CAR_Public/010129.MBX               C L A S S   A C T I O N   R E P O R T E R

              Monday, January 29, 2001, Vol. 3, No. 20

                             Headlines

ALLSTATE INSURANCE: Ct Finds Violation of PA Law in "Do I Need an Atty"
AURORA FOODS: Execs Enter Pleas of Not Guilty Re Financial Statements
BP AMOCO: Lawsuit Accuses of Inflating CA Gas Prices with Export to Asia
CONSECO FINANCE: MN Ct Dismisses Securities Suit; Appeal Made to 8th Cir
DAIMLERCHRYSLER: Harvey Greenfield Announces Securities Suit Filed in NY

FEN-PHEN: AHP Boosts Liability Reserves to Cover Settlement of Claims
FLORIDA: Judge Hears Arguments on Foster Care; No Decision Before Feb.
FLORIDA PROGRESS: Ct OKs Suit Re Use of Electric Transmission Easements
FLORIDA PROGRESS: Lawsuit Seeks to Enjoin Share Exchange with CP&L
FLORIDA POWER: Tries to Settle Employee Age Discrimination Suit

HOLOCAUST VICTIMS: Polish Senate OKs Law on Payments for Seized Property
IBP INC: Tyson Delays Takeover for Being Kept in the Dark Re SEC Probe
INTRENET, INC: Cauley Geller Announces Securities Lawsuit in Ohio
L.A POLICE: Nearly 200 Current & Former Officers Claim Retaliation
LEVEL PROPANE: Settles with Customers in NY, MI, KY; Ohio Suits Come in

LOUISIANA: Oyster Farming Topic of State House Committee Hearing
MERRILL LYNCH: Foley & Bezek Files Suit Re Failure to Pay Injury Claims
MTBE LITIGATION: Trade Group Files Suit Seeking To Block Ban in CA
N.J. POLICE: 4 Alleged Victims Of Profiling Have Lawsuit Reinstated
NEW ERA: Berger & Montague Files Securities Lawsuit in Colorado

PRE-PAID LEGAL: Berman DeValerio Announces Securities Suit Filed in OK
RAZORFISH, INC: Weiss & Yourman Announces Securities Lawsuit in New York
TOBACCO LITIGATION: Two Former Soviet Republics File Suit in Florida
U OF CA: Cited for Nuclear Safety Breach at Los Alamos National Lab.
URINE TEST: Lawsuit Can Come out for Effect of Presumed Tampering on Job

VERIZON COMMUNICATIONS: Tackles Problems with Internet Service
WASHINGTON MUTUAL: CA Sp Ct Decertifies Nationwide Mortgagors' Lawsuit

                              *********

ALLSTATE INSURANCE: Ct Finds Violation of PA Law in "Do I Need an Atty"
-----------------------------------------------------------------------
Harrisburg Allstate Insurance Co. violated Pennsylvania's
consumer-protection law by trying to dissuade people involved in traffic
accidents with Allstate policyholders from hiring lawyers to pursue their
claims, the Commonwealth Court has ruled. Apparently as part of an
organized effort to reduce its expenses, the judge said, Allstate
deliberately misled these ''third-party'' claimants in hopes of
minimizing lawyer involvement in settling their claims. ''Because it was
Allstate's intent to create confusion in the minds of its third-party
claimants, its conduct was willful and in violation of the Consumer
Protection Law,'' Commonwealth Court Judge Dan Pellegrini wrote in a
13-page summary judgment recently on a lawsuit that the attorney
general's office filed two years ago. Attorney General Mike Fisher is
seeking civil fines of between $ 1,000 and $ 3,000 for each of the
''thousands'' of violations that occurred over several years.

A sentencing hearing is set for Feb. 15.

Allstate, based in Northbrook, Ill., said it disagreed with the ruling
and it plans to appeal.

At issue in the case are several letters and forms that Allstate
routinely sent to third-party claimants from 1995 until the state filed
suit in December 1998. After that, the company changed its literature to
remove the legally questionable material, said Barbara Petito, a
spokeswoman for Fisher's office. The literature advised claimants that
they were not required to hire a lawyer, that claims handled by lawyers
often take longer to settle, and that lawyers may claim a large chunk of
any settlement as their compensation. The papers also promised claimants
that Allstate would treat them fairly in resolving their claims and
sought permission to obtain their medical and employment records.

In reaching his conclusions, Pellegrini cited confidential internal
documents involving a claims reorganization that Allstate undertook to
reduce losses and bolster shareholders' returns. The reorganization plan
was built largely around an insurance industry study that identified
lawyers' involvement as ''a big cost to the auto-insurance reimbursement
system.'' In its statement earlier this month, Allstate noted that its
literature has been revised but that the forms ''still answer simple,
frequently asked questions that claimants have.''

In related news, New London, Conn., attorney Robert I. Reardon Jr. has
requested certification of the case for a national class action against
Allstate for the same claims. Plaintiffs' lawyers estimate that hundreds
of thousands of people might qualify for the national class. So far, at
least 47 plaintiffs in 22 states have filed independent lawsuits,
claiming they trusted Allstate and are worse off for doing so.
(Pennsylvania Law Weekly, January 29, 2001)


AURORA FOODS: Execs Enter Pleas of Not Guilty Re Financial Statements
---------------------------------------------------------------------
Aurora Foods Inc.'s former chairman, Ian Wilson, and three other
ex-executives have entered not guilty pleas to charges they manipulated
the company's financial statements. At their arraignment, Wilson and
three former colleagues --- M. Laurie Cummings, Dirk Grizzle and Ray
Chung --- denied they conspired to hide higher-than-expected promotional
expenses at Aurora, maker of Duncan Hines cake products, Log Cabin syrup
and Mrs. Paul's seafood. But prosecutors said they overstated EBITDA ---
an accounting term that's short for earnings before interest, taxes,
depreciation, and amortization --- as well as the company's net income
and current assets by more than $ 43 million. (The Atlanta Journal and
Constitution, January 26, 2001)


BP AMOCO: Lawsuit Accuses of Inflating CA Gas Prices with Export to Asia
------------------------------------------------------------------------
BP Amoco accused of inflating Calif. prices Los Angeles --- BP Amoco PLC
was sued by a consumer who alleges the company artificially raised gas
prices in California by exporting oil to Asia. Alan Wayne filed the
complaint in Los Angeles Superior Court, seeking class-action status on
behalf of all California gas buyers. London-based BP could not be
immediately reached for comment. The suit says that BP from 1992 to 1999
reduced its supply of crude oil to the West Coast during the winter, when
demand typically drops, by exporting it to Asia. (The Atlanta Journal and
Constitution, January 26, 2001)


CONSECO FINANCE: MN Ct Dismisses Securities Suit; Appeal Made to 8th Cir
------------------------------------------------------------------------
Conseco Finance has been served with various lawsuits in the United
States District Court for the District of Minnesota. These lawsuits were
generally filed as purported class actions on behalf of persons or
entities who purchased common stock or options to purchase common stock
of Conseco Finance during alleged class periods that generally run from
February 1995 to January 1998. One of these lawsuits did not include
class action claims. In addition to Conseco Finance, some of Conseco
Finance's current and former officers and directors are named as
defendants in one or more of the lawsuits.

The lawsuits have been consolidated into two complaints, one relating to
an alleged class of purchasers of Conseco Finance's common stock and the
other relating to an alleged class of traders in options for Conseco
Finance's common stock.

In addition to these two complaints, a separate non-class action lawsuit
containing similar allegations was also filed. Plaintiffs in the lawsuits
assert claims under Sections 10(b) and 20(a) of the Securities Exchange
Act of 1934.

In each case, plaintiffs allege that Conseco Finance and the other
defendants violated federal securities laws by making false and
misleading statements about Conseco Finance's current state and Conseco
Finance's future prospects, particularly about prepayment assumptions and
performance of some of our loan portfolios, which allegedly rendered
Conseco Finance's financial statements false and misleading.

Conseco Finance filed motions to dismiss these lawsuits. On August 24,
1999, Conseco Finance's motions to dismiss were granted with prejudice.
The plaintiffs subsequently appealed the decision to the U.S. Court of
Appeals for the 8th Circuit, and the appeal is currently pending. Conseco
Finance believes that the lawsuits are without merit and intends to
defend the lawsuits vigorously.


DAIMLERCHRYSLER: Harvey Greenfield Announces Securities Suit Filed in NY
------------------------------------------------------------------------
A class action lawsuit was filed in the United States District Court for
the Southern District of New York, brought on behalf of shareholders of
DaimlerChrysler A.G. (NYSE: DCX) stock who (1) purchased or acquired
shares of DCX between November 14, 1998 and October 29, 2000; (2)
received DaimlerChrysler stock in exchange for Chrysler shares as a
result of the merger with Daimler-Benz; and/or (3) owned Chrysler stock
as of July 20, 1998 and suffered damages as a result of the merger.

The Complaint alleges, among other things, that DaimlerChrysler and
certain of its top officers misled the shareholders into approving the
merger by falsely representing that the merged company's U.S. operations
would remain in the control of Chrysler's management on an equal basis
with Daimler-Benz.  In fact, Daimler-Benz had orchestrated a plan to take
over complete control of Chrysler and replace its management team, making
the company subordinate to German managers and long-time Daimler-Benz
Chairman Jurgen Schrempp.

If you have any questions or wish to discuss this action or your rights
with regard to this litigation, you may contact Harvey Greenfield, Esq.
at the Law Firm of Harvey Greenfield, 60 East 42nd Street, Suite 2001,
New York, NY 10165, telephone 212-949-5500, or toll free 877-949-5500,
facsimile 212-949-0049, or by e-mail at hgreenf@banet.net.


FEN-PHEN: AHP Boosts Liability Reserves to Cover Settlement of Claims
---------------------------------------------------------------------
American Home Products Corp. announced that it has added $ 7.5 billion to
reserves to complete the settlement of product-liability claims stemming
from litigation over the combination of diet drugs known as fen-phen.

That brings the company's total reserve for the cases to $ 12.25 billion
-- one of the largest such charges in the pharmaceutical industry's
history.

As recently as last fall, company executives said they did not believe
additional diet-drug litigation charges would exceed $ 4.75 billion.
About $ 4 billion of the $ 12.25 billion already has been paid, the
company said.

"While this [charge] is more than we anticipated . . . it is in the best
interest of the company and its shareholders to put the diet-drug
litigation behind us," Louis L. Hoynes, the company's executive vice
president and general counsel, said in a conference call with Wall Street
analysts.

"A more protracted process involving many months of litigation and
possible appeals and ongoing disputes over many claims could have been
ultimately less costly in dollars," he added. "But the prolonged
disruption would have been more costly to the company in many tangible
and intangible ways. We firmly believe that the extra cost of an early
resolution is warranted.

"The diet-drug litigation has in our judgment finally been contained."

The litigation is related to two drugs -- dexfenfluramine, which the
company sold under the name Redux, and fenfluramine, which it sold as
Pondimin -- that were prescribed as diet aids and sometimes combined with
another drug, phentermine, to make the fen-phen "cocktail."
Dexfenfluramine and fenfluramine were recalled in 1997 after being linked
to heart-valve damage. The lawsuits have alleged that users of these
drugs were not adequately warned of their potential dangers.

American Home Products, the fifth-largest U.S. drug company, made the
announcement as it released its fourth-quarter earnings for 2000. It said
$ 12.25 billion should cover all remaining claims against the company
arising from a national class-action lawsuit settlement and separate
lawsuits brought by thousands of other individuals.

Officials said "aggressive action" -- in the form of the $ 7.5 billion
fourth-quarter charge -- was necessary so the company could settle the
remaining lawsuits and turn its attention to growing its markets in the
United States and overseas.

Moody's Investors Service downgraded American Home Products' long- and
short-term debt ratings a notch. Overall, however, the new ratings are
still considered strong, said David Neuhaus, a Moody's vice president.

"They've got a very strong underlying business -- the pharmaceutical
business -- and this has been a major distraction for them for the past
few years," he said. He attributed the downgrade to expectations that
there will be a "significant increase" in the company's debt level over
the next two years.

"And, secondly, while we're comfortable that while the current charges
[can cover claims], litigation has a way of not being able to finally
settle itself. You know, asbestos came back to haunt companies. And until
we gain comfort that the national settlement is beyond appeal and until
we see that the number of [individual lawsuits] decreases substantially
we think there's some risk that the situation is not finally stable."

American Home Products reported a net loss of $ 3.82 billion in the
fourth quarter last year, compared with a profit of $ 593.2 million in
the same period in 1999.

Investors seemed unruffled by the news: American Home Products stock
closed at $ 57.64, up $ 2.89, or 5 percent Thursday, from Wednesday's
close on the New York Stock Exchange. (The Washington Post, January 26,
2001)


FLORIDA: Judge Hears Arguments on Foster Care; No Decision Before Feb.
----------------------------------------------------------------------
A lawyer for the state belittled a foster care lawsuit before a Miami
federal magistrate on January 25 by characterizing the case as a national
advocacy group's attempt to get attention and outdo another advocacy
group. "It is a shotgun, rambling document; it literally takes hours for
anyone to decipher what the claims are," Paul Hancock, deputy Attorney
General for South Florida, said while arguing why the suit should be
either dismissed or, at the very least, denied class-action status. "What
we have here is an effort to make headlines," he said.

Hancock represents the state Department of Children & Families,
Department Secretary Kathleen Kearney and Gov. Jeb Bush in what's
referred to as the "Bonnie L" foster care lawsuit -- named for the first
plaintiff in the complaint.

The suit, filed in June, outlines the plight of 22 foster children, most
from Palm Beach County, who allege they were abused, neglected or
otherwise mistreated while in state care. The suit originally was filed
by Karen Gievers, an activist who sued Children & Families on similar
grounds in 1990. It now boasts a legal team of at least 30 lawyers, some
of whom hail from the New York-based Children's Rights Inc. Children's
Rights is embroiled in child-welfare litigation in at least nine states.

Hancock argued that past foster care-related class-action suits -- some
settled, one ongoing -- makes this latest one redundant. In stating his
case, he pitted Children's Rights against the San Francisco-based Youth
Law Center, another national advocacy group that settled last year with
the state over a Broward County foster care suit, named "Ward." "What we
have here, your honor, is the issue of dueling advocacy groups," Hancock
said. "What is it in the Ward settlement they don't like? They want a
panel of experts outside Florida to come forward and manage the foster
care system."

Gievers scoffed at Hancock's portrayal of the Bonnie L case. "If you have
the facts, you argue the facts. If you have the law, you argue the law,"
she said. "If you don't have either you just attack the messenger and try
to confuse things."

Last Thursday January 25, lawyers for both sides went before U.S.
Magistrate Robert Dube in Miami to argue the state's motion to dismiss
the case and the plaintiffs' motion for class-action certification. Dube
will review the motions as well as other related documents before making
recommendations to U.S. Judge Federico Moreno.

Moreno won't decide the case until at least February.

Class action status would widen the suit from 22 children to between
15,000 and 18,000 kids. That, in turn, would empower advocates to
implement a statewide reform of the foster care system, Gievers said.
"We've got to get some handle on this," she said. "The fact of the matter
is we need kids to have a life while the bureaucracy tinkers and fixes
itself." (Sun-Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, FL), January 26, 2001)


FLORIDA PROGRESS: Ct OKs Suit Re Use of Electric Transmission Easements
-----------------------------------------------------------------------
In December 1998, Florida Power was served with this class action lawsuit
seeking damages, declaratory and injunctive relief for the alleged
improper use of electric transmission easements. The plaintiffs contend
that the licensing of fiber optic telecommunications lines to third
parties or telecommunications companies for other than Florida Power's
internal use along the electric transmission line right-of-way exceeds
the authority granted in the easements. In June 1999, plaintiffs amended
their complaint to add Progress Telecommunications Corporation as a
defendant and add counts for unjust enrichment and constructive trust. In
January 2000, the court conditionally certified the class statewide.
Management does not expect that the results of these legal actions will
have a material impact on Florida Progress' financial position,
operations or liquidity. Accordingly, no provision for loss has been
recorded pertaining to this matter.


FLORIDA PROGRESS: Lawsuit Seeks to Enjoin Share Exchange with CP&L
------------------------------------------------------------------
In August 1999, Florida Progress announced that it entered into an
Agreement and Plan of Exchange with Carolina Power & Light Company
(CP&L), and CP&L Energy, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of CP&L.

A lawsuit was filed in September 1999, against Florida Progress and its
directors seeking class action status, an unspecified amount of damages
and injunctive relief, including a declaration that the agreement and
plan of exchange was entered into in breach of the fiduciary duties of
the Florida Progress board of directors, and enjoining Florida Progress
from proceeding with the share exchange. The complaint also seeks an
award of costs and attorney's fees. Florida Progress believes this suit
is without merit, and intends to vigorously defend itself against this
action. Accordingly, no provision for loss has been recorded pertaining
to this matter.


FLORIDA POWER: Tries to Settle Employee Age Discrimination Suit
---------------------------------------------------------------
Florida Power and Florida Progress have been named defendants in an age
discrimination lawsuit. The number of plaintiffs remains at 116, but four
of those plaintiffs have had their federal claims dismissed and 74 others
have had their state age claims dismissed. While no dollar amount was
requested, each plaintiff seeks back pay, reinstatement or front pay
through their projected dates of normal retirement, costs and attorneys'
fees.

In October 1996, the federal Court approved an agreement between the
parties to provisionally certify this case as a class action suit under
the Age Discrimination in Employment Act.

Florida Power filed a motion to decertify the class and in August 1999,
the Court granted Florida Power's motion.

In October 1999, the judge certified the question of whether the case
should be tried as a class action to the Eleventh Circuit Court of
Appeals for immediate appellate review. In December 1999, the Court of
Appeals agreed to review the judge's order decertifying the class.

In December 1998, during mediation in this age discrimination suit,
plaintiffs alleged damages of $100 million. Company management, while not
believing plaintiffs' claim to have merit, offered $5 million in an
attempted settlement of all claims. Plaintiffs rejected that offer.
Florida Power and the plaintiffs engaged in informal settlement
discussions, which were terminated on December 22, 1998.

As a result of the plaintiffs' claims, management has identified a
probable range of $5 million to $100 million with no amount within that
range a better estimate of probable loss than any other amount;
accordingly, Florida Power has accrued $5 million. In December 1999,
Florida Power also recorded an accrual of $4.8 million for legal fees
associated with defending its position in these proceedings. There can be
no assurance that This litigation will be settled, or if settled, that
the settlement will not exceed $5 million. Additionally, the ultimate
outcome, if litigated, cannot presently be determined.


HOLOCAUST VICTIMS: Polish Senate OKs Law on Payments for Seized Property
------------------------------------------------------------------------
Poland's Senate decided on January 26 to widen eligibility under a
long-delayed bill to compensate people whose property was seized by the
communist regime, but it was unclear whether the amendment would stand.

The draft now goes for final approval to the Sejm, parliament's lower
house. It already has voted once for a tight citizenship requirement that
could exclude many Polish emigres, including Jews who fled communist-era
persecution.

The law allows compensation equivalent to 50 percent of the value of
property seized under communist rule from 1944 to 1962.

It was unclear whether the Sejm would try to restore its earlier language
limiting payments to claimants who were Polish citizens as of Dec. 31,
1999 a provision that has drawn strong objections from Jewish groups.

The Senate version would allow payments to former owners who were Polish
citizens, or their direct heirs, regardless of current citizenship.

The Solidarity-led government backs the more liberal version, but has met
opposition in the Sejm where it has not had a working majority since the
small Freedom Union quit the governing coalition last year.

The ex-communist opposition opposes the restitution measure outright.
Other deputies have sought to limit financial liability for fear the
bill's costs could devastate public finances.

The government estimates that about 170,000 eligible claims would cost
about 43 billion zlotys (dlrs 10 billion).

The bill also must be approved by President Aleksander Kwasniewski, an
ex-communist with close ties to the government opposition.

Poland is the only former communist state in Eastern Europe that has yet
to approve such a compensation law, and Warsaw has come under mounting
international pressure to act.

The government also hopes bill will blunt class-action suits by Jewish
groups in the United States seeking the return of private property.

While a 1997 law governs return of communal Jewish property, this is the
first that specifically addresses the return of businesses, homes and
other property that belonged to individual Jews. (AP Worldstream, January
26, 2001)


IBP INC: Tyson Delays Takeover for Being Kept in the Dark Re SEC Probe
----------------------------------------------------------------------
According to the Atlanta Journal and Constitution, January 26, 2001,
Tyson delays takeover, cites SEC probe at IBP Springdale, Ark. --- Tyson
Foods delayed its $ 4.7 billion takeover of IBP Inc., saying IBP failed
to disclose a federal probe of its accounting practices. IBP stock fell
14 percent. The Securities and Exchange Commission notified IBP on Dec.
29, three days before Tyson agreed to a cash-and-stock takeover, Tyson
said in a statement. IBP didn't tell Tyson about the SEC review until
Jan. 10, Tyson said.

On a different matter, Callicrate, a cattle feeder who is pursuring a
nationwide fight against cattle price-fixing, is hoping to galvanize a
global uprising about corporate agriculture and envisioned a consumer
boycott of IBP and Tyson products in thewake of their merger. "People are
upset about concentration when they learn the most important thing - food
- is under the control of a few hands," according to the Associated Press
State & Local Wire, January 9, 2001.


INTRENET, INC: Cauley Geller Announces Securities Lawsuit in Ohio
-----------------------------------------------------------------
The Law Firm of Cauley Geller Bowman & Coates, LLP announced that it has
filed a class action in the United States District Court for the Southern
District of Ohio, Western Division, on behalf of all individuals and
institutional investors who purchased the common stock of Intrenet, Inc.
(Nasdaq:INET) (Nasdaq:INETE) between February 19, 1999 and October 13,
2000, inclusive (the "Class Period").

The Complaint alleges that defendants violated the federal securities
laws by issuing false and misleading statements during the Class Period
concerning the Company's business and financial condition, and as a
result, the price of Intrenet stock was artificially inflated during the
Class Period. Specifically, the complaint alleges that Intrenet's
statements concerning its 1998 and 1999 financial results were materially
false and misleading since the Company's reported financial results were
based upon improper accounting practices in violation of Generally
Accepted Accounting Principles.

Contact: Cauley Geller Bowman & Coates, LLP, Boca Raton Media: Sue Null
or Charlie Gastineau 888/551-9944 (Toll Free) or Jackie Addison,
888/551-9944 (Toll Free) E-mail: info@classlawyer.com


L.A POLICE: Nearly 200 Current & Former Officers Claim Retaliation
------------------------------------------------------------------
Nearly 200 current and former officers are now plaintiffs in a
class-action lawsuit against the Los Angeles Police Department, alleging
that they were retaliated against when they tried to report misconduct,
an attorney said last Thursday January 25.

"Once you become an LAPD pickle, you can never become a cucumber again,"
said Bradley Gage, who represents former and current officers suing the
department. "All of these officers have been pickled."

The number of plaintiffs in the lawsuit, which also names selected LAPD
supervisors as defendants, has tripled in the last three months.
Originally filed in August in Los Angeles County Superior Court, it has
been refiled in U.S. District Court downtown because it involves federal
civil rights claims.

At a news conference in his Woodland Hills office, Gage was joined by two
plaintiffs, twin sisters Theresa and Lisa Golt, who said they had been
jailed on false charges. In November, each was charged in Los Angeles
County with issuing bail without a license and illegally accessing
confidential information on law enforcement computers. They were arrested
again in December in Orange County on suspicion of running a bail bond
business without a license.

Lisa Golt, a former LAPD officer, held up a driver's license-sized card
that she said was her valid state bail agent license. But at the time she
was arrested, she alleged, someone had tampered with her license status
in the state's database.

Golt, who was fired by the LAPD for using pepper spray while off duty,
said she believed that she was retaliated against because the company she
worked for provided bail for former Rampart officers charged with
corruption, and for being an outspoken critic of LAPD Chief Bernard C.
Parks. In 1999, she led a campaign to encourage other officers to sign
written instructions to bar Parks from attending their funerals if they
were killed in the line of duty. She also said she had refused to lie
during what she called an unfair internal investigation of a sergeant and
raised the ire of the LAPD's top management as a result.

Theresa Golt, a current officer, is on administrative leave while charges
against her are pending.

Officer Jason Lee, an LAPD spokesman, declined to respond, saying
department policy bars comment on pending lawsuits. (Los Angeles Times,
January 26, 2001)


LEVEL PROPANE: Settles with Customers in NY, MI, KY; Ohio Suits Come in
-----------------------------------------------------------------------Westlake-based
Level Propane has settled disputes over its business practices with three
states -- New York, Michigan and now Kentucky. But in Ohio, where two
separate lawsuits have been filed against the company, complaints are
coming in at a fast pace.

More than 400 of those complaints have been logged with the Ohio attorney
general's office. The complaints detail a variety of problems: bad
customer service, overbilling and running out of gas in the winter.
Without propane, customers said they had to go without heat.

The state's lawsuit against the company will not be tried for months, the
attorney general's office said.

Attorneys for the Equal Justice Foundation, a non-profit group that filed
a federal class action lawsuit against Level Propane two years ago and
expects to go to trial in July, said it is considering taking action soon
that could offer customers immediate relief.

Level Propane spokesman Tom Andrzejewski said the company "disagrees"
with the allegations in the suits, but declined to discuss the pending
litigation.

"There are a myriad of options," he said.

Earlier this month, Kentucky became the third state to reach a settlement
with Level Propane Gases Inc. The Kentucky attorney general's office said
more than 125 customers complained about the company last year and the
complaints were similar to the allegations filed with the Ohio attorney
general.

In that settlement, Level Propane agreed to repay customers and pay $
25,000 to the state.

The company also agreed to change how it does business in that state.

Under the settlement, the company said it would maintain enough staff to
serve customers, provide timely deliveries and guaranteed price quotes,
revise its contracts, refund undisclosed charges and sales taxes, and
waive termination fees for customers who canceled their contracts.

Level Propane did not admit any wrongdoing.

The Ohio attorney general's office has been getting complaints about
Level Propane for years and mediating the disputes individually. In 1999,
more than 250 complaints were lodged against the company. And last year,
500 more were filed.

But as the weather got colder and the complaints mounted, the attorney
general's office decided to file a lawsuit in Common Pleas Court in
Delaware County. The suit charges that Level Propane violated state
consumer protection laws.

The Ohio attorney general has not ruled out a settlement.

Last year, Level Propane settled with the New York attorney general. It
agreed to repay customers and pay the state $ 17,000 in penalties.

In December, the company settled a dispute with the Michigan attorney
general by allowing other companies to fill customers' tanks in a
10-county area.

And earlier this month, the National Propane Gas Association said Level
Propane "has not been acting in the best interests of the public," and
told the privately-held company it is no longer welcome as a member of
the international trade group. (Akron Beacon Journal, January 26, 2001)


LOUISIANA: Oyster Farming Topic of State House Committee Hearing
----------------------------------------------------------------
The state has told leaseholders in two areas where Mississippi River
water is being diverted into coastal marshes that their leases will not
be renewed. Fresh water, which helps rebuild wetlands, can be deadly to
oysters. The rejection of renewals is part of the state's effort to pave
the way for the opening of the Davis Pond Freshwater Diversion in St.
Charles Parish. The state is sending relocation offers to
oyster-leaseholders in areas expected to be affected by the project.

Just south of there, leaseholders are being told their Barataria Bay
leases will not be extended because, while Davis Pond should not harm
them, other planned projects eventually will. Pausina's family reef is in
that area.

The conflict between oyster farming and coastal restoration was the topic
of a hearing before the state House Committee on Natural Resources.

Len Bahr, Gov. Mike Foster's executive assistant for coastal affairs,
said he had long seen "a train wreck approaching" between the oyster
industry and one of the most effective tools in coastal restoration,
diverting fresh water from rivers and streams into marshes.

The collision occurred in December, when a Plaquemines Parish jury
determined the Caernarvon Freshwater Diversion Structure sent too much
fresh water into Breton Sound, damaging some oyster leases.

The jury awarded five plaintiffs $48 million. That could balloon to $700
million if applied to other plaintiffs in the class-action suit, state
officials say.

Bahr told legislators that a member of a joint state-federal task force
told him some projects will be put on hold "until the state gets its act
together."

Department of Natural Resources Secretary Jack Caldwell said the
Plaquemines lawsuit showed the state its potential liability. Caldwell
said the verdict prompted him to stop renewing leases that could be
affected by the diversions. "The state faces the potential - the
potential - to have another class-action suit at Davis Pond," Caldwell
told the legislators. The federally funded Davis Pond project includes
money to relocate affected oyster leases. Caldwell said that provision
was added because the state learned its lesson with Caernarvon.

Relocation offers will total about $5.7 million, Caldwell said. But
leaseholders could choose to sue the state if they think they could win
big awards like those in the Caernarvon lawsuit, he added.

Oyster man Ralph Pausina, chairman of the board of the Oyster Growers and
Dealers Association and one of dozens of oyster farmers whose state
leases aren't being renewed because of planned coastal-restoration
projects, says his industry's conflict with coastal-restoration efforts
may spell the end to his family's 70-year tradition of harvesting the
shellfish from the same reef. For years, such renewals were automatic.

He said he may sue the state for not renewing his lease because he feels
he needs to protect his investment in the reef. His family has other
leases in the Davis Pond area, and he said he will accept relocation
offers. "We don't know what the state is offering us, ... but I am going
to go in there and sign," Pausina said. "I have to stay in business."

Mike Voisin, a seventh-generation oyster farmer from Houma, said oyster
growers support coastal restoration. "We supported freshwater diversion
before it was cool," he said. Voisin said lease renewals have contained
hold-harmless clauses that the industry has supported, and those
provisions could be used to extend leases. The clauses are designed to
protect the state from being sued if coastal-restoration efforts harm
oyster beds.

But Caldwell said the clauses have never been tested in court. Voisin and
others said Caldwell is being vindictive with leases because of the
Plaquemines verdict. Caldwell denied that. Under the buyout offers, the
state would pay oyster farmers for setting up new reefs or would buy out
the leases for slightly more than the relocation costs. The oystermen can
also choose to do nothing and take their chances.

State Wildlife and Fisheries Assistant Secretary John Roussel said 9
million to 13 million pounds of oysters are harvested in an average year,
a value of $260 million. Leases produce about half of the harvest, with
public reefs, which are open to anyone, accounting for the rest. (The
Advocate (Baton Rouge, LA.), January 25, 2001)


MERRILL LYNCH: Foley & Bezek Files Suit Re Failure to Pay Injury Claims
-----------------------------------------------------------------------
Foley & Bezek, a Southern California law firm with a practice
specializing in class actions, has filed a class action lawsuit in
California against Merrill Lynch and its subsidiary Merrill Lynch
Settlement Services for alleged failure to make timely payments to
individuals who settled personal injury cases and agreed to accept
periodic payments from Merrill Lynch Settlement Services utilizing
"structured settlements."

A structured settlement agreement is an agreement between an individual
injured in a personal injury lawsuit who agrees to settle his or her
lawsuit with the defendant who caused the injury, and accept a series of
payments over time to be paid by Merrill Lynch Settlement Services, a
subsidiary of Merrill Lynch. By utilizing a "structured settlement"
through Merrill Lynch Settlement Services, the payments to the injured
individual are tax free.

Merrill Lynch, through its settlement services subsidiary, Merrill Lynch
Settlement Services, assumed full responsibility for these payments to
the injured individuals. To accomplish this, Merrill Lynch Settlement
Services purchased U.S. Treasury Bonds which it placed in trust and
agreed to use the income from the bonds to make the agreed upon payments
to the injured individuals. Subsequently, Merrill Lynch sold its
ownership in its settlement services' subsidiary to a third party. The
third party pledged the treasury bonds to Morgan Stanley as collateral
for a loan to the third party. When the third party defaulted on the
loans, Morgan Stanley foreclosed on the treasury bonds to repay its loan
to the third party.

Now, over 100 individuals, many of whom were disabled by their injuries,
have not received the payments that Merrill Lynch Settlement Services
promised to make. The lawsuit was initiated by Martha Torbitt, a Southern
California woman, on behalf of all other California residents who entered
into structured settlements with Merrill Lynch's subsidiary.

Any inquiries concerning the Merrill Lynch class action should be
directed to Foley & Bezek, LLP at 805/962-9495, or you can contact them
through their Web site: www.FoleyBezek.com. A copy of the complaint can
be sent via facsimile or E-mail.

Contact: Foley & Bezek Thomas Foley, Jr., 805/962-9495


MTBE LITIGATION: Trade Group Files Suit Seeking To Block Ban in CA
------------------------------------------------------------------
The Oxygenated Fuels Association filed suit in U.S. District Court in
Sacramento asking a judge to invalidate a California ban on the fuel
additive MTBE, which reduces air pollution but is blamed for fouling
groundwater. The trade group filed a similar lawsuit in July 2000
challenging a New York law banning MTBE by 2004.

Gov. Gray Davis ordered a ban on MTBE after Dec. 31, 2002, because
contamination forced the closure of drinking water wells in Santa Monica
and South Lake Tahoe. As little as a tablespoon in an Olympic-sized pool
makes water taste and smell like turpentine.

The group said the state should tackle the real problem of fixing leaking
underground fuel tanks that taint water.

MTBE, which moves swiftly through groundwater after being spilled or
leaked, has been found in 10,000 sites in the state. The Environmental
Protection Agency has labeled it a possible carcinogen.

The federal government requires that gasoline sold in cities with smog
problems contain 2 percent oxygen to make the fuel burn cleaner. Two fuel
additives, called ``oxygenates,'' are commonly used to comply with the
requirement. MTBE - methyl tertiary butyl ether, made from natural gas -
has been used primarily in the Northeast and on the West Coast, while
ethanol is used primarily in the Midwest. The association contends that
MTBE is cheaper than ethanol and burns more cleanly. Ethanol producers
say it is safer than MTBE.

The Clinton administration considered for months whether to grant
California a waiver to the requirement for oxygenates in gasoline, but
did not act before President Bush took office Jan. 20. The Bush
administration has not taken a position on waiver requests.

A Senate committee approved a ban last year on MTBE, but the bill went no
further. (AP, January 24, 2001)


N.J. POLICE: 4 Alleged Victims Of Profiling Have Lawsuit Reinstated
-------------------------------------------------------------------
In December 1998, Tyrone Hamilton of Elizabeth was twice pulled over by
state police within a matter of minutes as he drove his aunt and
80-year-old grandmother down the New Jersey Turnpike to a family funeral
in Maryland.

On January 25, a federal judge in Camden reinstated a lawsuit filed by
Hamilton, who is black, and by three other black men who claim they were
victims of racial profiling on the turnpike.

Lawyers for the four men want the lawsuit certified as a class action,
meaning a ruling could affect thousands of minorities who the lawyers
believe have been pulled over by state police on the southern and central
portions of the turnpike since 1997.

The case is one of several filed since state Attorney General Peter
Verniero admitted in 1999 that racial profiling by New Jersey State
Police was "real, not imagined." The cases include lawsuits filed not
only by minority motorists, but by minority state troopers who allege
discrimination, and even by the former head of the state police, who was
fired by Governor Whitman after making remarks she considered racially
insensitive.

The suit reinstated on January 25 had originally been filed in May 1999.

But lawyers for the four motorists agreed to put their case on hold
pending the results of another lawsuit in state court brought by 12
minority motorists.

A trial court judge dismissed that suit in August and the state Appellate
Division two weeks ago declined to consider an appeal of the case.
Attorneys for the 12 motorists asked the state Supreme Court to hear the
case, but the court does not have to take the appeal.

Given the uncertain outcome of the state case, attorneys in the federal
case said that they felt they could wait no longer.

"The case has dragged on and we felt we had to move forward," 1 said
Attorney Alan Yatvin.

On January 25, Yatvin received permission from U.S. District Judge Joseph
E. Irenas to reopen the racial profiling case.

Attorneys for the state now have 30 days to answer the lawsuit.

It is expected that the Attorney General's office will move to dismiss
the case.

The federal suit says all four motorists were stopped between October
1997 and March 1999 because they were black.

"They were pulled over simply because they are minorities," said Justin
T. Loughry, another attorney for the motorists."It was typical of the
experience, we think, of hundreds, thousands of African Americans on the
turnpike during the relevant time period."

Stefan Presser, legal director of the Pennsylvania chapter of the
American Civil Liberties Union, said the racial profiling problem"is so
large and egregious"that both the New Jersey and Pennsylvania chapters of
the ACLU are joining the lawsuit.

"To my knowledge, this is the first time in the history of the ACLU that
the two state ACLUs are going to bring resources to bear on an issue,"he
said."We think we will need significant resources to right this problem."

In addition to monetary damages, attorneys for the motorists say they are
seeking to get a federal judge to oversee reforms that end profiling by
state police.

Presser said the attorneys are concerned that the new Bush administration
will not enforce a 1999 agreement the state signed with the U.S.
Department of Justice in which the state promised to end racial
profiling.

Hamilton is the only New Jersey resident among the four plaintiffs; the
other three are from Philadelphia.

According to the suit, Hamilton was stopped near Exit 4, outside Mount
Laurel.

After the trooper who pulled him over learned that Hamilton was a
juvenile detention officer in Union County, Hamilton was let go. But
within minutes, the suit says, Hamilton was stopped again by a different
trooper who gave him a ticket for speeding. After questioning the
trooper, Hamilton was told, "You should have given me your ID before I
wrote the ticket," the suit reads. (The Record (Bergen County, NJ),
January 26, 2001)


NEW ERA: Berger & Montague Files Securities Lawsuit in Colorado
---------------------------------------------------------------
The law firm of Berger & Montague, P.C. (http://www.investorprotect.com),
filed a class action on January 25 in the United States District Court
for the District of Colorado on behalf of all persons or entities who
purchased New Era of Networks, Inc. (Nasdaq: NEON) common shares during
the period from October 18, through November 21, 2000, inclusive.

The complaint charges New Era of Networks, Inc. and certain of its
officers with violations of Section 10(b) and 20(a) of the Securities
Exchange Act of 1934 by reason of material misrepresentations and
omissions. The complaint alleges that certain officers and directors
issued false and misleading statements concerning the Company's financial
results for the third quarter The Company did not disclose during the
Class Period, but later acknowledged in an SEC filing, that the record
revenues and earnings reported for its third quarter 2000 resulted from
the Company's practice of selling software to companies in exchange for
equity in its customers and booking the sales as non-cash revenue.
Disclosure of this previously concealed information caused the Company's
stock to plummet over 50% on November 21, 2000.

Contact: Sherrie R. Savett, Esquire, Douglas M. Risen, Esquire or
Kimberly A. Walker, Investor Relations Manager, all of Berger & Montague,
888-891-2289, or 215-875-3000, or fax, 215-875-5715 or
InvestorProtect@bm.net


PRE-PAID LEGAL: Berman DeValerio Announces Securities Suit Filed in OK
----------------------------------------------------------------------
Shareholders sued Pre-Paid Legal Services, Inc. (NYSE: PPD) for
securities fraud, accusing the company of inflating its stock price by
using misleading accounting methods, Berman DeValerio & Pease LLP
(www.bermanesq.com) said.

The lawsuit was filed in the United States District Court for the Western
District of Oklahoma. It seeks damages for violations of federal
securities laws on behalf of all investors who bought Pre-Paid Legal
stock between April 19, 1999 and January 16, 2001 (the "Class Period").
This is a longer Class Period than some of the other class actions
pending against Pre-Paid Legal.

Based in Ada, Okla., Pre-Paid Legal underwrites and markets legal expense
plans. Boston-based Berman DeValerio & Pease has represented defrauded
investors in class actions for nearly two decades.

The complaint contends that Pre-Paid Legal misled the investing public
during the Class Period by overstating its financial results.
Essentially, Pre-Paid Legal recorded the commissions it paid to its
salespeople as assets instead of expenses in its financial statements.
The complaint says this bookkeeping maneuver served to overstate revenues
by at least $78 million and violated the generally accepted accounting
principles Pre-Paid Legal claimed to follow.

Pre-Paid Legal's shares have lost more than half their value since news
of these accounting violations came to light.

Contact: Sara Davis, Esq. of Berman, DeValerio & Pease LLP, 800-516-9926,
bdplaw@bermanesq.com


RAZORFISH, INC: Weiss & Yourman Announces Securities Lawsuit in New York
------------------------------------------------------------------------
A class action lawsuit against Razorfish, Inc. (NASDAQ:RAZF) and others
was commenced in the United States District Court for the Southern
District of New York, seeking to recover damages on behalf of purchasers
of Razorfish shares.

The complaint charges defendants with violations of the federal
securities laws. The complaint alleges that defendants issued a series of
materially false and misleading statements which artificially inflated
the price of the common stock of Razorfish during the Class Period.

Contact: Weiss & Yourman, New York James E. Tullman Mark D. Smilow David
C. Katz 888/593-4771 or 212/682-3025 wynyc@aol.com


TOBACCO LITIGATION: Two Former Soviet Republics File Suit in Florida
--------------------------------------------------------------------
Two Central Asian nations have become the latest countries to sue the
U.S. tobacco industry for the cost of smoking-related illnesses. ``We
believe the tobacco cartel intentionally targeted these developing
nations, where most of the citizens are poor, undereducated and unaware
of the dangers of nicotine addiction,'' said Sonny Holtzman, attorney for
the former Soviet republics of Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, on Wednesday.

The case was filed in Florida Circuit Court in Miami-Dade County, which
produced a record $145 billion award for Florida smokers last year.
Similar suits filed in Miami by Russia and Brazilian states have been
moved by the industry to federal court and consolidated in Washington.

The republics intend to seek hundreds of millions of dollars spent
treating smokers who developed cardiovascular disease, lung cancer,
emphysema and other diseases blamed on cigarettes. The industry already
is making payments on a $246 billion settlement reached in 1998 with U.S.
states.

The defendants include Philip Morris Inc., R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co.,
Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corp., Lorillard Tobacco Co. and Liggett Group
Inc., which now is called Vector Group Ltd.

An industry spokesman had called the Russian lawsuit silly because of
government controls on the tobacco industry in the Soviet era. (AP,
January 24, 2001)


U OF CA: Cited for Nuclear Safety Breach at Los Alamos National Lab.
--------------------------------------------------------------------
The Department of Energy said on January 24 it had cited the University
of California for violations of nuclear safety rules at Los Alamos
National Laboratory.

The citation, listing several infractions, detailed an incident in March
in which eight workers were exposed to airborne plutonium during a leak.
Investigators said the mishap could have been prevented. The citation
claimed plutonium was released when a worker disturbed a loose connection
in an airtight device that allows workers to handle hazardous materials
without being exposed to radiation.

By law, the university and the lab are exempt from fines.

``Our institution will take the necessary steps to correct safety
deficiencies,'' said Los Alamos director John Browne.

The university, which has until Feb. 19 to refute the claims. (The
Associated Press, January 24, 2001)


URINE TEST: Lawsuit Can Come out for Effect of Presumed Tampering on Job
------------------------------------------------------------------------
Between 250 and 300 letters have been sent to federal laboratories in an
effort to identify individuals who may have lost or failed to receive a
job or had other adverse employment action taken against them because
test results inaccurately showed they had tampered with their urine
specimens.

According to the Drug Detection Report, the Division of Workplace
Programs, the office of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services
Administration (SAMHSA) that runs the federal drug testing program, is
winning praise for addressing this problem head on once it came to light
during a Delta Air Lines pilot's appeal of his dismissal for a drug test
shown to be "inconsistent with human urine," in other words substituted.

The letters direct the laboratories involved in the several hundred
instances to direct medical review officers (MROs) to consider those
tests cancelled. The MROs, in turn, are to contact the employers involved
in these instances and explain to them that the tests are cancelled and
that cancelled tests cannot be viewed as violations of Department of
Transportation (DOT) regulations. All the cases involved tests conducted
under DOT regulations but DOT followed SAMHSA's standards for identifying
a substituted specimen, the Drug Detection Report reveals.

According to the report, the MROs are required to complete forms
explaining the steps they have taken and return those forms to DOT.

The article cites Charles Lodico of the Division of Workplace Programs as
saying that the letters seek cancellation of tests where the creatinine
level of the subject is 5 or the specific gravity is 1.001 or 1.00. The
Drug Detection Report says that the standard for a substituted specimen,
as outlined in Program Documents 35 and 37 is urine creatinine less than
or equal to 5 mg/dL and urine specific gravity less than or equal to
1.001 or greater than or equal to 1.020.

Program Document 37 informed laboratories that chose to conduct validity
testing of specimens not to truncate the results - not to round the
numbers for creatinine and specific gravity. But when the Delta pilot
challenged the finding that he had substituted his urine specimen after a
long flight, it was determined that the laboratory had truncated the
results in his case, SAMHSA conducted a full investigation of all 66
federal laboratories and determined this practice had occurred in other
cases, the Drug Detection Report reveals.

Lodico pointed out that the 250 to 300 cases where truncating occurred
over two years are a small percentage of the 13 million collected
samples.

                     Is Litigation Inevitable?

Nevertheless, despite the swift action -- by government standards -- to
correct problems that may have occurred, it might be too late to fix all
the adverse employment actions that likely have been taken on the basis
of assumptions that individuals tampered with their urine specimens. It
is pointed out in the report that the federal government does not dictate
what actions should be taken when a specimen is found, to have been
substituted.

Lodico said a good percentage of the cases at issue involved
pre-employment drug tests. Random, for-cause and other types of tests
also occurred. This raises questions about how an employer who declined
to hire someone a year ago, because it was assumed he or she cheated on a
drug test, can provide restitution to that individual, or whether
restitution is even required.

Individual lawsuits, or even a class action lawsuit, could potentially
come out of this, suggested Robert Schoening of Drug Testing Consultants.
If that happens, all the entities involved in the drug testing program
will likely be named as defendants, including not just the federal
government, but laboratories, medical review officers, individual
employers and third-party administrators or consortia, Schoening said.

Additional controversy will likely surface when SAMHSA issues a proposed
rule to require validity testing of specimens under federally regulated
drug testing programs, the Drug Detection Repor says. The testing in
Program Documents 35 and 37 was voluntary, although Lodico said that all
but two or three of the 66 federally certified laboratories have been
doing such testing. Division of Workplace Programs Director Robert
Stephenson announced in December 2000 that a rulemaking is needed and
that this proposal, unlike a program document, will be subject to public
comment. Stephenson said at the December Drug Testing Advisory Board
meeting that the voluntary nature of the validity testing program may
have contributed to the confusion among participating laboratories. (Drug
Detection Report, January 11, 2001)


VERIZON COMMUNICATIONS: Tackles Problems with Internet Service
--------------------------------------------------------------
According to the Patriot-News, Verizon Communications Corp. says it's
working through problems with its DSL high-speed Internet service that is
the target of a nationwide class-action lawsuit filed by disgruntled
customers.

The lawsuit was filed in Washington, D.C., by the firm of Cohen,
Milstein, Hausfeld & Toll. It accuses the nation's largest telephone
company of signing up hundreds of thousands of DSL customers while
knowing it was not ready to deliver customer-friendly service. As a
result, the lawsuit says, customers experienced significant problems with
the service and long delays in obtaining technical support, the report
says. "If Verizon were to disclose to its potential new subscribers the
problems with its services, it would be unable to attract those
subscribers and lose market share to its competitors," the lawsuit says.

The January 19 edition of the CAR cited a report in the Detroit News
about a lawsuit over internet delays filed in Columbia.

DSL, or digital subscriber line, service runs simultaneously with voice
communications over the regular copper phone line to a customer's home or
business. It provides connection to the Internet at speeds many times
faster than available on standard dial-up modems and comparable to the
connection speeds of cable modems, the Patriot-News report says.

But it has a number of technical limitations, including that the
subscriber live no more than about three line-miles from a telephone
company central office, and the closer the better. Various enhancements
to the line to improve voice service can make it impossible to do DSL,
the report adds.

Verizon spokesman Eric Rabe said that the company is "absolutely
committed" to its Infospeed DSL service, while acknowledging that DSL
"presents a whole bunch of technical challenges."

Rabe said Verizon has more than 500,000 DSL customers, the benchmark
figure that Verizon Chairman Ivan Seidenberg had publicly committed the
company to reaching in 2000, and that demand from new customers continues
to be "huge." The challenges, Rabe said, have been in getting sufficient
hardware to serve DSL customers, training technicians and
customer-service representatives, and setting up the computer systems to
support Verizon DSL service. He said the company replaced most of the
software in those systems last year. "There are also issues with
customers and how they configure their gear to make it work," Rabe said.

DSL service from Verizon has been available in the Harrisburg area for
about a year, and few complaints about the service have surfaced, reports
the Patriot-News. That apparently has not been the experience in most
other parts of the company's 13-state territory in the mid-Atlantic and
New England regions, the report says.

According to the Patriot-News, Verizon DSL customers and customers of
other DSL providers who must lease facilities from Verizon will meet in
New York City on Feb. 5 to air their grievances and consider a so-called
Broadband Bill of Rights. The meeting, which is open to the public, is
being held in the Canadian consulate's office at 1251 Avenue of the
Americas, between West 49th and 50th streets. An RSVP at
rsvp@newnetworks.com is requested.

Bruce G. and Leslie B. Forrest of Washington, D.C., are the "name"
plaintiffs in the class-action lawsuit. The complaint says they signed up
for Verizon DSL service last August and still did not have a consistently
working connection in December, when they canceled the service. (The
Patriot-News, January 26, 2001)


WASHINGTON MUTUAL: CA Sp Ct Decertifies Nationwide Mortgagors' Lawsuit
----------------------------------------------------------------------
The California Supreme Court decertified a class-action lawsuit against
Washington Mutual Inc., the largest U.S. savings and loan, ruling that a
lower court didn't adequately analyze what state laws should apply in a
nationwide case.

Plaintiff Jayne Briseno sued Irvine thrift American Savings Bank, now
Washington Mutual, alleging breach of contract and unfair business
practices. An Orange County trial court in 1998 certified the case as a
nationwide class-action suit, representing at least 25,000 mortgagors who
were allegedly charged excessive insurance premiums since 1993.

The Irvine S&L required mortgagors to maintain hazard insurance on their
secured property. When mortgagors defaulted, American Savings imposed new
premiums of up to five times the price. Washington Mutual, based in
Seattle, purchased American in 1996.

The state's high court sent the case back to the California Court of
Appeal in Orange County.

In a 26-page opinion, the state's high court said the class was certified
on the "faulty legal assumption" that a decision on which state's law to
use "need not be resolved as part of the certification process." (Los
Angeles Times, January 26, 2001)


                             *********


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
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