
workers got urine tests and physicals. Later, the Atomic Energy Commission
(AEC), which took over the weapons program in 1947, also collected tissue

"All we did was pass the word among the physicians in the hospitals, if
they run across any surgical cases or postmortem (exams on) uranium
workers, that we would like to have kidney, lung, bone," Merril Eisenbud, a
top AEC health official, said in an interview with federal officials before
his death in 1997. "Did they get permission? I don't know."

By the late 1940s, workers at some of the companies were showing signs of
kidney damage and respiratory ailments from breathing air laced with
uranium, thorium, beryllium and fluoride compounds. Suspicious cancers also
were surfacing. The numbers, while relatively small, bolstered concerns
that more serious and widespread problems lay ahead.

But the immediate demand for more weapons tended to overwhelm such
long-term worries.

"People doing health (oversight) were caught in the middle," says Gilbert
Whittemore, a lawyer and senior researcher for a presidential panel set up
in 1994 to investigate revelations that the weapons program did secret Cold
War radiation studies on unknowing subjects. "They were trying to establish
enough authority and credibility to enforce (safety) standards and on the
other hand not interfere with the weapons-production effort."

Initially, the balancing act was a wartime necessity. In June 1945, just
two months before U.S. planes dropped atomic bombs on Japan, the weapons
program's medical chief more than tripled the "maximum allowable
concentration" of radioactive dust in air at contracting plants. Studies
suggested the higher exposures would be tolerable, his directive said, and
"given the extreme difficulty in maintaining (the prior limit) in industry,
such a change will be of definite benefit in expediting the war effort."

The war's end in August did little to ease the demand for weapons,
particularly once the Soviets' first atomic bomb tests kicked off the arms
race in 1949. By 1951, more than 150 private facilities had received
contracts to do nuclear weapons work. Violations of safety codes remained
common, and the limited efforts to protect unwitting workers often fell

At Electro Metallurgical Co. in Niagara Falls, N.Y., which processed
uranium from 1943 to 1952, radioactive dust levels often soared to hundreds
of times the prevailing safety limits. (The company failed to even vacuum
work areas, despite being "persistently instructed," a 1949 AEC memo
noted.) But when AEC medical officials suggested that the commission could
pay for new ventilation, higher-ups balked at the cost. It would be only a
few more years, they reasoned, before federal facilities would be built to
take over the work.

The Institute for Energy and Environmental Research, which was hired by USA
TODAY to review the records, estimates that during peak years workers'
annual lung doses of radiation ranged from 50 to 6,000 rem -- measurements
up to hundreds of times the limits of the day. Based on conventional risk
formulas, exposures toward the high end of that range, even for just a few
years, translate into a "very high probability" of cancer and kidney
ailments, the institute reports.

The cost concerns that stymied action at ElectroMet were not unusual. But
more often, the major obstacles were operational.

At Monsanto Chemical plants in Dayton, Ohio, for example, urine tests on
workers processing polonium often showed levels of the radioactive element
many times the "maximum tolerance." Health officials reported in 1946 that
the plants could not meet quotas "without having certain individuals go
above (the) tolerance level."

The Dayton project, run in an old playhouse and other leased facilities
through much of the 1940s, was the sole source of polonium used to trigger
nuclear weapons. So it was decided that workers with up to twice the
allowed level of contamination in their urine would still be assigned to
"hot" areas whenever necessary.

While big operations such as Dayton and ElectroMet tended to have the
biggest problems with worker exposures, their troubles weren't unique.
Smaller steel mills and metallurgy shops that cut and pressed uranium and
thorium metal into nuclear fuel rods -- places such as Joslyn Manufacturing
in Fort Wayne, Ind.; Bridgeport Brass plants in Connecticut and Adrian,
Mich.; and William E. Pratt Manufacturing in Joliet, Ill. -- often exposed
workers to radioactive dust levels that were tens of times the safety

Other companies had problems with non-radioactive but highly toxic chemical
compounds such as beryllium, which causes lung disease. At Hooker Chemical
in Niagara Falls, N.Y., which made additives for uranium refining, weapons
program officials noted in a 1944 report that fluoride and chlorine vapors
filled the air "to such an extent that breathing was difficult."

Most contractors "were supposed to do a certain amount of production work
and be done with it, but it ended up being much more," says Alfred Breslin,
76, a health physicist in the weapons program from 1948 to 1980 and a
co-author on many of the old studies of private facilities. "The initial
controls were not always adequate. For the most part, (upgrades) were done,
not as fast as we would have liked in many cases."

The federal facilities built in the 1950s to take over the work boasted
special ventilation, mechanized operations and other safety features absent
at private sites. At the government's Fernald complex in Cincinnati, which
assumed uranium and thorium processing, new worker safeguards reflected
"experiences encountered at the old (commercial) plants," a 1951 AEC memo

Even so, in 1994 Fernald workers won a broad government settlement that
included health monitoring, arbitration of disputed worker compensation
claims and $ 15 million in compensation after charging in a class-action
suit that they had higher risks of cancer and other illnesses from
radioactive and toxic exposures.

                            Hidden Dangers

The frontline workers at Harshaw were practically the only ones involved in
the weapons operation there who didn't know about the risks they faced.

By 1948, the plant was one of the weapons program's two biggest producers
of uranium compounds. The other was Mallinckrodt Chemical Works in St.
Louis. Both were notorious among AEC health officials for safety problems.

As radiation levels at Harshaw soared, commission officials repeatedly
warned the company, but their recommendations for corrective action were
ignored. "No significant progress has been made in correcting the hazardous
conditions," one top AEC manager wrote in a testy 1949 letter to Harshaw
executives. The AEC official added that the company "could correct all of
these conditions (if) management were seriously concerned."

But such worries had no effect on the AEC's production quotas. By 1950, the
plant was running up to 24 hours a day, and workers' radiation and fluoride
exposures continued to climb.

It wasn't until the early 1950s, almost 10 years after Harshaw began doing
weapons work, that new, dust-catching ventilation hoods were installed in
the plant and the air quality problems began to subside. Records suggest
the change was driven as much by the AEC's desire to recoup precious
uranium as by health concerns.

Some workers suspected that their jobs might be more dangerous than they
were led to believe. Suspicions grew as men were mysteriously taken out of
the plant after urine tests. In one 10-month period spanning 1950 and 1951,
nine workers were dispatched with kidney ailments diagnosed as uranium
poisoning. But there were no explanations.

"No one ever told us there was a problem," says Smith, the Harshaw retiree.
"The guys who got pulled out, we thought it was because there was something
already wrong with them, maybe they were drinking too much and it showed up
in their urine."

The Institute for Energy and Environmental Research, based in Maryland,
estimates that workers with the worst cumulative radiation exposures at
Harshaw got the equivalent of a whole-body radiation dose of about 1,000
rem. That level corresponds to a 40% chance of dying from cancer over a
lifetime and a 200% increase in cancer risk compared with unexposed
persons. Their chances for kidney and respiratory problems are also
substantially higher.

Surviving workers recall dust coating the plant floor. It stung their
faces, gave them rashes.

The men were told to wear respirators during some tasks, but "they were
uncomfortable," says James Southern, 76, who worked on Harshaw's uranium
operation in the late 1940s and '50s. He notes that many men used the masks
only sporadically and rarely bothered to change the filters. "They never
told us why we needed them. If they had, they wouldn't have had anyone
working there."

Providing detailed information to workers was never seen as an option.
Reports on operational hazards, like most weapons program documents, were
"born secret": automatically classified unless specifically censored for

In 1949, when AEC medical officials sought to publish a paper generally
discussing hazards at weapons-making sites, declassification officers
directed that mentions of worker exposures at specific sites be deleted.
The cuts "do not necessarily involve (secret) data," they wrote, "but (were
suggested) on the basis that they are unnecessary references or might be
bad from a public relations and an insurance point of view."

                        Filed and Forgotten

The secrecy surrounding the nuclear weapons program's early contracting
operations has resulted in a paucity of research on whether employees at
Harshaw and other sites suffered any harm from their risky jobs. Many
workers still are reluctant to talk about those days, recalling the
background checks and loyalty oaths that were a condition of their
employment. Few know of the hazards they faced. There have been no
lawsuits, no organized efforts to come forward with their stories.

"We never thought much about the risks. I think we're paying for it today,"
says Joseph Krall, 79, who worked at Vitro Manufacturing in Canonsburg, Pa.
The company processed millions of pounds of uranium compounds from 1942
through 1957.

In 1951, an AEC health survey at Vitro found work areas where radiation was
"dangerously high." Krall, who now has kidney disease, was among the men
sent into the big mixing vats, 25 feet wide and 10 feet deep, to sponge up
radioactive residue at each day's end -- a job done with no respirator.

"I have to take all these pills now, and that's probably why," he says.
"They never said anything about risks. They didn't want us talking about
it." Most of the old reports on the contracting operations sit under
decades of dust at scattered federal archives. They are among millions of
pages of documents declassified under openness initiatives launched by the
Clinton administration. But they have been obscured by a flood of
revelations about unsafe practices at big federal weapons plants and secret
radiation experiments on human subjects. USA TODAY has been among the first
to examine them.

"It's amazing that these individuals (employed by private contractors) have
never been tracked down and considered (for study)," says John Till, a
nationally known expert on radiation's physiological effects. "Some
(exposures) appear to have been very, very high."

Academics and federal scientists have done volumes of research on illnesses
and deaths among workers at more than a dozen federal weapons plants and
labs, in some cases finding sharp increases in rates of cancer, kidney
disease and pulmonary problems. Yet only two modern-day studies have been
done on employees from private contracting sites.

Each of those studies, which covered workers involved in uranium processing
at Mallinckrodt Chemical and Linde Air Products in Tonawanda, N.Y., found
significantly higher rates of several of the same illnesses found at some
of the government weapons facilities.

Now workers from the old contracting operations are getting passed over
again. This year, the Clinton administration made the first government
acknowledgement that the nuclear weapons program made workers sick. But
statements have focused on workers at federal facilities.

The compensation bill now before Congress reflects that limited focus. It
would provide $ 200,000 payments to nuclear weapons workers with various
illnesses linked to radioactive and toxic exposures. In cases where a
worker has died from such a disease, the money would go to survivors.

But the legislation promises mainly to cover people from federal
installations. Workers from most private contracting sites would not be
eligible unless the Department of Energy specifically "designated" that
their companies had been involved in weapons work.

"From the start, our goal has been to include everybody," Assistant Energy
Secretary David Michaels says. "We've written this legislation knowing
there are lots of (private) places out there. We think eventually we'll get
to all of them, but we didn't want to write specific sites into the bill
because . . . we'd just find more next year."

Perhaps, workers' advocates say, but the lack of any deadline for getting
sites designated leaves no guarantees that workers from private facilities
will be covered.

"Depending on how friendly an administration is to this compensation idea,
that (designation process) allows for a lot of foot-dragging," says Richard
Miller of Paper, Allied-Industrial, Chemical and Energy Workers
International Union, which represented workers at some contractors.

"It's really come down to a matter of cost," adds Miller, who is lobbying
to expand the bill to cover the private workers. Opponents "say we know
almost nothing about these (contracting sites) because there have been no
studies. But we know people were put in harm's way, that they weren't told,
that these were conscious decisions. It's all about where (Congress and the
administration) draw a line. But these people are old, more die every day
without receiving one iota of justice."

Many of the workers agree, wondering aloud why their role in the Cold War
seems to have been forgotten once again.

"The government should have made sure we knew the risks; they should have
made sure the company told us," says Allen Hurt, 77, a Harshaw retiree who
worked on the company's uranium processing operation. "They were passing
the buck. They still are." (USA Today, September 7, 2000)

HOLOCAUST VICTIMS: French Railway Company Ste Nationale Sued for Role
Holocaust survivors and their descendants have filed a class action suit
here against Ste Nationale des Chemins de Fer Francais, charging that it
knowingly transported 75,000 Jews to Nazi concentration camps during World
War II. Harriet Tamen, an attorney for the plaintiffs, said the suit was
filed in federal court in Brooklyn on Tuesday and sent to the headquarters
of the SNCF in Paris on Wednesday.

Judge David Trager is to decide within several weeks whether to allow the
suit to proceed.

"SNCF intentionally and knowingly deported French civilians to the Nazi
death camps, and acted in complicity with the Third Reich's policy of
genocide," the suit alleges. "SNCF profited from this conduct, and operated
the deportation trains as an ordinary commercial venture," it says.

One of the plaintiffs, Jean-Jacques Frenkel, who is a Canadian citizen,
said a suit filed against SNCF in Paris was rejected by Judge Jean-Paul
Valat in Feb 1998. "It has been impossible for me to obtain satisfaction in
French courts. Therefore I am appealing to U.S. courts," he said.

The suit is based on a U.S. law called the "Alien Tort Claims Act," a 1789
law that authorizes victims of human rights abuses anywhere in the world to
seek redress in U.S. courts.

There are currently 12 plaintiffs in the suit against SNCF. But U.S. law
allows other plaintiffs to join a class action suit after it has been
filed. (AFX European Focus, September 7, 2000)

INMATES LITIGATION: Suit against 2 CA Women’s Prisons Won’t Be Reopened
A federal class-action lawsuit against two California women's prisons won't
be reopened despite the best efforts of a group of prisoner advocates. The
lawsuit accused the Central California Women's Facility in Chowchilla and
the California Institution for Women in Frontera of failing to provide for
inmates' serious medical needs.

The case was settled in 1997. The state agreed to pay $1.2 million in
attorney fees and costs, carry out doctors' orders, provide timely access
to medical care and keep professional medical records.

Since the settlement, medical assessors found the prisons were complying
with court-ordered medical practices, said John Appelbaum, a state
supervising deputy attorney general.

Inmate advocates, who brought the lawsuit on behalf of thousands of female
prisoners, made an effort to reopen the case last month, bringing forward a
pair of prison workers who claimed medical records were tampered with. But
a federal judge in Sacramento ruled against that effort. (AP, September 7,

LAND REFORMS: Annan Gives Conditional Support to Zimbabwe’s Program
THE UN secretary-general, Kofi Annan, on Wednesday gave "conditional"
support for Zimbabwe's controversial land seizure programme, even as the
country's white farmers launched a legal action to halt the campaign. Mr
Annan met Zimbabwe's president, Robert Mugabe, and three other African
leaders - Bakili Muluzi of Malawi, Sam Nujoma of Namibia and Thabo Mbeki of
South Africa - at the UN headquarters in New York. He is understood to have
backed the principle of land redistribution, but insisted that Zimbabwe
must settle is differences over the issue with Britain, the former colonial

Meanwhile in Harare, Zimbabwe's white farmers abandoned their softly-softly
approach in their dealings with Mr Mugabe's government. The farmers
announced a class action in the supreme court to challenge the power
adopted by the government to take land from an individual without
compensation. The action was disclosed at the opening of the annual
congress of the Commercial Farmers' Union (CFU) by union president Tim

As the congress got underway, the government-controlled Herald newspaper
printed an interview given by Mr Mugabe in New York. He was reported to
have said former colonies should seek compensation from their "colonial
masters" for taking their land and exploiting their resources.

In Zimbabwe, Britain had for 90 years exploited its resources and
subjugated its people "for no pay", a situation he likened to slavery in
the United States.

The CFU observed a minute's silence in memory of the five white farmers who
were murdered by so-called liberation war veterans and other farm invaders
from the start of the invasions in mid-February until the parliamentary
election at the end of June, won by Mr Mugabe's ZANU-PF party, although
with a vastly reduced majority. About 30 black opposition party members
were also killed.

Zimbabwe's 4,000 white farmers were used as a political scapegoat by Mr
Mugabe in the run-up to the election. Mr Henwood said: "With intimidation,
disruption to farming and damage to property continuing, the CFU believes
that if farmers take up their cases individually, they could be victimised
by war veterans. "It is for this reason that the CFU, whose sole mandate it
to represent its members, will take action of behalf of its members." This
is a reversal of previous CFU policy which, in recent weeks saw the
withdrawals of legal actions against the establishment. (The Scotsman,
September 7, 2000)

LOS ANGELES POLICE: L.A. Times Reports on Criticism on Suing under RICO
One would be hard-pressed to come up with a more inappropriate use of a bad
law than a federal judge's recent decision to allow a class-action suit
against the Los Angeles Police Department under the federal Racketeer
Influenced and Corrupt Organizations, or RICO, Act. This is a mistake that
the Los Angeles city attorney's office is right to challenge even at this
early, pretrial stage.

This is not the first time that RICO, an overly broad and poorly worded
Nixon-era crime bill, has been used in a suit against a Southern California
law enforcement agency. But the RICO argument ultimately failed in the two
earlier cases while other, straightforward lawsuits alleging police
brutality and other abuses not only succeeded in winning huge settlements
but also laid the groundwork for real police reforms.

RICO was born in 1970 out of the government's frustration with inability to
prosecute and contain organized crime. It handed prosecutors sweeping
powers to link otherwise singular events or actions to criminal
conspiracies and to label them part of a continuing criminal enterprise.
But that's not all RICO did. Its loose wording allowed for prosecutions far
beyond the law's original intent--against health insurers, HMOs,
antiabortion protesters, slumlords, tobacco companies and, yes, police
departments. Sometimes the goals were admirable, but RICO was still a bad
law, easily abused.

Moreover, RICO uses have been labeled affronts to due process that result
in unfair and unduly harsh penalties. As pointed out in a recent Times
commentary by Theodore B. Olson, a former Justice Department official in
the Reagan administration, RICO has been assailed by pillars of the right
and the left, from conservative Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia to the
late liberal Justice Thurgood Marshall. The Times editorial page through
the years has repeatedly called for the repeal of RICO. To paint an entire
police department with such a law, even in the Rampart scandal, is absurd.

In one previous local case, a federal judge allowed a lawyer to sue the
Huntington Beach Police Department under RICO in 1990, charging extortion
in the operation of a speed trap, but the case failed. A year later, RICO
was used by 18 plaintiffs to sue the Los Angeles County Sheriff's
Department over alleged abusive treatment of African Americans. That
argument too failed, whereas many other lawsuits against abusive treatment
by sheriff's deputies succeeded and ultimately forced the department to
accept the Kolts Commission reforms and an independent monitor.

RICO is a blunderbuss. The proper course for reforming the LAPD is for the
city to accept a federal consent decree laying out specific reforms and an
outside monitor to determine whether those goals are being met. RICO, in
contrast, would treble the city's taxpayer liability in Rampart lawsuits
and probably bring the criminal justice system to a halt. RICO could result
in literally every arrest involving an allegation of misconduct going to a
federal court review.

It would put authority over the LAPD in the hands of a federal judge,
probably without the clearly thought-out and mutually agreed-on goals for
police reform that a consent decree would provide. There are many good ways
to force the LAPD to accept reforms. RICO is not one of them. (Los Angeles
Times, September 7, 2000)

NY CITY: AIDS  Homeless Lack Evidence of Subpar Benefits for Injunction
A federal judge denied a request for a preliminary injunction that would
have required New York City officials to improve conditions for the 2,000
HIV-positive homeless people whom the city lodges in rundown
single-occupancy hotels.

U.S. District Judge William H. Pauley III said the plaintiffs cannot use
federal disability-rights laws to challenge the adequacy of the benefits
they receive, unless they first show that their benefits are subpar
compared to the benefits accorded able-bodied homeless people. Pauley said
until such evidence materialized, he would not grant a preliminary
injunction against the city's Division of AIDS Services Income Support,
which supervises the shelter system for people with AIDS and symptomatic
HIV infection.

Last year, five plaintiffs sued the city in federal District Court in
Manhattan, alleging that DASIS violated the Americans with Disabilities Act
and the Rehabilitation Act by placing people with severely compromised
immune systems in unsanitary, unsafe hotel rooms that lacked the facilities
that people with AIDS need to survive (see AIDS Policy & Law, Oct. 15,
1999, p.1).

The lead plaintiff, Zonell Wright, said he never slept in the hotel room he
was assigned, because he found rodents in his bedding, drug syringes strewn
around the hallways, and no refrigeration to preserve temperature-sensitive
medications and food. Food must be eaten according to a strict schedule
coinciding with the drug regimen. At nights, he would sit outside in a
park, waiting until morning, so he could return for a change of clothing.
Some of the hotels lack toilet paper, soap, lockable bathrooms.

The city did not dispute that Wright and the other plaintiffs were disabled
within the meaning of the statutes and were qualified for emergency housing
services. The issue was whether they were denied meaningful access to
emergency housing by reason of their disability.

                 Earlier Suit Raises Similar Claims

In Re Henrietta D. v. Giuliani, the city sought dismissal of the suit. The
plaintiffs, on the other hand, sought a preliminary injunction to establish
new standards for inspecting single-occupancy hotels and assuring clients
that they would receive other quarters if the assigned room is medically
inappropriate. They also sought class certification.

In his ruling, the judge said he could not say at this point whether the
plaintiffs had no cause of action under the ADA and the Rehabilitation Act.
The judge disagreed with the city's argument that the suit was precluded by
a similar action, Henrietta D. v. Giuliani, which is pending before a
different federal court in Brooklyn.

The doctrine of preclusion cannot be applied, the judge said, because the
Henrietta D. court has yet to issue its final decision. However, he added,
judicial economy would have been served by consolidating the claims,
because a potential exists for conflicting results between his decision and
the Henrietta D. court's. He said his analysis of appellate case law "is
not on all fours" with the Henrietta D. court.

In a recent ruling denying the city's motion for dismissal, the Henrietta
D. court held that even if a state has not denied a disabled person a
service or benefit available to non-disabled persons, the state "still
retains the affirmative responsibility to ensure disabled persons have
equal and meaningful access to that benefit," Henrietta D. v. Giuliani, 81
F.Supp.2d 425, (E.D. N.Y. 2000).

Pauley interprets case law differently. As he sees it, for the suit to
prevail, the plaintiffs must present evidence comparing the emergency
housing provided to able-bodied New Yorkers to those who have AIDS. Because
no such evidence was in the record, there could be no clear likelihood of
success on the merits. Thus, he declined to grant the plaintiffs' motion
for a preliminary injunction. (AIDS Policy and Law, September 1, 2000)

PCB POLLUTION: Logan Martin Lake Residents May Get Payments in 6 Months
About 5,000 residents of Logan Martin Lake could receive payments averaging
about $2,000 within six months from a lawsuit against an Anniston firm over
chemical PCBs pollution of the waterway, an attorney said. The amount of
the payments will depend on the value of their property in 1997, said Pell
City lawyer William "Bill" Trussell, who is also a lakeside resident.

Residents sued Solutia Inc., formerly Monsanto, for polluting the lake with
polychlorinated biphenyls, a chemical banned in 1977 by the federal
government as a possible cancer risk. The company manufactured PCBs in
Anniston from the 1930s to the 1970s. Most of the PCB products were sold
for use in electrical equipment.

The suit was settled for $43.7 million. Trussell said residents should
receive a notice of claim within 30 days from Hasbrouck Haynes, the
settlement administrator. Trussell said attorneys representing the
plaintiffs will receive 25 percent of the $43.7 million settlement, or
nearly $11 million. Another $21 million will go to cleanup work. That
leaves about $10 million or $11 million for the plaintiffs who sued.
Trussell estimated there are between 4,000 and 5,000 residents who will get
a share of the payment, depending on property values in 1997.

One of Solutia's attorneys, Buddy Cox, said the company in the next six
years will spend $21 million on PCB remediation projects approved by the
Alabama Department of Environmental Management. Cox said the company
already has spent about $6 million on the work.

Meanwhile, levels of PCBs found in fish samples taken from Logan Martin
Lake have decreased, but not low enough to lift advisories against eating
fish taken from parts of the lake and Choccolocco Creek. Currently, the
entire length of Choccolocco Creek from south of Oxford to Logan Martin is
under a no-consumption advisory because fish are contaminated with PCBs.
(The Associated Press State & Local Wire, September 6, 2000)

RAMPART CASES: Court Reassigns Pretrial Proceedings to One Judge
Facing a deluge of Rampart-related civil rights suits, the Los Angeles
federal court on Wednesday September 6 reassigned all pending cases to a
single judge. U.S. District Judge Gary A. Feess was named to preside over
all pretrial proceedings, giving him authority to decide crucial legal
issues that will affect the ultimate outcome of the Rampart cases. These
are likely to include whether to certify any cases as class action
lawsuits, what kind of evidence police must disclose to the plaintiffs and
whether to dismiss any or all parts of individual cases.

Feess will also assume responsibility for promoting settlement

In all, 68 federal lawsuits have been filed by people who say they were
framed or assaulted by Rampart Division anti-gang squad officers. That
number could swell to 250 or 275, according to the city attorney's office.
Consolidating related cases under one judge for pretrial proceedings is
common in the courts, designed for efficiency and to avoid conflicting
rulings by different judges. When the pretrial issues are resolved, the
cases will be reassigned to other judges for trial.

Feess, who was appointed to the bench last year by President Clinton, is a
former Los Angeles Superior Court judge and a former federal prosecutor. He
served as deputy general counsel to the Christopher Commission, which
investigated abuses by the Police Department after the Rodney G. King

Chief U.S. District Judge Terry J. Hatter Jr. said Feess was selected
because he was the first judge to be assigned a Rampart case. It was
brought by Javier Ovando, who was allegedly shot by Rampart officers Rafael
Perez and Nino Durden, then framed and imprisoned on a trumped-up gun

Feess has made two significant decisions, both favorable to the plaintiffs,
in the Ovando lawsuit. He ruled that Ovando's daughter could sue for being
denied access to her father while he was in prison. Previously, courts
granted such claims only to parents deprived of contact with their
children. Feess also ruled that a one-year statute of limitations did not
begin running until Perez's misdeeds were disclosed.

Both sides in the Rampart litigation praised the move to consolidate cases
for pretrial purposes. "I think it's great," said Brian C. Lysaght, who,
along with civil rights lawyer Stephen Yagman, represents 19 clients suing
the Los Angeles Police Department. "I think very highly of Gary Feess,"
Lysaght said. "He's not only smart, but he has a strong sense of right or

Lysaght said he did not think Feess would "back away" from a recent ruling
by U.S. Judge William Rea allowing one of his clients to sue Rampart
officers under the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations
Act. Lysaght also expressed optimism that Feess would eventually certify
one of the pending cases as a class action lawsuit.

The city attorney's office is attempting to appeal the ruling, which is
considered unprecedented by legal experts. That would open up the Rampart
litigation to more plaintiffs--and probably raise the city's settlement
costs, now estimated at $ 100 million.

The city's lawyers have so far resisted any class action certification,
contending the issues raised in the various lawsuits are too disparate.

Gregory Yates, a civil lawyer who has filed 24 Rampart lawsuits, also
welcomed the court's order, which was signed by Hatter and U.S. District
Judge Lourdes G. Baird, head of the court's case assignment and management
committee. "I'm very happy that the federal court has taken appropriate
steps to avoid the danger of contradictory or inconsistent rulings on
virtually identical motions that could wreak havoc before the 9th Circuit
Court of Appeals and could adversely affect not only the federal court but
victims' rights," Yates said.

Last June, Yates said, he wrote to Hatter to complain about one exhausting
day dealing with Rampart cases. "My office," he said, "was faced with 24
motions to dismiss on virtually identical grounds filed by the city
attorney in 18 different actions filed by my office, including nine motions
before six different judges in two different courthouses to be heard on the
same day, within one hour of each other."

Deputy City Atty. Paul Paquette also hailed the court's action. "I welcome
anything that serves to coordinate and streamline the handling of this
litigation, and I think this serves to do that," he said. But Paquette said
the consolidation "may not go far enough," adding, "I think there might be
a need for someone else to be appointed for mediation purposes." (Los
Angeles Times, September 7, 2000)
Sun-Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, FL)

RIO TINTO: Denies Legal Claims Levelled at Bougainville Mine
According to AAP report from Melbourne, global miner Rio Tinto has
strenuously denied claims its Bougainville copper mine in Papua New Guinea
contributed to human rights abuses and environmental destruction on the
island. As previously reported, the lawsuit was filed in the San Francisco
District Court on Wednesday.

The Australian says that the action appears to be filed against
London-based Rio Tinto plc rather than the Australian-listed Rio Tinto plc
using the Alien Tort Claims Act. It relates to a period from 1989 to 1999,
however, mining activity ceased in 1989 as a result of secessionist
activities on the island.

Rio Tinto holds a 53.6 per cent stake in the mine, while the PNG government
has a 27.3 per cent holding, with public shareholders owning the balance.

"Bougainville Copper and Rio Tinto categorically reject the allegations of
human rights abuse and environmental damage," a Rio Tinto spokesman said.
"All of Bougainville Copper's operation were conducted under an agreement
ratified by the PNG Government and met those obligations."

US lawyer Steve Berman is leading the action, which claims the company
engaged in a joint venture with the PNG government to maintain a copper
mine on the island. This in turn resulted in international environmental
violations and crimes against humanity stemming from a military blockade
motivated by civilian resistance to the mine, it claims. "The suit seeks to
represent Bougainvilleans who continue to be exposed to toxins resulting
from the Panguna mine, individuals who lost property due to ongoing
environmental contamination, and people injured or killed during the
Bougainville conflict between 1989 and 1999," according to a statement
originating from Mr Berman.

The Rio Tinto spokesman added the last thing the people of Bougainville
needed was an interruption to the peace process initiated by US lawyers in
search of contingency fees.

Melbourne law firm Slater & Gordon is assisting in the action and has
lawyers Peter Gordon and Nick Styant-Browne in the US. Slater & Gordon is
also leading a class action against BHP Co Ltd by another group of PNG
landowners over claims of environmental damage from the Ok Tedi copper
mine. Rio shares ended 1.7 cents lower to $26.88. (AAP Newsfeed, September
7, 2000)

SBARRO INC: Restaurant Managers Sue in Washington and CA for OT Pay
On November 17, 1999, an action entitled Shan Wanli, Basem Tawill, Abdul
Hamid v. Sbarro, Inc. was filed in the Superior Court of the State of
Washington for King County. The plaintiffs allege that they served as store
managers, general managers, assistant managers or co-managers in our
restaurants in the State of Washington at various times since November 17,
1996 and that, in connection with their employment, the company violated
the overtime pay provisions of the State of Washington's Minimum Wage Act
by treating them as overtime exempt employees,  breached alleged
employment  agreements and statutory provisions by failing to record and
pay for hours worked at the contract rates and/or statutory minimum wage
rates and failed to provide statutorily  required meal breaks and rest

The plaintiffs also seek to represent all of Sbarro’s restaurant managers
employed for any period of time on or after November 9, 1996 in the State
of Washington. The company currently owns and operates 18 restaurants in
the State of Washington. The plaintiffs seek actual damages, exemplary
damages and costs of the lawsuit, including reasonable attorney's fees,
each in unspecified amounts, and injunctive relief.

On December 20, 1999, Antonio Garcia and eleven other current and former
general managers of Sbarro restaurants in California amended a complaint
filed in the Superior Court of California for Orange County. The complaint
alleges that the plaintiffs were improperly classified as exempt employees
under the California wage and hour law. The plaintiffs are seeking actual
damages, punitive damages and costs of the lawsuit, including reasonable
attorney's fees, each in unspecified amounts. Plaintiffs' counsel has
stated that he is in contact with the plaintiffs' counsel in the Wanli case
and that he may attempt to file a class action based upon alleged
violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act.

TEL-SAVE SECURITIES: PA Suit Can Include Stock and Option Holders
Option traders have enough in common with common stockholders to combine
them in a securities fraud class action against a telecommunications
company and its CEO, a federal judge in Philadelphia has ruled . In re
Tel-Save Securities Litigation, No. 98-CV-3145 (E.D. Pa., July 19, 2000);
see Corporate Officers & Directors Liability LR, June 28, 1999, P. 14.

In a ruling that certified a class action, Judge Ronald Buckwalter said a
common interest in proving that Tel-Save Holdings Inc. disguised
contracted-out work as loans predominates over any individual issues --
such as reliance -- that might separate the plaintiff groups.

The combined plaintiff group consisted of investors who, between Aug. 14,
1997, and May 28, 1998, acquired Tel-Save common stock, call options and/or
put options (In buying options, the investor acquires the right to buy or
sell stock later under specified circumstances, often at an agreed-upon
price). It was the practice of Tel-Save, a Delaware-chartered long-distance
telecommunications company based in New Hope, Pa., to outsource much of its
direct telemarketing work -- one of its major expenses -- to independent
long-distance providers called "partitions." The partitions made their
profit from the difference between what they were obligated to pay Tel-Save
for the contract and the hopefully higher price they would receive from the
customers they recruited.

The plaintiffs charged that Tel-Save's CEO Daniel Borislow conspired to
inflate the value of the stock by disguising millions of dollars in
telemarketing costs as loans to the partitions -- even though they well
knew that the two primary partitions Tel-Save used were insolvent. Under
Generally Accepted Accounting Principles, those "loans" were actually
advances that were largely uncollectable and huge reserves should have been
allocated to cover them, the plaintiffs charged. When that news became
public, Tel-Save's stock price dropped from $30 a share to $4.87 a share.

In earlier rulings on summary judgment motions, the court dismissed the
other officers but allowed plaintiffs to move forward with securities fraud
charges against Borislow and the company.

In opposition to defendants' new motion for summary judgment, Judge
Buckwalter said even though the proposed lead plaintiffs in this suit
include individuals who traded only in stock, traded only in options or
traded in both, "their claims are typical because even if the specific
securities held by the other class members did not change value based on a
particular misrepresentation, the types of misrepresentations and actions
alleged against Tel-Save caused losses for all members of the proposed
class." Therefore, he said, the claims of the plaintiffs are typical of the

The interests of common-stock holders may differ in some ways from those of
options traders, but both have standing here to seek damages for
affirmative misrepresentations, the judge said. Besides, he noted, the lead
plaintiffs traded both stock and options.

Defendants correctly point out that there will be different measures of
reliance and damages for the common-stock holders compared to the option
traders, but that is normal in securities class actions, the judge

Plaintiffs are represented by Stuart Savett of Savett, Robert Frutkin and
Barbara Podell of Savett, Frutkin, Podell & Ryan in Philadelphia, and by
David Kessler of Schiffrin & Barroway in Bala Cynwyd, Pa.

Defendants are represented by Steven Sacks of Arnold & Porter in
Washington, D.C. (Corporate Officers and Directors Liability Litigation
Reporter, August 14, 2000)

TOBACCO LITIGATION: 2 Makers Said to Discuss Settling All Smokers' Suits
Two of the nation's major cigarette companies have been engaged in
preliminary talks with plaintiffs' lawyers as part of a bid to reach a
nationwide settlement of all smokers' claims against the tobacco industry,
lawyers involved with the talks said. Spokesmen for the two companies,
Lorillard Tobacco and the Liggett Group, declined to comment, Other
cigarette makers said they had no intention of settling.

The disclosure was made as a federal judge in Brooklyn issued an order that
could provide a mechanism for reaching a global settlement of claims by

Judge Jack B. Weinstein of Federal District Court told the parties to come
to court Monday prepared to consider a suggestion by plaintiffs' lawyers to
spin off claims for punitive damages against cigarette makers into a
nationwide class-action suit, with separate trials for claims for
compensatory damages.

Such a division would be unique. Plaintiffs' lawyers, in pressing for a
separate punitive damages suit, are apparently seeking to play on the
companies' biggest concern.

Earlier this year, a state jury in Florida issued a $144.8 billion punitive
award to members of a class-action lawsuit brought on behalf of all Florida
residents who had been made sick by smoking. The companies have appealed
that verdict.

Months ago, Judge Weinstein made a bid to create a class action for all
claims, but the companies rejected his suggestions. Spokesmen for the
nation's three biggest cigarette makers -- the Philip Morris Companies, J.
R. Reynolds Tobacco and the Brown & Williamson Tobacco Company -- also
criticized the latest plan. "We have no intention whatsoever of settling
these lawsuits and we are not discussing settlement with plaintiffs'
attorneys or anyone else," said Mark Smith, a spokesman for Brown &
Williamson, a unit of British American Tobacco P.L.C.

William S. Ohlemeyer, associate general counsel for Philip Morris, rejected
the proposal, saying "we intend to vigorously oppose any attempts by this
federal court to consolidate these cases."

In recent years, tobacco companies agreed to pay $246 billion to settle
suits brought by state attorneys general. But that settlement did not
foreclose claims by individual smokers, as in Florida.

A spokesman for Liggett, a unit of the Vector Group that is the smallest of
the major cigarette makers, declined to comment. Liggett has previously
sought to settle litigation against it.

But the apparent interest of Lorillard Tobacco, a unit of the Loews
Corporation, in settlement talks comes as a surprise. A Lorillard spokesman
said it was not company practice to comment on litigation or potential
litigation. (The New York Times, September 7, 2000)

TOBACCO LITIGATION: More Than 2000 Flight Attendants’ Suits Expected
September 7 is the deadline for flight attendants sickened by secondhand
smoke in airplane cabins to file lawsuits against the country's largest
cigarette manufacturers. By Wednesday afternoon, about 1,700 flight
attendants had filed lawsuits. More than 2,000 suits are expected to be
filed before the deadline.

In 1997, the tobacco companies settled the first class-action case brought
against them in Miami-Dade County by an estimated 60,000 to 150,000
non-smoking flight attendants who developed lung cancer and a host of other

The nationwide group of attendants blamed their ills on secondhand smoke
trapped in the cabins of planes on which they worked. The case became known
by the name of Norma Broin, the flight attendant with lung cancer who was
the first plaintiff.

The tobacco companies agreed, as part of the Broin settlement, to pay $ 300
million to start a foundation to research the effects of secondhand smoke.
And they agreed to pay $ 46 million in fees to Stanley and Susan
Rosenblatt, the Miami lawyers who represented the flight attendants.

The Rosenblatts went on to sue the tobacco companies again, this time on
behalf of all Floridians ravaged by cigarette smoking. On July 14, a jury
in Miami-Dade Circuit Court awarded the smokers a record $ 145 billion,
which the tobacco companies are now challenging in state and federal court.

Under the Broin settlement, the flight attendants must file individual
lawsuits against the tobacco industry to seek compensation for their pain,
suffering, medical costs and lost wages.

The Rosenblatts put together a group of South Florida lawyers who agreed to
take the flight attendants' individual cases. Flight attendants can use
these lawyers, all from the Miami area, or try to find others: Miles
McGrane III, Steven Hunter, Abbey Kaplan, Joel Wolpe, Marvin Weinstein and
Bill Hoppe.

Broin said she had hoped many more flight attendants would have filed
lawsuits. She said many did not know about the deadline because Rosenblatt
did not adequately notify them. In April Broin, of Stafford, Va., appeared
in Miami before Circuit Judge Robert Kaye, who had presided over her case,
to complain about the notification process.

It signaled a drastic change in the opinion of the flight attendant who
once loudly sang Rosenblatt's praises. During that hearing in the judge's
chambers, Rosenblatt said he sent letters to 10,000 potential class members
and placed ads in USA Today.

But Broin said that wasn't enough, since in 1991, letters had gone out to
150,000 flight attendants alerting them they might be members of the class
action. "This was one of the most publicized cases in American history,"
Rosenblatt said. (Sun-Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, FL), September 7, 2000)

TOBACCO LITIGATION: Philip Morris Will Vigorously Defend Latest Attack
The latest complaint filed against the tobacco industry in a New York
federal court is "yet another improper attempt by plaintiffs' attorneys to
use the court system to play lawsuit lottery in hopes of hitting the
jackpot," a spokesman for Philip Morris said.

Several attorneys filed a class action suit in the U.S. District Court for
the Eastern District of New York on Tuesday that attempts to consolidate 10
pending cases in an effort to obtain punitive damages from U.S. tobacco

"This latest complaint ignores established law and is an example of what
some federal judges have called an attempt to gain 'blackmail settlements'
through the use of contrived class actions.

"Already state and federal courts have rejected 28 class action lawsuits
against the tobacco industry and the Engle trial in Miami shows why the law
has not allowed such cases to be tried as class actions," said William S.
Ohlemeyer, vice president and associate general counsel for Philip Morris.

Engle is the only case in which a court has allowed a claim against a
tobacco company to be tried as a class action and the results in that case
will be appealed. The case has been removed from Dade County Circuit Court
and currently is pending in federal court in Miami.

"This so-called consolidation effort is an inappropriate attempt to combine
invalid claims that have been rejected time and time again by federal
appellate courts throughout the United States in an attempt to accomplish
something that the law simply does not permit.

"We intend to vigorously oppose any attempts by this federal court to
consolidate these cases or certify a class for purposes of a punitive
damages trial," Ohlemeyer said.

USDA: Former Justice Sees National Class in Non-Black Farmers' Suit
A lawsuit filed on behalf of non-black farmers charging the U.S. Department
of Agriculture of unfair federal lending practices could soon become a
national class action.

Jimmy Robertson, a former Mississippi Supreme Court justice who filed the
lawsuit in federal court in May, said it has tripled in plaintiffs, from
112 farmers to almost 350 farmers in 24 states, since being filed in
Jackson. He said Wednesday that in the next 10 days he will ask the court
for national class action certification. "We have brought enough plaintiffs
into this case that it should have a class," he said.

Farmers in the suit, which also names Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman as
a defendant, accuse the USDA's Farm Service Agency of callous treatment in
reviewing and awarding loans.

The complaint is similar to the one filed on behalf of some 15,000 black
farmers who received a $2.2 billion settlement in Pigford vs. Glickman in
April 1999.

Instances of credit denial, delays in receiving credit, loans lower than
the amount needed and unreasonable collateral requirements are cited in the
latest lawsuit.

"I would expect our case to parallel that (the black farmers) case in
number of plaintiffs," Robertson has said. "It has already ... along with
the black farmers case, brought to the public's attention that the Farm
Credit programs are administered in such a way that it is impossible for
the small farmer to make ends meet."

States with plaintiffs include: Oregon, California, Montana, North Dakota,
South Dakota, Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, New Mexico, Oklahoma,
Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi,
Maine, Pennsylvania, New York, Virginia, North Carolina and Georgia.

USDA officials declined comment on the latest legal challenge. Donna
Walker, a plaintiff from Bentonia, Miss., said farmers across the nation
joining together in a big lawsuit gives her hope that the USDA will be
forced to change its long-standing practices.

"They have foreclosed on my daddy's brother and my granddaddy before. So it
just happens generation, after generation, after generation, and pretty
soon you don't have anything left," she said. "By the time (they) get
through with you, you don't have any money to hire a lawyer. "This way a
lot of people can get into this and be represented and have a chance at
being heard because fighting this one at a time will not work. You can't
get anywhere by yourself." (The Associated Press State & Local Wire,
September 7, 2000)

WHITMAN, PEPSIAMERICAS: Served with Complaint in DE on Proposed Merger
Whitman Corporation (NYSE: WH) and PepsiAmericas, Inc. announced on
September 6 that a purported class action lawsuit has been filed in the
Court of Chancery of Delaware (New Castle County, Civil Action No. 18280)
with respect to the proposed merger of PepsiAmericas and Whitman
Corporation. The complaint, which was filed by a purported stockholder of
PepsiAmericas, names PepsiAmericas, the directors of PepsiAmericas, Dakota
Holdings, LLC, and Whitman Corporation as defendants. (Photo:

The complaint alleges that the consideration to be paid to the public
shareholders of PepsiAmericas in the merger is unfair and inadequate and
that the transaction serves the interests of PepsiCo to the detriment of
PepsiAmericas' minority public shareholders. The plaintiff seeks, among
other things, class action certification, a preliminary and permanent
injunction against consummation of the proposed merger, and rescission or
damages should the transaction be consummated.

Whitman Corporation and PepsiAmericas believe that the allegations
contained in the complaint are without merit and intend to vigorously
defend the action.

* The Lawyers Weekly Publishes General Review on Class Action in Quebec
Quebec is Canada's class-action pioneer, having adopted the relevant
legislation almost 15 years before Ontario, via amendments brought to its
Code of Civil Procedure back in 1978.

During the first decade or so of its existence, class action legislation in
Quebec remained somewhat "theoretical" and was generally an unknown area
for lawyers and judges alike. Many judgments rendered by Quebec courts in
the 1980s qualified class actions as "extraordinary proceedings"to be used
only in "exceptional circumstances."

During the 1990s, three factors led to the multiplication of class actions
in Quebec. First, a number of judgments rendered by the Court of Appeal
provided an extremely liberal interpretation of the four conditions which
must be met for a motion seeking authorization (certification) for a class
action to be granted.

On numerous occasions, Superior Court judges who took a more hard-nosed
approach to motions for authorization were overruled by the Court of
Appeal's more generous interpretation of the law. This tendency was
enhanced by the fact Quebec law provides that only judgments dismissing
motions for authorization can be appealed. As such, only the plaintiff gets
two "kicks at the can."

Secondly, the government- funded Fonds d'aide aux recours collectifs, the
object of which is to provide financing for class actions, became an
increasingly important source of funding for plaintiffs and their counsel.
Such public funding has in itself prompted or at least assisted in the
creation of certain "nonprofit organizations"which play a significant role
in encouraging class proceedings in order to further consumer's

Various boutique litigation firms have also sprung up, particularly in the
Montreal area, which specialize in class action matters on the plaintiff's

Finally, the coming into effect of Ontario's Class Proceedings Act on
January 1, 1993 and the relatively "aggressive"use of that statute by
various plaintiffs in Ontario has led, on various occasions, to
"spin-off"class proceedings in Quebec.

In 1990, there were eight reported decisions in class actions in Quebec. In
1998, there were 31. Moreover, with respect to reported cases, generally
less than 50 per cent of motions for authorization were granted in the
1980s. By the late 1990s, 80 to 90 per cent of such motions were granted.

Recent decisions by both the Court of Appeal and the Superior Court confirm
the tendency of Quebec courts to treat motions for authorization to
institute class actions with the utmost leniency. One such example is
Riendeau v. The Hudson's Bay Company (March 7, 2000, 500-09-007195-985) in
which the Court of Appeal authorized the institution of a class action
against The Hudson's Bay Company on behalf of every person having held a
Bay credit card since 1994 which bears an annual interest rate of 28.8 per
cent on unpaid balances. The plaintiff argued that this rate should have
dropped since the mid-1990s along with commercial lending rates.

In granting the motion, the Court of Appeal concluded that the plaintiff
had a serious argument to the effect that there was, objectively speaking,
disproportionate consideration flowing between the Bay and all members of
the class and that it was not necessary to look any deeper at the
commonality of issues amongst members of the class.

In coming to this conclusion, the court dismissed the argument that there
were not "identical, similar or related questions of fact or of law"
amongst members of the class, on the basis that the court sitting on the
merits would necessarily have to look into the risk presented by each
credit-card holder.

More significantly, the Court of Appeal concluded that the legislative
pre-requisite according to which "the facts alleged [must] seem to justify
the conclusions sought" should be read to mean, at the authorization
(certification) stage, that the court must examine the motion while
assuming that all of the facts alleged therein are true.

This aspect of the decision is quite disconcerting from a defendant's
perspective. On at least two occasions, the Supreme Court has stated that
the judge of first instance should not take "too hard a look" at the facts
alleged in a motion for authorization and dismiss it on the basis of
evidentiary difficulties the plaintiff may have further down the line. This
makes perfect sense.

Quebec law now seems to have gone to the other extreme: the facts are
deemed to be true for the purposes of the motion for authorization even
though the Rules of Practice of the Superior Court clearly provide for the
possibility of the respondent answering the facts alleged by the petitioner
before the motion is heard by way of a Contestation supported by affidavit.

Should a defendant be prevented from arguing that a particular factual
situation set out in a motion for authorization simply does not stand up to
even the most basic scrutiny?

It is submitted that the courts will have to find a middle ground somewhere
between taking a "too hard a look"at the lawsuit on the merits as they used
to do and "rubber stamping" all of the motions that have any theoretical
chance of succeeding as they appear to do now.

Until the pendulum swings back, Quebec will continue to be an increasingly
popular venue for class proceedings in Canada.

Christopher Atchison is a partner at Heenan Blaikie's Montreal Office and
is a member of the Quebec and Ontario Bars. He has practised extensively in
class-action matters. (The Lawyers Weekly, September 8, 2000)


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

Class Action Reporter is a daily newsletter, co-published by Bankruptcy
Creditors' Service, Inc., Princeton, NJ, and Beard Group, Inc.,
Washington, DC. Theresa Cheuk, Managing Editor.

Copyright 1999.  All rights reserved.  ISSN 1525-2272.

This material is copyrighted and any commercial use, resale or
publication in any form (including e-mail forwarding, electronic
re-mailing and photocopying) is strictly prohibited without prior
written permission of the publishers.

Information contained herein is obtained from sources believed to be
reliable, but is not guaranteed.

The CAR subscription rate is $575 for six months delivered via e-mail.
Additional e-mail subscriptions for members of the same firm for the
term of the initial subscription or balance thereof are $25 each.  For
subscription information, contact Christopher Beard at 301/951-6400.

                    * * *  End of Transmission  * * *