Court Roundup

Mississippi

Fatal police chase suit nets $375K settlement

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) -- A lawsuit against the Mississippi Highway Safety Patrol over a fatal wreck caused by a man fleeing a trooper in 2007 has been settled for $375,000.

The Mississippi Tort Claims Board recently approved the settlement for the family of 22-year-old Ricky Brown.

Brown, of Mendenhall, was killed and his younger brother, Lamonte Brown, was seriously injured Dec. 1, 2007, when their vehicle was struck by Roderick Evans in Jackson.

Other than confirming that the lawsuit is "finally over," Jackson lawyer Bob Owens, who represented the family, told The Clarion-Ledger he could not discuss the settlement.

According to the lawsuit, Trooper Julius Hutson was pursuing a car driven by Evans at a high rate of speed on I-220 when the fatal accident occurred.

West Virginia

Trial of Massey co al silo near

sc hool to begin

BECKLEY, W.Va. (AP) -- Jury selection is set to get under way in a medical monitoring lawsuit that claims hundreds of Raleigh County children were exposed to coal dust from a Massey Energy train-loading silo.

If a jury is seated Monday, opening statements before Circuit Judge Harry Kirkpatrick should begin Tuesday.

The plaintiffs argue Virginia-based Massey and its Goals Coal Co. subsidiary created a health hazard by putting a silo 235 feet from Marsh Fork Elementary School near Sundial.

They say long-term exposure has put their children at risk for asthma and other lung ailments.

Massey says the plaintiffs have produced no evidence to justify the demand for a medical monitoring program.

It's unclear how many people could benefit from a victory in the class-action case.

Indiana

Ex-priest target

of suits files for bankruptcy

MERRILLVILLE, Ind. (AP) -- A former Roman Catholic priest accused in lawsuits of molesting boys has filed for bankruptcy.

The Post-Tribune reports that Richard Emerson filed for bankruptcy in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Georgia on Feb. 24. The Chapter 7 bankruptcy filing lists five pending civil lawsuits to which Emerson is a party. They stem from accusations from his time as a priest in northwest Indiana and Orlando, Fla.

Emerson lists $53,184 in assets and $53,713 in liabilities.

He is a Hammond native and became a Gary diocese priest in 1978. He was defrocked in 2006.

The filing lists Emerson's street address in Temple, Ga., and his mailing address in Las Vegas. Emerson could not be reached for comment by The Associated Press because there was no listing for him.

Ohio

Case questions security of lock used in court

CLEVELAND (AP) -- Orthodox Jews are challenging the security of a type of push-button lock used in their homes and some government buildings in complaints before a federal judge in Cleveland.

The complaints have been consolidated into a potential class-action lawsuit against the Swiss lock maker Kaba and its U.S. operations, alleging the locks can be easily breached using a small magnet, The Plain Dealer in Cleveland reported Sunday.

An attorney representing Kaba declined to comment to the newspaper.

The locks are used at the Cleveland federal courthouse, and John Climaco, a lawyer suing Kaba, said the large Cleveland Hopkins airport also uses the locks.

Orthodox Jews use the locks because restrictions for the Jewish Sabbath, from sundown Friday to Saturday night, would prevent them from leaving home with keys in their pockets.

Yeshai Michael Kutoff, 29, a Talmudic scholar in Cleveland Heights who is one of the plaintiffs in the case, called the push-button locks "a really popular solution for Orthodox Jews." He recently installed a pair of the locks at his home and said he finds it unsettling that a company might sell a lock "that's not really worth much."

The locks can cost hundreds of dollars, but rare earth magnets that can open the locks are available online for as little as $30, Climaco said.

Kutoff's attorney and friend, Mark Schlachet, said the alleged vulnerability was found in New York City by a volunteer for a group that helps out in the Jewish community through good deeds, such as helping residents who lock themselves out of a home.

A transcript of a Louisiana court hearing shows an attorney for Kaba, Mark Miller, has questioned the severity of the alleged vulnerability, The Plain Dealer reported.

According to the transcript, Miller said his research showed the magnet would have to be bagel-sized, indicating it would be heavy and might not be easily hidden.

The people who filed the lawsuit disagreed, offering a video that showed a much smaller magnet opening the locks, the paper said.

In a court filing, Kaba said an upgrade has been developed to resolve the problem, but Climaco said there are still concerns about protecting previously sold locks.

The people who have filed the complaints at least want new or upgraded locks, Schlachet said. The lawsuit doesn't detail how much compensation they are seeking.

Mississippi

Paint maker gets hearing in Miss. on lead lawsuit

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) -- Paint manufacturer Sherwin-Williams Co. will go before the Mississippi Supreme Court next month to argue that it is not liable for the illnesses of a Mississippi boy who ate lead-contaminated paint chips.

A Jefferson County jury last year awarded $7 million in damages in the lawsuit filed on behalf of Trellvion Gaines and his mother, Shermeker Pollard of Fayette.

The plaintiffs attorney called the ruling significant in that few lead paint lawsuits against manufacturers have been successful nationwide.

Defense attorneys said Sherwin-Williams hasn't used lead in residential paint since 1972.

The suit was filed in 2000 in Jefferson County when Gaines was 9. A trial judge ruled in favor of the Cleveland, Ohio-based paint manufacturer in 2003. The Mississippi Supreme Court overturned the decision in 2007 and ordered a new trial.

In the lawsuit, the family claims Trellvion Gaines ingested lead paint chips while staying in the house where his grandmother, Doris Gaines, had lived since the 1970s.

Lead paint was banned in the United States in 1978, but can be found in some older homes.

Doris Gaines had said she and another person painted the house four times between 1974 and 1994.

The lawsuit claims the boy was exposed to lead dust and chips from sanding, scraping and other steps recommended by Sherwin-Williams to remove the lead paint from the house before other paint could be applied.

The lawsuit alleges Gaines' brain damage became evident in the first grade. His attorneys said Gaines still reads only at a second- or third-grade level and shows other signs of cognitive delays.

The case, which will be heard April 19, is among dozens before the Supreme Court in its March-May term. Among other cases are:

-- The Mississippi Commission on Judicial Performance's complaint against Chancery Judge Talmadge Littlejohn. Last December, the judicial watchdog agency recommended a public reprimand for Littlejohn, who jailed an attorney for not reciting the Pledge of Allegiance in his courtroom. Commission records show Littlejohn has agreed that he violated Oxford attorney Danny Lampley's rights with his contempt of court order last October. The commission said Littlejohn has changed how he conducts the pledge in his court, noting its recitation now is voluntary.

-- The Commission on Judicial Performance's recommendation of a public reprimand and two-month suspension without pay for Pearl River County Justice Court Judge Nell Cowart. The commission in November filed a complaint saying Cowart gave inappropriate assistance to a defendant.

-- The Commission on Judicial Performance's complaint against an Alcorn County judge for fixing tickets. The commission in November recommended a public reprimand and a 90-day suspension without pay for Justice Court Judge Steve Little. The commission says Little fixed 16 DUI tickets by remanding the cases, failing to issue a judgment or retiring the cases to the files.

Published: Tue, Mar 15, 2011

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