/raid1/www/Hosts/bankrupt/CAR_Public/041217.mbx              C L A S S   A C T I O N   R E P O R T E R

            Friday, December 17, 2004, Vol. 6, No. 249


ALLSTATE INSURANCE: Faces Litigation Over Program Reorganization
ARIZONA: Latino Advocacy Group Lodges Race Discrimination Suit
CALIFORNIA: City Settles Protracted Litigation Over Gender Bias
CPG PARTNERS: NJ Court Approves Settlement of Stockholder Suit
DAOU SYSTEMS: CA Court Mulls Appeal of Securities Suit Dismissal

DIET PATCHES: FTC Files Complaints V. 2 Fraudulent Manufacturers
FINOVA CAPITAL: Thaxton Entities Suits Transferred To SC Court
FIRST COMMAND: Pays $12 Mil To Settle SEC, NASD Fraud Charges
GRILL CONCEPTS: Wage Suits Moved To Los Angeles Superior Court
GTC BIOTHERAPEUTICS: Faces Lawsuit Over Primera Corporation Sale

HARTFORD LIFE: Faces Stock, ERISA Suits Related to NYAG Lawsuit
LATTICE SEMICONDUCTOR: Shareholders Launch Stock Lawsuits in OR
LINCOLN BENEFIT: Breach of Contract Suit Moved To RI State Court
MERRILL LYNCH: Desktop Publishers Charged With Insider Trading
OPLINK COMMUNICATIONS: Asks NY Court To Approve Suit Settlement

PROLONG INTERNATIONAL: OH Court Approves Stock Suit Settlement
PSS WORLD: Trial in FL Securities Fraud Lawsuit Set October 2005
PSS WORLD: FL Court Okays Settlement of Securities Fraud Lawsuit
PSS WORLD: FL Court Approves Settlement of Overtime Wage Lawsuit
PURCHASEPRO.COM INC.: Executives Settle SEC Financial Fraud Case

PURDUE PHARMA: OH Court Denies Class Status For OxyContin Suit
QUICKLOGIC CORPORATION: Asks NY Court To Approve Suit Settlement
REVLON INC.: NY Court Dismisses Stock Lawsuit Without Prejudice
ROYAL GROUP: Shareholders Launch Securities Fraud Lawsuits in NY
SMART & FINAL: Distributes Settlement Of CA Overtime Wage Suits

SMART & FINAL: Discovery Proceeds in Overtime Wage Lawsuit in CA
SOS STAFFING: UT Judge Declines To Dismiss Shareholder's Lawsuit
THRIVENT FINANCIAL: Reaches Settlement Over Policyholder Claims
TULLY'S COFFEE: Employees Launch Overtime Wage Suit in CA Court

UNITED STATES: ARTA Releases 3rd "Judicial Hellholes(R)" Report
UNITED STATES: ILR Applauds President Bush For Legal Reform
UNITED STATES: President Pushes For Reform To Limit Lawsuits
VALEANT CANADA: Health Canada Recalls Drug V. Manic-Depression
WASHINGTON GROUP: ID Court Suit Settlement Approval Deemed Final

WORLDCOM: NY Judge Agrees With Plaintiffs On Banks' Diligence
WYETH PHARMACEUTICALS: MT Woman Lodges Hormone Replacement Drugs

                         Asbestos Alert

ASBESTOS LITIGATION: AIG Inc. Continues to Meet Asbestos Claims
ASBESTOS LITIGATION: Madison County's Suit Filings Down in 2004
ASBESTOS LITIGATION: Medical Costs Could Reach $32.2M in Montana
ASBESTOS LITIGATION: Many UK Companies Fail to Follow New Rules
ASBESTOS LITIGATION: Florida County Case Filings Plummet

ASBESTOS LITIGATION: Group Seeks $84M Penalty for Johns Manville
ASBESTOS LITIGATION: Amicus Slams Insurers Evading Compensation
ASBESTOS LITIGATION: Zurn Continues to Receive Asbestos Claims
ASBESTOS LITIGATION: Supreme Court Rules MT State Could Be Sued
ASBESTOS LITIGATION: Fears Cause Aussies to Avoid DIY Projects

ASBESTOS LITIGATION: Crane Co. Warns of Earnings Shortfall in 4Q
ASBESTOS LITIGATION: MA Court Seeks Relocation Area for Workers
ASBESTOS LITIGATION: Court Upholds Denial of Claim Against Todd
ASBESTOS LITIGATION: Disagreements Still Plague Asbestos Bill
ASBESTOS LITIGATION: Calls for a Probe Hound Site Redevelopment

ASBESTOS LITIGATION: Pres. Bush Demands Action to Limit Lawsuits
ASBESTOS LITIGATION: Worksafe Probes Theft from Demolition Site
ASBESTOS LITIGATION: HI School Shuts Down Due to Contamination
ASBESTOS LITIGATION: Hanson PLC Takes Additional Asbestos Charge
ASBESTOS ALERT: Inquest Reveals Coal Worker Died Due to Exposure

ASBESTOS ALERT: Council Pursues Fly-tipper as Plant Rouses Fear
ASBESTOS ALERT: Widow Sues UC Board Over Exposure in Los Alamos
ASBESTOS ALERT: Court Reverses Dismissal of Case V. Agilent, HPQ
ASBESTOS ALERT: Judge Affirms Dismissal of Case V. Intl Paper Co
ASBESTOS ALERT: Victim's Wife Files Lawsuit V. Timken Company

ASBESTOS ALERT: GTC Chemical fined GBD1,800 for Act Violations
ASBESTOS ALERT: Inquest Deferred as Cause of Disease is Disputed
ASBESTOS ALERT: Swindon Asbestos Victim Wins GBD50T Settlement
ASBESTOS ALERT: EPA Cites PCS for Clean Air Act Violations in MD

                   New Securities Fraud Cases

MERCK & CO.: Scott + Scott Lodges Securities Fraud Suit in NJ
ROYAL GROUP: Charles J. Piven Lodges Securities Fraud Suit in NY
ROYAL GROUP: Schatz & Nobel Lodges Securities Fraud Suit in NY
SUPPORTSOFT INC.: Schiffrin & Barroway Lodges CA Securities Suit


ALLSTATE INSURANCE: Faces Litigation Over Program Reorganization
AllState Insurance Company faces litigation relating to its
agency program reorganization announced in 1999.  These matters
include a lawsuit filed in December 2001 by the U.S. Equal
Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) alleging retaliation
under federal civil rights laws, a class action filed in August
2001 by former employee agents alleging retaliation and age
discrimination under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act,
breach of contract and Employee Retirement Income Security Act
(ERISA) violations, and a lawsuit filed in October 2004 by the
EEOC alleging age discrimination with respect to a policy
limiting the rehire of agents affected by the agency program

The Company is also defending another action, in which a class
was certified in June 2004, filed by former employee agents who
terminated their employment prior to the agency program
reorganization.  These plaintiffs have asserted claims under
ERISA and for constructive discharge, and are seeking the
benefits provided in connection with the reorganization.  The
Company has asked the Court to reconsider its class
certification ruling.

In late March 2004, in the first EEOC lawsuit and class action
lawsuit, the trial court issued a memorandum and order that,
among other things, certified classes of agents, including a
mandatory class of agents who had signed a release, for purposes
of effecting the court's declaratory judgment that the release
is voidable at the option of the release signer.  The court also
ordered that an agent who voids the release must return to the
Company any and all benefits received by the [agent] in exchange
for signing the release.  The court also "concluded that, on the
undisputed facts of record, there is no basis for claims of age
discrimination."  The EEOC and plaintiffs have asked the court
to clarify and/or reconsider its memorandum and order.  The case
otherwise remains pending.

A putative nationwide class action has also been filed by former
employee agents alleging various violations of ERISA.  This
matter was dismissed with prejudice in late March 2004 by the
trial Court but will be the subject of further proceedings on
appeal.  In these matters, plaintiffs seek compensatory and
punitive damages, and equitable relief.

In addition, AIC is defending certain matters relating to its
life agency program reorganization announced in 2000.  These
matters include an investigation by the EEOC with respect to
allegations of age discrimination and retaliation.  The Company
is cooperating fully with the agency investigation and will
continue to vigorously defend these and other claims related to
the life agency program reorganization.  The outcome of these
disputes is currently uncertain.

ARIZONA: Latino Advocacy Group Lodges Race Discrimination Suit
The Arizona chapter of the League of United Latin American
Citizens, a Latino advocacy organization filed a complaint
against Maricopa Community Colleges over racially charged
messages posted on the Glendale campus' computer system by a
math professor, the Arizona Republic reports.

According to an official with the group, the suit was filed the
complaint Monday with the U.S. Department of Education's Office
of Civil Rights. The move comes one month after the Mexican
American Legal Defense and Educational Fund filed a class-action
suit in U.S. District Court in Phoenix over what it called
festering racial problems at Glendale Community College. Both
groups have accused school officials of standing by while Walter
Kehowski used the computer system to send discriminatory
messages and provided links to White supremacist sites.

"Mr. Kehowski has continually created a very hostile, racially
antagonistic environment throughout the campus," said Silverio
Garcia, LULAC's state education chairman. "The Maricopa County
board has allowed him to use federally funded servers and
technology at the expense of taxpayers to create this hostile

However, school officials, who said they were not notified of
LULAC's complaint, have said the district supports the rights of
all individuals to voice opinions. "Mr. Kehowsi did not violate
any policy," said Chris Chesrown, spokeswoman for the community
colleges. "The same protections that allow him to voice his
opinion allow groups to assemble and petition in pursuit of
their grievances."

CALIFORNIA: City Settles Protracted Litigation Over Gender Bias
A decade long legal battle over widespread sexual harassment and
discrimination within the Los Angeles Police Department was
recently concluded when City Council members voted to settle
class-action lawsuits for $4.9 million, the Los Angeles Times

The lawsuits, which involved seventeen current and former police
officers and civilian employees, who had charged that they had
suffered discrimination and harassment as far back as the 1980s,
was known collectively as Tipton-Whittingham vs. Los Angeles.
The controversial suit gave rise to vast reforms within the
department, but resolution had stalled over the issue of
attorney's fees and damages. The decision to settle the case
followed a recent state Supreme Court ruling against the city.

Among the attorneys and organizations representing the
plaintiffs was the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern
California, whose executive director upon hearing of the city
council's decision said that she was pleased to hear of the
settlement but that the changes the LAPD made in 1997 to correct
the problems were just as vital.

According to Ramona Ripston, "This settlement is very important
for those women in the department who've been waiting a very
long time for a decision. Equally important, though, is that
we've already achieved a lot. It seems to me that women are now
quite successfully integrated into the department."

One plaintiff had complained that she had suffered bruises from
routine fondling by officers while others said they had been
passed over for promotions. Other plaintiffs also said they had
been ridiculed and harassed by fellow officers and internal
affairs investigators after reporting problems. Two of the
plaintiffs are men.

Of the settlement amount, the plaintiffs will share $3.6 million
and $1.25 million will go to their attorneys with the payments
to plaintiffs ranging from $25,000 to $800,000.  The case was
hung up for years over the issue of payment to lawyers, because
the LAPD adopted a series of reforms without a Court order, the
city argued that it did not owe a fee that attorneys may claim
when they are the catalyst for reform. Although the city had
paid that $1.8-million "catalyst" fee in 1998, it sought a
refund.  However, the state Supreme Court disagreed, so the
lawyers will keep the fee plus the $1.25 million in recent

CPG PARTNERS: NJ Court Approves Settlement of Stockholder Suit
The Court of Chancery in Essex County, New Jersey approved the
settlement of the class action filed against CPG Partners LP,
seeking to enjoin the Company's merger with Simon Property
Group, Inc.  The complaint, which was brought by a purported
stockholder of the Company, names the Company and each of the
members of its board of directors as defendants.

The complaint alleges that the defendants have violated
fiduciary duties of care, loyalty, candor and independence owed
to the public stockholders of the Company.  The plaintiff seeks,
among other things, class action certification, a declaration
that the merger agreement is unenforceable, a preliminary and
permanent injunction against the defendants from proceeding with
or closing the merger unless and until the Company implements a
procedure that is free from conflicts of interest and an award
of attorneys' fees and costs of suit.

A settlement hearing was held on October 5, 2004 at which the
Court approved a settlement of the case involving certain
additional disclosure and the payment by the Company of costs of
approximately $0.9 million to the plaintiff's attorneys.

DAOU SYSTEMS: CA Court Mulls Appeal of Securities Suit Dismissal
The United States District Court for the Southern District of
California has yet to rule on plaintiffs' appeal of the
dismissal of the consolidated securities class action filed
against Daou Systems, Inc. and certain of its officers and

The amended complaint alleges that the Company improperly used
the "percentage-of-completion" accounting method for revenue
recognition.  Claims are pleaded under both the 1933 Securities
Act (relating to the Company's initial public offering) and
section 10b of the 1934 Securities Act.  The complaint was
brought on behalf of a purported class of investors who
purchased the Company's Common Stock between February 13, 1997
and October 28, 1998, but it does not allege specific damage
amounts.  A Motion to Dismiss the second amended consolidated
class action complaint was filed on February 22, 2000.

On March 27, 2002, the Court granted the Motion but extended to
plaintiffs the opportunity to file a Third Amended Complaint.
The plaintiffs filed their Third Amended Complaint on May 16,
2002, to which the Company responded with another Motion to
Dismiss.  The Motion was filed on June 24, 2002 and challenged
the legal sufficiency of the allegations.  On October 15, 2002,
the Court granted that Motion, this time with prejudice.

The plaintiffs timely noticed appeal and filed their Appellants'
Brief with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal on April 9, 2003.
On July 2, 2003, the Company filed its Respondents’ Brief
and Cross-Appeal.  The Cross-Appeal challenges the trial Court's
failure to assess whether the complaint complied with applicable
pleadings standards.  After the Appeal and Cross-Appeal were
fully briefed, oral arguments were heard before a panel in
February 2004.

On October 7, 1998 and October 15, 1998, two separate complaints
were filed in the Superior Court of San Diego County,
California.  These state Court complaints mirror the allegations
set forth in the federal complaints.  They also assert claims
for common law fraud and the violation of certain California
statutes.  As with their federal counterparts, they do not
allege specific damage amounts.

On April 1, 1999, a Consolidated Amended Class Action was filed
on behalf of the same state Court plaintiffs, and this new
complaint alleges the same factual basis as is asserted in the
federal litigation.  The state litigation pleads claims for
fraud and violations of certain California Corporation Code
provisions.  By stipulation of the parties and order of the
Court, the litigation was stayed, pending the outcome of the
motion to dismiss the federal lawsuits.

DIET PATCHES: FTC Files Complaints V. 2 Fraudulent Manufacturers
The Federal Trade Commission has continued its attack on bogus
weight-loss claims by suing a diet patch manufacturer and a
retailer that marketed the patch directly to Spanish-speaking
consumers. In two separate federal Court actions, the FTC
charged that the patch manufacturer, Transdermal Products
International Marketing Corporation, and the retailer, SG
Institute of Health & Education, Inc., falsely claimed that the
skin patch causes substantial weight loss. The FTC complaints in
both cases also challenge false claims that the patch or its
main ingredient, sea kelp, has been approved by the Food and
Drug Administration (FDA). The FTC further alleged that
Transdermal Products provided retailers with deceptive marketing
materials that could be used to mislead consumers.

"We're determined to pursue deception to its source," said Lydia
B. Parnes, Acting Director of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer
Protection. "Today's action targets a Company that manufactured
both an ineffective product and the misleading claims to sell
it. These defendants are doubly responsible for the deception."

The FTC's case against Transdermal Products and its President,
William Newbauer, will proceed to litigation in U.S. District
Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. SG Institute and
its principals settled with the FTC and agreed to stop making
the deceptive claims.

The defendants in both cases allegedly used one or more of the
seven bogus weight-loss claims that are part of the FTC's "Red
Flag" education campaign announced in December 2003. The ongoing
Red Flag campaign provides guidance to assist media outlets and
others in spotting false claims in weight-loss ads. According to
the FTC, one of the most common false weight- loss claims is
that diet patches, topical creams and gels, body wraps, and
other products worn on the body or rubbed into the skin can
cause substantial weight loss.

Transdermal Products International Marketing Corporation, based
in Bristol, Pennsylvania, and its president, advertised on the
Internet to recruit distributors who would purchase patches from
Transdermal and sell them at retail. Transdermal sold the
purported weight-loss patches to distributors under several
brand names, including LePatch, Revo Patch, Svelt Patch, and Z
Patch. Transdermal also sold unmarked patches, which retailers
could sell under their own brand names. Transdermal allegedly
provided its distributors with advertising copy and purported
substantiation materials, including a document claiming to be a
scientific weight loss study demonstrating the patch's efficacy.
Transdermal's ads contain statements such as, "Amazing Skin
Patch Melts Away Body Fat."

According to the complaint, Transdermal has sold approximately
381,000 "units" of 30 patches to distributors, for which
distributors paid approximately $1.75 million.

The FTC's complaint alleges that the Transdermal defendants made
false claims that the patch causes substantial weight loss,
safely enables users to lose more than three pounds per week for
more than four weeks, and causes permanent weight loss. In
addition, the complaint alleges that the defendants falsely
claimed that scientific research demonstrates that the patch
causes substantial weight loss and that the FDA approved the
product's main ingredient - Fucus vesiculosus (sea kelp) - for
weight loss. The complaint also alleges that the defendants made
unsubstantiated claims that the product causes weight loss and
"melts away" body fat. Finally, the complaint alleges that by
providing their distributors with deceptive advertising and
substantiation materials, the defendants provided them with the
means and instrumentalities to deceive consumers.

SG Institute of Health & Education, Inc., based in Tamarac,
Florida, and its owners, Pedro Salas and Vanessa Salas (SGI),
settled charges that they made false and unsubstantiated claims
in marketing Revopatch Plus, a purported weight-loss and
cellulite-reduction skin patch. Revopatch Plus was manufactured
by Transdermal (the subject of a separate FTC lawsuit, described
above). The FTC's complaint alleges that SGI falsely claimed
that Revopatch Plus causes substantial weight loss in a short
time, for example, 15 pounds in four weeks and 20 pounds in six
weeks, and has been approved by the FDA. The complaint also
alleges that SGI claimed without substantiation that Revopatch
Plus causes weight loss, eliminates fat, reduces appetite,
regulates metabolism, and reduces or dissolves cellulite. The
defendants' ads claimed, for example, that Revopatch Plus "takes
away the urge to eat and the accumulated fat in the body: and
best of all, it is 2 products in 1, because it helps you to lose
weight and it helps you dissolve cellulite."

The SGI action is part of the FTC's Hispanic Law Enforcement and
Outreach Initiative - a comprehensive campaign initiated in 2003
to identify and halt fraud targeting Spanish-speaking consumers
in the United States. According to the FTC, the SGI defendants
advertised their product in major, national Spanish-language
magazines, on local radio stations in California and New York
City, and on Telemundo in Florida. Consumers purchased the patch
by calling a toll-free telephone number listed in the ads. SGI
sold the patch in units of 30, 60, and 90 for prices ranging
from $60 to $200. It is estimated that SGI sold more than $1
million in patches since September 2001.

To settle the FTC charges, the proposed stipulated final order
prohibits the defendants from falsely claiming that Revopatch
Plus or any other product applied to the skin causes substantial
weight loss in a short period of time or that the FDA has
approved sea kelp for controlling weight. The order also
prohibits the defendants from misrepresenting that any health-
related product, service, or program has been approved by the
FDA. In addition, the order requires the defendants to have
competent and reliable scientific evidence before making future
claims about the benefits, performance, efficacy, safety, or
side effects of any health-related product, service, or program.

The order includes an "avalanche clause," that provides that the
defendants will have to pay $1 million if a Court finds that
they misrepresented their financial condition.  Finally, the
proposed order contains various recordkeeping and reporting
requirements to assist the FTC in monitoring the defendants'

For more details, contact the FTC's Consumer Response Center, by
Mail: Room 130, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C.
20580 or visit the Website: http://www.ftc.gov. Also, contact
Brenda Mack, Office of Public Affairs, 202-326-2182 or Lemuel
Dowdy or Joel Brewer, Bureau of Consumer Protection by Phone:
202-326-2981 or 202-326-2967 (Transdermal Products) of Edwin
Rodriguez, Bureau of Consumer Protection, by Phone: 202-326-3147
(SG Institute)

FINOVA CAPITAL: Thaxton Entities Suits Transferred To SC Court
The lawsuits filed against FINOVA Capital Corporation over its
loan to The Thaxton Group, Inc. and several related entities
have been transferred to the United States District Court for
the District of South Carolina for consolidated pre-trial

Under its loan agreement, FINOVA has a senior secured loan to
the Thaxton Entities of approximately $108 million at September
30, 2004.  The Thaxton Entities were declared in default under
their loan agreement with FINOVA after they advised FINOVA that
they would have to restate earnings for the first two fiscal
quarters of 2003, and had suspended payments on their
subordinated notes.  As a result of the default, FINOVA
exercised its rights under the loan agreement, and accelerated
the indebtedness.  The Thaxton Entities then filed a petition
for bankruptcy protection under Chapter 11 of the federal
bankruptcy code in the United States Bankruptcy Court for the
District of Delaware on October 17, 2003, listing assets of
approximately $206 million and debts of $242 million.

The first lawsuit, a complaint captioned "Earle B. Gregory, et
al, v. FINOVA Capital Corporation, James T. Garrett, et al.,"
was filed in the Court of Common Pleas of Lancaster County,
South Carolina, case no. 2003-CP-29-967, and was served on
FINOVA on October 17, 2003.  An amended complaint was served on
November 5, 2003, prior to the deadline for FINOVA to answer,
plead, or otherwise respond to the original complaint.  The
Gregory action was properly removed to the United States
District Court for the District of South Carolina on November
17, 2003, pursuant to 28 U.S.C.  1334 and 1452.  The
plaintiffs filed a motion to remand the case to state Court, but
the U.S. District Court denied this motion in an order dated
December 18, 2003.

The second Thaxton-related complaint, captioned "Tom Moore, Anna
Nunnery, et al., v. FINOVA Capital Corporation, Moore & Van
Allen PLLC, and Cherry, Bekaert & Holland LLP, case No. 8:03-
372413 ("Moore")," was filed in the United States District Court
for the District of South Carolina on November 25, 2003, and was
served on FINOVA on December 2, 2003.  The third complaint,
captioned "Sam Jones Wood and Kathy Annette Wood, et al., v.
FINOVA Capital Corporation, Moore & Van Allen PLLC, and Cherry,
Bekaert & Holland LLP," was filed in the Superior Court for
Gwinnett County, Georgia, case no. 03-A13343-B, and was served
on FINOVA on December 9, 2003.  FINOVA properly removed the Wood
action to the United States District Court for the Northern
District of Georgia (Atlanta Division) on January 5, 2004.  The
fourth complaint, captioned "Grant Hall and Ruth Ann Hall, et
al., v. FINOVA Capital Corporation, Moore & Van Allen PLLC, and
Cherry, Bekaert & Holland LLP, case no. 03CVS20572,"
("Hall") was filed in the Mecklenberg County, North Carolina,
Superior Court, and was also served on FINOVA on December 9,
2003.  FINOVA properly removed the Hall action to the United
States District Court for the Western District of North Carolina
(Charlotte Division) on January 5, 2004.  The fifth complaint,
captioned "Charles Shope, et al., v. FINOVA Capital Corporation,
Moore & Van Allen PLLC, and Cherry, Bekaert & Holland LLP, case
No. C 204022 ("Shope")," was filed in the United States District
Court for the Southern District of Ohio, Eastern Division, and
was served on FINOVA on January 13, 2004.

Each of the five Thaxton-related lawsuits are styled as class
actions, purportedly brought on behalf of certain defined
classes of people who had purchased subordinated notes from the
Thaxton Entities.  The complaints by the subordinated
noteholders allege claims of fraud, securities fraud, and
various other civil conspiracy and business torts in the sale of
the subordinated notes.  Each of the complaints seeks an
unspecified amount of damages, among other remedies.  In
addition to FINOVA, the complaints each name as co-defendants
Thaxton's accountants and attorneys, and in the Gregory case,
several officers of the Thaxton Entities.

FIRST COMMAND: Pays $12 Mil To Settle SEC, NASD Fraud Charges
The Securities and Exchange Commission initiated settled public
administrative and cease-and-desist proceedings against First
Command Financial Planning, Inc. (First Command), a registered
broker-dealer whose customer base consists almost entirely of
active-duty and retired U.S. Military personnel. The
Commission's Order finds that First Command, which is
headquartered in Fort Worth, Texas, violated Section 17(a)(2) of
the Securities Act by using misleading sales materials to offer
and sell mutual-fund investments through an installment method
called a systematic investment plan (systematic plan). The
systematic plans allowed investors to accumulate mutual-fund
shares indirectly by making fixed monthly contributions over a
period of at least 15 years. Systematic-plan investors were
charged an upfront load on the plans equal to 50% of the plan's
first 12 monthly payments.

The Commission's Order finds that, since at least January 1999,
First Command offered and sold systematic plans by, in part,
making misleading statements and omissions concerning:

     (1) comparisons between the systematic plan and other
         mutual-fund investments;

     (2) the availability of the Thrift Savings Plan, a Federal
         Government-sponsored retirement savings and investment
         plan, which offers military investors many of the
         features of a systematic plan at lower costs; and

     (3) the efficacy of the upfront load in ensuring that
         investors remain committed to the systematic plan.

The Commission's Order directs First Command to cease and desist
from committing or causing any violations and any future
violations of Section 17(a)(2) of the Securities Act and also
censures the firm. First Command is also ordered to pay
disgorgement and interest of $12 million, which shall be used to
make restitution to certain customers and to fund an investor-
education program for the U.S. military and their families as
provided in a related settled NASD disciplinary action, which
was also announced today (NASD Case No. CAF040085). First
Command is also required to retain an Independent Consultant for
two years to, among other things, review and make
recommendations concerning the adequacy of First Command's sales
literature, sales training systems and procedures, and
supervisory procedures and systems. First Command consented to
the issuance of the Commission's Order without admitting or
denying the Order's substantive findings.

GRILL CONCEPTS: Wage Suits Moved To Los Angeles Superior Court
The Superior Court of California of Orange County granted Grill
Concepts, Inc.'s motion to move the class action filed against
it by one of its former hourly restaurant employees to the
Superior Court of California of Los Angeles County.  Plaintiffs
have yet to file the suit in Los Angeles.

The plaintiff alleged violations of California labor laws with
respect to providing meal and rest breaks.  The lawsuit sought
unspecified amounts of penalties and other monetary payments on
behalf of the plaintiffs and other purported class members.
Discovery is currently continuing in these matters.

GTC BIOTHERAPEUTICS: Faces Lawsuit Over Primera Corporation Sale
GTC Biotherapeutics, Inc. faces a class action filed in the
Court of Common Pleas for Philadelphia County in Pennsylvania by
two employees of one of the Company's former subsidiaries,
seeking damages, declaratory relief and certification of a class
action relating primarily to their Company stock options.

The claims arise as a result of the Company's sale of Primedica
Corporation to Charles River Laboratories International, Inc. in
February 2001, which the Company believes resulted in the
termination of Primedica employees' status as employees of the
Company or its affiliates and termination of their options.  The
plaintiffs contend that the sale of Primedica to Charles River
did not constitute a termination of their employment with the
Company or its affiliates for purposes of the Company's equity
incentive plan and, therefore, that the Company breached its
contractual obligations to them and other Primedica employees
who had not exercised their stock options.  The complaint
demands damages in excess of $5 million, plus interest.

HARTFORD LIFE: Faces Stock, ERISA Suits Related to NYAG Lawsuit
The Hartford Financial Services Group, Inc. and five of its
executive officers face two class actions filed in the United
States District Court in Connecticut, after New York Attorney
General Eliot Spitzer filed a civil complaint over insurance

On October 14, 2004, the New York Attorney General's Office
filed a civil complaint (the "NYAG Complaint") against Marsh
Inc. and Marsh & McLennan Companies, Inc. (collectively,
"Marsh") alleging, among other things, that certain insurance
companies, including the Company, participated with Marsh in
arrangements to submit inflated bids for business insurance and
paid contingent commissions to ensure that Marsh would direct
business to them.  The Company is not joined as a defendant in
the action.

Since the filing of the NYAG Complaint, the Company has become
aware of several private actions against it asserting claims
arising from the allegations of the NYAG Complaint.  The
securities suits allege claims under Section 10(b) of the
Securities Exchange Act and SEC Rule 10b-5.  The complaints
allege on behalf of a putative class of shareholders that The
Company and the five named individual defendants, as control
persons of The Company, "disseminated false and misleading
financial statements" by concealing that "(The Hartford) was
paying illegal and concealed `contingent commissions' pursuant
to illegal `contingent commission agreements.'"  The class
period alleged is November 5, 2003 through October 13, 2004, the
day before the NYAG Complaint was filed.  The complaints seek
damages and attorneys' fees.

In addition, the Company is aware of three putative class
actions filed in the same Court on behalf of participants in The
Hartford's 401(k) plan against The Hartford, Hartford Fire
Insurance Company, The Hartford's Pension Fund Trust and
Investment Committee, The Hartford's Pension Administration
Committee, The Hartford's Chief Financial Officer, and John/Jane
Does 1-15.  The suits assert claims under the Employee
Retirement Income Security Act of 1974, as amended ("ERISA"),
alleging that The Hartford and the other named defendants
breached their fiduciary duties to plan participants by, among
other things, failing to inform them of the risk associated with
investment in The Hartford's stock as a result of the activity
alleged in the NYAG Complaint.  The class period alleged is
November 5, 2003 through the present.  The complaints seek
restitution of losses to the plan, declaratory and injunctive
relief, and attorneys' fees.

LATTICE SEMICONDUCTOR: Shareholders Launch Stock Lawsuits in OR
Lattice Semiconductor Corporation, its Chief Executive Officer
Cyrus Y. Tsui and its President Stephen A. Skaggs face several
securities class actions filed in the United States District
Court for the District of Oregon.

These complaints were filed on behalf of a putative class of
investors who purchased the Company's stock between April 22,
2003 and April 19, 2004.  They generally allege violations of
federal securities laws arising out of its previously announced
restatement of financial results for the first, second, and
third quarters of 2003. Consistent with the usual procedures for
cases of this kind, the Company anticipates that these cases
(and any other similar putative class action complaints that
might be filed against us) may be consolidated into a single

In September and October 2004, two shareholder derivative
complaints were filed, purportedly on behalf of the Company, in
the Circuit Court of the State of Oregon for the County of
Washington, against all of its current directors, certain former
directors, and certain executive officers.  The derivative
plaintiffs make allegations substantially similar to those in
the putative class action complaints, as well as allegations of
breach of fiduciary duty, abuse of control, gross mismanagement,
waste of corporate assets, and unjust enrichment.

The suits are pending in the United States District Court in
Oregon under Judge Dennis J. Hubel, styled:

     (1) Autumn Partners, LLC v. Lattice Semiconductor
         Corporation et al, 3:04-cv-01255-HU

     (2) Marcano v. Lattice Semiconductor Corporation et al,

     (3) Pfeiffer v. Lattice Semiconductor Corp. et al, 3:04-cv-

The plaintiff firms in this litigation are:

     (i) Berman, DeValerio, Pease, Tabacco Burt & Pucillo (MA),
         One Liberty Square, Boston, MA, 2109, Phone:
         617.542.8300, Fax: 617.230.0903, E-mail:

    (ii) Goodkind Labaton Rudoff & Sucharow LLP, 100 Park
         Avenue, New York, NY, 10017, Phone: 212.907.0700, (fax)
         212.818.0477, info@glrslaw.com

   (iii) Paskowitz & Associates, Phone: 800.705.9529, E-mail:

    (iv) Shepherd, Finkelman, Miller & Shah, LLC, Phone:
         877.891.9880, E-mail: jshah@classactioncounsel.com

Lawyers for the defendants are:

     (a) Barnes H. Ellis, Stoel Rives LLP, 2600 Standard
         Insurance Center, 900 SW Fifth Avenue, Portland, OR
         97204, Phone: (503) 294-9243, Fax: (503) 220-2480, E-
         mail: bhellis@stoel.com

     (b) Robert E.L. Bonaparte, Shenker & Bonaparte, LLP, One SW
         Columbia Street, Suite 475, Portland, OR 97258, Phone:
         (503) 242-0005 Fax: (503) 323-7360 E-mail:

LINCOLN BENEFIT: Breach of Contract Suit Moved To RI State Court
The nationwide class action filed against Lincoln Benefit Life
Co. will be transferred to Rhode Island state Court, after the
Rhode Island Supreme Court refused summary judgment in favor of
the Company.  The suit alleges, among other things, breach of
contract and breach of the implied covenant of good faith and
fair dealing as a result of a change in the rate and cap on an
annuity product.

The Court certified the class and entered summary judgment in
favor of the Company and against the certified class.  Plaintiff
filed notice of appeal and the Company filed a cross appeal.  In
June 2004, the Rhode Island Supreme Court upheld the class
certification order but reversed the summary judgment order,
entering judgment for the plaintiff class.  The Company filed a
Petition for Reargument in response to this Order.  The Rhode
Island Supreme Court denied the petition.

MERRILL LYNCH: Desktop Publishers Charged With Insider Trading
The Securities and Exchange Commission charged a San Francisco
couple, Min T. Ma and Joyce Manni Ng, with reaping approximately
$438,000 in illegal profits by trading ahead of mergers they
learned about while working as onsite desktop publishers for
investment banking firm Merrill Lynch. Ma and Ng were employed
by Bowne Business Solutions to work as desktop publishing
specialists at Merrill Lynch's Palo Alto, California office.

The Commission's complaint alleges that from May to November
2003, Ma and Ng invested several times their annual income in
the targets of mergers based on information they learned from
confidential deal documents and access to Merrill Lynch computer
files. Ma and Ng bought stock in three public companies - Oak
Technology, Inc., SangStat Medical Corporation, and Applied
Molecular Evolution, Inc. - shortly after working on
confidential documents. Soon thereafter, when the mergers were
announced and the stock prices skyrocketed, Ma and Ng liquidated
their shares and doubled their money.

The Commission's complaint charges Ma and Ng with trading on the
basis of material, nonpublic information in violation of Section
10(b) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and Rule 10b-5
thereunder. The Commission seeks an order requiring Ma and Ng to
disgorge their illegal trading profits and pay civil monetary
penalties and prejudgment interest, and permanently enjoining Ma
and Ng from violating Section 10(b) of the Exchange Act and Rule
10b-5 thereunder. The action is titled, SEC v. Min T. Ma and
Joyce Manni Ng, Case No. C-04-5295 (MHP, N.D. Cal.)

OPLINK COMMUNICATIONS: Asks NY Court To Approve Suit Settlement
Oplink Communications, Inc. asked the United States District
Court for the Southern District of New York to grant preliminary
approval for the settlement of the securities class action filed
against it and certain of its officers and directors, styled "In
re Oplink Communications, Inc. Initial Public Offering
Securities Litigation, Case No.01-CV-9904."

In the amended complaint, the plaintiffs allege that the
Company, certain of the Company's officers and directors and the
underwriters of the Company's initial public offering, or IPO,
violated section 11 of the Securities Act of 1933 based on
allegations that the Company's registration statement and
prospectus failed to disclose material facts regarding the
compensation to be received by, and the stock allocation
practices of, the IPO underwriters.

The complaint also contains a claim for violation of section
10(b) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 based on
allegations that this omission constituted a deceit on
investors.  The plaintiffs seek unspecified monetary damages and
other relief.

Similar complaints were filed by plaintiffs (the "Plaintiffs")
against hundreds of other public companies (the "Issuers") that
went public in the late 1990s.  On August 8, 2001, the IPO
Lawsuits were consolidated for pretrial purposes before United
States Judge Shira Scheindlin of the Southern District of New

On July 15, 2002, the Company joined in a global motion to
dismiss the IPO Lawsuits filed by all of the Issuers (among
others).  On October 9, 2002, the Court entered an order
dismissing the Company's named officers and directors from the
IPO Lawsuits without prejudice, pursuant to an agreement tolling
the statute of limitations with respect to these officers and
directors until September 30, 2003.

On February 19, 2003, the Court issued a decision denying the
motion to dismiss the Section 11 claims against the Company and
almost all of the Issuers, and granting the motion to dismiss
the Section 10(b) claim against the Company. The Section 10(b)
claim was dismissed without leave to amend.

In June 2003, Issuers and Plaintiffs reached a tentative
settlement agreement and entered a memorandum of understanding,
providing for, among other things, a dismissal with prejudice
and full release of the Issuers and their officers and directors
from all further liability resulting from Plaintiffs' claims,
and the assignment to Plaintiffs of certain potential claims
that the Issuers may have against the underwriters.  In
addition, the tentative settlement guarantees that, in the event
that the Plaintiffs recover less than $1 billion in settlement
or judgment against the underwriter defendants in the IPO
Lawsuits, the Plaintiffs would be entitled to payment by each
participating Issuer's insurer of a pro rata share of any
shortfall in the Plaintiff's guaranteed recovery.  In such
event, the Company's obligation would be limited to
reimbursement of the Company's insurer up to the amount
remaining under the deductible of the Company's insurance
policy.  In September 2003, in connection with the tentative
settlement, the Company's officers and directors who had
entered tolling agreements with the Plaintiffs agreed to extend
those agreements so that they would not expire prior to any
settlement being finalized.

In June 2004, the Company executed a settlement agreement with
the Plaintiffs pursuant to the terms of a memorandum of
understanding.  The settlement is subject to a number of
conditions, including action by the Court certifying a class
action for settlement purposes and formally approving the
settlement.  The underwriters have opposed both the
certification of the class and the judicial approval of the

The suit is styled "In re Oplink Communications, Inc. Initial
Public Offering Securities Litigation, Case No. 01-CV-9904
(Sas)," filed in the United States District Court for the
Southern District of New York, under Judge Shira A. Scheindlin.
The plaintiff firms in this litigation are:

     (1) Bernstein Liebhard & Lifshitz LLP (New York, NY), 10 E.
         40th Street, 22nd Floor, New York, NY, 10016, Phone:
         800.217.1522, E-mail: info@bernlieb.com

     (2) Milberg Weiss Bershad Hynes & Lerach, LLP (New York,
         NY), One Pennsylvania Plaza, New York, NY, 10119-1065,
         Phone: 212.594.5300,

     (3) Schiffrin & Barroway, LLP, 3 Bala Plaza E, Bala Cynwyd,
         PA, 19004, Phone: 610.667.7706, Fax: 610.667.7056, E-
         mail: info@sbclasslaw.com

     (4) Sirota & Sirota, LLP, 110 Wall Street 21st Floor, New
         York, NY, 10005, Phone: 888.759.2990, Fax:
         212.425.9093, E-mail: Info@SirotaLaw.com

     (5) Stull, Stull & Brody (New York), 6 East 45th Street,
         New York, NY, 10017, Phone: 310.209.2468, Fax:
         310.209.2087, E-mail: SSBNY@aol.com

     (6) Wolf, Haldenstein, Adler, Freeman & Herz LLP, 270
         Madison Avenue, New York, NY, 10016, Phone:
         212.545.4600, Fax: 212.686.0114, newyork@whafh.com

PROLONG INTERNATIONAL: OH Court Approves Stock Suit Settlement
The Court of Common Pleas, Columbiana County, Ohio granted final
approval to the settlement of the lawsuit filed against EPL
Prolong, Inc. and Prolong International Corporation, styled
"Francis Helman et al vs. EPL Prolong Inc. and PIC et al."

The operative complaint alleges breach of contract, fraudulent
conveyance of corporate assets, breach of fiduciary duties,
breach of an alleged novation and fraud in the inducement
relating to the alleged novation.  Plaintiffs allege that they
purchased certain "pre-primary shares" of stock in a Canadian
Company known as Prolong Industries Inc. from Defendant Ronald
Sloan and other agents of the Canadian Company during the period
of May 1985 through October 1987, a period prior in time to the
formation of EPL Prolong, Inc.  It remains undisputed that the
EPL Defendants had no involvement in the solicitation or sale of
the pre-primary shares that were allegedly sold to the
plaintiffs between 1985 and 1987.

A settlement of the dispute as a class action has been reached
and the Court has filed a Final Judgment and Order of Dismissal.
It is expected that the Company will issue approximately
1,111,538 shares of common stock of the Company to the
plaintiffs and their legal counsel coincident to the settlement
agreement and pay $24,000 of their litigation expenses.  It is
anticipated that the issuance of stock will take place during
the fourth quarter of fiscal year 2004.  The settlement expense
has been fully reserved for in prior periods.

PSS WORLD: Trial in FL Securities Fraud Lawsuit Set October 2005
Trial in the securities class action filed against PSS World
Medical, Inc. and certain of its current and former officers and
directors, styled "Jack Hirsch v. PSS World Medical, Inc., et
al., Civil Action No. 3:98-CV 502-J-32TEM," is set for October
2005 in the United States District Court for the Middle District
of Florida, Jacksonville Division.

The plaintiff seeks indeterminate damages, including costs and
expenses.  The plaintiff initially alleged, for himself and for
a purported class of similarly situated stockholders who
purchased the Company's stock between December 23, 1997 and May
8, 1998 that the defendants engaged in violations of certain
provisions of the Securities Exchange Act, and Rule 10b-5
promulgated thereunder.  The allegations were based upon a
decline in the Company's stock price following an announcement
by the Company in May 1998 regarding the Gulf South Medical
Supply, Inc. merger, which resulted in earnings below analysts'

In December 2002, the Court granted the Company's motion to
dismiss the plaintiff's second amended complaint with prejudice
with respect to the Section 10(b) claims.  The plaintiffs filed
their third amended complaint in January 2003 alleging claims
under Sections 14(a) and 20(a) of the Exchange Act on behalf of
a putative class of all persons who were shareholders of the
Company as of March 26, 1998.  In May 2003, the Court denied the
defendants' motion to dismiss.

By order dated February 18, 2004, the Court granted plaintiffs'
motion for class certification. Court ordered mediation occurred
on June 10, 2004, during which the parties were not able to
resolve their dispute.

The suit, styled "Hirsch v. PSS World Medical, et al, 3:98-cv-
00502-TJC-TEM," filed in the United States District Court for
the Middle District of Florida, Jacksonville Division, under
Judge Timothy J. Corrigan.  Law firms for the defendants are:

     (1) Peter Bassett, John A. Jordak, Jr., Alston & Bird, LLP,
         1201 W. Peachtree St., N.E., Atlanta, GA 30309-3424,
         Phone: 404/881-7000, E-mail: jjordak@alston.com

     (2) Robert Eric Bilik, McGuireWoods LLP, 50 N. Laura St.,
         Suite 3300, Jacksonville, FL 32202-3661, Phone:
         904/798-3200, E-mail: ebilik@mcguirewoods.com

     (3) Darlene DeMelo, Inez H. Friedman-Boyce, Gary M.
         Grossman, Jordan D. Hershman, Testa, Hurwitz &
         Thibeault, High Street Tower, 125 High Street, Boston,
         MA 02110, Phone: 617/248-7000, E-mail: demelod@tht.com
        or friedman@tht.com

     (4) Robert Bruce George, Liles, Gavin, Costantino & Murphy
         225 Water St., Suite 1500, Jacksonville, FL 32202,
         Phone: 904/634-1100, Fax: 904/634-1234, E-mail:

Law firms for the plaintiffs are:

     (i) Lee G. Kellison, J Michael Lindell, Lindell & Kellison,
         P.A., 12276 San Jose Blvd., Suite 126, Jacksonville, FL
         32223-8630, Phone: 904/880-4000, fax: 904-880-4013, E-
         mail: lkellison@lindellkellison.com or

    (ii) Seth R. Klein, Jeffrey S. Nobel, Andrew Schatz, Schatz
         & Nobel, P.C., One Corporate Center, 20 Church St.,
         Hartford, CT 06103, E-mail: sklein@snlaw.net

   (iii) Richard B. Margolies, Abbey & Gardy, LLP, 2l2 E. 39th
         St., New York, NY 10016, Phone: 212/889-3700, Fax:

    (iv) James Notis, Lee Squitieri, Abbey & Gardy, LLP
         2l2 E. 39th St., New York, NY 10016, Phone: 212/889-
         3700, E-mail: jnotis@abbeygardy.com

PSS WORLD: FL Court Okays Settlement of Securities Fraud Lawsuit
The United States District Court for the Middle District of
Florida approved the settlement of the consolidated securities
class action filed against PSS World Medical, Inc. and certain
present and former directors and officers, styled "In Re PSS
World Medical Inc. Securities Litigation."

The amended complaint was filed as a purported class action on
behalf of persons who purchased or acquired PSS World Medical,
Inc. common stock at various times during the period between
October 26, 1999 and October 3, 2000 and alleged, among other
things, violations of Sections 10(b) and 20(a) of the Securities
Exchange Act of 1934 and Rule 10b-5 promulgated thereunder.

The plaintiffs alleged that the Company issued false and
misleading statements and failed to disclose material facts
concerning, among other things, the Company's financial
condition and that because of the issuance of false and
misleading statements and/or failure to disclose material facts,
the price of PSS World Medical, Inc. common stock was
artificially inflated during the class period.  The Court
granted the plaintiff's motion for class certification in
November 2002.  The parties signed a settlement agreement
pursuant to which the Company has agreed to pay $6.75 million
for the benefit of the class members, of which $6.5 million was
covered by the Company's insurance policy.

The plaintiff firms in this litigation are:

     (1) Beatie & Osborne LLP, 599 Lexington Avenue, 42nd Floor,
         New York, NY, 10022, Phone: 800.891.6305

     (2) Berger & Montague, P.C., 1622 Locust Street,
         Philadelphia, PA, 19103, Phone: 800.424.6690, Fax:
         215.875.4604, E-mail: investorprotect@bm.net

     (3) Berman, DeValerio, Pease, Tabacco Burt & Pucillo (CA),
         425 California Street, Suite 2025, San Francisco, CA,
         94104, Phone: 415.433.3200, Fax: 415.433.6382

     (4) Bernstein Liebhard & Lifshitz LLP (New York, NY), 10 E.
         40th Street, 22nd Floor, New York, NY, 10016, Phone:
         800.217.1522, E-mail: info@bernlieb.com

     (5) Bull & Lifshitz, 18 East 41st St., New York, NY, 10017,
         Phone: 212.213.6222, Fax: 212.213.9405,

     (6) Fruchter & Twersky, 60 East 42 Street, New York, NY,
         10021, Phone: 212.687.6655,

     (7) Milberg, Weiss, Bershad, Hynes & Lerach LLP (San Diego,
         CA), 600 West Broadway, 1800 One America Plaza, San
         Diego, CA, 92101, Phone: 800.449.4900, E-mail:

     (8) Pomerantz,Haudek, Block, Grossman & Gross, 100 Park
         Avenue, 26th Floor, New York, NY, 10017-5516, Phone:

PSS WORLD: FL Court Approves Settlement of Overtime Wage Lawsuit
The United States District Court for the Middle District of
Florida, Jacksonville Division granted approval to the
settlement of the collective action filed against PSS World
Medical, Inc. by three former and certain present employees of
the Company, entitled "Angione, et al. v. PSS World Medical,

The suit was initially filed on June 4, 2002 in the U.S.
District Court for the Central District of California, Santa Ana
Division.  The Court approved the transfer of venue, and the
case is now pending in the United States Court for the Middle
District of Florida, Jacksonville Division.

The plaintiffs allege that the Company wrongfully classified its
purchasers, operations leader trainees, and accounts receivable
representatives as exempt from the overtime requirements imposed
by the Fair Labor Standards Act and the California Wage Orders,
and they seek to recover back pay, interest, costs of suit,
declaratory and injunctive relief, and applicable statutory

On February 21, 2003, the Court conditionally allowed the case
to proceed as a collective action under the Fair Labor Standards
Act.  An additional 59 plaintiffs opted into the proceeding,
bringing the total number of plaintiffs to 62.  Two of the three
original named plaintiffs also brought, but subsequently have
settled, individual claims for gender discrimination and
retaliation under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and
the Equal Pay Act of 1963.

As a result of mediation in March 2004, the parties agreed on a
framework for mediation or arbitration in October 2004 on the
issue of the plaintiffs' attorney's fees.  The attorney's fee
issue was resolved and the parties entered into negotiations for
resolution of the plaintiffs' outstanding wage claims.  The
parties were able to reach agreement on the amount of wages to
be paid to the plaintiffs.  The $2.9 million settlement payment,
which has been accrued by the Company, was approved by the Court
on November 5, 2004, and the matter is concluded.

PURCHASEPRO.COM INC.: Executives Settle SEC Financial Fraud Case
The Securities and Exchange Commission filed a settled civil
injunctive action in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern
District of Virginia against four former executives of
PurchasePro.com, Inc. for violations of the antifraud, books-
and-records, internal accounting controls, periodic reporting
and lying-to-auditors provisions of the federal securities laws.
According to the complaint, the defendants-R. Geoffrey Layne,
James S. Sholeff, Dale Boeth, and Shawn McGhee-participated in a
fraudulent scheme to artificially inflate the first quarter 2001
(Q1  2001) revenues of PurchasePro.com, Inc., a Las Vegas-based
Internet Company now known as Pro-After, Inc. All four
individuals, who were officers or senior employees of
PurchasePro, settled the charges without admitting or
denying the Commission's allegations.

The Commission's complaint alleges that in Q1 2001 and
continuing through April 2001, each defendant took knowing and
deliberate steps designed to inflate PurchasePro's revenues in
contravention of generally accepted accounting  principles
(GAAP). In particular, the complaint alleges that, Layne, while
serving as PurchasePro's Executive Vice President,

     (1) entered into, and concealed the existence of,
         reciprocal agreements that rendered it improper to
         recognize $1 million in revenue from  two marketplace
         license sales to PurchasePro customers; and

     (2) took  steps  to  make it falsely appear that a
         purported  "Statement of Work" contract between
         PurchasePro and AOL, valued at $3.65 million, was
         executed during  Q1 2001, when in fact it was never
         properly executed.

The complaint further alleges that Boeth, PurchasePro's Senior
Vice President of Consulting Services, and Sholeff, a
PurchasePro Vice President, also took steps to make it falsely
appear that the Statement of Work agreement was executed during
Q1 2001, and that Sholeff took similar steps with respect to a
$3.7 million marketplace license sale.

According to the complaint, McGhee, PurchasePro's Chief
Operating Officer during the relevant period, took steps to

     (i) make it falsely appear  that  a $3.5 million
         marketplace license sale had  been  entered into
         during  Q1  2001;  and

    (ii) conceal the  existence of  reciprocal agreements that
         rendered it improper to recognize any revenue from
         that sale.

Each of these transactions had a misleading impact on the
revenues announced and reported by PurchasePro. As reflected in
the complaint, by including these transactions, PurchasePro
artificially and materially inflated its publicly announced
revenues by at least 34% and its reported revenues by over 37%.

In addition, the complaint alleges that, during April 2001,
Layne and Sholeff attempted to conceal their conduct by
destroying certain documents. In particular, the complaint
alleges that Sholeff and Layne deleted, or requested others to
delete, their AOL-related emails, and that Sholeff shredded all
of his AOL related documents and destroyed his laptop. The
complaint further alleges that in February 2002, Layne and
Sholeff lied to the Commission staff during testimony in order
to conceal their fraudulent conduct.  Finally, the complaint
alleges that in April 2001, PurchasePro paid Layne a $200,000
retention bonus and that at or about the same time, PurchasePro
paid Boeth a total of $150,000 in retention bonuses.

Based on these factual allegations, the Commission charged:
Layne and McGhee with violating Sections 10(b) and 13(b)(5) of
the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (Exchange Act) and Exchange
Act Rules 10b-5, 13b2-1 and 13b2-2, and with aiding and abetting
PurchasePro's violations of Exchange Act Sections 13(a),
13(b)(2)(A), and 13(b)(2)(B), and of Exchange Act Rules 12b-20
and 13a-13; Sholeff  with  violating Exchange  Act Sections
10(b) and 13(b)(5) and Exchange Act  Rules  10b-5 and  13b2-1,
and with aiding and abetting PurchasePro's  violations  of
Exchange  Act  Sections  13(a), 13(b)(2)(A),  and  13(b)(2)(B),
and  of Exchange  Act  Rules 12b-20 and 13a-13; and (iii) Boeth
with violating  Exchange  Act Sections 10(b) and 13(b)(5) and
Exchange Act Rules  10b-5, 13b2-1  and  13b2-2.  Without
admitting or denying the Commission's allegations, each
defendant consented to final judgments  that  would permanently
enjoin each of them from violating the foregoing securities law
provisions, and that would: in the case of Layne, permanently
bar him from acting as an officer or director of any public
Company, and order  Layne to pay disgorgement of $200,000 plus
prejudgment interest; in the case of Sholeff, permanently bar
him from acting as an officer or director of any public Company,
and order Sholeff to pay a $35,000 civil penalty; in the case of
Boeth, permanently bar him from acting as an officer or director
of any public Company, and order Boeth to pay disgorgement of
$150,000 plus prejudgment interest, but waive  payment, and not
impose a civil penalty, based on Boeth's demonstrated inability
to pay; and in the case of McGhee, bar him for five years from
serving as an officer or director  of any public Company. The
final judgment against Layne permits him to offset his payment
of disgorgement by the corresponding amount of any restitution
he pays in connection with the parallel criminal proceeding
described below; while the final judgment against Sholeff
permits him to offset his payment of civil penalties by the
corresponding amount of any criminal fine he pays in connection
with that same parallel criminal proceeding. The final judgments
are subject to the approval of the United States District Court.

Also today, in a related criminal proceeding, the United States
Attorneys' office for the Eastern District of Virginia announced
that Layne, McGhee, Boeth and Sholeff have each agreed to plead
guilty to single felony counts arising from the same
circumstances as the Commission's complaint. In particular,
Layne will plead to a single felony count of securities fraud;
McGhee and Boeth will each plead to a single felony count of
conspiracy to commit securities fraud; and Sholeff will plead to
a single felony count of perjury arising from false statements
that Sholeff made to the SEC staff during the investigation.

The Commission acknowledges the assistance of the United States
Department of Justice, the United States Attorney's Office for
the Eastern District of Virginia, and the Federal Bureau of
Investigation in the investigation of this matter.

The action is titled, SEC v. R. Geoffrey Layne, James S.
Sholeff, Dale Boeth and Shawn McGhee, C.A. No. 04-1500 (E.D.

PURDUE PHARMA: OH Court Denies Class Status For OxyContin Suit
The Ohio Supreme Court overturned a lower Court decision in
Howland v. Purdue Pharma L.P., et al that had granted class
action status to plaintiffs claiming personal injuries as a
result of using OxyContin(R) (oxycodone HCl controlled-release)
Tablets. The Howland case had been the only case in three years
of litigation in which a class of plaintiffs was certified in
any OxyContin lawsuit.

"We are gratified that the Ohio Supreme Court followed the law
with respect to class certification and ruled in our favor,"
stated Howard R. Udell, Executive Vice President and Chief Legal
Officer of Purdue Pharma L.P., the Stamford, Connecticut-based
distributor of OxyContin.

Every state and federal Court throughout the country to decide
class certification involving OxyContin has now rejected the
plaintiffs' efforts to have a class certified against Purdue.

For more details, regarding the full prescribing information for
OxyContin visit:

QUICKLOGIC CORPORATION: Asks NY Court To Approve Suit Settlement
Quicklogic Corporation asked the United States District Court
for the Southern District of New York to approve the settlement
of the consolidated securities class action filed against it,
certain of its officers and directors and some investment banks
that underwrote the Company's initial public offering.

The complaint alleges excessive and undisclosed commissions in
connection with the allocation of shares of common stock in
QuickLogic's initial and secondary public offerings and
artificially high prices through "tie-in" arrangements which
required the underwriters' customers to buy shares in the
aftermarket at pre-determined prices in violation of the federal
securities laws.  Plaintiffs seek an unspecified amount of
damages on behalf of persons who purchased QuickLogic's stock
pursuant to the registration statements between October14, 1999,
and December6, 2000.

Various plaintiffs have filed similar actions asserting
virtually identical allegations against over 300 other public
companies, their underwriters, and their officers and directors
arising out of each Company's public offering.  These actions,
including the action against QuickLogic, have been coordinated
for pretrial purposes and captioned "In re Initial Public
Offering Securities Litigation, 21 MC 92."

A stipulation of settlement for the claims against the issuer
defendants, including the Company, has been submitted to the
Court for preliminary approval.  Under the stipulation of
settlement, the plaintiffs will dismiss and release all claims
against participating defendants in exchange for a contingent
payment guaranty by the insurance companies collectively
responsible for insuring the issuers in all the related cases,
and the assignment or surrender to the plaintiffs of certain
claims the issuer defendants may have against the underwriters.

Under the guaranty, the insurers will be required to pay the
amount, if any, by which $1.0 billion exceeds the aggregate
amount ultimately collected by the plaintiffs from the
underwriter defendants in all the cases.  There is no guarantee
that the settlement will become effective, as it is subject to a
number of conditions, including Court approval.

The suit is styled "In Re Quicklogic Corp. Initial Public
Offering Securities Litigation, 01 Civ. 9503 (Sas)," filed in
the United States District Court for the Southern District of
New York, under Judge Shira A. Scheindlin.  The plaintiff firms
in this litigation are:

     (1) Bernstein Liebhard & Lifshitz LLP (New York, NY), 10 E.
         40th Street, 22nd Floor, New York, NY, 10016, Phone:
         800.217.1522, E-mail: info@bernlieb.com

     (2) Milberg Weiss Bershad Hynes & Lerach, LLP (New York,
         NY), One Pennsylvania Plaza, New York, NY, 10119-1065,
         Phone: 212.594.5300,

     (3) Schiffrin & Barroway, LLP, 3 Bala Plaza E, Bala Cynwyd,
         PA, 19004, Phone: 610.667.7706, Fax: 610.667.7056, E-
         mail: info@sbclasslaw.com

     (4) Sirota & Sirota, LLP, 110 Wall Street 21st Floor, New
         York, NY, 10005, Phone: 888.759.2990, Fax:
         212.425.9093, E-mail: Info@SirotaLaw.com

     (5) Stull, Stull & Brody (New York), 6 East 45th Street,
         New York, NY, 10017, Phone: 310.209.2468, Fax:
         310.209.2087, E-mail: SSBNY@aol.com

     (6) Wolf, Haldenstein, Adler, Freeman & Herz LLP, 270
         Madison Avenue, New York, NY, 10016, Phone:
         212.545.4600, Fax: 212.686.0114, newyork@whafh.com

REVLON INC.: NY Court Dismisses Stock Lawsuit Without Prejudice
The United States District Court for the Southern District of
New York dismissed without prejudice the amended class action
lawsuit filed against Revlon, Inc., certain of its present and
former officers and directors and REV Holdings, Inc.

The suit, filed on behalf of Dan Gavish, Tricia Fontan and
Walter Fontan individually and allegedly on behalf of all others
similarly situated who purchased the securities of Revlon, Inc.
and REV Holdings Inc. (a Delaware corporation and the
predecessor of REV Holdings) between October 2, 1998 and
September 30, 1999, alleged, among other things, that the
defendants violated, among other things, Rule 10b-5 under the
Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended.

ROYAL GROUP: Shareholders Launch Securities Fraud Lawsuits in NY
Royal Group Technologies Limited (Royal Group or the Company)
(RYG.SV-TSX, RYG-NYSE) face class action lawsuits alleging
violations of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Act of 1934.
Royal Group has not been served with copies of any of the suits
and therefore has not reviewed the allegations being made.

The suit was filed in the United States District Court for the
Southern District of New York on behalf of purchasers of Royal
Group Technologies Limited ("Royal Group") (NYSE:RYG) common
stock during the period between February 11, 1999 and October
13, 2004 (the "Class Period").

The complaint charges Royal Group and certain of its officers
and directors with violations of the Securities Exchange Act of
1934. Royal Group is a vertically integrated manufacturer of
polymer-based home improvement, consumer and construction
products. Royal Group's operations are located primarily in
Canada and the United States, with international locations in
Mexico, South America, Europe and Asia.

Royal Group stated that it would not comment on these or any
similar suits that may be filed against the Company, but will
deal with them through the appropriate legal process. "The
filing of such class action suits has become a kind of standard
procedure when companies incur difficulties with a consequent
adverse impact on their share price," noted V. James Sardo,
Royal Group's interim Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of
its Special Committee of Independent Directors. "We do not
expect these suits to have any impact on Royal Group's
operations and business plans."

SMART & FINAL: Distributes Settlement Of CA Overtime Wage Suits
Smart & Final, Inc. is implementing the settlement of the two
class actions filed against it in the Superior Court of the
State of California, Los Angeles County on behalf of its

On September 13, 2001, a suit styled "Camacho vs. Smart & Final
Inc.," was filed by the plaintiff, on his behalf and on behalf
of all other store managers and assistant managers in
California, alleging that the Company misclassified the status
of store managers and assistant managers in California as exempt
employees for employment purposes.  The action sought to be
classified as a "class action" and sought unspecified monetary

Another suit, styled "Perea vs. Smart & Final Inc.," was filed
by the plaintiff, on his behalf and on behalf of all other
employees who participate in the commission program in
California, alleging the Company improperly calculated
commission payments.  The action sought to be classified as a
"class action" and sought unspecified monetary damages.

In September 2003, the Company entered into a tentative
settlement agreement for the resolution of the Camacho and Perea
actions.  In October 2003, the Court consolidated the Camacho
and Perea actions and, on October 27, 2003, preliminarily
approved the settlement and set a fairness hearing and final
Court certification of the settlement for January 13, 2004.  The
final approval hearing for the Camacho and Perea actions was
heard and granted by the Court on February 26, 2004.

Under the terms of the settlement, the Company paid into the
settlement fund $7.6 million in cash during the first quarter of
2004 and agreed to issue $1.5 million in scrip redeemable at our
Smart & Final stores. Plaintiff's attorney fees, costs and
administrative expenses were paid from the settlement amount.
In addition, the Company will pay its own attorney fees and
certain other expenses.  For the purposes of settlement only,
the Company is not contesting the class action designation.  The
cash and scrip payments were distributed to the class members on
October 1, 2004 pursuant to the terms of the Court approved

SMART & FINAL: Discovery Proceeds in Overtime Wage Lawsuit in CA
Discovery is proceeding in the class action filed against Smart
& Final, Inc. in the Orange County Superior Court of the State
of California, styled "Olivas vs. Smart & Final Inc."

The plaintiff and another former non-exempt store employee filed
the suit on their behalf and on behalf of all non-exempt Smart &
Final employees in California, alleging that the Company failed
to pay proper overtime and other compensation.  The action seeks
to be classified as a "class action" and seeks unspecified
monetary damages.

On August 9, 2001, the Company filed a general denial to these
claims and asserted numerous defenses.  A hearing on plaintiff's
motion for class certification was heard and certification as to
nine sub-classes was granted on January 22, 2004.  The Company
filed a writ of mandate with the Court of Appeal requesting an
emergency stay of the trial Court's decision and reversing the
class certification.  The Court of Appeal denied the writ.  The
Company petitioned the California Supreme Court for further
review, which was also denied.

SOS STAFFING: UT Judge Declines To Dismiss Shareholder's Lawsuit
3rd District Judge Robert K. Hilder declined to dismiss a
proposed class action lawsuit filed by disgruntled shareholders
of SOS Staffing Services who contend the Company's management
last year sold the Salt Lake City-based business for far less
than it was worth, the Salt Lake Tribune reports.

Legal experts explain, that the judge's ruling enables
shareholders to try to show SOS's management failed to look out
for their best interests when they agreed in September 2003 to
sell the Company to Medford, Ore.-based Hire Calling for $1.37 a
share. The $1.37 price was about 50 percent of the $2.64 closing
price on the day before the deal was announced.

According to Florida attorney Stuart Davidson, who is
representing the shareholders, "Even though the merger already
has gone through, shareholders still may be entitled to damages
if it can be shown the Company and its directors forced through
a merger that was detrimental to stockholder interests." He also
explains that the shareholder lawsuit, in part, focuses on the
share-price drop and argues that any doubts about the unfairness
of the agreement were effectively extinguished the day the deal
was announced.

Under terms of the sales agreement, Hire Calling paid
shareholders roughly $3.5 million for their interest in SOS. In
addition, Hire Calling agreed to acquire approximately $26
million in SOS debt and pick up another $11.3 million in workers
compensation insurance obligations.

At the time the sale was announced, SOS's Chief Financial
Officer Kevin Hardy, who reiterated that the Company believes
the suit is without merit, said SOS management tried to get the
most value possible for the Company's shareholders. "And that
[$1.37] was the price at which we could get the deal done."

SOS Staffing went public in June 1995, selling 2.3 million
shares at $6.50 each with the Company expanding rapidly for the
next several years through a series of acquisition funded by
additional equity offerings and debt. Some of those
acquisitions, though, were temporary employee staffing and
consulting firms that catered to the information technology
industry. Those operations proved vulnerable when the Internet
bubble burst and as a result, SOS ran into financial
difficulties, thus it was forced to sell its foundering IT
businesses at a substantial loss. "We were left with a lot of
debt and we had to deal with it," Mr. Hardy said at the time.
SOS bankers and the holders of the Company's senior notes would
eventually agree to extend payment on $26 million of debt but
also required the corporation to hire an investment banking firm
to explore recapitalization or restructuring of the struggling
business. The recession, however, made financing difficult. "We
were left with few alternatives other than a sale of the
Company," Mr. Hardy adds. At a special meeting held in October
2003, two-thirds of SOS shareholders voted to approve the sale
of the Company.

Plaintiffs filed a consolidated amended class action against
Superconductor Technologies, Inc. in the United States District
Court for the Central District of California.

Several substantially identical class action lawsuits were
initially filed, alleging securities law violations by the
Company and certain of its officers and directors under SEC Rule
10b-5 and Sections 10(b) and 20(a) of the Securities Exchange
Act of 1934, as amended.  The complaint was filed on behalf of a
purported class of people who purchased the Company's stock
during the period between January 9, 2004 and March 1, 2004.
The plaintiffs base their allegations primarily on the fact that
the Company did not achieve its forecasted revenue guidance of
$10 to $13million for the first quarter of 2004.  The complaint
seeks unspecified damages.

The suits are pending in the United States District Court for
the Central District of California, under Judge Dickran
Tevrizian.  The suits are styled:

     (1) Marc A Backhaus v. Superconductor Technologies Inc et
         al., 2:04-cv-02680-DT-JTL,

     (2) Sandy Goldfine v. Superconductor Technologies Inc et
         al., 2:04-cv-02848-DT-JTL

     (3) Aida Alvarez v. Superconductor Technologies Inc et al.,

Lawyer for the Company is Richard H. Zelichov, Irell & Manella,
1800 Avenue of the Stars, Ste 900, Los Angeles, CA 90067-4276,
Phone: 310-277-1010, E-mail: rzelichov@irell.com.  Lawyers for
the plaintiffs are:

     (i) Arthur R. Angel, Arthur R Angel Law Offices, 1236 North
         Fairfax Avenue, West Hollywood, CA 90046, Phone: 323-

    (ii) Stuart W Emmons and William B Federman, Federman and
         Sherwood, 120 North Robinson, Suite 2720, Oklahoma
         City, OK 73102, Phone: 405-235-1560, E-mail:

   (iii) Christopher Kim, Liza J. Yang, Lim Ruger & Kim, 1055 W
         7th St, Ste 2800, Los Angeles, CA 90017, Phone:  213-
         955-9500, E-mail: ckim@lrklawyers.com or

    (iv) Richard A Maniskas, Marc A. Topaz, Schiffrin & Barroway
         3 Bala Plaza E Ste 400, Bala Cynwyd, PA 19004, Phone:

     (v) Peter A Binkow, Lionel Z. Glancy, Michael Goldberg,
         Glancy & Binkow 1801 Avenue of the Stars, Ste 311, Los
         Angeles, CA 90067, Phone: 310-201-9150, E-mail:

    (vi) Robert I Harwood, Wechsler & Harwood, 488 Madison Ave,
         8th Floor, New York, NY 10022, Phone: 212-935-7400

THRIVENT FINANCIAL: Reaches Settlement Over Policyholder Claims
Thrivent Financial for Lutherans, the fraternal insurer formed
in 2002 from the merger of Aid Association for Lutherans and
Lutheran Brotherhood reached an agreement to resolve class-
action litigation first filed against Lutheran Brotherhood in
1999. The United States District Court for the District of
Minnesota has preliminarily approved the proposed resolution of
the class-action lawsuit.

"Resolution of this case includes findings that Thrivent
Financial acted in the best interests of the membership," said
Woody Eno, senior vice president and general counsel. "Following
complex and lengthy litigation, a recent mediation with a
segment of the membership produced a proposal that we believe is
fair. Today's resolution, we believe, addresses the concerns of
that segment while honoring the organization's obligation to be
good stewards of Thrivent Financial's resources for every

In its order granting preliminary approval of the agreement, the
Court stated, "Lutheran Brotherhood and Thrivent Financial have
consistently met or exceeded all ethical standards in the sale,
marketing and maintenance of their insurance products."

The agreement creates a process for resolving individual
policyholder claims. Class members will receive official notice
of the proposed resolution in the first quarter of 2005. The
notice will inform them of the agreement, set forth their
options for relief, and provide a toll-free telephone number and
mailing address for the class-action information center that
will be established by Thrivent Financial to assist members with
any questions.

Thrivent Financial for Lutherans is a not-for-profit Fortune 500
financial services organization helping nearly three million
members achieve their financial goals. Thrivent Financial and
its affiliates offer a broad range of financial products and
services including life insurance, annuities, mutual funds,
disability income insurance, bank products and more. As a not-
for-profit organization, Thrivent Financial sponsors national
outreach programs and activities that support congregations,
schools, charitable organizations and needy individuals. For
more information, visit http://www.thrivent.com.

TULLY'S COFFEE: Employees Launch Overtime Wage Suit in CA Court
Tully's Coffee Company faces a class action filed on behalf of
current and former salaried Tully's employees in California in
California State Court for Los Angeles County, styled "Kenny
Lam, Stephanie Larson, in behalf of themselves and others
similarly situated v. Tully's Coffee Company and Does 1-50, Case
No. BC311114."

The complaint alleges that Tully's misclassified its employees
as exempt from overtime pay: under California law, employees who
spend the majority of their time at work performing "non-
managerial" duties are entitled to overtime pay even if they are
paid on salary or hold the title of manager.

Lawyers for the plaintiffs are Edward J. Wynne, Esq., J.E.B.
Pickett, Esq. of Righetti & Wynne, 456 Montgomery St., 14th
floor, San Francisco, CA 94104 Phone: 415-983-0900, Fax:

UNITED STATES: ARTA Releases 3rd "Judicial Hellholes(R)" Report
The American Tort Reform Association (ATRA) released its third
annual "Judicial Hellholesr " report, a ranking of the worst
Courts in the United States.

As a result of what happens in the Hellhole Courts, every
consumer pays through a higher "tort tax" and compromised access
to affordable healthcare. In addition to identifying Judicial
Hellholes, places where "Equal Justice Under Law" does not
exist, the report also showcases the remarkable turnaround that
has occurred in Mississippi, home to several of the worst
Judicial Hellholes, including Jefferson County.

Jefferson County stands in sharp contrast to Madison County,
Illinois, the worst jurisdiction in this year's report -- for
the second year in a row.

"The report tells an amazing story about the redemption of
Mississippi justice," said Sherman Joyce, President of the
American Tort Reform Association (ATRA). "Mississippi has
managed to pull itself out of the negative spotlight through the
resolve of the voters and elected officials in the executive,
legislative and judicial branches. Mississippi is a stark
contrast to Madison County, Illinois, where problems have only
gotten worse."

According to the report, the abusive and unfair practices
endemic to Madison County have infected neighboring St. Clair
County, where the number of class action lawsuits filed in the
past two years has increased by an astounding 1100%. This is the
first year that St. Clair County has been named a Judicial
Hellhole. It is now #2 on the report's list.

"Judicial Hellholes are Courtrooms throughout the United States
where the law is not applied evenhandedly to all litigants,"
said ATRA General Counsel Victor Schwartz. "Litigation tourists,
guided by their personal injury lawyer agents file lawsuits in
Judicial Hellholes because they know they will receive a large
reward, a favorable precedent, or both. Defendants declare good
reason to fear when sued in Judicial Hellholes."

Other report highlights include:

     (1) Illinois' #1 Madison and #1 St. Clair Counties, where a
         lawsuit-driven healthcare crisis will have forced 161
         physicians to leave the region by the end of the year.

     (2) Hellhole #3 Hampton County, South Carolina, where 67%
         of cases filed in 2002 were filed by residents from
         other counties and other states.

     (3) Hellhole #4 West Virginia, where the state's Supreme
         Court ruled that a safety director fired for on-the-job
         cocaine use could not be terminated, even though the
         employee lied about his cocaine use and "dishonesty"
         was grounds for dismissal within the employee's

     (6) Hellhole #5 Jefferson County, Texas, where a judge
         upheld a $1 billion award in a healthcare lawsuit -- a
         blatant deviation from established Texas law; the judge
         also refused to admit critical evidence that the
         defendant might not have been responsible for the
         plaintiff's harm.

The report also chronicles abuses in other jurisdictions,
including: #6 Orleans Parish, Louisiana; #7 South Florida; #8
Philadelphia; and #9 Los Angeles. "Dishonorable mentions"
include Oklahoma, the Utah Supreme Court, the District of
Columbia and New Mexico's Appellate Courts.

"Just like Mississippi, we need to focus on fixing each
individual Hellhole, but we also need a national solution to
prevent personal injury lawyers from simply moving on to the
next new place they can file their lawsuits," Joyce said.

Judicial Hellholes 2004 has an expanded section on solutions for
Judicial Hellholes. In addition, the "Points of Light" section
describes interventions that have helped stem lawsuit abuse in
Judicial Hellholes.

Today, each U.S. citizen pays an annual "tort tax" that is more
than $800. Lawsuit abuses like those detailed in Judicial
Hellholes 2004 contribute to that burden.

For a copy of Judicial Hellholes 2004, visit

UNITED STATES: ILR Applauds President Bush For Legal Reform
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Institute for Legal Reform (ILR)
applauded President George W. Bush, who has made reform of
America's civil justice system a centerpiece of this week's
White House Economic Summit, the U.S. Newswire reports.

"We are gratified that President Bush is making clear his
commitment to meaningful legal reform," said Lisa Rickard,
president of ILR. "Some of the more important reforms to be
considered by the coming Congress include the Class Action
Fairness Act, a consensus asbestos litigation reform bill, and
medical liability reform."

Rampant asbestos litigation has driven almost 70 companies into
bankruptcy, costing as many as 60,000 Americans their jobs,
according to ILR. Furthermore, during the past decade alone,
class action lawsuit filings rose more than 300 percent in
federal Courts and more than 1,000 percent in state Courts.

America's litigation system is the world's most expensive,
draining more than $233 billion from the U.S. economy, and
costing the average American family of four more than $3,200 a
year in higher prices, higher insurance rates and higher health
care costs. The system is bilking small businesses of an
astounding $88 billion a year, according to a recent NERA
Economic Consulting study conducted for the U.S. Chamber
Institute for Legal Reform (ILR).

"The President's continued leadership is needed to pass these
much-needed reforms," continued Rickard. "Now is the time for
Congress to act to bring balance to America's legal system by
ending the lawsuit abuse that cripples our employers and hits
the pocketbooks of America's working families."

The Institute for Legal Reform's mission is to make America's
legal system simpler, fairer and faster for everyone. It seeks
to promote civil justice reform through legislative, political,
judicial and educational activities at the national, state and
local levels. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is the world's
largest business federation, representing more than three
million businesses and organizations of every size, sector and

UNITED STATES: President Pushes For Reform To Limit Lawsuits
President George W. Bush demanded congressional action on
legislation to rein in class action, asbestos and medical
malpractice lawsuits, stating to the press that he would make
changing the civil tort system a "priority issue" in an economic
conference in the White House, the Washington Post reports.

President Bush used the first day of the two-day economic
gathering to focus on "the class-action meat grinder" and
malpractice suits that "are driving really fine, competent
people out of the practice of medicine." A series of bills
limiting suits in civil cases has been held up in the Senate,
mainly by Democrats but also by a handful of Republicans.
President Bush further stated, "I am here to ... make it clear
as I possibly can that I intend to take a legislative package to
Congress, which says we expect the House and the Senate to pass
meaningful liability reform on asbestos, on class action and
medical liability."

The economic conference, which was called to highlight the
president's domestic agenda that includes revising the Social
Security and tax systems, was divided into several panels. One
panel addressed the growing complexity of the tax code, laying
out the administration's case for simplifying the code, cutting
taxes on dividends, capital gains and business investment and
making president's first-term tax cuts permanent.

The president appeared at only one of four panels, on "lawsuit
abuse," wherein he underscored interest in changing a system the
administration says is costing the economy more than $250
billion a year. Even with Republican gains in the House and
Senate, he will face a fight, the White House is likely to
secure the 60 votes needed to beat a filibuster on a bill
shifting class-action lawsuits from state Courts to federal
Courts. That would be "a step, but a small step" toward scaling
back mass suits on behalf of thousands of plaintiffs, said
George Priest, a Yale University professor on the panel.

However, Senate Republican leaders couldn't muster even a 50-
vote majority on three bills to limit medical malpractice suits,
and they appear far from a deal to end the proliferation of
suits on behalf of those exposed to asbestos.

VALEANT CANADA: Health Canada Recalls Drug V. Manic-Depression
The Food and Drug Administration is advising consumers about a
Canadian recall of Carbolith (Lithium Carbonate) 150 mg capsules
distributed in Canada by Valeant Canada Limited.  Although
Carbolith is not an FDA-approved product, FDA is investigating
several Internet websites advertising Carbolith for sale to U.S.
consumers.  Carbolith 150 mg capsules are used in the treatment
of manic-depressive illness.  The Company's recent testing led
to the conclusion that the product may not deliver adequate
amounts of the drug to ensure effective treatment.

As a precaution, Health Canada recently advised individuals
taking Carbolith 150 mg capsules to continue taking their
medication and to consult their health care professional as soon
as possible. This product has been available to the Canadian
public with a prescription from physicians.

U.S. consumers who have purchased this drug through the Internet
and taken it for the treatment of manic-depressive illness could
experience adverse events associated with lowered blood lithium
levels. These events could include a worsening of manic-
depressive illness, a serious psychiatric condition. A worsening
of this condition could result in symptoms associated with mania
(such as motor hyperactivity, delusions of grandeur, poor
judgment and aggressiveness) and depression or suicidal thoughts
which may require hospitalization.

Additionally, consumers who may have taken the Carbolith product
for several weeks or more may experience toxic effects when they
switch to a lithium carbonate product that delivers adequate
amounts of the drug. Mild toxicity could result in tremors of
the hands, thirst and more frequent urination, drowsiness,
ringing in the ears and blurred vision. More severe toxicity
could result in confusion, muscle twitching, vomiting, diarrhea,
seizures, coma and death.

Because lithium carbonate requires careful, closely monitored
dosing and periodic blood tests to measure the level of the drug
in the blood, U.S. consumers who have taken Carbolith 150 mg
capsules should continue to take the product and consult their
health care provider as soon as possible so that an alternative
medication can be prescribed.

Consumers and health care professionals are urged to report
adverse reactions associated with Carbolith 150 mg capsules to
FDA's MedWatch program online www.fda.gov/medwatch/report.htm,
fax (800-332-0178) or phone (800-332-1088) and to Health Canada
by toll-free telephone at (866) 234-2345 or by toll-free fax at
(866) 678-6789.

A public advisory issued by Health Canada about this recall can
be found at http://www.hc-
sc.gc.ca/english/protection/warnings/2004/2004-10-29.html.  A
Dear Health Care Professional Letter dated November 4, 2004,
issued by Valeant Canada Limited can be found at www.hc-

WASHINGTON GROUP: ID Court Suit Settlement Approval Deemed Final
The United States District Court for the District of Idaho's
approval of the settlement of the class action filed against
certain of Washington Group International's current and former
officers, employees and directors.

Two former participants in the Old MK 401(k) Plan and the
Old MK Employee Stock Ownership Plan filed the suit, alleging,
among other things, that the defendants breached certain
fiduciary duties under the Employee Retirement Income Security
Act of 1974 ("ERISA").

In October 2003, an agreement in principle was reached to settle
the matter.  The settlement includes contributions from
insurance carriers, the two plan trustees and the Company.  In
addition, the plaintiffs' claim in the Company's reorganization
case has been allowed and plaintiffs are entitled to participate
in the distribution of shares of common stock and warrants to
unsecured creditors.  In August 2004, the settlement was
approved by the trial Court in which the class action was
pending.  No appeal has been taken and therefore the trial
Court's decision has become final and non-appealable as of
October 1, 2004.  The settlement has also been approved by the
bankruptcy Court that presides over the Company's reorganization

WORLDCOM: NY Judge Agrees With Plaintiffs On Banks' Diligence
Manhattan Federal Judge Denise Cote who is overseeing the
WorldCom securities class action recently ruled that the
investment banks that sold billions of dollars of the Company's
bonds to investors the year before WorldCom collapsed must
persuade a jury that they conducted appropriate due diligence
and adequately disclosed the securities' risks to buyers, the
New York Times reports.

The ruling was a big blow to J. P. Morgan Chase, Deutsche Bank
and Bank of America, three banks that had helped to sell $12
billion of the bonds in May 2001 and who had sought to have the
case thrown out, arguing that they were not required to do more
due diligence on WorldCom, since they had relied on the opinions
of Arthur Andersen, the Company's auditor, that its financial
statements were accurate.

Citigroup, one of the firms that sold the WorldCom bonds, had
been a defendant. But it settled with the plaintiffs in May,
paying $2.65 billion and as always the firm after settling
denied violating any laws.

In her opinion, Judge Cote also agreed that the financial
statements in the prospectus for the 2001 WorldCom offering were
false and misleading. Thus, the banks that underwrote the issue
will be liable unless they can show they did adequate due
diligence before the offering. The judge wrote, "Underwriters
perform a different function from auditors. They have special
access to information about an issuer at a critical time in the
issuer's corporate life, at a time it is seeking to raise
capital. The public relies on the underwriter to obtain and
verify relevant information and then make sure that essential
facts are disclosed. Acting with a degree of diligence that
applies to a prudent man when managing his own property,
underwriters should ask those questions and seek those answers
that are appropriate in the circumstances."

In a press statement, Alan G. Hevesi, state comptroller of New
York, said: "Judge Cote's decision reaffirms in forceful terms
our assertion that investment banks must thoroughly probe a
Company before asking the investing public to buy securities the
banks are underwriting for a fee. Our legal team is preparing
vigorously for trial in February where we will finally have the
opportunity to lay out the evidence of the banks' involvement in
the WorldCom debacle."

Referring to the internal downgrades and hedges before the deal,
Judge Cote wrote: "The lead plaintiff has shown that they help
to raise material issues of fact as to whether the 2001
registration statement adequately described the risk of
investing in WorldCom."

J. P. Morgan Securities, a unit of J. P. Morgan Chase, sold
$3.24 billion of bonds while Bank of America Securities, a unit
of Bank of America, sold $1.1 billion. Deutsche Bank Alex Brown,
that bank's securities arm, sold $808 million.

Upon reaching the verdict, Sean Coffey, a lawyer at Bernstein
Litowitz Berger & Grossmann in New York, who represents the lead
plaintiff said, "In her opinion, Judge Cote rejects the notion
that an audit opinion is a 'get out of jail free' card for
investment bankers who are on notice that things may not be
quite what they appear to be at a Company whose securities they
are asking investors to buy."

WYETH PHARMACEUTICALS: MT Woman Lodges Hormone Replacement Drugs
Joan Reichert initiated a lawsuit against Wyeth Pharmaceuticals,
alleging that the drug manufacturer played down significant
health threats while promoting the menopause medications that
she says caused her to develop blood clots, the Associated Press

Ms. Reichert filed her lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Helena
earlier this month and is seeking $10 million in punitive
damages, plus unspecified actual damages. In her lawsuit, Ms.
Reichert alleges that Wyeth knew, or should have known, that its
hormone replacement products, which were sold under the brand
names Prempro and Premarin posed more health risks than benefits
to users.

According to a study by the Women's Health Initiative, released
in early October, estrogen-progestin pills double post-
menopausal women's chances of developing dangerous blood clots.
The results had come from the same government study that was
halted two years ago after Prempro estrogen-progestin pills
appeared to raise the risk of heart attack, stroke and breast

Ms. Reichert and her attorney say Wyeth was negligent in warning
of the dangers, made false representations about the safety of
the product and offered a product that was neither safe nor
effective and had serious side effects.

Since the studies, Wyeth officials have been promoting lower
doses of estrogen be used in treating menopause for a shorter
period of time than was prescribed in the past.

Ms. Richert's lawsuit was part of a class action filing in
Arkansas earlier this year, but the judge ordered that the cases
be separated.

                         Asbestos Alert

ASBESTOS LITIGATION: AIG Inc. Continues to Meet Asbestos Claims
The American International Group, Inc. (NYSE: AIG), the world's
leading international insurance and financial services
organization, continues to receive asbestos claims and
environmental claims asserting injuries from toxic waste,
hazardous substances, and other environmental pollutants. The
Company also claims to answer to alleged damages to cover the
cleanup costs of hazardous waste dump sites.

This report submitted by the Company to the Securities and
Exchange Commission states that the vast majority of these
asbestos and environmental claims emanate from policies written
in 1984 and prior years. Commencing in 1985, standard policies
contained an absolute exclusion for asbestos and pollution
related damage.

With respect to asbestos claims reserves, AIG has resolved all
claims with respect to miners and major manufacturers and
payments have been completed or reserves are established to
cover future payment obligations. Claims with respect to
products containing asbestos are generally very mature losses,
and have been appropriately recognized and reserved by AIG's
asbestos claims operation. AIG believes that the vast majority
of the incoming claims with respect to products containing small
amounts of asbestos, companies in the distribution chain and
parties with remote, ill-defined involvement with asbestos
should not impact its coverage.

The New York-based Company further reports that the majority of
AIG's exposures for asbestos and environmental claims are excess
casualty coverages, not primary coverages. Thus, the litigation
costs are treated in the same manner as indemnity reserves. That
is, litigation expenses are included within the limits of the
liability AIG incurs. Individual significant claim liabilities,
where future litigation costs are reasonably determinable, are
established on a case basis.

Significant factors which affect the trends that influence the
asbestos and environmental claims estimation process are the
inconsistent Court resolutions and judicial interpretations
which broaden the intent of the policies and scope of coverage.
Due to this uncertainty it is not possible to determine the
future development of asbestos and environmental claims with the
same degree of reliability as is with other types of claims.

Although the estimated liabilities with respect to asbestos and
environmental reserves are subject to a significantly greater
margin of error than for other loss reserves, the asbestos and
environmental reserves carried at December 31, 2003 of US$2.02
billion gross and US$669 million net are believed to be adequate
as these reserves are based on the known facts and current law.

With respect to known asbestos and environmental claims, AIG
established over a decade ago specialized toxic tort and
environmental claims units, which investigate and adjust all
such asbestos and environmental claims. These units evaluate
these claims utilizing a comprehensive ground up approach on a
claim-by-claim basis.

AIG believes the majority of its known long-tail environmental
exposures have been resolved utilizing a combination of
proactive claim-handling techniques including policy buybacks,
complete environmental releases, compromise settlements, and,
where indicated, litigation. Current and new claims are
generally cases of declining severity. Strong coverage defenses
and stronger liability defenses are among the factors
contributing to declining severity.

AIG provides leadership on issues of concern to the global and
local economies as well as the insurance and financial services
industries. AIG has operations in more than 130 countries and
jurisdictions. Its member companies serve commercial,
institutional and individual customers through the most
extensive worldwide property-casualty and life insurance
networks of any insurer.

ASBESTOS LITIGATION: Madison County's Suit Filings Down in 2004
Critics to the Madison County Circuit Court are taking notice of
an emerging trend at the reputed Court. In a review of lawsuits
filed in the Court's civil law division, a significant decrease
in cases over US$50,000 have been filed year-to-date over
previous years.

Calling it a trend, however, may be premature, according to
Illinois Civil Justice League President Ed Murnane. "It's
difficult to measure trends in one year. Certainly one can see
peaks and valleys or blips on the radar," he said. "There are a
lot of reasons why ?the numbers? could be down," Mr. Murnane

A peak was reached in 2003, when 2,102 total cases over
US$50,000 were filed, including asbestos and class action suits.
That compares to 1,350 suits filed so far this year. While last
year there were 106 class action suits filed in Madison County,
only 69 have been filed so far in 2004.

"I think that the increased attention to the judicial system in
Madison County eventually was bound to have an impact. Maybe the
high level of attention on the judicial system, the medical
malpractice issue, the Supreme Court race - maybe that in part
is contributing to the decline."

Since 1999 when 1,246 cases were filed, there has been a steady
increase in the amount of cases filed in Madison County, with
the exception of 2002 when only 1,729 cases were filed. In 2000,
there were 1,313 suits filed and in 2001 there were 1,876 filed.

Mr. Murnane considers the possibility that the reason
plaintiff's lawyers are looking somewhere else is the perception
that Madison County Courts haven't been as friendly as
previously experienced.

Neighboring St. Clair County has also seen a slight decrease in
cases filed. In 2003, a total of 831 cases were filed in St.
Clair County Circuit Court, and as of Dec 8, there had been 698.

ASBESTOS LITIGATION: Medical Costs Could Reach $32.2M in Montana
Over the next five years, medical costs for people sickened by
asbestos exposure in Libby, Montana are expected to reach
US$32.2 million and could run as high as US$90 million, a new
study shows.

This report was presented last week to a task force of
government and medical workers formed two years ago to find out
how much health care for the hundreds of ill Libby residents
might cost. Gov. Judy Martz's office funded the study, which was
prepared by a consulting firm in New Jersey that compiles
statistics for insurance companies.

That number could be a bit high because the study didn't account
for people dying as it projected medical costs from 2005 through
2009, said the presenter, Jim Buck.

Of the US$32.2 million in likely costs, some US$10.5 million
will be covered by W.R. Grace, the bankrupt owner of the closed
Libby vermiculite mine that was the source of widespread
asbestos contamination in Libby. W.R. Grace hired a Company
called Health Network America to cover the medical costs of
sickened residents who pledged not to sue the Company. About
half the money HNA has spent so far went to cover the medical
bills of the 77 sickest people, the report showed.

The rest of the bill, a projected US$21.7 million, is for people
not covered by W.R. Grace. Some of those people are covered by
Medicare and Medicaid or private insurance. Some are paying for
their own treatment, while others are being treated for free at
the hospital in Libby as a charity.

Mr. Buck said he anticipated more people may fall sick with
asbestos-related conditions as the population of Libby ages, but
those new diagnoses are reflected in the US$32.2 million

Jean Branscum, Martz's health-care policy adviser, said the
study is significant because it shows how much money is still
needed to take care of the people of Libby. "That's the purpose
of our two-year stint," Ms. Branscum told members of the task

Sen. Conrad Burns, R-Montana, has suggested creating a medical
bill trust fund for Libby, now the site of an Environmental
Protection Agency Superfund cleanup.

For years, Libby was home to a vermiculite mine that provided
raw materials for insulation. The vermiculite was tainted with a
particularly dangerous kind of asbestos, a mineral that causes
lung disease and cancer if breathed in even small quantities.

ASBESTOS LITIGATION: Many UK Companies Fail to Follow New Rules
Hundreds of businesses in the Northeast have yet to comply with
new rules about managing asbestos in the workplace, an asbestos-
surveying expert has warned.

Many industrial and commercial companies in Teesside, situated
in Stockton-on-Tees, have not yet implemented the Control of
Asbestos at Work Regulations. The administrators of publicly
owned properties including many others have not assessed the
risk of likely exposure to asbestos-containing materials within
their premises, according to Gateshead-based asbestos surveyor
and management Company Asbesto-Tec.

Asbesto-Tec director Michael Nicholson said, "Many of the larger
organizations have taken on the task but many more, particularly
owners of smaller properties, seem to fear the task is beyond
them in terms of cost and time involvement.

"Asbestos was widely used in the manufacture of buildings right
up to 1999 and the majority of properties in the Northeast are
known to contain considerable amounts of it." Mr. Nicholson
believes that new regulations are now introduced due to an
increased awareness of the inherent dangers of asbestos.

Asbesto-Tec assists by carrying out asbestos surveys that can be
easily organized and implemented. In addition the Company also
reviews existing management plans and in cases where it is
considered unnecessary to remove the asbestos-containing
material, it provides an annual monitoring service.

ASBESTOS LITIGATION: Florida County Case Filings Plummet
The number of asbestos-related cases has dropped steadily in
Palm Beach County since May, when Circuit Judge Timothy
McCarthy, who presides over the Court's asbestos division, began
questioning why thousands of claims were being filed in South
Florida, even though they had no local connection. The
division's caseload went down from 1,500 in May to 1,200 as of
Dec. 1, according to clerk of Courts figures.

Lawyers who specialize in asbestos lawsuits flock to certain
Court systems, including Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade
counties, which have special divisions to process them. These
"rocket dockets" allow large numbers of suits to be set for
trial, pressuring the defendant companies to settle 99 percent
of the claims rather than risk going to trial.

In June, Judge McCarthy decided that Palm Beach County taxpayers
shouldn't have to pay for lengthy trials of claims with no local
connection and said that he intended to dismiss large blocks of
cases if the lawyers couldn't show any link. The Judge had also
threatened to disband the division entirely.

In the October 22, 2004 edition of the Class Action Reporter,
the 4th District Court of Appeal rejected an attempt to remove
Judge McCarthy from the asbestos cases that had cited a
"longstanding and escalating personal bias and prejudice"
against Miami-based Ferraro & Associates lawyers.

During the past month, McCarthy dismissed or transferred 94 of
95 cases that had been set for trial. These cases filed by
Ferraro & Associates involved clients, most of whom were
recruited through advertising in Alabama.

On Dec. 1, Chief Judge Edward Fine issued an executive order
saying the Court would continue to handle asbestos cases in a
separate division and Judge McCarthy would continue to preside
over it, in addition to his reassignment to another civil trial
division in January.

The order also said that, if Judge McCarthy were disqualified or
recused, cases would be assigned randomly to other judges, who
would not be bound to follow any of the uniform case procedures
set up especially for the asbestos division.

Corporations and their insurance companies have paid more than
US$70 billion in claims since the 1970s, when the health-
damaging effects of asbestos fibers became known. Litigation and
settlements have contributed to the bankruptcies of more than 70
companies. About 600,000 claims are believed to be active, and
estimates of the ultimate potential cost are as high as US$200
billion to US$265 billion.

The stakes are high for all involved, said Stephen Carroll,
senior economist at the Rand Institute for Civil Justice, who
tracks the litigation. "This isn't a case where two or three
people sit down around a table and hammer out a compromise," Mr.
Carroll said.

"You have thousands of defendants, and tens of law firms
representing hundreds of thousands of plaintiffs, and very
diverse interests in each of those groups. And corporations with
significant asbestos liabilities think there has to be some sort
of legislation, or they'll all wind up in Chapter 11
bankruptcy," he said.

ASBESTOS LITIGATION: Group Seeks $84M Penalty for Johns Manville
The Illinois Dunesland Preservation Society is seeking stiffer
penalties for Johns Manville, a former producer of asbestos
products in Waukegan, rather than the "disgracefully low"
US$145,000 fine being pushed by Attorney General Lisa Madigan.

"The public - and the judiciary - should not tolerate this
sellout of the public interest," said Paul Kakuris, the
environmental group's president. The group believes the
pollution fines should amount to no less than US$84 million.

The state sued Johns Manville in 2001 for illegal pollution
discharges from its closed Waukegan plant, a federal Superfund
site where 1 million tons of asbestos are capped. In August
2003, Ms. Madigan amended that complaint by tacking on more than
a dozen additional violations, all relating to discharges of
cancer-causing asbestos and other contaminants from a pipe that
flows into Lake Michigan from chemically tainted lagoons at the
Johns Manville site.

This fall, the Company and the attorney general's office
negotiated the fine to resolve the lawsuit. The call for an
US$84 million fine was based on the maximum possible fines per
violation allowed under state law - a figure the Attorney
General's office contends is grossly too high.

Dunesland has been endlessly criticizing state officials for
failing to hold Johns Manville accountable for asbestos debris
that routinely washes ashore at Illinois Beach State Park and
that has turned up in an ecologically sensitive nature preserve
at the park and at a nearby, state-leased fishing area that has
been closed.

The group also has pressed the state to slap the Company for
allowing its lagoons to overflow into the nature preserve.
Despite one of its own field staffers documenting the
phenomenon, the state Environmental Protection Agency has long
held that no such overflow occurs.

Matthew Dunn, a top environmental attorney in Madigan's office,
said the violations cited in the state lawsuit have nothing to
do with asbestos on the beaches or at the state park because it
cannot be proven Johns Manville is the source of that material.

Johns Manville spokesman Paul Gennaro declined comment on the
proposed US$145,000 fine, but he contended Dunesland's
criticisms were proven to be baseless in a federal Courtroom
last week.

Dunesland suffered a legal setback when U.S. District Judge
George Lindberg rejected its efforts to toughen a new federal
cleanup order imposed on Johns Manville. The judge ruled the
group waited too long to raise its safety concerns and that many
of those concerns already were being addressed under the cleanup

ASBESTOS LITIGATION: Amicus Slams Insurers Evading Compensation
Amicus Britain's biggest private sector union last Tuesday spoke
of condemning insurers who were attempting to dodge their
responsibility to compensate up to 75% of asbestos claims in a
High Court challenge. The union also hit out at dubious non-
lawyer claims companies that are fuelling insurers claims of a
growing compensation culture.

The Class Action Reporter has been following this landmark case
filed by insurers who are challenging the rights of workers
exposed to asbestos to claim compensation for pleural plaques, a
calcification of the lungs recognized as the least serious form
of asbestos-related illness. There are on average 14,000 pleural
plaques cases a year.

Amicus General Secretary Derek Simpson said, "Insurers are being
given ammunition by unscrupulous ambulance chasers to attack a
legitimate class of legal action. Asbestos is not yesterday's
problem. Amicus and its lawyers are determined to ensure that
workers suffering from asbestos related injuries due to the
failure of employers to protect them have the right to

"Amicus is receiving hundreds of calls a week in response to the
union stepping up its campaign to compensate asbestos claims and
fight back against the claims farmers. The union has created a
database which is a structured permanent register detailing
cases of asbestos exposure. The database will be used to ensure
that union members suffering from asbestos related diseases have
a better chance of winning their legal case than other claimants

Pleural plaques is currently held to be a legitimate injury
worthy of compensation because it causes scarring on the lungs;
it shows an increased risk of developing a more serious asbestos
related injury, and leads to anxiety as a result of fear of
developing an incurable asbestos related illness.

Insurers are claiming that an increase in pleural plaques cases
is evidence of the so-called compensation culture and that scan
vans are fuelling the increase. But the real cause of the
increase is the widespread and indiscriminate use of asbestos in
many industries until the early 1980s, and a failure by
employers to protect workers.

ASBESTOS LITIGATION: Zurn Continues to Receive Asbestos Claims
The leading global manufacturer and distributor of branded bath
and plumbing products, Jacuzzi Brands Inc. reports that one of
its wholly-owned subsidiary, Zurn Industries, Inc. along with
many other unrelated companies, is a co-defendant in numerous
asbestos related lawsuits pending in the U.S.

Plaintiffs' claims are pointing towards the Company for personal
injuries allegedly caused by exposure to asbestos used primarily
in industrial boilers formerly manufactured by a segment of Zurn
that has been accounted for as a discontinued operation.

Zurn did not manufacture asbestos or asbestos components.
Instead, the Company purchased it from suppliers. Federal
legislation has been proposed for a trust funded by insurers and
defendant companies that would remove asbestos claims from the
current tort system. But there is currently no assurance yet as
to when this will be implemented and what impact it will have on
the Company's financial status.

During fiscal 2004, about 26,000 claims were paid or pending
payment and about 4,900 claims were dismissed or pending
dismissal. During fiscal 2003 and as of the end of such period,
about 45,000 claims were paid or pending payment and about 3,000
claims were dismissed or pending dismissal. Since Zurn received
its first asbestos claim in the 1980s, it has paid or dismissed
or agreed to settle or dismiss about 100,600 asbestos claims
including dismissals or agreements to dismiss of about 10,600 of
such claims through the end of fiscal 2004 compared to 84,000
and 6,400 claims, respectively, through the end of fiscal 2003.

Zurn engaged an independent economic consulting firm with
substantial experience in asbestos liability valuations to
assist in the estimation of its potential asbestos liability. On
October 2, 2004, that firm estimated that its potential
liability for asbestos claims pending against it and for claims
estimated to be filed through 2014 is about US$171 million. That
firm estimated Zurn will pay about US$127.6 million through 2014
on such claims, with the balance of the estimated liability
being paid in subsequent years.

Zurn expects all such payments to be paid by its carriers. The
estimated liability of US$171 million is comprised of about
US$12 million in claims that had been settled but unpaid as of
the end of fiscal 2004; US$26 million in proposed settlements of
certain pending and future claims; and US$133 million for other
pending and future claims. On September 27, 2003, it was
estimated that Zurn's potential liability for asbestos claims
pending against it and for claims estimated to be filed through
2013 was about US$160 million.

Zurn estimates that its available insurance to cover its
potential asbestos liability as of October 2, 2004 is about
US$302.1 million. The Company believes, based on its experience
in defending and dismissing such claims and the coverage
available, that it has sufficient insurance to cover the pending
and reasonably estimable future claims. This conclusion was
reached after considering its experience in asbestos litigation,
the insurance payments made to date by Zurn's insurance
carriers, existing insurance policies, the industry ratings of
the insurers and the advice of insurance coverage counsel with
respect to applicable insurance coverage law relating to the
terms and conditions of those policies.

As of October 2, 2004, Zurn recorded a receivable from its
insurance carriers of US$171 million, which corresponds to the
amount of Zurn's potential asbestos liability that is covered by
available insurance and is probable of recovery.

New claims filed against Zurn in fiscal 2004 were lower year-
over-year. During fiscal 2004, about 25,000 new asbestos claims
were filed versus 32,400 in fiscal 2003. As of October 2, 2004,
the number of asbestos claims pending against Zurn was about
75,500 compared to 59,000 as of September 27, 2003. The increase
in pending claims is a result of new claims exceeding the number
of claims newly resolved during the period. The claims are
handled pursuant to a defense strategy funded by its insurers.
The pending claims as of October 2, 2004 were included in about
5,872 lawsuits, in which Zurn and an average of 85 other
companies are named as defendants, and which cumulatively allege
damages of about US$10.3 billion against all defendants.

Principally as a result of the past insolvency of certain of
Zurn's insurance carriers, coverage analysis reveals that
certain gaps exist in its insurance coverage, but only if and
after it uses about US$230.1 million of its remaining US$302.1
million of insurance coverage. The estimate of Zurn's potential
liability for asbestos claims pending against it and for claims
estimated to be filed through 2014 is US$171 million with the
expected amount to be paid through 2014 being US$127.6 million.
In order to use about US$277.1 million of the US$302.1 million
of its insurance coverage from solvent carriers, the Company
estimates that it would need to satisfy about US$14 million of
asbestos claims, with additional gaps of US$80million layered
within the final US$25 million of the US$302.1 million of

Zurn estimates that its available insurance to cover its
potential asbestos liability as of the end of fiscal 2004 is
greater than its potential asbestos liability.

ASBESTOS LITIGATION: Supreme Court Rules MT State Could Be Sued
State officials faced a major blow when a divided Montana
Supreme Court ruled in a 4-3 decision that the government's
immunity from being sued was removed by the 1972 Montana
Constitution. Hence, they cannot claim protection from the
claims of the miners suffering from asbestos exposure in the
mine, which W.R. Grace & Co. closed in 1990.

The Court also said that state officials held a responsibility
to warn miners about decades of dangerous health conditions at
the Libby vermiculite mine, but a trial is needed to determine
if government officials failed to fulfill that duty.

Nine Libby residents, who either worked at the mine or were
married to some of its employees, have filed claims for
compensation against the state seeking for damages. They had
appealed a district judge's ruling in 2001 that dismissed their
lawsuit against the state for failing to warn them of the
dangers posed by the vermiculite mine.

However, the Court did not determine whether the state did
anything wrong or whether the government must pay any damages.
Still, the Court questioned the lack of action by the state in
warning mineworkers about the dangers associated with the mining
of vermiculite after conducting four inspections between 1956
and 1964.

The plaintiffs contend that the state inspector who visited the
mine reported on the toxicity of the vermiculite dust and
concluded that the workers' exposure to it would eventually
cause pulmonary disease. The plaintiffs argued that the
information was never passed on to workers.

The Court revealed that the majority had said the state's
argument that it could not have foreseen the mine operators'
failure to protect workers "rings hollow." Inspections showed
nothing was being done by Grace or its predecessor, Zonolite
Co., the Court said.

"Plainly, the state knew as a result of its inspections that the
mine's owner was doing nothing to protect the workers from the
toxins in their midst," Justice Patricia Cotter said for the

The vermiculite ore contained harmful levels of tremolite
asbestos and is blamed for hundreds of illnesses and at least
200 deaths. The Environmental Protection Agency has been
cleaning up the mine site and other contaminated areas in the
town since 1999. Libby was declared a Superfund site in 2002.

In arguments before the state Supreme Court in June 2003, Jon
Heberling, an attorney for the plaintiffs, told the justices
that the state "stood moot while a human disaster unfolded in
Libby." Mr. Heberling said the high Court ruling applies to
scores of other miners who developed health problems while
working at the mine. "This may mean that the state has a duty to
pay part, but not all, of the compensation for the Libby
miners," he said.

An attorney for the state argued that there was nothing in the
law that required the state to warn workers about its findings.
The state also contended it should be immune from the lawsuit
because the state had a sovereign immunity law in place when the
exposures occurred.

The dissenting justices agreed, saying the alleged failure to
warn miners about the dangerous place they worked occurred
before the new constitution abolished government immunity, so
the protection applies in this case.

In his dissent, Justice John Warner said he sympathizes with the
plight of the miners suffering from health problems from
asbestos exposure. "But it is simply incorrect as a matter of
law for this Court to redefine the doctrine of sovereign
immunity, change it, or find a new way around it in an effort to
provide a remedy," he said.

Mr. Heberling said the case is far from finished. "This is a
long-term crusade. It's going to be years before we get a

ASBESTOS LITIGATION: Fears Cause Aussies to Avoid DIY Projects
More Australians in its national capital, Canberra, are moving
away from do-it-yourself renovation projects and instead, are
calling licensed trades persons to do the renovations. Major
renovation work in the territory by licensed builders had risen
by 8.4% in the third quarter.

Fears of asbestos exposure could have been fueled by recent
media attention to its deleterious effects, according to
ACT/Southern NSW Housing Industry Association executive director
Caroline Lemezina.

The HIA's quarterly Renovations Monitor recorded $19 million
worth of work approved for the quarter. Total renovations, which
included all the DIY work, fell in the September quarter from
$22 million to $19 million. Work was reportedly being done on
ground-floor extensions, new kitchens and external work which
included decks and pergolas, and repairs and maintenance jobs.

Ms. Lemezina said that the figures showed that adding ground-
floor area to existing homes was an attractive proposition,
especially given the high transaction costs associated with
moving house. "It is clear that homeowners are pulling back from
do-it-yourself type activity and are more likely to engage
licensed trades people to take on the jobs that in past years
they may have had a go at themselves," she added.

Next year, renovation activity would be largely dictated by
movements in house prices and interest rates and to what degree
households addressed record levels of debt. Given the modest
outlook for rates and that house price crashes were unlikely,
next year was expected to be steady, with activity forecast to
fall modestly.

A total of 179 households undertook major home renovations over
the three months to September at an average value of $106,910
for each job, the highest average value in Australia. The most
popular renovation over the three months was a ground-floor

ASBESTOS LITIGATION: Crane Co. Warns of Earnings Shortfall in 4Q
Crane Co. (NYSE: CR) warned last Tuesday that its earnings for
the fourth quarter could fall below previous forecasts.

In a press release issued ahead of its annual conference with
analysts, Crane said "there will be challenges to achieving the
lower end of fourth quarter 2004 guidance" in the range of 49
cents to 54 cents per share. The diversified Company, which
makes fluid handling equipment, aerospace components and other
products, did not provide further details. When it issued the
guidance in October, the Company said it believed it would have
to raise product prices further to offset higher raw material

Analysts surveyed by Thomson First Call are looking for earnings
of 52 cents per share in the quarter.

The Company said earnings for 2004 are expected to be in the
US$1.95 to US$2 range, excluding the US$4.02 per share charge
taken in the third quarter to settle asbestos and environmental
claims. Analysts are expecting earnings of US$1.97 per share.

For 2005, the Company expects earnings to be US$2.05 to US$2.15
per share, with sales rising 6 percent to about US$2 billion.
The Stamford, Connecticut-based Company said that it forecasts
free cash flow, defined as cash flow from operations after
capital expenditures, but before dividends, and costs related to
asbestos and environmental settlements, of US$150 million, up
slightly from the US$140 million expected for 2004.

Analysts currently forecast Crane's earnings for 2005 at US$2.13
per share and sales at US$1.96 billion.

In its aerospace segment, the Company said its aftermarket or
parts business will be down in the fourth quarter while
engineering costs will be up. About 85 percent of the segment's
business involves commercial aircraft while the rest is for

ASBESTOS LITIGATION: MA Court Seeks Relocation Area for Workers
Middlesex District Attorney Martha Coakley said last week she
wants the state to move all her employees, about 70 to 80 of
them, out of the Middlesex County Courthouse in Cambridge as
quickly as possible amid mounting alarm over asbestos in the 22-
story building.

Ms. Coakley, oversees 230 employees countywide but has her
headquarters at the Courthouse. "I'm not going to play Russian
roulette with employees' health and safety," she said.

State officials first raised concerns about asbestos used for
fireproofing of the Courthouse when the building was under
construction in 1969. But the asbestos has raised new concerns
in recent months because the state is preparing to remove the
carcinogenic substance from the building's elevator shafts as
part of a US$14.3 million renovation project scheduled to start
next spring. The state plans to remove the asbestos as
employees, who number in the hundreds, continue to work in the

David B. Perini, the head of the state division that oversees
government properties, and Robert A. Mulligan, the trial Court's
chief justice for administration and management, issued a joint
statement saying that tests conducted by the state in October
showed no problems with airborne asbestos at the Courthouse.

"The health and safety of the occupants and users of the
building are the number one priority," the statement said. "We
would not be proceeding with the project if we thought that it
would risk the health and safety of the building occupants and
those who visit the building."

Dr. L. Christine Oliver, a specialist in occupational and
environmental medicine hired by a pro-bono lawyer representing
some employees in the building, concluded that asbestos should
be removed throughout the building and that all workers need to
be relocated. Though Dr. Oliver said that most longtime
occupants of the building have probably been exposed to "very
low levels" of airborne asbestos. Maintenance workers and other
trades people were probably exposed to higher levels if they
lifted ceiling panels.

Dr. Oliver inspected the building at the request of Chris A.
Milne, who has volunteered to investigate asbestos problems on
behalf of the Massachusetts Bar Association, the Massachusetts
Academy of Trial Attorneys, and the Middlesex Bar Association.
Ms. Coakley, Superior Court Clerk Edward J. Sullivan, and
District Court Clerk Robert L. Moscow back the effort.

In the matter of the Cambridge Courthouse, Mr. Milne reviewed
some 3,500 pages of documents that he obtained through a Freedom
of Information Act request. A sample that he provided indicated
that asbestos has long been a concern. But nothing was ever
done, Mr. Milne said.

The building houses about 130 Superior Court employees, 80
district Court employees, and at least 150 employees at the
Cambridge Jail, which houses 320 prisoners. In addition, Mr.
Milne said, about 200 people visit the building everyday for
jury duty.

ASBESTOS LITIGATION: Court Upholds Denial of Claim Against Todd
Last Dec. 7, The Ninth Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals
affirmed the denial of a claim against Todd Pacific Shipyards
Corporation and its insurance carriers for death benefits under
the Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act.

Shirley Dilts, widow of Henry Dilts, petitioned for a review of
the decision by the Benefits Review Board. Mrs. Dilts alleged
that her husband died of lung cancer that was caused or
contributed to by occupational exposure to asbestos in the
course of his employment at Todd from 1965 to 1994. The
administrative law judge denied the claim as barred by her
failure to obtain Todd's approval of third-party settlements she
had reached with asbestos manufacturers as required by Section
33(g) of the Act, 33 U.S.C.

It is undisputed that Mrs. Dilts neither notified the employer,
nor obtained the approval of the employer for a number of third-
party settlement agreements. She now attempts to argue that the
statutory requirement of approval, contained in Section 33(g),
is unconstitutional because it permits an employer wrongfully to
withhold approval of settlements, thereby forcing a claimant to
obtain the benefits of a settlement at the cost of forfeiting
the right to statutory compensation from the employer. Her
position is not consistent with the Supreme Court's holding that
the statutory for future provision must be interpreted broadly
in accordance with its literal terms.

Also named as respondents are the Director for the Benefits
Review Board of the U.S. Department of Labor and the Eagle
Pacific Insurance Company.

ASBESTOS LITIGATION: Disagreements Still Plague Asbestos Bill
As the number of asbestos-related claims continues to climb, the
prospect for a fair and acceptable solution for all parties
involved remains to be elusive.

No one seems to know exactly how to solve the problem clogging
Courts around the country. Even with Republican gains in the
U.S. Senate following the recent election, a cloud still hangs
over the passing of legislation to address the issue. The most
hopeful are guardedly optimistic. Others say the process to date
has been a lie.

"It is hard to find a balance of something that will work," said
Jim Stengel, an attorney involved with the Asbestos Study Group,
an industry group that seeks limits on lawsuits. Mr. Stengel
made his comments during a two-day conference on the topic in
New York City last week.

The leading contender to solve the problem is a proposal to have
a government-administered trust fund. The argument is over how
much companies should have to put up to pay for claims from
sickened workers, said John Libonati, a vice president of Owens
Corning. The total figure stands at about US$140 billion, but
many lawyers and labor representatives say that is too low to
cover everyone who was hurt by the fireproofing, cancer-causing

However, Matthew Bergman, an attorney who represents some of the
sickest plaintiffs, said the proposed plan is a "betrayal." He
added, "It remains clear to me that the trust fund ... is a way
to let companies off the hook and leave asbestos victims out in
the cold." Further, he said, any trust fund could take years to
issue payments to sick workers because of Court challenges.

Last week's edition of the Class Action Reporter explored the
possibility of a rapid vote plan to the asbestos bill as
proposed by Sen. Arlen Specter, the incoming chairman of the
Senate Judiciary Committee. He intends to introduce his bill on
Jan. 4, hold hearings in the committee the following week, move
the bill through his committee in another week, and have it
ready to put on the Senate floor by the week of Jan. 29. So far,
four industry trade groups have expressed their apprehensions,
citing substantive problems with the measure.

ASBESTOS LITIGATION: Calls for a Probe Hound Site Redevelopment
Asbestos victim champion Jack Bedlington earlier this week
called for a public meeting over plans to redevelop the nearly
100-acre site of an asbestos factory at the center of a scandal.
His plea comes after Labor MP Fraser Kemp urged the Government
to investigate the asbestos controversy after documents exposed
a health cover-up by bosses at the Washington Chemical Company.

The Houghton and Washington East MP called on the Department of
Trade and Industry to investigate fully the scandal after it was
revealed how years ago Company directors hid the dangers of
asbestos from their workers and tried to stop the Government
bringing in stricter regulations.

Now former councilor Mr. Bedlington, who has helped hundreds of
families claim compensation after relatives were killed by the
dust, is concerned the dangers at the Washington factory, later
taken over by Cape Insulation, are still present.

Mr. Bedlington, who worked at the factory for 36 years and was
awarded the MBE for his many years' work helping victims of
asbestosis and their families, said he had been present at a
poorly-attended meeting at the Bridge women's center in Columbia
on November 23 when the developers outlined their plans.

He said, "I am 100% in favor of the buildings being demolished.
They have been standing there for more than 100 years. I only
hope the asbestos dust doesn't get blown on to the Teal Farm
estate nearby."

Mr. Bedlington suggested that all residents of Teal Farm gather
for a public meeting among themselves and also with public
health and development control directors from the civic center.
He mentioned the need to decide what sanctions to put on and who
gets the contracts to clear the site and build houses.

A consortium of Hellens, Pattinson Properties and Barratt Homes,
has applied to build a development of 200 to 250 homes and a
150,000 sq ft business park to replace Cape Insulation. The
developers say they are confident they can rid the site of
asbestos before housing is built.

A spokesman for Sunderland Council said a full inquiry by
environmental health officers would be carried out at the site
before any development could take place.

ASBESTOS LITIGATION: Pres. Bush Demands Action to Limit Lawsuits
President Bush called for a new system to deal with asbestos-
related cases, and new limits on medical malpractice cases and
class-action lawsuits involving groups of plaintiffs. Speaking
to a panel of enthusiastic supporters, he criticized trial
lawyers and demanded congressional action to limit lawsuits.
According to him, lawsuits against businesses and manufacturers
were a drag on the economy and must be reined in.

The President made these remarks during a White House conference
on the economy in Washington last Wednesday. The administration
is said to harbor hopes of building momentum for Bush's
ambitious second-term agenda during this two-day conference.

"What you have today is business on one side, and you've got the
trial lawyers on the other side. ... You've got deep pockets
colliding with shallow principles," said Robert Nardelli, the
chief executive at Home Depot and one of several Republican
donors at the conference.

Todd Smith, the president of the Association of Trial Lawyers of
America, issued a statement that said, "President Bush's
economic plan pretends that taking away the legal rights of
American families will reduce health care costs. He unashamedly
advocates legislation that would protect insurance industry
profits and prohibit any punishment for the makers of dangerous
drugs like Vioxx, while penalizing your mother for being abused
in a nursing home or your daughter for having her baby killed by
medical malpractice.

"That's not an economic plan. It is yet another giveaway to the
insurance, drug, HMO and nursing-home industries."

The hour-long session on "the high costs of lawsuit abuse" was
one of several panels examining various aspects of Bush's
second-term domestic agenda. The panelists, all of whom were
selected by the White House, unanimously endorsed the
president's plans to partially privatize Social Security,
permanently extend his first-term tax cuts and limit lawsuits.

The Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan group that
tracks campaign spenders, found that conference participants
donated nearly US$195,000 to various Republican candidates or
causes in recent years, including US$40,000 to Bush.

Panelists included a Mississippi drugstore owner who said she
was driven out of business by lawsuits, an Ohio gynecologist who
stopped delivering babies to avoid the cost of malpractice
insurance and one of the gynecologist's pregnant patients, who
said she was still looking for a backup doctor. All pointed the
finger of blame at trial lawyers. "I think we need to hold these
people to a higher standard - the same standard that physicians
are held to," said gynecologist Barbara Coen of Norton, Ohio.

Carlton Carl, a spokesman for the trial lawyers' group,
dismissed the White House conference as political theater. "It's
not government. It's not seeking solutions," Mr. Carl said. "The
only people invited to attend and participate are campaign
supporters and people who have been well-rehearsed."

Turning the president's agenda into law won't be easy as several
powerful interest groups are already gearing up to challenge his
ambitious plans. Even some of his fellow Republican lawmakers
aren't sold on some issues. There's no consensus plan to revise
the federal tax system, and some Republican lawmakers remain
wary of any major changes to Social Security. Some of the
president's proposals to restrict lawsuits, including his plan
to limit damages for "pain and suffering" in medical malpractice
cases to US$250,000, stalled in the Republican-controlled Senate
in his first term.

Mr. Carl said Pres. Bush was "not even close" to legislative
victory on medical malpractice changes, but might win
congressional approval for his plan to limit class-action
lawsuits to federal Court. Legislation to forestall asbestos-
related lawsuits by establishing a special fund to deal with
injury claims has stalled over the size of the fund, tentatively
pegged at about US$140 billion.

Trial lawyers, consumer groups and labor unions say that isn't
nearly enough to compensate people who have cancers related to
their exposure to asbestos, a substance that once was commonly
used in insulation, flooring, ceiling tiles and other everyday

President Bush signaled his determination to push the changes
through Congress and promised to say more about them in his
State of the Union address early next year. "We expect the House
and the Senate to pass meaningful liability reform on asbestos,
on class action and medical liability," he said. "I am
passionate on the subject. ... And I can assure you all that I
intend to make this a priority issue."

ASBESTOS LITIGATION: Worksafe Probes Theft from Demolition Site
Worksafe, Western Australia's administrative agency, is
currently investigating reports that asbestos-laden material was
taken illegally from a demolition site in Mount Alexander Road,
Flemington, where fire last month destroyed Lombard The Paper
People factory.

It is believed that the intruders broke into the site at night
and took away "a truckload" of material, including climbing
ropes and a photocopying machine, removed from the severely
damaged building.

Site supervisor Malcolm Wright, from Bay Builders, said he was
angry that anyone would breach the site's security because of
the danger of disturbing asbestos there. He had reported the
matter to police and to WorkSafe, he said.

The November 12 fire caused damage to the factory estimated at
about $29 million. Also damaged was an adjoining indoor rock-
climbing center and pistol range. After the fire, asbestos was
found in toilets, pipes and rubble inside the building.

Worksafe, a division of the Department of Consumer and
Employment Protection, is responsible for the administration of
work safety and health laws. This agency also undertakes a wide
range of regulatory activities as well as industry and community
awareness programs.

ASBESTOS LITIGATION: HI School Shuts Down Due to Contamination
King Intermediate School officials decided to shut down the
campus for the rest of the week after test results show more
widespread asbestos contamination there. At the same time,
administrators said the levels of contamination at the school in
Kaneohe, Hawaii, are lower than previously found.

This decision was prompted by the heated meeting last Monday
with the parents and was compounded by the test results they
received on Tuesday. It revealed that asbestos was prevalent in
three more buildings: the physical education, the band, and the
science and math buildings. The Department of Environment said
the dust was probably released when contractors began scraping
paint off buildings ahead of renovation work.

A previous edition of the Class Action Reported last Nov. 26
carried a story relating the evacuation that occurred in this
school on Nov. 12 after asbestos was disturbed during the
renovations. Earlier tests did not indicate the presence of
asbestos so the school management decided to continue classes
while the work went on outside. 57 Builders Ltd., a private
contractor, has been handling the renovation task.

Deputy superintendent Lea Albert said it became clear that the
safety of the campus is in question. The school hopes to use the
extra closure time to clean up the campus completely.

"We want to make sure there is no asbestos at King so people can
stop worrying about this and put this behind them," said
Principal Cynthia Chun.

Teachers met with administrators after school Tuesday to discuss
how to handle the end of the quarter.

ASBESTOS LITIGATION: Hanson PLC Takes Additional Asbestos Charge
Hanson PLC, an international building materials Company, warned
of a further provision for asbestos claims today, saying it
would book a full-year pre-tax charge of about US$223 million
representing an increase in its provision for asbestos claims to
US$480 million from US$317 million as of December 2003. The
Company said predicting future liabilities is complex and
difficult as it admitted it was possible that gross costs could
continue to increase.

In the same trading update, Hanson said it expects its pretax
profit before exceptional items for the year to end December
2004 to be in line with expectations. However, currency
movements have cut full-year pretax pre-exceptional profit by
about GBD14 million.

Exceptional items for the year will include the asbestos
provision. In addition there may be further exceptional charges
of about 50 million after tax, including cash costs of about 3
million after tax, it said.

About 7,000 new asbestos claimants are expected to file in the
second half of 2004, down from 11,700 in the first half and
7,900 in the second half of 2003.

About 2,000 claimant resolutions are expected in this half with
around 90 percent of these expected to be dismissed, giving an
annual average dismissal rate of 75 percent. Outstanding
claimants at the end of the year will be 137,400 compared with
132,400 at the end of June 2004.

Average gross cost per resolution expected to jump to about
US$9,000 from US$5,000 in 2003 reflecting the continuing focus
on the most seriously ill claimants. Full-year gross cost for
2004 is expected to rise to about US$60 million.

"Operations in Hanson's major markets in the US, UK and
Australia are expected to benefit from stable underlying demand
in 2005 and from ongoing management initiatives," it said.
"Price increases are expected to recover input cost increases
and additional cost savings should support margin improvement,"
it added.

Hanson said growth through bolt-on acquisitions remains a
priority and that it is also considering further property

The Company, which said central costs have increased about GBD3
million in 2004 and include costs of preparation for Sarbanes-
Oxley compliance and for adoption of International Financial
Reporting Standards, said it is well prepared for the adoption
of IFRS from January 2005.

On current trading, Hanson said it experienced increased
operating profit and margins in North America compared to the
second half of 2003. U.S. operating profit for the full year is
expected to benefit from GBD8 million of property profit and a
reduction of GBD8 million in the pension charge compared to
2003, but these will be offset by about 20 million of adverse
foreign exchange impact.

While in the UK, full-year operating profit is anticipated to
include GBD4 million of property profit and an additional GBD14
million of pension costs compared with 2003.

Hanson said Australia's strong performance continues but that
operating profit for the Asian operations is behind last year
amid continuing difficult market conditions. The Continental
Europe division is forecast to report improved operating profit
and margins slightly ahead of last year, despite continued
market weakness in Israel.

The Company added that net debt at the end of the year is
anticipated to be about GBD750 million compared with GBD942
million at end December 2003, with about GBD85 million of this
reduction coming from foreign exchange movements.

ASBESTOS ALERT: Inquest Reveals Coal Worker Died Due to Exposure
A 70-year-old man who died as a result of asbestosis, a scarring
of the lungs that leads to breathing problems and heart failure,
had spent 11 years of his working life exposed to the
carcinogenic fibers, an inquest heard.

Dennis George Parker had worked for the National Coal Board at
Altham and the Central Electricity Generating Board at Padiham.
He had described to his wife Kathleen how on one job the
asbestos particles could be seen floating in the air and on
another, at Padiham Power Station, asbestos dust would be piled
up on the floor.

Recording a verdict of death as a result of industrial disease
deputy coroner Carolyn Singleton said it is now known that
asbestos is an extremely dangerous substance.

Mrs. Parker, of Dill Hall, Church, told how her husband had done
his national service with the Royal Engineers and during his
working life had worked in power stations all over the world
including Saudi Arabia and Borneo.

The medical cause of death was given as bronchopneumonia as a
result of lung disease due to asbestosis.

ASBESTOS ALERT: Council Pursues Fly-tipper as Plant Rouses Fear
Risking human lives, a developer ignored tough new laws
governing the disposal of hazardous material and dumped broken
asbestos slates on a rural part of Groarty Road in Derry.

Sinn Fein councilor Billy Page hit out at the person responsible
when he raised the issue during a meeting of Derry City Council
last week. He said the incident comes as apprehensions continue
to grow over plans for a new asbestos storage facility at

Justice for Asbestos, a local pressure group that offers support
to victims of asbestosis, has expressed its concerns regarding
proposals to build a plant that will hold the product in storage
prior to its removal and disposal elsewhere.

John Meehan, Derry City Council's Chief Environmental Officer,
stressed that the Council would scrutinize the planning proposal
very closely. Mr. Meehan's colleague, John Kelpie, said the
proposed Campsie operation would provide a service to
contractors wanting to off load properly controlled asbestos.
The material would remain at the facility ahead of its removal
to a proper landfill site for disposal. At present, there is no
such site in the North.

In a bid to allay local concerns, the senior council official
said the plant would have to adhere to a strict waste management
license if it got the all clear from the Planning Service.
Referring to the Groarty Road incident, Mr. Kelpie said the
local authority was forced to call in a specialist contractor to
remove the asbestos waste. He said the material was transported
to a storage facility in Belfast at a "considerable" cost to the
Council. He said, "We have a difficulty because there are
unscrupulous contractors out there who continue to defy the law
and dump along rural roads in the city and in our community."

SDLP's Mary Bradley, who demanded the cost of the cleanup
operation, said Council must do all in its power to track down
the dumper responsible.

Mr. Kelpie, who said the Council has been in regular contact
with the Department of Regional Development over the asbestos
issue, added, "This is not just an issue of us going out and
cleaning up the waste."

He vowed, "Any clues we find that might lead us to the culprit
will be rigorously pursued."

ASBESTOS ALERT: Widow Sues UC Board Over Exposure in Los Alamos
The widow of state Rep. Raymond Ruiz of Albuquerque, New Mexico,
has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the University of
California's board of regents. The lawsuit seeks an undisclosed
amount of damages.

Harriet Ruiz, whose husband died last May 9 at the age of 65,
alleges that his lung cancer was related to his work with
asbestos at the laboratory more than 30 years ago. She asserts
that Mr. Ruiz was directly exposed to the material for ten years
without adequate protection while he worked at Los Alamos
National Laboratory. His job involved mixing hazardous materials
by hand while making lead shields for bomb testing during the
1960s and 1970s.

UC spokesman Chris Harrington said the university's lawyers
would review the case. The university runs the lab for the U.S.
Department of Energy.

EPA has called asbestos a "highly potent carcinogen" that causes
"severe health effects after even short-term, high-level or
longer-term, low-level exposure."

ASBESTOS ALERT: Court Reverses Dismissal of Case V. Agilent, HPQ
The Superior Court of Delaware ruled last November 16, 2004 that
the appeal on a decision of the Industrial Accident Board to
dismiss a former Hewlett-Packard employee's occupational
asbestos exposure claim has been reversed and remanded to the
Board for further proceedings.

In the suit specified as Case No. Civ.A. 03A-07-005RRC, Albert
DelPizzo, the appellant, had brought a case against Agilent
Technologies (NYSE: A) and Hewlett-Packard Company (NYSE: HPQ)
seeking for compensation due on jurisdictional grounds.

Mr. DelPizzo alleges that he had been exposed to asbestos while
working in Delaware and was later exposed to the same substance
while working in Pennsylvania. His action before the Board was
against the successors-in-interest to his previous Delaware

On August 20, 2002, Mr. DelPizzo filed a petition seeking
compensation due from Agilent with the Board. A petition was
also filed against Hewlett-Packard on January 30, 2003. Agilent
is the successor-in-interest to Hewlett-Packard. The two
petitions were consolidated and a hearing was heard before the
Board on June 3, 2003. The Board issued its decision on June 30,
2003 granting the appellees' motion to dismiss because of lack
of jurisdiction and an application of the "last injurious
exposure" rule. This appeal followed.

Richard T. Wilson, from the Law Offices of Peter G. Angelos, is
representing the appellant. Scott A. Simpson and Scott R.
Mondell, are similarly representing Agilent and R. Stokes Nolte
comes in behalf of Hewlett Packard.

In June of 1959, Mr. DelPizzo was hired by F & M Scientific
Corporation at the New Castle County Airbase. Between June and
September of 1961, F & M relocated to Avondale, Pennsylvania.
Hewlett Packard acquired F & M in August 1965 and that
effectively made Mr. DelPizzo an HP employee. By early 1973,
cutting of insulation sheets containing asbestos was no longer
performed however; it was only in 1977 that use of insulated
wires was stopped, which brought an end to the Company's use of
asbestos altogether. It was in October 1992 that Hewlett Packard
moved to Little Falls Corporate Center, Delaware. Mr. DelPizzo
retired under a voluntary severance incentive plan on January
30, 1999. On August 2001, Agilent acquired Hewlett Packard.

The Industrial Accident Board had dismissed Mr. DelPizzo's claim
because it found that it was statutorily barred from exercising
jurisdiction. It formed its decision on the basis that it
believes the former employee was not able to meet the conditions
for the claim to qualify under the Workers' Compensation Act,
which "envelops industrial accidents or exposures occurring
outside the borders of the state as though they occurred within
Delaware's borders."

The Board held in effect that the "last injurious exposure" rule
acted as a jurisdictional bar to an award of workers'
compensation benefits by divesting the Board of jurisdiction to
hear a claim brought by an employee who had been exposed while
working Delaware but who later was exposed to the same substance
while working in another state. Even assuming that the claimant
had any asbestos exposure in Delaware, the Board believed that
any remaining or final exposures occurred in Pennsylvania.

The Superior Court of Delaware noted that the Board's finding
that the employee was not exposed to asbestos while working in
Delaware is not supported by the record. The Board went beyond
the stipulated facts and the petition when it found that he was
not exposed to asbestos while employed in Delaware from 1959 to

The Superior Court emphasized that the "last injurious exposure"
rule, recognized in Delaware, is not a jurisdictional rule to
bar recovery but is rather a way for the Board to determine
which employer or insurance carrier was "on risk." The rule
facilities a claimant's ability to receive workers' compensation
benefits due to an occupational disease. The Court continued to
explain that unlike a typical physical injury, it would be
difficult to determine when an occupational disease injury
occurred or to apportion liability to several employers.

The "last in-state employer" corollary also follows the
legislative intent to provide workers' compensation benefits to
employees for "all occupational diseases regardless of the
length of time for them to develop and become manifest."

Other Courts that have adopted the corollary have done so on the
basis that "it would have been futile for [their legislatures]
to have provided that the last employer in time, no matter in
what state located, 'shall alone be liable,' if it intended to
refer to out-of-state employers over which it had no

It logically follows that Delaware Courts interpret the "last
employer" language in the rule to mean Delaware employers and
not out-of-state employers. It would be similarly futile for the
Courts to adopt a rule to refer to out-of-state employers over
which it had no jurisdiction. This Court now adopts the majority
rule: in Delaware the "last employer" language of the "last
injurious exposure" rule means the last in-state employer
subject to the jurisdiction of the Workers' Compensation Act.

Company Profile:
Hewlett-Packard Company (NYSE: HPQ)
3000 Hanover St.
Palo Alto, CA 94304
Phone: 650-857-1501
Fax: 650-857-5518

Fiscal Year-End October
2003 Sales (mil.)   : GBD43,069.5
1-Year Sales Growth   : 29.1%
2003 Net Income (mil.)   : GBD1,496.7
2003 Employees    : 142,000

HP provides enterprise and consumer customers a full range of
high-tech products, including personal computers, servers,
storage devices, printers, networking equipment, and software.
It also boasts an IT service organization that is among the
world's largest.

Company Profile:
Agilent Technologies, Inc. (NYSE: A)
395 Page Mill Rd.
Palo Alto, CA 94306
Phone: 650-752-5000
Fax: 650-752-5633
Toll Free: 877-424-4536

A leading manufacturer of scientific instruments and analysis
equipment, Agilent is the #1 supplier of electronic test and
measurement products, including data generators, multimeters,
and oscilloscopes. The Company also makes an array of
semiconductor products, such as light-emitting diodes (LEDs),
optoelectronic components, and RF chipsets. Its life sciences
and chemical analysis unit manufactures laboratory equipment and
other scientific instruments.

ASBESTOS ALERT: Judge Affirms Dismissal of Case V. Intl Paper Co
Judge Andree Layton Roaf from Division IV of the Court of
Appeals of Arkansas affirmed a decision by the Workers'
Compensation Commission denying a claim made by a man who
alleged that the environmental conditions at his workplace
aggravated his lung disease.

Appellant John Tutt alleged that he had been exposed to dust and
chemicals while employed by International Paper Company from
1942 to 1978. He worked at its Camden, Arkansas mill for over 36
years in the caustic and wet rooms. These areas reportedly had
little ventilation. Mr. Tuff's coworkers, James Lee Bryant and
Jessie Morris Looney, testified that they suffered in these
conditions for several years and that the Company did not even
provide them with protective masks.

Mr. Tutt admitted to being a smoker since the start of his
service in World War II until he stopped sometime in 1964-1965.
In 1968, he was diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary
disease or COPD. However, he continued his employment until 1978
when he retired from the Company due to medical problems. He
experienced breathing difficulties since the early 1970s and
sought treatment for the pneumonia-related complications. Mr.
Tutt died on November 20, 1983 with his cause of death listed as
respiratory arrest and COPD with emphysema. Mr. Tutt's wife
continued this claim on his behalf.

His pulmonologist, Dr. James Adamson, who treated him from 1978
until his death, believes that "occupational exposure to the
chemicals at the mill could have been a contributing agent to
his severe lung obstruction." But he added that nothing in the
records allowed him to determine the exposure to these

Also at his family's request, Dr. Christopher John reviewed his
medical records and concluded that his exposure to the multiple
pollutants, irritants, and asbestos precipitated and aggravated
his smoking-induced COPD with emphysema. Dr. John also stated
that he suffered from asbestosis, due to his industrial exposure
to asbestos, which was never diagnosed during his lifetime.

Dr. David Hewitt, a consultant with the Center for Toxicology
and Environmental Health, said that without sufficient evidence
in the record regarding Mr. Tutt's asbestos exposure, he was
unwilling to state that his condition resulted from asbestos
exposure. He noted that Mr. Tutt did not exhibit symptoms
consistent with an asbestos-related illness. After considering
Dr. John's opinion, Dr. Jay Gandy, a foremost toxicologist,
concluded that Dr. John had failed to identify these chemicals
and determine what doses of any of the chemicals were
significant to cause the illness.

The administrative law judge ruled that there was no proof of
asbestosis and that Mr. Tutt did not present sufficient evidence
to establish a causal connection between his employment and COPD
with emphysema. The judge also found that he failed to sustain
his burden of proof by clear and convincing evidence that his
employment precipitated, aggravated, or accelerated his lung

Company Profile:

International Paper Company (NYSE: IP)
400 Atlantic St.
Stamford, CT 06921
Phone: 203-541-8000
Fax: 203-541-8200
Toll Free: 800-223-1268

Fiscal Year-End    : December
2003 Sales (mil.)   : GBD14,158.2
1-Year Sales Growth   : 0.8%
2003 Net Income (mil.)   : GBD169.8
2003 Employees    : 83,000

International Paper is the world's largest forest products
Company. It produces plywood, paper, pulp, and packaging, and
processes chemicals such as crude tall oil and crude sulfate
turpentine. International Paper controls more than 8 million
acres of forestlands in the US and 1.5 million in Brazil; it
also holds interests in 795,000 acres in New Zealand.

ASBESTOS ALERT: Victim's Wife Files Lawsuit V. Timken Company
A woman is attempting to claim compensation for the deadly
asbestos-related cancer she claims to have developed from
washing her husband's clothes. Her husband had worked in the TI
Desford tube plant firm, now known as the Timken Company, a
world-leading producer of seamless steel tubing.

Maureen Percy, aged 72, said that her husband was an employee at
the tube plant for nearly 37 years. She said that doctors told
her she has contracted mesothelioma from her contact with his
work clothes, but she cannot claim related benefits.

Colin Percy, aged 75, from Kirby Muxloe, Leics, said, "It's time
the government did something to address this problem for
relatives." He has vowed to continue calling on the government
to do more to help people like his wife who had been affected.

Mrs. Percy is now taking legal action to try to win compensation
for contracting the deadly disease. She said that she would wash
her husband's clothes in a separate washing tub every weekend
because they were so covered in dust from the factory.

Liz Darliston, from the Macmillan Mesothelioma Resource Center
at Glenfield Hospital in Leicester, said, "The whole disease is
an injustice, irrespective of how you have been exposed to
asbestos. But if you add to that that you can't claim the same
benefits as another sufferer just because you were exposed to
asbestos washing your husband's clothes, that adds to the
injustice of the disease."

A spokeswoman for the Department of Work and Pensions said,
"There are no current plans to extend the scope of the
Industrial Injuries Scheme to the family members of asbestosis
sufferers, or to people who have been exposed to asbestos
outside of their work."

Company Profile:

Timken Company
1835 Dueber Ave. SW
P.O. Box 6932
Canton, OH 44706-0932
United States
Phone: 1-800-223-1954
Fax: 1-330-471-3069

The Timken Company (NYSE: TKR) is a leading international
manufacturer of highly engineered bearings, alloy and specialty
steels and components, as well as a provider of related products
and services. With operations in 24 countries, the Company
employs about 18,700 people worldwide and recorded 2001 sales of
US$2.4 billion.

ASBESTOS ALERT: GTC Chemical fined GBD1,800 for Act Violations
Bathgate-based firm, GTC Chemical Services, has been fined
GBD1,800 after it admitted failing to deal properly with
asbestos at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary. The Company admitted four
of seven charges raised against it under the Control of Asbestos
at Work Act at Aberdeen Sheriff Court late last week.

The offenses occurred in a workshop, at the hospital's Ashgrove
House at Foresterhill in November last year. Fiscal depute,
Jonathan Ward, told the Court that joiners discovered the
asbestos when cutting into a fire door with a power saw. A
sample of the asbestos was sent for analysis and GTC Chemical
Services was called in to clean the workshop as an emergency
late on a Friday afternoon. However, it was later discovered
there was also brown asbestos, a more dangerous strain of the

More precautions should have been taken to tackle it, said Mr.
Ward. He said asbestos-related illnesses were still the most
common industrial illnesses in the UK, and the chemical was
"inherently dangerous."

Mr. Ward said the law required the firm to at least view the
analysis of the asbestos before beginning work, but the
supervisor had accepted the word of the hospital trust estate
manager that only white asbestos, the least dangerous kind, had
been found.

Appearing before Sheriff Douglas Cusine, the firm admitted not
carrying out a suitable and sufficient risk assessment, not
providing a written plan and not training staff sufficiently to
deal with the situation.

Defense agent, Diane Turner, said two of the three GTC staff
involved were trained to supervisory level, but none had been
involved in an emergency situation before. Had it not been
deemed an emergency by the hospital, the men would simply have
sealed off the workshop.

The brown asbestos was found when Health and Safety Executive
inspectors carried out tests. A further clean-up was carried out
and the workshop has been made completely safe.

Company Profile:

GTC Chemical Services Ltd.
Whitburn Road, Birniehill, BATHGATE, EH48 2HR
Phone: 01506-633233

ASBESTOS ALERT: Inquest Deferred as Cause of Disease is Disputed
A family has demanded further investigation into the death of a
man who had worked with asbestos after the cause of his illness
was disputed at an inquest.

Andrew King, aged 51, of Lane Ends Farm, Salterforth had worked
with the substance at Albert Hartley Ltd, Barnoldswick, for
around a decade in the 1960s and 1970s. The illness first became
evident throughout the September and October period of 2001. The
local doctors had failed to diagnose the disease early and had
confirmed that Mr. King had mesothelioma, an illness recognized
as a result of prolonged exposure to asbestos, only in 2002. At
this point, he underwent chemotherapy and lung removal
operation. But the cancer had already spread into his pleura and
abdomen. He died on July 3, 2003, from a lung infection caused
by the disease.

However, tests conducted by the Environmental Lung Disease
Research Group showed only normal levels of asbestos fibers in
his lungs. The pathologist, Dr. Zuhair Twaij, was so taken aback
by this result that he ordered further tests to be conducted.

During the inquest held in Burnley, Dr. Twaij rationalized that
90 percent of mesotheliomas are related to asbestos, but the
other 10 percent are known as idiopathic cases. "In the tests,
we did not have evidence of occupational asbestos exposure," he
said. He added that everyone has a low level of asbestos fiber
in their lungs, and that the fiber had to reach a certain level
before it was classed as occupational exposure.

Mr. Kings brother, Peter, asked for the inquest to be adjourned,
to give time for tissue analysis to be studied from a lung
removed at a Leicester hospital just before the death. The two
brothers had worked together at the Barnoldswick firm, where one
of their duties was to remove, inspect and replace asbestos
boiler coverings.

The new evidence will be presented when the inquest is reopened
in the New Year. A date has not yet been set.

Company Profile:

Albert Hartley Ltd
Crownest Mill
BB18 5RH
Phone: 01282 666000
Fax: 01282 666002

Albert Hartley Ltd. is a leading printer and finisher of
fabrics. The Company prints up to a 250,000 meters of fabrics a
week with a wide range of home furnishing applications using
both rotary and flat bed printers.

ASBESTOS ALERT: Swindon Asbestos Victim Wins GBD50T Settlement
In an out-of-Court settlement, a victim of the so-called Swindon
Disease has been awarded GBD50,000 after years of exposure to
hazardous asbestos.

Dennis Mulholland, 72 years old and a former railway man and
hospital engineer, told how colleagues in Swindon regularly
threw "snowballs" made from the deadly material.

Doctors diagnosed him in August 2001; he was then told that he
had diffused thickening of the lungs. He said that he still
lives with the knowledge that he is slowly dying from work he
did more than 50 years ago.

Between 1951 and 1954 Mr. Mulholland worked for the Swindon and
District Hospital Management Committee as an engineering
improver at Elm Court and Stratton Hospital. His job was to
strip down boilers lined with asbestos, which he had to remove
with a hammer and chisel. The asbestos was then replaced after
mixing it in a bucketful of water.

Brigitte Chandler, a leading industrial disease lawyer with
Swindon firm Charles Lucas and Marshall said, "During this work
Dennis Mulholland was given neither masks, protective clothing
nor warnings about the danger of working with asbestos which
should have been well-known by this time. On occasions, when the
cloud of asbestos dust was very thick in the air he was reduced
to putting a scarf over his nose to try to afford himself some

Unaware of the risks, Mr. Mulholland then went on to work for
British Rail in Swindon from 1961 to 1971 as a fitter in the
shop carriage and wagon works. He was tasked with repairing
alarm and brake systems and would often work inside compartments
where paneling was removed and in so doing, exposed blue

This was followed by two years stripping and rebuilding steam
engines where he was again exposed to large amounts of asbestos.
Finally, Mr. Mulholland joined Roussel Laboratories where he
helped to remove asbestos ceiling tiles.

A trial had been scheduled to proceed but BRB Residuary Ltd
(British Rail), Swindon Primary Care Trust and Roussel
Laboratories agreed to pay the settlement sum plus costs.

Company Profile:

Roussel Laboratories Ltd
North Orbital Rd, Broadwater Park
Denham Uxbridge Middlesex, England Ub95hp
United Kingdom

Roussel Laboratories Ltd. is one of UK's importers of raw
pharmaceuticals. The Company is also known for the wholesale of
pharmaceuticals supplies.

Company Profile:

BRB Residuary Ltd
Whittles House
14 Pentonville Road
London N1 9RP
Phone: 020 7904 5100
Fax: 020 7904 5040

Under the 1993 Railways Act, the old British Rail was split up
and sold off. By November 1997, British Rail had been divested
of all its operating railway functions. The remaining functions
of the British Railways Board are now discharged by BRB
(Residuary) Ltd, a wholly owned subsidiary of the Strategic Rail

Company Profile:

Swindon Primary Care Trust Health Clinics And Centres
Westrop Surgery
Newburgh Place
Swindon SN6 7DN
Phone: 01793 762 600

Swindon PCT was set up in April 2002 and is one of 303 Primary
Care Trusts in England - they all have the funding to plan and
commission health services for their local communities - a role
previously carried out by health authorities. In addition, they
are responsible for integrating health and social care so the
two systems work together for patients.

ASBESTOS ALERT: EPA Cites PCS for Clean Air Act Violations in MD
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has cited Big Spring
School District and Power Component Systems Inc. of Hanover,
Md., for violating Clean Air Act asbestos regulations during
renovations at the former Big Spring High School.

EPA announced that the violations occurred last May and proposed
a US$17,584 penalty. Big Spring and PCS could still contest the
alleged violations and proposed penalty.

"These violations are the responsibility of the contractor, who
will also be responsible for taking care of any fines that may
be levied," Big Spring Superintendent William Cowden said this

Mr. Cowden said he's "unhappy and disappointed that the citation
includes the school district as if the school district is
somehow responsible for the alleged violations. It gives the
appearance that the school district somehow should have known
something was amiss. We didn't do anything incorrectly here."

Big Spring last April accepted a low bid of US$160,000 from PCS
to remove about 82,000 square feet of asbestos-containing floor
tile and 750 feet of asbestos-containing pipe insulation at the
old high school. The building is being renovated for use as a
middle school.

EPA's regulations require that materials that may release
asbestos fibers during demolition or renovation must be
adequately wetted during removal and carefully handled. They
must remain wet until securely bagged prior to disposal.

At a May 11 inspection at the school, an EPA inspector saw dry,
crushed asbestos tile debris in the halls and rooms. The
inspector observed mechanical chipping machines and noted the
floor tile had been subject to sanding, grinding, cutting and
abrading during removal, an EPA press release said. The
inspector also saw dry asbestos pipe insulation in bags in the
school's mechanical room.

The building was empty at the time of the alleged violations
except for district administration offices at the western end.
Venting and daily air quality testing was conducted in those
offices, Mr. Cowden said.

"None of the allegations have to do with the health and well-
being of any of us who remained in the building," he said.

Company Profile:

Power Component Systems, Inc.
7526-R Connelley Drive
Hanover MD 21076
Phone: +410 760 0022
Fax: +410 760 0028

With headquarters in Maryland and Pennsylvania, PCS, Inc. is
licensed to provide environmental remediation and selective
demolition services throughout Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia,
West Virginia, Delaware, New Jersey and the District of

                   New Securities Fraud Cases

MERCK & CO.: Scott + Scott Lodges Securities Fraud Suit in NJ
The law firm of Scott + Scott, LLC initiated a class action
lawsuit on behalf of participants and beneficiaries of the Merck
& Co., Inc. (NYSE:MRK) Savings and Security Plan and the
Employee Stock Purchase and Security Plan. The lawsuit has been
filed to recover losses that current and former Merck employees
have suffered in their retirement accounts. Merck plans to slash
5,100 jobs at the Company by year end and plans to take other
drastic measures to cut costs at the Company, a move that has
many employee plaintiffs concerned. The retirement losses and
job cuts are due in large part to Merck's deteriorating outlook
following the recall of Vioxx, one of Merck's best-selling
drugs. Scott + Scott's investigation of this case is ongoing and
the firm expects that there may be exposure in other ways as
well. The lawsuit was filed in the United States District Court
for the District of New Jersey.

Merck said it would have eliminated 5,100 positions by year end,
700 more than previously planned. The job cuts are expected to
save $300 million a year starting in 2005. Merck's cost-cutting
program is expected to amount to more than $3 billion through
2008, which is of little concern to those plaintiffs who are now

Merck has lost about half its share value in the past two years.
The deteriorating outlook of Merck is based in large part on
Merck's difficulties over Vioxx. The Vioxx withdrawal has
weighed heavily on the Company, causing it to lose its AAA
credit rating and prompting criminal and civil investigations,
lawsuits, legal liability and congressional hearings. The
lawsuit alleges that Merck and other plan fiduciaries breached
their fiduciary duties and responsibilities by, among other
things, failing to investigate the prudence and good sense of
making large investments in Merck stock in these plans and by
making misrepresentations about various matters such as Vioxx.

For more details, contact Neil Rothstein of Scott + Scott, LLC
by Phone: (800) 404-7770 (EST) or (800) 332-2259 (PST) or
(619) 233-4565 (California) by Fax: (619) 233-0508 by E-mail:

ROYAL GROUP: Charles J. Piven Lodges Securities Fraud Suit in NY
The law offices of Charles J. Piven, P.A. initiated a securities
class action on behalf of shareholders who purchased, converted,
exchanged or otherwise acquired the common stock of Royal Group
Technologies Limited (NYSE:RYG) between February 11, 1999 and
October 13, 2004, inclusive (the "Class Period").

The case is pending in the United States District Court for the
Southern District of New York against defendant Royal Group
Technologies Limited and certain of its executive officers. The
action charges that defendants violated federal securities laws
by issuing a series of materially false and misleading
statements to the market throughout the Class Period, which
statements had the effect of artificially inflating the market
price of the Company's securities. No class has yet been
certified in the above action.

For more details, contact the Law Offices Of Charles J. Piven,
P.A. by Phone: The World Trade Center-Baltimore, 401 East Pratt
Street, Suite 2525, Baltimore, MD 21202 by Phone: 410/986-0036
or by E-mail: hoffman@pivenlaw.com.

ROYAL GROUP: Schatz & Nobel Lodges Securities Fraud Suit in NY
The law firm of Schatz & Nobel, P.C. initiated a lawsuit seeking
class action status has been filed in the United States District
Court for the Southern District of New York on behalf of all
persons who purchased the publicly traded securities of Royal
Group Technologies Limited (NYSE: RYG) ("Royal Group") between
February 11, 1999 and October 13, 2004 (the "Class Period").

The complaint alleges that Royal Group violated United States
securities laws by issuing false or misleading public
statements. Specifically, the Complaint alleges that Royal Group
and certain of its top executive officers were engaged in a
conspiracy to defraud shareholders as disclosed on October 15,
2004 when Royal Group announced that it had received a Royal
Canadian Mounted Police ("RCMP") production order relating to
alleged violations of the Criminal Code for fraud and conspiracy
between January 1996 and January 2004. When this was revealed,
Royal Group stock fell to $7.85 per share, down from a close of
$8.97 on the previous trading day.

For more details, contact Schatz & Nobel by Phone:
(800) 797-5499 by E-mail: sn06106@aol.com or visit their Web
site: http://www.snlaw.net.

SUPPORTSOFT INC.: Schiffrin & Barroway Lodges CA Securities Suit
The law firm of Schiffrin & Barroway, LLP initiated a class
action lawsuit in the United States District Court for the
Northern District of California on behalf of all securities
purchasers of SupportSoft, Inc. ("SupportSoft" or the
"Company")(Nasdaq: SPRT) between January 20, 2004 and October 1,
2004, inclusive (the "Class Period").

The complaint charges SupportSoft, Radha R. Basu, and Brian M.
Beattie with violations of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934.
More specifically, the Complaint alleges that the Company failed
to disclose and misrepresented the following material adverse
facts, which were known to defendants or recklessly disregarded
by them:

     (1) that the Company failed to close two $4.5 million
         transactions, due to major flaws in SupportSoft's
         internal controls;

     (2) that the Company was experiencing sales execution

     (3) that SupportSoft's product pipeline was heavily
         weighted toward perpetual deals;

     (4) that due to the saturation of the domestic broadband
         market, the Company was facing a more challenging
         software spending environment of authorization
         signatures and longer sales cycles; and

     (5) that as a result of the above, the defendants' fiscal
         2004 projections were lacking in any reasonable basis
         when made.

On October 4, 2004, SupportSoft announced preliminary financial
results for the quarter ended September 30, 2004. The Company
expected total revenues for the third quarter 2004 to be in the
range of $11.9 million to $12.3 million versus $13.5 million for
the same period last year. GAAP loss per share was expected to
be in the range of $0.01 to $0.04, this was well below
expectations. News of this shocked the market. Shares of
SupportSoft fell $3.41 per share, or 35.45 percent, to close at
$6.21 per share.

For more details, contact Marc A. Topaz, Esq. or Darren J.
Check, Esq. of Schiffrin & Barroway, LLP by Phone:
1-888-299-7706 or 1-610-667-7706 or by E-mail:


A list of Meetings, Conferences and Seminars appears in each
Wednesday's edition of the Class Action Reporter. Submissions
via e-mail to carconf@beard.com are encouraged.

Each Friday's edition of the CAR includes a section featuring
news on asbestos-related litigation and profiles of target
asbestos defendants that, according to independent researches,
collectively face billions of dollars in asbestos-related


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Class Action Reporter is a daily newsletter, co-published by
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Copyright 2004.  All rights reserved.  ISSN 1525-2272.

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