Court Roundup

Virginia: Diplomat’s son sues gov. over transfer decision
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (AP) — A diplomat’s son serving two life terms for murder in Virginia is suing Gov. Bob McDonnell over his refusal to transfer the man to a German prison.

Jens Soering’s lawsuit asks the court to determine whether McDonnell had the authority to revoke his predecessor’s request for the transfer.

The Daily Progress reports that Soering filed the lawsuit Tuesday in Richmond City Circuit Court.

McDonnell spokeswoman Taylor Thornley told the newspaper that the administration wasn’t aware of the lawsuit.

The 44-year-old Soering was convicted for the 1985 stabbing deaths of his then-girlfriend’s parents, Derek and Nancy Haysom, in Bedford County.

Iowa: Apartment renters in bedbug case seek class-action
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Attorneys are seeking class-action status for a lawsuit filed on behalf of 300 current and former residents of two Des Moines apartment complexes who say managers ignored a bedbug problem.

The Des Moines Register reports the request was made Tuesday in a March 2010 lawsuit in Polk County. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of residents of Elsie Mason Manor and Liguitti Towers, which serve elderly and disabled residents.

The lawsuit alleges that managers knew about the infestation for more than two years but refused to warn tenants or properly treat it until they were sued. Attorneys say class-action status would kick-start the slow-moving case.

American Baptist Homes of the Midwest manages the building. An official there acknowledged the buildings are not bedbug free but stressed his agency’s tremendous progress.

Missouri: Ex-owners of group home held liable in fatal fire
NEOSHO, Mo. (AP) — The former owners of a southwest Missouri group home for the mentally disabled were found liable Tuesday for a 2006 fire that killed 11 people, as a judge concluded the blaze was foreseeable and preventable.

Investigators found that the fire at the Anderson Guest House resulted from faulty wiring, and no criminal charges over the blaze itself were filed against the owners, Robert and Laverne DuPont and their Joplin River of Life Ministries.

But Tuesday’s ruling in the civil lawsuit clears the way for payment of $6.4 million in damages to victims and their families.

Attorneys for the plaintiffs and the DuPonts had stipulated to the damages before the trial began last week before Newton County Circuit Judge Tim Perigo on a change of venue from McDonald County.

“We’re sure we will appeal it,” Robert DuPont told the newspaper after the ruling, which he said he had not seen. “There is no basis for this at all.”

The DuPonts are also seeking new trials in federal court, where they were convicted in September of one count each of fraud and conspiracy to commit health care fraud in the operation of the Anderson Guest House.

One employee and 10 residents of the home in the town of Anderson died in the November 2006 fire.

Shelly Dreyer, an attorney for survivors of the fire and families of victims, argued during the civil trial that DuPont and his wife had a duty to make sure the property was safe.

She produced several state inspection documents from other group homes owned and operated by DuPont and River of Life specifying that they were cited for deficiencies. The violations included problems with fire alarm systems, failure to check and maintain pressure on fire extinguishers, and failure to conduct fire drills and have an emergency plan for residents.

But Robert DuPont testified he did what he was required to do to keep residents safe and that he was unaware of deficiencies in fire safety cited by state inspectors.

Perigo found that the DuPonts breached a duty to provide a safe environment at the home for the mentally ill.

Dreyer confirmed there was no liability insurance for the Anderson Guest House. She said the damages would have to be sought from the DuPonts’ personal assets.

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