National Roundup

‘Diesel Brothers’ ordered to pay $1 million in pollution case

OGDEN, Utah (AP) — The stars of the “Diesel Brothers” reality TV show have been ordered to pay nearly $1 million in legal fees on top of $848,000 in previous penalties over pollution law violations.

U.S. District Judge Robert Shelby of Utah ruled Jan. 26 that David “Heavy D” Sparks and Joshua “Redbeard” Stuart must pay $928,602 in legal fees to Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment, the Standard-Examiner in Ogden reported  Monday.

The environmental group started the legal battle in 2016 after seeing smoke-spewing trucks on the Discovery Channel show, where the crew modifies vehicles and gives away customized diesel trucks. The group later sued under the Clean Air Act, which allows people to seek civil damages against violators.

“Diesel Brothers” attorney Cole Cannon criticized the “egregious and frivolous” fee request by the legal team representing the doctors’ group, which requested more than $1.4 million. He applauded Judge Shelby for rejecting about $532,000 of that request.

Shelby ruled in 2020 that the men committed about 400 Clean Air Act violations, including installing and selling devices to defeat emission controls.

They wouldn’t have to pay the fees if they win an appeal pending with a 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver, Cannon said.

State high court: Man can sue for health privacy breach

PHOENIX (AP) — Warehouse store chain Costco can be sued for privacy violations by a Phoenix-area man who alleges a pharmacist joked with his ex-wife about an erectile dysfunction prescription he had twice canceled, the Arizona Supreme Court ruled Monday.

The ruling allows the man’s lawsuit to proceed, but sets a high bar for him to win: He must show by “clear and convincing” evidence that the store and its pharmacist did not act in good faith when the woman was told about the prescription.

But it is an important decision, because for the first time the state Supreme Court ruled that lawsuits can be brought here under state law for violations of the federal health care privacy law commonly known as HIPAA. The company argued that the federal law does not allow private citizens to sue, but the court rejected that, saying the law’s standards can be used to show privacy violations in state court.

The company also argued that a state law provides broad immunity from lawsuits for providers that act in good faith, but the high court said the man has the right to have that claim tried in court.

The ruling mainly upholds a 2019 state Court of Appeals ruling that revived the lawsuit the man filed after the pharmacist told his ex-wife about the prescription when she went to pick up another prescription with his approval. The man had called Costco twice to cancel the prescription before his ex-wife went to the north Phoenix store in early 2016, but the pharmacist did not do so. The trial court had dismissed the case, citing the state immunity law and because HIPPA does not allow private lawsuits.

The rulings say the Phoenix-area man in his 50s received a sample for an erective dysfunction drug from his doctor in January 2016 and later got a call from Costco saying a full prescription he had not sought was ready for pickup. The man canceled the prescription, and then canceled it a second time about a month later when he called to check on an unrelated prescription and was told it was still there.

The man then authorized Costco to allow his ex-wife to pick up his regular prescription refill, and that’s when the pharmacist told her about the ED pills and they joked about them.

The ruling says the man was trying to reconcile with his ex-wife, but after the pharmacy incident that failed.

The man’s attorney, Joshua Carden, wasn’t immediately available Monday. But he said earlier that Costco apologized after the man complained, sending him a letter saying that telling his ex-wife this information violated both HIPPA and the company’s own privacy policies. He said the pharmacist clearly had a responsibility to protect his client’s privacy under both federal law and the company’s policies.

Costco management had no immediate comment on Monday’s decision.

The case now returns to a lower court for further proceedings. Carden said in 2019 he suspects the pharmacist never canceled the prescription because they may get bonuses for selling high-profit drugs like Viagra. He said that there is no other logical reason for the prescription not being canceled and he’ll try to show that at trial.

Woman accused of killing son had asked state agency for help

NEW LONDON, Conn. (AP) — A Connecticut woman charged with killing her 4-year-old son had recently contacted state child welfare officials to report that someone may have harmed the boy, according to the state Department of Children and Families.

Tiffany Farrauto, 33, of New London, was charged Sunday with murder and risk of injury to a minor after police said they responded to her home and she told them she strangled her son. Officers tried to revive the boy, but he was pronounced dead shortly after arriving at a hospital.

The Department of Children and Families released a statement Monday evening.

“Recently, we were contacted by the mother who expressed concerns that an unknown party may have maltreated her son,” the agency said. “Upon review, we provided the mother with information on resources in the community.”

The department also said it had involvement with Farrauto in 2017 “centered around allegations of substance use and supports needed to care for a newborn.” Officials said, “The department, along with community partners, provided assistance to the family while actively working with their extended networks of support.”

A state judge on Monday ordered Farrauto held on $2 million bond, ordered a competency exam, and placed her under suicide and mental health watches. Her public defender, Aimee Mahon, said her client has mental health problems that “contributed to the incident.”

Police were called to Farrauto’s home on Sunday on a report of her damaging a vehicle with a baseball bat. Authorities said she told officers to “take me away” because she had strangled her son, who was found unresponsive in her apartment.

At a vigil Monday evening, Farrauto’s mother, Cindy Steenson, identified her grandson as David Jasmin and said she believes her daughter “snapped,” The Day newspaper reported. She said her daughter had suffered “a lot of trauma” in recent years and had a tumultuous relationship with the child’s father.

“Whatever happened, she must have just had no control,” said.