CAR_Public/001221.MBX               C L A S S   A C T I O N   R E P O R T E R

             Thursday, December 20, 2000, Vol. 2, No. 247

                             Headlines

ABNH: Ct OKs American Bank Note Holographics Securities Suit Settlement
ALLSTATE INSURANCE: Attack on Illegal Practice of Law Stands
ALLSTATE: Agents File Suit in Florida Seeking Pay for Overtime
BREAST IMPLANT: Report Tells of $ 36.8M Settlement for Trilucents In UK
BRIDGESTONE CORP: Says Ford Shares Blame For Fatal Accidents

EXXON MOBIL: Settlement Efforts Fail Over Fires At Baton Rouge Plants
EXXON MOBIL: State May Wait Years For Money for Royalties Underpayment
FIRESTONE INC: Blames Illinois Plant, Explorer For Tire Troubles
GM: Krislov & Associates Files Suit over 1996 And Later Model Years
HOLOCAUST VICTIMS: Fed Judge Has Dismissed 42 Suits against German Firms

HOLOCAUST VICTIMS: Generali Seeks To Consolidate Claims In New York
INMATES LITIGATION: Chowchilla Draws Attention Again after Recent Deaths
MASSACHUSETTS: Agrees to Spend on Mentally Retarded and Settle Suit
PENNSYLVANIA LIFE: Distribution Plan for Winning Policyholders Approved
PPA LITIGATION: CA Man Sues 5 Makers on Unfair Competition, Deceptive Ad

RYLAND GROUP: Fixing Sinkhole in Crystal Oaks; Suit Not Resolved Yet
TAINTED BLOOD: Claims over HIV Precluded By Settlement, 7th Cir Rules
VICKSBURG CASINOS: MS High Court Reviews Restraint of Trade Verdict
WYETH-AYERST: Duract Cost-Recovery Class Certified By TX Federal Judge

                                *********

ABNH: Ct OKs American Bank Note Holographics Securities Suit Settlement
-----------------------------------------------------------------------
American Bank Note Holographics, Inc. ("ABNH" or the "Company", OTC
Bulletin Board:ABHH) announced that the United States District Court for
the Southern District of New York has entered a judgment giving final
approval to the settlement of the consolidated securities class actions
against the Company and all other defendants, including the Company's
former parent, American Banknote Corporation ("ABN"), certain former
officers and directors of the Company, certain current and former
officers and directors of ABN and the Company's former independent
auditors, Deloitte & Touche LLP, named in the actions entitled, In re
American Bank Note Holographics, Inc., Securities Litigation and In re
American Banknote Corporation Securities Litigation filed in the United
States District Court for the Southern District of New York (the
"Court"). Approval of the settlement by the Bankruptcy Court for the
Southern District of New York in which the Chapter 11 proceeding of ABN
is pending had been given on November 3, 2000.

The settlement of the class action litigation provides for a release of
all claims that the plaintiffs and class members in each action have and
may have against the Company and the other defendants. The plaintiffs and
class members will receive an aggregate cash payment of $14,850,000 as a
result of the settlement, $12,500,000 of which will be paid by the
insurance carrier for the Company and ABN, and the remaining $2,350,000
will be paid by defendant Deloitte & Touche LLP. The Company will have no
cash payment obligation with respect to the settlement, but will issue
1,460,000 shares of the Company's Common Stock, as well as warrants to
purchase 863,647 shares of the Company's Common Stock at an exercise
price of $6.00 per share. The warrants will be exercisable for the
30-month period commencing with the Courtís approval. ABN will also issue
certain of its securities as part of the settlement.

American Bank Note Holographics is a world leader in the origination,
production and marketing of mass-produced holograms. The Company's
products are used primarily for security applications such as
counterfeiting protection and authentication of transaction cards,
identification cards, documents of value, and consumer and industrial
products, as well as for packaging and promotional applications.


ALLSTATE INSURANCE: Attack on Illegal Practice of Law Stands
------------------------------------------------------------
New York The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals left standing a West
Virginia finding that Allstate Insurance Co. engaged in unauthorized
practice of law by telling claimants that they didn't need lawyers.

The Nov. 30 action in Richmond, Va., was the first ruling by an appellate
court regarding a practice widely attacked by the civil plaintiffs' bar.
The panel is the highest court so far to review Allstate's "Claim Core
Process Redesign," whereby adjusters contact and negotiate directly with
people who have been injured in accidents. They try to persuade the
claimants to deal with Allstate, not through lawyers.

                      'Do I Need An Attorney?'

The 4th Circuit refused to address the merits of Allstate's claim that
commercial free speech rights protect the company's "Do I Need an
Attorney?" brochures and "Customer Service Pledge" letters. The opinion
by Judge H. Emory Widener Jr. left in place a decision by the West
Virginia State Bar committee on unlawful practice that the letters and
policies were illegal.

The attorney who filed the original complaint with the State Bar in 1995,
said that the opinion is strong enough to prompt him to file a nationwide
class action against Allstate. James C. Peterson, a name partner at Hill
Peterson Carper Bee & Deitzler of Charleston, W.Va., said he intends to
sue to seek damages for the millions of claimants who say Allstate misled
them into accepting less than they were owed or cost them their chance to
sue by persuading them that they didn't need attorneys.

The court said that Allstate had sought a sympathetic venue in federal
court, where the company has appealed at least six similar state bar
decisions. "In short, Allstate attempted to preempt the West Virginia
procedure by filing this federal suit in district court," wrote Judge
Widener, who was joined by Senior Judge Clyde H. Hamilton of Columbia,
S.C. (The third panel member, Francis D. Murnaghan of Baltimore, died
after oral arguments last year.) "It is difficult to conceive a matter
closer or more important to the State of West Virginia, not to mention
her people, than the question of who is to practice law in that state,"
Judge Widener wrote.

Bar committees and insurance commissioners in 26 states have filed
similar efforts to halt the spread of the company's brochures and
letters, according to the Association of Trial Lawyers of America.
Individual plaintiffs in 22 states have filed 47 challenges to the
anti-attorney policy, according to an Allstate report turned over in
discovery during one of those suits. Trial lawyer groups in at least 12
states have held seminars offering CLE credit that focus on strategies to
beat Allstate.

Allstate has had mixed success batting back the attacks. In January, the
Washington State Bar Association found it guilty of the unauthorized
practice of law. That case was appealed to federal court in Seattle. In
March, an Illinois federal judge turned away a proposed class action
against the practice.

S. Benjamin Bryant, a partner at Allen Guthrie & McHugh in Charleston,
represented the West Virginia bar before the 4th Circuit.

Bailey and Glasser name partner Benjamin Lee Bailey of Charleston
represented Allstate.

Neither Bailey nor Robert Pike of Northbrook, Ill., who heads Allstate's
corporate legal office, responded to queries over a three-day period. In
documents, Allstate disputed trial lawyer characterizations that the
company's intent is to exclude lawyers from the process. It said that its
actions grew from a January 1995 analysis showing that when attorneys
were involved, injury claims had inflated medical expenses, leading to
unreasonable general-damages demands. The company determined that the
excess money was going to attorneys as fees, it said.

                      The Adjusters' Manual

Allstate's strategy was presented in a 500-page adjusters' manual with a
goal of settling claims early, before a lawyer is involved. The manual
was replaced in August 1999 by a 1,000-page text titled "The
Unrepresented Unit of the Future." Both books give adjusters tips on how
to conduct conversations that establish "immediate rapport" and "show
empathy." They are to visit claimants, in the hospital if necessary, and
to bring checks to most meetings. A follow-up letter includes a promise
of quick and fair handling of their claim, just as if they too were
insured by the company. Also enclosed is a brochure called "Do I Need An
Attorney?" that includes statistics from an insurance-industry group that
found claimants without lawyers receive more money than those with
counsel. It asks, "Am I required to hire an attorney to handle my claim?"
Allstate answers, "No. In fact, each year Allstate settles claims
directly with many collision victims with no attorneys involved in the
claim settlement process."

Trial lawyers insist that the letter and brochure leave the impression
that the Allstate adjuster works independently for the claimant. Like
other bar groups, the West Virginia Bar argued that Allstate does not
clearly disclose its adversarial position. West Virginia argued that
Allstate essentially acted as counsel because adjusters valued cases,
assessed strategies and predicted outcomes for claimants unsophisticated
in the law without mentioning that a quick and cheap settlement was best
for the company. In 1997, the state bar made its finding and ordered
Allstate to stop distributing the letter and brochure.

Allstate sued in federal court, but lost when U.S. District Judge Charles
H. Haden II ruled that the issue should be addressed by state courts.
This article previously appeared in The National Law Journal, an American
Lawyer Media publication. (The Legal Intelligencer, December 18, 2000)


ALLSTATE: Agents File Suit in Florida Seeking Pay for Overtime
--------------------------------------------------------------
The battle between Allstate and agents who say they were forced out of
their jobs as the company has been streamlining its operations took
another turn Tuesday December 19.

In a lawsuit filed in Federal District Court in Tampa, Fla., 49 agents
from across the country accused Allstate of requiring them to work
overtime but refusing to pay them for it. Aaron Kaufmann, a lawyer for
the agents, said the lawsuit was seeking court approval to permit
hundreds of other agents to join in a collective action similar to a
class action.

Michael Trevino, a spokesman for Allstate, said the insurer regarded the
agents as exempt from the federal law requiring time-and-a-half pay for
anyone working more than 40 hours a week and that "they are not due any
overtime pay."

The agents, who work on commission, say they should receive overtime pay
because Allstate, starting in January 1999, required them to keep their
offices open more than 40 hours a week. The agents say they often worked
longer hours by choice, but they contend they should have been paid for
it once the company required it.

The federal suit is the latest development in a long-running battle
between Allstate and some of its current and former agents growing out a
decision by the company to transform its sales force from employees with
pensions, health benefits and subsidies for office expenses to
independent contractors. Allstate, the second-largest insurer of autos
and homes in the United States behind State Farm, has also recently begun
selling insurance over the Internet and through through call centers,
which some agents say undermines their sales opportunities.

By last June, all but 6,500 of the company's 15,000 agents were
independent contractors. By the end of that month, the remaining 6,500
agent employees were dismissed. They were given the choice of staying on
as independent contractors or leaving the company. Allstate said 2,400
agents left.

All the agents who stayed were required to sign a waiver that they would
not sue Allstate in the future. Those who left were given enhanced
severance packages if they signed the waiver.

Seventy of the agents, including some who stayed with the company,
complained to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. And in
September, the agency said it thought that Allstate had coerced and
intimidated agents into surrendering their rights in violation of federal
law. The agents and the insurance company, Allstate executives said, are
negotiating a possible settlement.

In July, Allstate agreed to pay $2 million to settle a suit by agents in
Montana, North Dakota and South Dakota for reimbursement of money they
had spent on office rent, secretaries and advertising while classified as
employees. A similar suit is working its way through the courts in
California, and David W. Smith, an Allstate agent in Kingwood, Tex., said
lawyers were extending the suit to other states. The agents say they
spent their own money because subsidies from Allstate were insufficient.
Since the agents became independent contractors, Allstate has no
responsibility for expenses.

Despite the litigation, Mr. Trevino said Allstate felt the transition,
which left the company with 13,000 agents, some newly recruited, had gone
smoothly. He said that while employee benefits had been eliminated, sales
commissions had been increased. "I wouldn't say we've got a lot of
unhappy agents," he said.

But some agents have a different view. "Allstate used to be the best
place I ever worked," said Ron Harper, an agent in Thomson, Ga., who
stayed on but joined in the complaint to the employment commission and
the latest suit. "I don't share that same opinion now." (The New York
Times, December 20, 2000)


BREAST IMPLANT: Report Tells of $ 36.8M Settlement for Trilucents In UK
-----------------------------------------------------------------------
A British manufacturer and distributor of Trilucent soya oil breast
implants agreed Nov. 24 to a reported $ 36.8 million settlement of claims
by women in the United Kingdom who received the implants and want them
removed following a government recommendation.

The settlement was announced and confirmed in English newspapers by Paul
Balen of Freethcartwright Solicitors in Nottingham, England, defense
counsel Paul Llewellyn of Eversheds Solicitors in Nottingham, and
manufacturer LipoMatrix Inc., a subsidiary of Collage Aesthetics UK Ltd.,
and distributor AEI Inc.

A posting on Freethcartwright's Web site says the compensation scheme
will pay women who have had the implants removed. It says compensation
will be based on pain and suffering experienced by each woman, the need
for additional surgery and medical problems associated with the implants.

Under the scheme, Freethcartwright says expenses, including the cost of
implant operations, should be reimbursed by LipoMatrix, along with
medical and legal costs.

Freethcartwright says the settlement would avoid long and expensive
litigation.

No lawsuits have been filed in England.

Reported Compensation Levels

The statement did not state the value of the settlement or the range of
payments. The London Daily Telegraph reported Nov. 25 that the settlement
was worth more than $ 36,836,060. The Telegraph, The Scotsman, the
Nottingham Evening Post and the Press Association news service all
reported that claimants will receive between $ 7,438 and $ 21,252, while
those with more serious injuries will receive more than $ 446,283.

The settlement allows for claimants to receive additional compensation if
they develop future medical problems, the papers said.

Llewellyn told The Scotsman that claimants only need to show they had the
implants removed after the June 6 MDA notice and need not prove injury or
product defect.

The plan reportedly goes into effect in January 2001.

The newspapers said about 5,000 women in the United Kingdom received
Trilucent implants. Balen reportedly represents 2,000 women.

In March 1999, the British Medical Devices Agency issued a voluntary
recall of the implants because of questions about the long-term safety
and integrity of the soy oil. In June, the agency issued a hazard notice
stemming from dozens of adverse incident reports and concerns of
increased cancer risk and danger to unborn children. The agency
recommended that women who received the implants have them removed.

                       Some Women 'Unhappy'

Jeffrey M. Herman of Herman & Mermelstein in Miami, who represents U.K.
plaintiffs in two lawsuits filed in U.S. federal court, said he has
received numerous e-mails from women who are unhappy with the settlement.
He said they have told him the settlement "doesn't come close to
compensating them."

Herman said he understands that negotiations took place only between
Freethcartwright and the manufacturer/distributor and that no women were
represented. He said he understands that the settlement will eliminate
the right to sue the manufacturer/distributor in the United Kingdom.

Additionally, Herman said he understands that the settlement will not pay
for pain and suffering, only for medical problems relative to
explantation.

Herman said he understands that Freethcartwright will be compensated
separately by the manufacturer/distributor and that defense counsel is
referring inquiries about filing claims to Freethcartwright.

Herman has two Trilucent suits on behalf of British women pending in the
U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California: an
individual claim, Sarah Jane Crane v. Collagen Aesthetics Inc., et al.
(No. 00-2873) and a class action, Rachel Kerr, et al. v. Inamed Corp, et
al. (No. 00-3026).

A defense motion to dismiss for forum non conveniens is scheduled to be
heard Jan. 30. (Mealey's Emerging Drugs & Devices, December 7, 2000)


BRIDGESTONE CORP: Says Ford Shares Blame For Fatal Accidents
------------------------------------------------------------
The world's biggest tyre maker Bridgestone Corp. Wednesday pointed the
finger of blame at US auto giant Ford Motor Co. for contributing to 148
deaths in accidents linked to Firestone tyres.

"It doesn't matter what they do or insist upon," said Yoichiro Kaizaki,
the president of the Japanese company, whose US subsidiary
Bridgestone/Firestone Inc. (BFS) has recalled 6.5 million tyres in the
United States. "I am just asking them to face up to the facts," Kaizaki
told a news conference.

BFS released a report Tuesday which said its tread design was a factor in
tyre failures on Firestone-fitted Ford Explorers, but that low tyre
inflation recommended by Ford and overloading were also significant.

The president cited US newspaper reports which said this month that just
10 percent of the Ford Explorer's total 1,200 fatal accidents were
directly linked to tyre problems. "I am not saying (Ford) models had
problems directly linked with the accidents, Kaizaki said. "But among the
Explorer's 1,200 fatal accidents, just 10 percent were related to tyres,
while the remaining 90 percent occurred through factors unrelated to the
tyres."

The BFS report was based on four months of intensive investigation into
the cause of the accidents on the Explorer sports utility vehicle, the
president said. "Both BFS and us firmly believe that tyre separation can
contribute to serious and fatal accidents, but are not wholly the
problem," he said.

A small percentage of P235/75R15 ATX and Wilderness AT tyres, produced at
Firestone's Illinois plant, were found to have increased risk of tread
separation when coupled with the external factors, BFS said.

The Illinois factory suffered labour unrest for two years from 1994 which
Firestone critics say affected quality control. "Although the problems
are said to have occurred during the labour strike, we do not think they
are directly related," said Tadakazu Harada, Bridgestone executive vice
president.

While renewing the blame game, Kaizaki also stressed the century-long
relationship between Ford and Firestone, which Bridgestone took over in
1988. "Ford is our customer, and both of us will be the accused in a
trial," said the president. "We have many have common factors over which
we will have to cooperate."

Ford, which insists there was nothing wrong with the accident-prone
Explorers, accounts for about five percent of BFS's total sales. A series
of class-action lawsuits has been filed in Florida, threatening
potentially huge punitive damages against BFS and Ford.

Last week Bridgestone slashed its earnings forecasts for this year owing
to a 750-million-dollar special loss from the massive tyre recall in the
United States. (Agence France Presse, December 20, 2000)


EXXON MOBIL: Settlement Efforts Fail Over Fires At Baton Rouge Plants
---------------------------------------------------------------------
Two lawsuits stemming from major fires at Exxon Mobil Corp. plants around
Baton Rouge have been set for trial after settlement efforts failed.

U.S. District Judge Frank Polozola ordered a federal magistrate to begin
pretrial preparations for the suits, which cover hundreds of plaintiffs.
Polozola had put trials on hold to allow for negotiations.

But in an order issued late last week, Polozola said he has "exhausted
settlement negotiations in these case."

Exxon Mobil attorney Charles McCowan confirmed Tuesday that talks had
broken down and the case is being prepared for trial. He said a mediation
effort failed.

The lawsuits were filed after two fires. The first fire, on Aug. 2, 1993,
killed three workers at the Exxon Chemical Co. Americas plant north of
Baton Rouge. The second fire, on Aug. 8, 1994 at the company's refinery,
injured several contract workers.

McCowan said he was unsure when a trial would take place. "We're still in
the early stages," he said. "It has proceeded in a settlement course for
an extended period of time."

Polozola had ordered the two sides to begin settlement discussions on
Aug. 21. The pretrial preparations do not preclude a settlement from
still reached. (The Associated Press State & Local Wire, December 20,
2000)


EXXON MOBIL: State May Wait Years For Money for Royalties Underpayment
----------------------------------------------------------------------
The state and its attorneys may wait years to see any money from a jury's
record $3.5 billion verdict against Exxon Mobil for underpaying natural
gas royalties.

Exxon Mobil spokesman Tom Cirigliano said the company will "take all
legal steps to challenge the verdict."

Bob Macrory, an attorney with the state Conservation Department and the
author of Alabama's leases with Exxon, said the case is sure to be
appealed all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

That has been the route with some other big jury verdicts from Alabama.
The Supreme Court has used two Alabama cases to set guidelines for
determining whether jury awards are excessive.

The state and Exxon Mobil sued each other over the payment of royalties
from 13 natural gas wells that Exxon drilled in the state's coastal
waters. A Montgomery jury found Tuesday that the oil company had
fraudulently underpaid the state and levied $87.7 million in compensatory
damages and $3.42 billion punitive damages.

That broke the state's record for the largest punitive damage verdict
returned by a jury, which was $581 million in Hale County. That judgment,
resulting from a suit over the purchase of a satellite dish, was reduced
by the trial court judge to $300 million and was later settled out of
court for a smaller amount that the two sides declined to disclose.

John McMillan, who was the state conservation commissioner in 1981 when
Exxon signed the leases to drill along the coast, said the Exxon verdict
could also be reduced or settled for a smaller amount. But no matter what
happens, the state shouldn't expect anything for years, he said.

Skip Tucker, director of Alabama Voters Against Lawsuit Abuse, said he
had hoped the days of Alabama being known as "tort hell" were over when
the Legislature put limits on punitive damage verdicts last year. But
those limits didn't apply to the Exxon case because it was filed before
the law was passed.

"It might be cold in Alabama, but 'tort hell' is not yet frozen over,"
Tucker said.

The $3.5 billion verdict, if paid to the state, would be nearly as big as
the state's $4 billion education budget for this year and about
two-thirds as big as the $5 billion judgment against Exxon for the Valdez
oil spill in Alaska.

For Alabama's suit against Exxon Mobil, the governor and attorney general
agreed to hire the Mobile law firm of Cunningham, Bounds, Crowder, Yance
and Brown. They were guaranteed 14 percent of anything they recovered and
nothing if they lost.

The $3.5 million verdict, if it stands up on appeal, would provide them
$490 million.

John Crowder and Robert Cunningham said their firm normally takes at
least one-third of the judgment in any case it takes on a contingency
fee, but agreed to a smaller fee for the state.

Testimony in the case showed lawyers in the firm had devoted many months
to preparing for court and paid financial and oil industry consultants at
least $ 230,000 to help them. If they had lost, that would have been
money out of their pockets.

The current record for legal fees in a lawsuit in Alabama is $47.5
million for a class-action suit against Masonite Corp. over siding made
by the company. The Cunningham Bounds law firm shared in that fee.

Members of the law firm contributed to Siegelman's 1998 campaign for
governor, and one of the members of the firm, Richard Dorman, headed the
governor's Alabama Education Lottery Foundation. That organization
financed the campaign for Siegelman's state lottery plan, which Alabama
voters rejected in October 1999.

Siegelman's press secretary, Carrie Kurlander, said the governor chose
the firm because of their respect within the legal community and because
they had the resources to pursue the suit. She said the firm's record
speaks for itself. (The Associated Press State & Local Wire, December 20,
2000)


FIRESTONE INC: Blames Illinois Plant, Explorer For Tire Troubles
----------------------------------------------------------------
Bridgestone/Firestone Inc. on December 19 blamed manufacturing problems
at one of its plants for some tire failures linked to the deaths of 148
Americans, and also faulted the design of Ford Motor Co.'s Explorer sport
utility vehicle.

After a four-month investigation, the unit of Japan's Bridgestone Corp.
said in a report that problems with tires made at its Decatur, Ill.,
plant were related to characteristics of belt adhesion, the chemical
process that bonds together tire components. The problem tires exhibited
lower adhesion than similar tires produced at other plants.

But it also mentioned tire pressure and load levels as problem factors
that were controlled by Ford, maker of the popular Explorers on which
most of the faulty tires were mounted.

The Nashville, Tenn.-based tire maker said it thought Ford would agree
with its assessment after reviewing its findings. But a Ford spokeswoman
expressed doubt, saying the company had no such problems with Goodyear
tires on Explorers.

The report concluded that a Bridgestone/Firestone recall of more than six
million tires in August was 'more than adequate to protect the public'
from problem tires. The company recalled 6.5 million 15-inch ATX, ATX II
and Wilderness AT tires because of links to the fatal highway accidents
and more than 500 injuries.

The company said its Decatur plant is changing the way it processes 'skim
stock' -- rubber used to bond together the steel belts inside the tires
-- so its physical properties will be similar to that produced at other
Firestone plants. 'Our team's findings confirm what the initial
statistical claims information demonstrated from the outset -- that a
small number of tires generated higher rates of tread separation claims
when used on Ford Explorers and that our recall initiated in August was
more than adequate to protect the public,' said John Lampe,
Bridgestone/Firestone president, chairman and chief executive.

In its investigation, Firestone has been working with the U.S. National
Highway Traffic and Safety Administration and Ford. It provided them with
the company's findings last week.

Susan Krusel, a Ford spokeswoman, said in response to claims that low
tire pressure led to some of the tire failures, 'The weight factors do
not explain that two million Goodyear Tires run at the exact PSI [pounds
per square inch] as the Firestone tires but didn't experience the same
problems.'

In September, Ford agreed to raise the recommended tire pressure on its
Explorer vehicles in an effort to allay concerns that low pressure may
have played a role in Firestone tire failures.

Mr. Lampe said the company is certain that tread separations alone are
not the exclusive cause of serious accidents, including those that
involve rollovers.

Don Barrett, lead council in the class action suit involving some 180
cases against Firestone, said of the announcement, 'We think the attempt
to blame it on Decatur is a desperate attempt by Firestone to avoid a
wider and much more expensive recall.' (National Post (formerly The
Financial Post), December 20, 2000)


GM: Krislov & Associates Files Suit over 1996 And Later Model Years
-------------------------------------------------------------------
The following statement was issued by Krislov & Associates, Ltd.:

On December 15, 2000, purchasers of late model Oldsmobiles filed suit
against GM on behalf of all purchasers and lessees of 1996 and later
Oldsmobiles (other than GM and its affiliates and employees) seeking
compensation for the reduction in value caused by GM's announcement on
December 12th that it will phase out its Oldsmobile marketing division
and brand over the next several years. The consumers claim that they
bought vehicles that will now be worth substantially less than they would
have been had GM not decided to stop producing the brand.

"Incredibly, GM is ignoring those people who have been loyal Oldsmobile
customers," the Plaintiff's attorney, Clint Krislov, said. Krislov added,
"We believe these loyal Oldsmobile customers should be compensated for
having purchased cars that GM knew were soon going to be obsolete.
Indeed, we think GM will want to ensure that Oldsmobile customers have a
satisfying purchase experience and to maintain goodwill among owners of
other GM vehicles, who may fear their brands may be next to be dropped."
The relief sought by the Plaintiffs could come in the form of extended
warranties, an increase in trade-in for the next few years, rebates or
other relief, Krislov said.

As alleged in the Complaint, GM failed to tell purchasers of late model
Oldsmobiles that it planned to stop producing the brand. Had these
consumers known that Oldsmobile would soon be obsolete, the Plaintiffs
claim they would not have purchased their vehicles or would have been
able to negotiate a better deal. The Plaintiffs are represented by
Krislov & Associates, Ltd. If you are a member of the Class described
above, or if you wish to discuss this action or have any questions
concerning your rights or interests, please contact: Clinton A. Krislov,
Robert J. Stein, or William M. Sweetnam, 312-606-0500, or fax,
312-606-0207, email, mail@krislovlaw.com, all of Krislov & Associates,
Ltd.


HOLOCAUST VICTIMS: Fed Judge Has Dismissed 42 Suits against German Firms
------------------------------------------------------------------------
A federal judge says he dismissed 42 class actions against German
businesses for their role in Nazi war crimes because it was a way of
removing a barrier to recovery. Suit Dismissals Necessary To Pave Way for
Nazi Reparations, Court Says

A federal judge, explaining why he dismissed 42 class actions against
German businesses accused of Nazi ties, says his move will allow the
plaintiffs to be compensated by an international foundation. "Life can
only be understood backwards but it must be lived forwards," U.S.
District Judge William Bassler wrote on Dec. 5 in In Re Nazi Era Cases
Against German Defendants Litigation, No. 98-4104. That quote from
Kierkegaard, said Bassler, best summed up the plaintiffs' decision to
dismiss the suits and accept nominal compensation -- and perhaps some
closure -- from a foundation created to resolve the litigation.

Bassler's opinion was an explanation of a ruling he issued on Nov. 13
from the bench, dismissing the cases. Under an international agreement
reached last year, the foundation will make payments to Nazi war crime
survivors worldwide -- but only after all U.S. suits alleging that German
businesses were complicit in Nazi crimes are dismissed with prejudice.

Thus, although a few suits remain, Bassler's dismissal of the 42 matters
is significant. His action removes the largest chunk of suits that --
while providing the impetus for the creation of the foundation -- are now
all that stands in the way of its operation.

The class actions were filed beginning in 1998 on behalf of those who
suffered at the hands of German industry during World War II, including
former slave laborers for companies such as Volkswagen and the German
subsidiary of Ford.

Unlike previous Holocaust-related suits against Swiss banks, the suits
sought compensation from businesses alleged to have played a direct role
in Nazi atrocities. Although the class actions were brought by former
slave laborers, anyone who claims to be a victim of Nazi war crimes is
eligible for compensation, says John Gibbons, of Newark's Gibbons, Del
Deo, Dolan, Griffinger & Vechionne, who served as liaison counsel for the
defendants.

Gibbons notes that relaxed standards of proof will govern the payment of
claims, and that claimants don't necessarily need written proof to
substantiate their claims.

Because the suits were brought as class actions, court approval of the
dismissals was required. And to avoid piecemeal rulings on the motions to
approve the dismissals, most of the suits were consolidated and
transferred to the District of New Jersey.

Thus, it fell to Bassler to decide whether the international agreement
creating the foundation adequately protected the interests of thousands
of war crimes survivors nationwide -- and close to 1 million worldwide.

Finding that there was no evidence of collusion between the German
companies and the plaintiffs' lawyers, Bassler noted that the foundation
was the result of international negotiations. The negotiations, noted
Bassler, were attended by the parties' lawyers and the governments of
Germany, the United States and Israel. Most important, however, Bassler
concluded that the foundation was the best hope for survivors to obtain
some measure of compensation for their suffering.

Unlike the prospect of winning the litigation, which was highly
uncertain, said Bassler, the foundation was ready to begin making
payments. It would have an initial fund of 10 billion deutsche marks, to
be contributed in equal shares by the German government and German
industry.

According to Bassler, only actual survivors are eligible for
compensation, on the theory that the foundation was created to compensate
the remaining survivors quickly, before their deaths. But heirs are
eligible if the victim died after Feb. 16, 1999 -- the date the
international agreement was tentatively reached.

Bassler noted that the foundation will have a sliding scale of
compensation based on the claim made. For example, former slave laborers
can recover up to 15,000 DM. Meanwhile, a pool of 50 million DM will be
available for property claims. (At present, one deutsche mark is worth
about 45 cents.)

Bassler also looked favorably at the agreement's award of attorneys'
fees. The fees were capped at 125 million DM, or 1.25 percent of the
total fund, and attorneys could only seek their share of fees through
arbitration. "It's been a long road," says Allyn Lite, of Newark's Lite,
DePalma, Greenberg & Rivas, the liaison counsel for the plaintiffs and
one of the architects of the first suits. "To be able to try to close the
book on this is a pretty remarkable feat," he says. (New Jersey Law
Journal, December 18, 2000)


HOLOCAUST VICTIMS: Generali Seeks To Consolidate Claims In New York
-------------------------------------------------------------------
Assicurazioni Generali has asked the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict
Litigation to transfer three individual Holocaust-era suits and a
putative class action to federal court in New York, where two other class
actions already are pending (In re: Assicurazioni Generali Holocaust Era
Insurance Litigation, MDL No. 1374, JPMDL).

                         New York Actions

In August, the panel, at Generali's request, refused to transfer the two
New York actions in In re: Holocaust Era German Industry, Bank and
Insurance Litigation, MDL No. 1337. The panel found U.S. District Judge
Michael B. Mukasey of the Southern District of New York, who is presiding
over the New York actions, already had devoted significant time and
effort to the matters.

The Italian insurer contends that the four other actions, and perhaps
some additional newly filed actions, belong in the Southern District of
New York because the complaints all allege Generali breached policies
issued to Holocaust victims prior to World War II, the cases involve
common issues of fact and law, transfer will be convenient for the
parties and will promote judicial efficiency, and failure to transfer
will cause needless duplication of discovery and other proceedings.

Pending in New York are Cornell v. Assicurazioni Generali (No. 97 Civ.
2262 [S.D. N.Y.]) and Winters v. Assicurazioni Generali (No. 98 Civ. 9186
[S.D. N.Y.]). The cases Generali seeks to consolidate there are Smetana
v. Assicurazioni Generali (No. 00-02203 [N.D. Calif.]), Brauns v.
Assicurazioni Generali (No. 00-06194 AHM [JWJx] [C.D. Calif.]), Mandil v.
Assicurazioni Generali (No. 00 CV 1202 JM [POR] [S.D. Calif.]) and David
v. Assicurazioni Generali (No. 00-C-0169 [E.D. Wis.]).

                           Common Issues

In support of its motion, Generali argues the issues common among the
actions are whether the plaintiffs' or their forebears' contractual
relationships with the insurer were canceled by Communist governments
after the war, whether the insurer's assets were nationalized by Eastern
European governments, and the value of the claims in light of devaluation
of Eastern European currencies after the war.

Transfer, Generali says, will avoid inconsistent pretrial rulings
regarding whether U.S. law can be applied to the claims, whether the
claims are time-barred, and whether forum selection clauses in some of
the policies that favor European forums are enforceable.

Transfer also will avoid duplication of discovery in the actions,
Generali says. Further, any new actions will already have a forum, the
carrier says.

Meanwhile, Generali has moved to stay the subject actions pending a
ruling by the MDL panel.

                                Opposition

In a joint memorandum of law opposing the motion to transfer, plaintiffs
Benjamin Mandil and Dr. Jack Brauns contend Generali is misguided in its
attempt to label the transfer as an outgrowth of the German Industry,
Bank & Insurance Litigation.

The order in question consolidated claims pending in 36 actions against
German companies in an effort to facilitate coordination and dismissal
pursuant to an international agreement between Germany and the United
States.

By contrast, the plaintiffs assert, Generali seeks to consolidate three
individual actions and one class action with two class actions in which
the insurer is only one of many defendants. Generali is not subject to
the international agreement at issue in the other MDL, Brauns and Mandil
say.

With so few actions, Generali is unable to meet the strong burden of
showing that any common factual issues are so complex and the discovery
so time-consuming to justify consolidation, the plaintiffs argue.

                      Legal vs. Factual Issues

Further, the common issues tend to be legal, not factual, and the MDL
transfer statute does not recognize common legal issues as a ground for
transfer, they contend.

Brauns' and Mandil's actions are based on individual policies issued by
different Generali subsidiaries in different countries. The policies were
payable in different currencies. Therefore, they contend, success by one
plaintiff will not necessarily enable the plaintiff in the other case to
succeed.

"Generali's attempt to have the Brauns and Mandil actions transferred to
the Southern District of New York is simply a tactical maneuver designed
to place plaintiffs at a disadvantage by making the litigation more
expensive and less convenient, and to halt the progress of those lawsuits
by joining them with complex class actions that have ground to a complete
halt over the last three years," the plaintiffs argue. "The motion should
be denied."

Counsel to Generali are Franklin B. Velie of Salans Hertzfeld Heilbronn
Christy & Viener in New York and Peter Simshauser of Skadden, Arps,
Slate, Meagher & Flom in Los Angeles. Brauns and Mandil are represented
by William M. Shernoff and Jeffrey Isaac Ehrlich of Shernoff, Bidart &
Darras in Claremont, Calif. (Mealey's Litigation Report:, Emerging
Insurance Disputes, December 6, 2000)


INMATES LITIGATION: Chowchilla Draws Attention Again after Recent Deaths
------------------------------------------------------------------------
State corrections officials are investigating three inmate deaths this
month at a state women's prison in Chowchilla that was already under
intense scrutiny over persistent complaints of inadequate medical care.

Prison rights groups say two of the women were not given prompt attention
after they began suffering severe health problems at the Central
California Women's Facility.

The deaths were among seven in little more than a month at the prison and
came just weeks after a legislative hearing in Sacramento raised new
concerns about medical care at the 3,500-inmate penitentiary.

Activists say the deaths this month of Stephanie Hardie, 33, of Pomona,
Pamela Coffey, 46, of Los Angeles and Eva Vallario, 33, of San Diego
appear to be part of a pattern of slipshod medical attention for female
inmates. "Because of the medical neglect in these institutions, women
serving time for property offenses or other nonviolent crimes are instead
getting death sentences," said Cynthia Chandler, co-director of Justice
Network on Women in Oakland.

Department of Corrections officials counter that medical practices at the
Chowchilla prison, which was the target of a now-settled federal
class-action lawsuit over shoddy health care, have improved dramatically.
"It's too early to rush to judgment," said Russ Heimerich, a Corrections
Department spokesman. "I wish they'd wait for the facts to come out in
these deaths before indicting the whole health care system."

The state routinely sends seriously ill women inmates to Chowchilla
because it operates a hospice and skilled nursing facility. There have
been 15 deaths at the prison this year. There were nine in 1999 and 10 in
1998.

A coalition of prisoner advocacy groups has asked state Sen. Richard
Polanco (D-Los Angeles) to investigate the latest deaths. Polanco heads
the Joint Subcommittee on Prison Construction and Operations. His office
did not return phone calls for comment.

The prisoner advocates say an internal investigation by the prison's
health care services division is not sufficient. Heidi Strupp of Legal
Services for Prisoners with Children concluded that the years of tussling
over prison health care prove that officials "can't police themselves."

Prison officials said terminal illnesses claimed the lives of the four
other women who died in recent weeks.

But prisoner advocates say two of the women--Carolina Paredes, 67, and
Michelle Wilson, 36--were not given timely or proper treatment by the
prison health care system. Paredes, behind bars for real estate fraud,
died of cancer, and Wilson, imprisoned for prostitution, died four months
after brain surgery for a tumor.

The investigation, conducted by the department's health care services
division and the Madera County coroner, will examine the medical history
of each inmate, along with toxicology tests and autopsy findings. In
addition, an internal review of how prison staff handled the incidents is
being conducted.

Coffey, incarcerated for narcotics sales, died Dec. 2 in front of her
cellmates after complaining for weeks about a large knot in her side.
Inmates say she was given the antihistamine Benadryl by prison medical
staff. The inmates say one of the prison's medical technical assistants,
or MTAs, who serve as the first line of prison health care, disregarded
Coffey's complaints less than an hour before her death. "I looked at her
stomach and it had blown up, like she was pregnant nine months with
twins," said Rhonda Smith, Coffey's cellmate. By the time an MTA arrived
45 minutes later, Smith said, Coffey could barely speak and could not sit
up. After examining Coffey, the MTA said he couldn't understand what she
was saying, Smith said. "He said, 'You could do more for her than I can,'
" Smith said. "He just laughed and walked away."

Inmates say another of the prison's MTAs took about 15 minutes to respond
after Hardie collapsed in her cell a week later. They say a fellow inmate
was left to administer CPR until medical help arrived.

Bobbie Smith, a cellmate, said Hardie had been complaining of chest pains
for weeks, saying "that it felt like someone was squeezing her heart."
Hardie's mother, Diane Hardie Rios, said her daughter had a lifetime of
drug problems and was halfway through a 10-year sentence for credit card
fraud. "The judge gave her a sentence, and it wasn't death," said Rios, a
juvenile probation officer in San Bernardino County. Rios added that she
is considering a wrongful death lawsuit, saying the delay in medical care
was too long. "There's still a lot of questions in my mind."

Six days after Hardie's death, Vallario died of unexplained causes just
outside the prison visiting area. Prison officials say CPR was
immediately administered, but failed to revive her.

Heimerich said many inmates come into the prisons with preexisting
conditions and health habits that lead to problems behind bars. In
addition, he said, any allegations made by inmates should be taken with
caution because "a lot of times they have an ax to grind. They may see
someone sick, someone may pass away and the inmates put two and two
together and get five."

But prison activists say the recent spate of deaths fans existing
concerns about the conflicting responsibilities of prison system medical
technical assistants, who must juggle their role as health care givers
with the basic responsibilities of prison guards. "Correctional officers
are trained to be suspicious of prisoners, to always have an eye out,"
Chandler said. "If you put that in a medical context, you have a lot of
people misdiagnosing because they're trained to be skeptical of what
prisoners claim."

Cayenne Bird, director of the Sacramento prisoners' rights group UNION,
said the prison medical facilities amount to "just sort of concocted
clinics run by MTAs who are essentially guards. They aren't trained in
triage, and they can't even dispense anything more than Pepto-Bismol and
Motrin." (Los Angeles Times, December 20, 2000)


MASSACHUSETTS: Agrees to Spend on Mentally Retarded and Settle Suit
-------------------------------------------------------------------
Massachusetts has agreed to almost quadruple spending on programs for
mentally retarded adults to settle a class-action lawsuit over the
lengthy wait for state services.

The lawsuit was filed in March 1999 on behalf of Margaret Sullivan and
2,600 other mentally retarded adults, some of whom had waited more than a
decade for residential care.

U.S. District Judge Douglas P. Woodlock ruled in July that 90 days was a
reasonable amount of time for the state Department of Mental Retardation
to provide service to those who requested it.

The state agreed to increase funding from $29 million to $114 million
over five years, said Rich Copp, a spokesman for the Executive Office of
Health and Human Services.

''This will likely make us the leader in the nation in providing services
for this population,'' Copp said. ''It's definitely good news. Actually,
it's great news.''

Neil McKittrick, an attorney for the families, said negotiations took six
or seven weeks. ''We think we're finally there. We've got it signed,
sealed and delivered,'' he said.

Most adults on the waiting list are looking for group homes, shared
apartments or other communal living arrangements where they can receive
assistance.

Other states including Florida, Hawaii, Maryland, New Jersey, New Mexico,
New York and Oregon have faced the same obstacles Massachusetts does: too
little money and too few places that can care for mentally disabled
people. Many of those states are trying to develop their own plans to
address the problems. (AP Online, December 20, 2000)


PENNSYLVANIA LIFE: Distribution Plan for Winning Policyholders Approved
-----------------------------------------------------------------------
Pennsylvania residents who held whole life and deferred annuity policies
issued by Executive Life Insurance Company can expect to receive cash
distributions from a successful class action suit against the
Pennsylvania Life and Health Insurance Guaranty Association, James R.
Malone, Jr., of Chimicles & Tikellis LLP, Co-Counsel for class members
announced.

Policyholders who fit within the class will share in a distribution of
approximately 15 million dollars. Following a hearing on December 8th,
the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas approved the plan of allocation
for the proceeds of a judgement entered in June 1998 by the Honorable
Stephen E. Levin. Counsel presently expect to commence the process of
distribution in early 2001. Under the plan of allocation approved by
Judge Levin, policyholders will not need to file claims, but will receive
distributions based upon the losses calculated by the actuaries retained
by Gersenson's lawyers.

The suit was filed in April 1994 by Mr. Herbert A. Gersenson on behalf of
the policyholders who had held policies issued by Executive Life and who
resided in Pennsylvania in December, 1991, when the company went
insolvent. Gersenson's lawyers, from Chimicles & Tikellis LLP and Miller
Faucher & Cafferty LLP, successfully litigated the case in the
Phila-delphia Court of Common Pleas and won. The Court ruled that the
Guaranty Association had failed to fulfill its obligation to guarantee
assume or assure payment of Executive Life's contractual obligations to
Pennsylvania residents. The judgement was paid in May, 2000, when the
Guaranty Association's efforts to overturn the judgement on appeal
failed.

Contact: Chimicles & Tikellis LLP James R. Malone, Jr., 610/642-8500 or
Eileen Rosenau, 215/735-5512 or Miller Faucher & Cafferty LLP J. Dennis
Faucher, 215/864-2800


PPA LITIGATION: CA Man Sues 5 Makers on Unfair Competition, Deceptive Ad
------------------------------------------------------------------------
A California man has filed a state class action suit accusing five drug
manufacturers of unfair competition and deceptive advertising for selling
over-the-counter diet drugs and decongestants containing
phenylpropanolamine (PPA) (Richard Webster, et al. v. Whitehall-Robins
Healthcare, et al., No. BC239853, Calif. Super., Los Angeles Co.).

In a complaint filed in late October in the California Superior Court for
Los Angeles County, Richard Webster sued Whitehall-Robins Healthcare,
Bayer Corp., SmithKline Beecham, Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corp. and
Chattem Inc. for unfair competition and false advertising under the
California Unfair Practices Act, Business & Professions Code subsection
17200 and 17500, et seq. The complaint says the defendants engaged in a
pattern and practice of unfairly, deceptively and unlawfully marketing,
advertising and promoting PPA.

                               Side Effects

Webster says that because PPA narrows or constricts blood vessels, it may
increase blood pressure in persons with hypertension. His complaint says
side effects include headache, painful or difficult urination, chest
tightness, abdominal or stomach pain, irregular heartbeat, sweating,
nausea and vomiting, nervousness, restlessness, confusion, convulsions,
rapid breathing, hallucinations, hostile behavior, muscle tremors,
dizziness, false sense of well-being and insomnia.

The complaint says PPA-containing products were sold under the brand
names of Acutrim 16 Hour, Acutrim Late Day, Acutrim II Maximum Strength,
Amfed T.D., Dexatrim Caffeine-Free Extended Duration, Dexatrim
Caffeine-Free Maximum Strength Caplets, Efed II, Propagest, Super
Odrinex, Thinz Back to Nature, Thinz-Span and Unitrol Diet Plan Maximum
Strength. PPA is also found in Alka-Seltzer Plus, Contac, Comtrex,
Dimetapp, Triaminic, Robitussin CF and Tussin CF, the complaint says.

                         Yale Study Cited

The complaint cites the Yale Hemorrhagic Stroke Project, a five-year
study of 2,000 stroke victims between 18 and 49 that was funded by a
trade group, the Consumer Healthcare Products Association. It says the
study found that stroke patients were 50 percent more likely than control
subjects to have been exposed to PPA within three days of their incident.

Those who use PPA decongestant products were about 23 percent more likely
to have a stroke during the study period, the complaint says. The
complaint says the study found that the risk of stroke increased 16-fold
for those who used a PPA appetite suppressant.

It says the study estimated that removing PPA from the market could
prevent between 200 and 500 strokes each year in the 18-to-49 age group.

On the basis of the study, the FDA asked drug manufacturers to replace
PPA.

                    Disgorgement, Restitution Sought

The complaint says California consumers "paid substantial amounts of
money for a drug which did not have the characteristics advertised." It
says the defendants' systematic marketing campaigns were false, unfair,
unlawful and likely to deceive consumer as to the safety, efficacy and
uniqueness of PPA.

Webster says the defendants should disgorge profits and pay restitution
to PPA consumers.

The complaint seeks to represent a class of all Californians who used any
PPA product in the past four years.

The complaint does not state if Webster is claiming personal injury from
PPA products or which ones he may have used.

Norman B. Blumenthal, David Markham, Sheldon A. Ostroff and Barron E.
Ramos of Blumenthal, Ostroff & Markham in La Jolla, Calif., represent
Webster. (Mealey's Emerging Drugs & Devices, December 7, 2000)


RYLAND GROUP: Fixing Sinkhole in Crystal Oaks; Suit Not Resolved Yet
--------------------------------------------------------------------
Ryland Group is having a layer of compacted sand and clay placed in the
hole which has sparked lawsuits from some homeowners. The Crystal Oaks
subdivision builder has agreed to make additional repairs to a sinkhole
that opened in July. But the overture failed to diffuse residents'
lawsuits seeking compensation for any property devaluation.

Ryland Group Inc., one of the largest developers in Florida, is paying $
25,000 to remove about two feet of soil and replace it with a layer of
compacted clay and sand, which will stabilize the area. Work began
Tuesday and should be completed in a week.

"We've always stood behind our products and our services," William
Wright, president of Ryland's west Florida division, said Tuesday. "And
we're very happy that they allowed us access to move forward with the
final repairs."

Ryland had offered to make the repairs if at least 60 homeowners waived
claims against the company relating to the sinkhole. Last week, Ryland
recanted the stipulation, saying it would pay for the work based on the
number of waivers already received.

Wright declined to say how many people signed on to the deal, only that
the number falls short of 60. "It's irrelevant," he said, "because we've
elected to move forward."

Under Ryland's deal, the work is warranted for three years. The project
is under the direction of Steven Counts Inc., a land development company
based in Dunnellon. The clay will shore up the area and also act as a
filter for rainwater which eventually makes its way to an aquifer.

Ryland has already spent $ 37,000 filling the 40-foot sinkhole, which
opened in a retention pond. But who is responsible for the second phase
has been in question. The homeowners' group only recently gained
ownership of the property.

Residents of Crystal Oaks said they were shocked when the sinkhole opened
in July. One month earlier, they had filed a lawsuit against Ryland,
alleging that it failed to inform them about other sinkholes when they
were buying their homes.

Ryland said it was not involved in the building of the retention pond,
which may have been dug too deep. Besides, officials say, sinkholes are a
fact of life in Florida. "I don't know how you give assurances for acts
of God," Wright said in a recent interview.

Many of the homeowners maintain that Ryland is liable nonetheless and say
they intend to continue legal action. Their attorney, Dan Pilka of
Brandon, said nearly 50 homeowners are seeking class-action status. Among
them is Bruce Wickersham, who bought a Crystal Oaks house in June 1998.
"Nobody told us there was an active sinkhole." He said he would like
Ryland to compensate him for any lost property value.

Kathy Loseby, who moved to the subdivision in September 1999, signed the
waiver because she thinks the suit has no grounds. "Sinkholes occur in
Florida," she said, adding that she has seen no proof that property
values have suffered. "We have been more than pleased with Ryland's
product and service," Loseby said.

Citrus County Property Appraiser Ron Schultz, who is aware of the
sinkhole issue, said he will be paying close attention to sales in
Crystal Oaks. He agreed that sinkholes in Florida are "about as natural
as rain" and said they typically only affect the value of property
directly next to a sinkhole. (St. Petersburg Times, December 20, 2000)


TAINTED BLOOD: Claims over HIV Precluded By Settlement, 7th Cir Rules
---------------------------------------------------------------------
A Seventh Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals panel on Nov. 15 affirmed
dismissal of an HIV blood contamination case, finding that the
plaintiffs' claims were precluded by a class action settlement. It also
found the appeal was identical to a previous one in which the panel found
that plaintiffs should have been on notice about the settlement (In Re:
Factor VII or IX Concentrate Blood Products Litigation, Appeal of Edward
Gadson, et al., No. 00-1961, 7th Cir.).

Five plaintiffs who had hemophilia and contracted HIV from contaminated
blood products sued various defendants in state court. The U.S. District
Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division, enjoined
the plaintiffs from doing so to avoid a class settlement from which they
had not opted out.

The plaintiffs appealed.

In what the Seventh Circuit panel called a "sequel" to two of its earlier
opinions, it said the claims of three plaintiffs are identical to those
rejected in one of those rulings.

The panel agreed with the District Court that claims of four plaintiffs
that they didn't receive notice of the settlement were factually
unfounded.

                           'Ostrich Tactic'

"One of these four, [Edward] Gadson, further claims that he didn't know
he had HIV until after the deadline for opting out of the class, which
was October 15, 1996," the panel wrote. "The reason he didn't know is
that, though he had every reason to believe that he had not only HIV but
indeed full-blown AIDS, having had seizures as early as 1987, he delayed
being tested until 1997, at which time he discovered his infection had
already proceeded to the AIDS stage. This was an ostrich tactic
equivalent to knowledge."

In response to the plaintiffs' claim that they should be entitled to
mount a collateral attack on the settlement because it was improper under
Rule 23, the panel said that while it did say the class action might be
questionable, it "held that it was not void and could not be collaterally
attacked."

"The appellants have given us no reason to overrule our two-year-old
decision," the panel said.

The plaintiffs are represented by Marya C. Young of Binghamton, N.Y.
Baxter Healthcare Corp. is represented by Charles G. Albert of Albert,
Whitehead & McGaugh in Chicago. Rhone-Poulenc Rorer Pharmaceuticals Inc.
and Armour Pharmaceutical Co. are represented by Sara J. Gourley of
Sidley & Austin in Chicago.

Alpha Therapeutic Corp. is represented by David I. Bell of Knapp,
Peterson & Clarke in Glendale, Calif. Mull & Mull is represented by
Robert E. Arceneaux of Barham & Arceneaux in New Orleans. (Mealey's
Emerging Drugs & Devices, December 7, 2000)


VICKSBURG CASINOS: MS High Court Reviews Restraint of Trade Verdict
-------------------------------------------------------------------
Ameristar in October agreed to buy Station's sprawling Kansas City and
St. Louis gaming properties for $475 million.

But if Ameristar has trouble with the Gaming Commission over its
Mississippi legal woes, then so does Harrah's Entertainment Inc., and
perhaps Isle of Capri Casinos Inc. as well. All three are competitors in
the crowded Vicksburg, Miss., gaming market - and prospectively in Kansas
City.

In two linked civil cases, Mississippi's high court is reviewing a $3.9
million restraint of trade verdict handed down a year ago. Final
decisions could come at any time.

The three Vicksburg casinos moor their boats in the Mississippi River on
the city's west side.

Minnesota-based Multi Gaming Management Inc. contends that Ameristar,
Harrah's, Isle and others conspired during the mid-'90s to block its
proposed casino and motor sports speedway project east of Vicksburg on
the Big Black River.

The site is along the main route between Vicksburg and Jackson, Miss.,
which happens to be the state capital and the casinos' top feeder city. A
casino on the Big Black River would intercept a huge percentage of
Vicksburg-bound gamblers.

At one point during protracted proceedings, Ameristar Chairman and chief
executive Craig H. Neilsen told the Mississippi Gaming Commission that
Vicksburg casinos draw around two-thirds of their customers from the
Jackson area.

The Gaming Commission refused to license the project. Multi Gaming
appealed and won. A judge ordered commissioners to license the casino.
The Gaming Commission, along with Vicksburg city officials who feared the
loss of jobs and their municipal cash cow, appealed to the state Supreme
Court.

In a separate case, a Pike County, Miss., jury awarded Multi Gaming and
its principal owner, Jim Belisle, damages of $2.9 million. Big Black
River landowner E.L. Pennebaker Jr. was awarded $1 million.

The plaintiffs alleged the casino defendants improperly used their
influence to sway the Mississippi Gaming Commission. They asked for $238
million in damages. The defendants, including an influential Mississippi
bank, appealed to the state Supreme Court.

Shortly before that November 1999 trial, Isle of Capri settled out of
court and was dismissed from the case - avoiding a verdict, but not the
taint.

Neither Ameristar nor Harrah's would comment last week. In one of its few
public statements, Ameristar last fall said it did nothing wrong and was
appealing the verdict as "an unconstitutional restraint on Ameristar's
free speech rights."

The Missouri Gaming Commission is watching. The troublesome
restraint-of-trade and conspiracy allegations upheld by a jury justify a
close, hard look by regulators. If commissioners do not like what they
see, they could deny Ameristar a license. Or they could issue one, along
with a whopping 'Welcome-to-Missouri' fine.

But fair play would demand commissioners also take identical disciplinary
action against Harrah's, and Isle too. (The Kansas City Star, December
19, 2000)


WYETH-AYERST: Duract Cost-Recovery Class Certified By TX Federal Judge
----------------------------------------------------------------------
A national cost-recovery class for people who bought the withdrawn
prescription pain drug Duract and insurers was certified Nov. 29 by a
Texas federal judge (Elizabeth Rivera, et al. v. Wyeth-Ayerst
Laboratories, et al., No. G-00-345, S.D. Texas, Galveston Div.).

The class is for recovery of economic damages only and specifically
excludes claims for personal injuries or claims against corporate
officers and directors of defendants Wyeth-Ayerst Laboratories and its
parent, American Home Products Corp.

Duract was a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug that was introduced in
It was withdrawn about 11 months later after reports of liver damage.
Several personal injury suits have been filed across the country and at
least one suit was reported settled (See 5/21/99, Page 6).

                       Individual, Insurer Sue

In the class action complaint, plaintiff Elizabeth Rivera and the
Arkansas Carpenters Health and Welfare Fund claim that Wyeth and AHP were
aware of alleged life-threatening side effects before introducing Duract
and did not disclose those alleged risks to physicians and patients.

The complaint seeks to recover economic damages, claiming violations of
the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act (DTPA), breach of implied
warranty and merchantability under Texas laws and unjust enrichment. The
plaintiffs stipulated to dismiss claims of breach of implied warranty and
private right of action under the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act. A RICO
complaint added to the first amendment complaint was omitted from the
second amended complaint.

Judge Samuel B. Kent of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District
of Texas here denied a defense request to defer class certification
pending additional discovery, saying that information was not necessary
under Rule 23.

In a Nov. 8 order, the judge dismissed the defendants' argument that the
plaintiffs lacked standing to sue because they suffered no physical
injury. The judge also dismissed the defendants' learned intermediary
defense, saying the claims relate to the adequacy of warnings, not to
whom they were given.

In the Nov. 29 order, the judge also dismissed defense arguments that the
plaintiffs had a potential conflict. The judge said that if that occurs,
he can create subclasses and appoint subclass counsel.

                        Rule 23 Requirements

Judge Kent said the class met the Rule 23(a) prerequisites for numerosity
because the potential class numbers in the tens of thousands of persons
from across the nation, making joinder impractical.

Judge Kent said common questions of law and fact in the case are
deceptive marketing, breach of express or implied warranties, adequate
warnings, failure to disclose safety information, whether the drug was in
fact safe, whether the defendants were aware of the risks when they
introduced the drug and whether the defendants were unjustly enriched.

"These questions, when answered for one class member, are answered for
all," Judge Kent said. "Thus, the commonality requirement is met."

The typicality requirement is met, Judge Kent said, because both
plaintiffs appear to be typical purchasers.

"There is no indication that they will be preoccupied with defenses
applicable only to themselves," he said.

                         No Potential Conflict

In finding the adequacy of representation prerequisite met, Judge Kent
dismissed the defendants' argument that there could be a conflict between
consumers and third-party payers regarding priority of payment.

"In the unlikely event that a conflict does occur over allocation of
damages of settlement funds, however," the judge wrote, "the Court can
divide the class into two subclasses consisting of consumers and
insurers, appointing separate counsel for each.

"This speculative conflict raised by Defendants presents no barrier to
class certification," the judge said.

                    Learned Intermediary Unavailing

The defendants argued that the learned intermediary doctrine requires
individualized treatment because the judge will have to determine whether
each physician relied on allegedly inadequate warnings about Duract. The
judge said that argument lacked merit, citing his Nov. 8 ruling that "the
learned intermediary doctrine governs to whom warnings must be given, not
the adequacy of the warnings."

The plaintiffs, the judge continued, claim there were inadequate warnings
to both patients and physicians. In addition, he said the defendants
concede that Duract was taken off the market because "no labeling change"
would be sufficient.

"The crux of Plaintiffs' case is the safety of Duract, an issue which
does not require any individualized treatment," Judge Kent wrote. "In
short, in this case for economic damages, the learned intermediary
doctrine simply does not apply. After the risks associated with Duract
became clear to Defendants and they took the drug off the market,
Defendants specifically instructed class members not to take Duract and
to throw the medicine out.

"The class Plaintiffs were left with a completely worthless product.
Defendants can hardly avoid liability by claiming that they warned
doctors; the learned intermediary doctrine is not the doctrine of caveat
emptor."

                         State Law Variations

Judge Kent dismissed the defendants' objections that variations in state
law defeat the predominance requirement of Rule 23, saying case law they
cite is not on point.

"The Court can overcome difficulties created by variations in state law
through the judicious use of subclasses," Judge Kent wrote. "Thus,
keeping in mind that the Court can decertify the class at any time, the
Court gives plaintiffs an opportunity to provide a workable subclass plan
which will solve management problems created by variations in state law."

Wyeth and AHP argued that the class would be unmanageable because the
court would have to decide who prescribed the drug, when it was
prescribed, whether the doctor read the label, if he or she knew of risks
from any other source, if they would still have prescribed the drug, what
plaintiffs paid and whether an insurer reimbursed plaintiffs. Judge Kent
said most of those points are dismissed by his learned intermediary
ruling.

On the question of whether a doctor would have prescribed the drug
knowing what he or she knows now, Judge Kent noted, "being that Duract
has been taken off the market because of its health risks, it is
incontestable that no physician would prescribe Duract now."

                          Price No Concern

The defendants' concerns about what plaintiffs paid for Duract was of no
concern to certification because "there is obviously no requirement that
all class members have identical damages," the judge said. Damages are
readily ascertainable, he said.

Judge Kent said the defendants' argument that the class would result in
double recovery "is flawed and contradicted by Defendants' observation
that reimbursements amounts will have to be determined."

"Rather than creating a double recovery, having all these parties
together prevents a double recovery," Judge Kent said.

The judge said class treatment is superior because individual claims
would number in the thousands for relatively small amounts of money.

                    Sufficient DTPA Allegations

In the Nov. 8 ruling denying the defendants' motion to dismiss, Judge
Kent found that because the plaintiffs alleged that Duract was not what
it was warranted to be - a safe pain reliever - the plaintiffs have
alleged sufficient facts to support a claim under the DTPA. The judge
said the plaintiffs adequately stated a claim for a refund of the
purchase price and need not allege a physical injury.

Dismissing the defendants' arguments against the breach of warranty
claim, Judge Kent wrote: "Part of what people bargain for when they
purchase medicine is a safe product which will not cause them to worry.
The Court cannot say as a matter of law that there was no breach of
warranty, even absent physical injury, for a medicine with a revoked
assurance of safety."

Judge Kent said he did not think the Texas Supreme Court "would adopt a
blanket rule that would invalidate breach of warranty claims by
purchasers who had not used up the medicine and were forced to throw it
away. "

Judge Kent said he could not say as a matter of law that any offset for
benefits received by the plaintiffs would offset alleged unjust
enrichment of the defendants. Nor, he added, is the plaintiffs' failure
to return the drug significant because they were told to throw it away.

Also denied was the defendants' argument that the union health and
welfare fund did not suffer a compensable injury.

                          Adequacy Of Warning

In denying dismissal based on adequacy of warning, the judge said the
plaintiffs are alleging failure to warn doctors, pharmacists and
consumers. The doctrine, the judge said, does not govern adequacy of
warnings.

"Thus, since Plaintiffs allege that the warnings were inadequate, to whom
the warnings were given is of no moment," Judge Kent wrote.

Arthur Sadin of Youngdahl & Sadin and Richard Lee Melancon of Melancon &
Hogue, both in Friendswood, Texas, represent the plaintiffs. Stephen R.
Lewis Jr. of Lewis & Williams in Galveston, Texas, represents the
defendants. (Mealey's Emerging Drugs & Devices, December 7, 2000)


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