State Farm accuses 1-800-ASK GARY of “massive fraud scheme”

State Farm filed a federal lawsuit in Florida last week against the founder of the 1-800-ASK-GARY accident referral service, accusing the company of "a massive fraud scheme." The insurance company accuses Gary Kompothecras of fraud by taking advantage of no-fault insurance benefits that often cover medical expenses for auto accident victims. State Farm says Kompthecras used 1-800-ASK-GARY to lure accident victims to his clinics, a violation of Florida law. The outcome of the case could affect the company's operations in Minnesota. A lawyer for the referral service described State Farm's lawsuit as an "absurd action." 1-800-ASK -GARY is familiar to Minnesotans from its heavy advertising on buses, billboards, radio and television. The company also operates in Florida and Kentucky, which also have no-fault insurance laws. When someone is in a car accident, they can call 1-800-ASK-GARY and the company will refer accident victims to a chiropractor and often to a personal injury lawyer. The lawsuit alleges the company never referred a patient to any health care providers other than Physicians Group in Florida. An attorney from Kentucky who is part of the referral network provided a sworn affidavit "confirming that Kompothecras required [personal injury] attorneys who received referrals from ASK GARY to refer their clients to Kompothecras-owned clinic for treatment."  State Farm is asking for a judgment declaring all outstanding claims between the insurance company and Physicians Group to be dissolved. Kompothecras registered his company, Physicians Group, LLC, with Minnesota in 2007. Minnesota, like Florida, is also a no-fault state, which means people involved in a car accident in Minnesota are eligible for $20,000 in personal injury protection without having to go to court to determine who was at fault.  "The lawsuit filed by State Farm is a frivolous and malicious suit that has no merit and will be dismissed by the Court," Gregory Zitani, an attorney Continue Reading

Ex-student settles sex-with-teacher lawsuit against Burbank Unified School District

By City News Service | PUBLISHED: June 25, 2014 at 8:25 pm | UPDATED: August 28, 2017 at 7:40 am A young man who claimed he was seduced by one of his middle school teachers when he was 14 settled his lawsuit against the Burbank Unified School District, court papers showed Wednesday. Lawyers for the plaintiff, identified only as G.L.G., notified Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Ernest Hiroshige on Friday that the case had been resolved. No terms of the settlement were divulged. Amy Beck, a mother of three, pleaded no contest to unlawful sexual intercourse and committing a lewd act on a child. She was sentenced in May 2010 to two years in prison and three years’ probation. The former teacher at David Starr Jordan Middle School was also ordered to register as a sex offender for the rest of her life and stay away from the victim, who attended the BUSD campus from August 2006 until June 2009. Beck surrendered two months before her sentencing. At the time, she was married to a Los Angeles police officer, but they divorced, and she resigned her job. She has since been released from prison. The plaintiff, now 19 and a UC Riverside student, sued the district and Beck in January 2011. According to his lawyers’ court papers, the district had multiple warning signs that Beck was sexually abusing the boy. She often had the boy in her classroom after school, according to the plaintiff’s attorneys’ court papers, and another teacher walked into Beck’s classroom and saw her kissing the boy. Beck would walk arm-in-arm with the boy on campus, sometimes drove him home and hired him to baby-sit her children, according to the suit. “BUSD employees knew or should have known that Beck was grooming plaintiff as a victim of sexual molestation and that she had molested plaintiff,” the plaintiff’s attorneys court papers stated. Beck and the plaintiff previously settled the part of his case against her for $25,000, half of which was to be paid Continue Reading

Alabama joins lawsuits against 2 states’ efforts to impose farming restrictions

Attorney General Steve Marshall announced today that Alabama joined two lawsuits this month that challenge attempts by California and Massachusetts to impose their agricultural restrictions on farmers in other states, including Alabama.Marshall said on Dec. 5, Alabama joined 12 other states in filing a lawsuit against the State of California for requiring that eggs sold in the state comply with its regulations on the housing of laying hens.On Dec. 11, Alabama joined 12 other states in filing a similar lawsuit against the Commonwealth of Massachusetts for barring the sale of eggs, pork and veal not housed according to its news regulations.Marshall claimed the two states have attempted to impose costly restrictions on the production of certain agricultural products coming from outside their states and sold within the state.He also claimed the two states' efforts violate the Commerce Clause of the Constitution, which gives Congress the authority to regulate commerce among the states."States and their residents have the right to set their own standards for the production of agricultural goods, especially for reasons of health and safety. However, they don't have the right to impose restrictions on how products from other states are raised, which is what California and Massachusetts have done," Marshall said."By targeting farmers in other states, California and Massachusetts can effectively drive up agriculture costs across the country, adversely affecting both the farmer and the consumer."He said it is important for states' rights to be upheld, adding that these regulations could adversely affect all forms of commerce between the states, if left unchallenged.  Continue Reading

Manhattan man, 84, ticketed for jaywalking to file $5 million lawsuit against city

The 84-year-old Manhattan man left bruised, bloodied and humiliated by NYPD cops during a jaywalking ticket blitz plans to hit back with a $5 million lawsuit, the Daily News has learned. Kang Chun Wong has lived in the same Upper West Side neighborhood for nearly five decades. He owned the popular La Nueva Victoria restaurant on Broadway while raising three sons, and now spends his retirement doting on his grandchildren and socializing with friends at a senior center in Chinatown. Then suddenly on Jan. 19, while returning to his W. 97th St. apartment, Wong walked right into a nightmarish police operation hatched by the local precinct commander in response to a spate of fatal pedestrian accidents. His head, arm and ribs still sore from the violent confrontation with cops, Wong told the Daily News he is in disbelief that a lifetime of abiding by the law could be turned upside down — with him knocked unconscious on the street, handcuffed in a hospital emergency room and facing a litany of criminal charges. “I didn’t commit any crime,” Wong said during the exclusive interview, translated by family lawyer Hazel Chin. “It was excessive how they (the police) did it to me. If I did something wrong, I could understand, but I didn’t. “They make me feel shame,” he said. “I was very humiliated.” Police Commissioner Bill Bratton has called the incident “unfortunate.” But on Friday, the NYPD News' Twitter account quoted Bratton at the CompStat meeting praising the 24th Precinct cops and their commander for “taking action, addressing jaywalking." The NYPD did not respond to a request for comment. “We can have police efforts focused on pedestrian safety without violating the civil rights of our citizens,” said Wong’s lawyer, Sanford Rubenstein, who will file a notice of the lawsuit on Monday, naming the city, NYPD and unidentified officers Continue Reading

Most Iowans support water pollution lawsuit, poll says

A whopping 63 percent of Iowans believe Des Moines Water Works should pursue a lawsuit against drainage districts in three northwest Iowa counties after testing showed record nitrate levels in streams feeding a river supplying much of central Iowa's drinking water.Des Moines Water Works claims that the drainage districts, and indirectly farmers, are raising nitrate levels in the Raccoon River, a source of water for 500,000 Iowa residents.The utility says it has been forced since early December to use expensive equipment to remove nitrates to make drinking water safe, especially for infants who are at risk at becoming ill when levels are high.Men and women, rich and poor, and Iowans of all age groups support Water Works' potential lawsuit, according to a new Des Moines Register Iowa Poll. The lawsuit could force federal oversight that would hold farmers more accountable for runoff seeping into area waterways.Only 23 percent of Iowans say that Water Works is taking the wrong approach, according to the poll. Another 14 percent of Iowans are unsure.But that support shifts dramatically depending on Iowans' political party and where they live. The poll shows that 79 percent of Democrats approve of the potential lawsuit, compared with 51 percent of Republicans.And while 71 percent of urban residents support the lawsuit, that support drops to 63 percent among small-town residents. Rural residents are split, with 44 percent saying Water Works is right and 42 percent saying the utility is wrong; 14 percent aren't sure.The most recent Iowa Poll of 807 Iowa adults was conducted by Selzer & Co. of Des Moines. The margin of error is plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.Laurie Maloney, an Iowa Poll respondent who lives near New Albin in northeast Iowa, said she supports Iowa's farmers, but she believes they need a push to add conservation practices."The price of corn went up so high for a few years, people took every inch that might have been a buffer and put it into corn," Continue Reading

Orthodox bias suit against Howell can move ahead

HOWELL - A discrimination lawsuit against Howell Township filed by an Orthodox Jewish group seeking to build a school with dormitories can move forward, a federal judge ruled.At issue in the lawsuit is whether Howell's zoning officer and zoning board denied the Lakewood-based Congregation Kollel the right to build a school because of its religious affiliation. The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court of New Jersey on May 5, court records show.The plan for the property at 344 Old Ford Road includes a 17,240-square-foot classroom building, a 19,000-square-foot dormitory and seven two-story houses on about 10 acres of land, according to the lawsuit. MORE:  Orthodox group presses Howell over religious school denialThe town filed a motion to dismiss the case in July on the grounds that it wasn't "ripe" to be heard in court, arguing that the group might be able to build if it followed through with an application for a variance, or special permission from the zoning board for a use that's not permitted under the regulations.In other words, Kollel didn't exhaust all options before seeking legal relief.But Judge Freda F. Wolfson ruled that 10 of the 11 claims against the town were ready to be heard, regardless of the status of the variance application. She dismissed a claim that requested a judicial decision (without a jury) based on the facts."The meat of this is that we don't want to go to the zoning board for a variance because it's not a question of whether we're allowed to build," said Christopher Costa, an attorney representing Congregation Kollel. Instead of going through the variance application process first, which Costa said can take years, it filed a lawsuit. READ: Howell eyeballs farm property for preservation "We think this case is very clear," Costa said. "It's cut-and-dry and should move quickly to resolution."Ronald Cucchiaro, an attorney representing Howell township, didn't immediately respond to a phone call Continue Reading

Questions, doubts still dog Port Penn farm deals

Two state agencies are pulling back from a controversial, three-way purchase of farm development rights from two prominent landowners near Port Penn, deals that some critics have branded as overpriced, unjustified and potentially damaging to state farmland preservation efforts.Officials with the state Department of Agriculture and Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control both signaled doubts last week about their readiness or immediate ability to buy into the original proposals to pay $6.6 million – $3.3 million apiece for 132- and 110-acre parcels along Port Penn Road.The reservations emerged despite the active participation of both departments in more than a year of talks with the county and lawmakers. Public records show that those talks included detailed proposals on a larger plan to spend as much as $13.2 million in state, county and private funds for easement purchases to buy away long-dormant or expired development options along the route.DNREC, which had been expected to come up with a $2 million share for the two easements, dealt the plan a blow recently when it proposed only to buy full ownership of state Farm Bureau President Gary Warren’s 132-acre farm at a price $1 million lower than the original county amount for development rights alone.In a brief statement, DNREC also said last week that the agency’s Open Space Program advisers “did not show similar interest” in using natural area conservation funds to help buy a 110-acre farm owned by an interest of Public Service Commission member Jaymes Lester.One longtime attorney and developer dismissed the deals as a “ransom to avoid providing sewer” that “only benefits two people,” and warned against using the agreements as a back-door method of land-use control.Suspicions and friction over the proposal have surfaced across the state. Southern Delaware farm interests have branded the per-acre farm preservation payments as excessive – Continue Reading

New debate crops up in costly farm preservation plan

New Castle County Executive Tom Gordon’s administration has quietly expanded a controversial push to buy development rights from a handful of farm owners west of Port Penn, prompting new complaints about cost, insider dealings and conflicts with an established statewide program.Gordon’s effort would send millions in farmland preservation subsidies to landowners along a semi-rural corridor, land once targeted for hundreds of homes under a more-than decade-old Toll Brothers development plan that was tripped up by the 2008 downturn — and disputes over sewer line availability.The county’s initial Port Penn Road offer for two properties amounted to as much as $30,000 per acre – far higher than the roughly $2,000 per acre average for the Department of Agriculture’s statewide farm preservation program over the last five years.“It’s blatantly unbelievable,” said Anthony Domino, who owns two small farmland tracts adjacent to Port Penn.Domino is among a group of farmers who last year had their land appraised so they could compete for a state-run farm preservation program that offers one-time cash payments to landowners who permanently sign away rights to anything but farming on their property.The preservation agreements, which bar later land sales for development, are based on appraisals of development rights. Farmers compete for the state program’s limited funds by offering to accept less than appraised values, with the lowest offers picked first.State officials encouraged New Castle County to chip in county money to buy up more northern Delaware farm rights — including Domino’s. But the Gordon administration instead set up a separate program that has focused exclusively on higher-dollar offers, with virtually no discounts, along the Port Penn corridor.Domino lost out on the deal last year when other farmers offered to sell their development rights at lower prices than he did.“It makes no sense, Continue Reading

Flint lawsuits could cost Michigan taxpayers millions

Flint’s water crisis has unleashed a tsunami of lawsuits that could cost Michigan taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars in damages."The only deep pocket in the vicinity of Flint is the State of Michigan," said Wayne State University law professor Peter Henning, a former federal prosecutor. "This could be a tax liability on the citizens of Michigan. This is the worst nightmare when a bureaucracy goes completely off the rails and makes decisions that cause widespread harm."At least a dozen lawsuits have been filed in local, state and federal courts on behalf of Flint residents who drank lead-tainted water for nearly two years. The complaints name a long list of state and local agencies and officials, from Gov. Rick Snyder to Flint city employees.Some of the suits seek to hold Snyder and others personally liable for damages. They could also face criminal charges as state and federal prosecutors investigate how Flint's water was poisoned.Lawyers in two cases say they're seeking multimillion-dollar awards. One seeks $100 million from a Flint hospital for victims of Legionnaires' disease and the other seeks at least $500 million from an engineering company Flint hired  to put its water treatment plant into operation using Flint River water. The suit, which states the company was aware the water would be dangerous without proper anticorrosive treatment, seeks damages for diminished property values.The remaining suits seek everything from replacement of the pipes that leached lead into Flint's water supply to long-term medical monitoring and health care, a court-ordered monitor to oversee the city's water operations, cancellation of all water bills since April 2014, when lawyers argue Flint's water supply became unfit to drink, and punitive damages against the state and other defendants.Noah Hall, a Wayne State law professor who specializes in environmental law and is following Continue Reading

Grimes, McConnell trade volleys at farm forum

U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell and Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes revealed sharp differences on healthcare during a face-to-face confrontation Wednesday at a Kentucky Farm Bureau Federation forum in Louisville.While McConnell said, as he has often, that he wants to repeal Obamacare "root and branch," Grimes essentially endorsed the law as it has been implemented in Kentucky by Gov. Steve Beshear."If Mitch McConnell had his way, he'd cede all power to the federal government," Grimes said during the 1 1/2-hour forum. "I choose Kentucky and the 500,000 who for the first time ever have access to insurance."She called for changes to streamline the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, to "make sure there aren't overburdensome regulations," but she largely weighed in in favor of the law. MORE GRIMES/MCCONNELL: Mitch McConnell and Alison Grimes both tell untruths MORE GRIMES/MCCONNELL: Debate question for McConnell, GrimesMcConnell made his opposition to Obamacare a central point of his campaign early on, criticizing it at stops around the state and holding meetings at hospitals where he attacked it.But he hasn't focused on it as much recently as he has turned his attention to coal — possibly because the Obamacare issue had run its course or possibly because people in Kentucky seem generally pleased about the way Beshear has implemented the state's health insurance exchange, called Kynect, under the law.Gallup reported this month that Kentucky and Arkansas saw the sharpest drops in the number of uninsured people under the law.But McConnell blasted it Wednesday, calling it the "single worst piece of legislation that has passed" Congress in the last 50 years."She won't use the words, but she supports Obamacare," McConnell shot back at Grimes.He criticized taxes imposed as part of the law and cuts in Medicare reimbursement rates needed to pay for it. And he criticized what has resulted in an effort to provide insurance to what he said was a small Continue Reading