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Archive for the 'In the courts' Category

Starwood sues former execs, Hilton


White Plains-based Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc. alleges in a federal lawsuit that a pair of its former executives “stole massive amounts” of confidential information and took it with them to their new jobs at Hilton Hotels Corp.

The lawsuit, which also names Hilton as a defendant, says Ross Klein, global head of Hilton luxury and lifestyle brands, and Amar Lalvani, global head of Hilton luxury and lifestyle brand development, took information that Hilton used to speed its entry into the lifestyle hotel market and reposition its luxury brands while saving money.

Klein is the former president for Starwood’s luxury brands, and Lalvani the former senior vice president for Starwood luxury brands group. The two were recruited by Hilton in June 2008, Starwood said.

Starwood said the two were “aided and abetted by Hilton,” in stealing the information.

The lawsuit alleges that Klein and Lalvani — sometimes helped by other Starwood employees they recruited to Hilton — stole more than 100,000 electronic files before and after they joined Hilton, a violation of their contracts.

Posted by Allan Drury on Friday, April 17th, 2009 at 9:18 am |
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Former Monsey company reaches EEOC complaint


A former Rockland County hardware and lighting distribution company will pay $325,0000 to settle allegations that female employees were subjected to sexual harassment, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission said today.

The EEOC’s 2003 lawsuit against American Tack and Hardware Inc. said the company was responsible for “repeated and egregious sexual harassment and retaliation.”

The company, and its parent company, Amertac Holdings Inc., moved from Monsey to Saddle River, N.J. in 2005.

The EEOC said the harassment included comments, jokes, touching and verbal and physical intimidation of women. Some employees who complained about the conduct were fired or disciplined, the EEOC said.

The lawsuit named the chief financial officer, Richard Frant, and the vice president for information technology, John DiStefano, as offenders.

The lawsuit said women were shown pornographic images on a computer. The lawsuit said Frant would describe his experiences with prostitutes and sex shops, tell sexual jokes and sexually taunt a pregnant employee.

Attempts to reach the company and its lawyers were unsuccessful.

Michael Koplen, a Nanuet lawyer, represented Elisa Taylor, who filed the original EEOC complaint with Shana Van Dunk. He said that when his clients went to the EEOC to get what’s called a “right to sue” letter, the EEOC was so shocked by the allegations that it wanted to get involved in the lawsuit.

Koplen later handed the case over to Manhattan-based lawyer Parisis G. Filippatos. A number of other women came forward, bringing the total number of plaintiffs into the teens, Filippatos said.

The settlement, approved by U.S. District Court Judge Stephen C. Robinson in White Plains, calls for the victims of the harassment to receive compensation for taking part in the suit. It also calls for the distribution of anti-discrimination and anti-retaliation policies.

The company and its employees will also receive training about discrimination law.
The company makes decorative wall plates, matching decorative hardware, lighting and lighting controls.

Posted by Allan Drury on Monday, December 15th, 2008 at 5:26 pm |
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Wyeth says employee didn’t lodge complaints


A former Wyeth Pharmaceuticals Inc. employee who is suing the company testified in a deposition that she could not recall telling management or her union that she felt she faced race discrimination, lawyers for the company said in court papers filed this week.

Wyeth lawyers cited the deposition testimony of Nadine Aspilaire, who worked at the company’s Pearl River campus from 2000 through January 2005, to bolster their argument that U.S. District Court Judge William C. Conner should dismiss her lawsuit.

Aspilaire, who took a job at Par Pharmaceutical Cos. Inc. after leaving Wyeth, is one of seven black current and former Wyeth employees to sue the company alleging race discrimination. A judge dismissed two suits and a jury rule in the company’s favor in another.

Aspilaire worked as a packaging operator and biological operator. She alleged she faced discrimination in pay, hours and promotions because of her race.

Aspilaire and her lawyer said in court papers that she made a number of complaints to the human resources department, managers and her union shop steward that she was being treated differently than white workers.

But the company maintains that she testified differently in her deposition.

Aspilaire’s lawyer could not be reached for comment on the company’s recent court filing.

Posted by Allan Drury on Friday, September 12th, 2008 at 3:38 pm |
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Woman faces indictment on fraud charges


A Greenwich, Conn. woman whom authorities say falsely told an investor in White Plains that her company was about to sign several significant contracts was indicted on mail fraud charges.

Milana Murcia, who was the vice president of Regenat USA Holding Corp., a company that was purportedly in the business of recycling timber and wood, producing wood and purifying water, is scheduled to be arraigned in U.S. District Court in White Plains on Wednesday.

The indictment says Murcia, who was the vice president, and a co-conspirator, the president and chief executive, made false statements to recruit investors from May 2003 through January of this year. They recruited investors who placed $2 million in the company, according to the indictment.

None of the investors received any return on their investments, according to the indictment.

The indictment says Murcia was charged with mail fraud and conspiracy to commit mail fraud.

In March 2008, she had a phone conversation with an investor in White Plains and falsely said the company was about to sign contracts in Maine, according to the indictment.

Murcia and Philippe Murcia were arrested on the charges in January. Philippe Murcia has since died, said Herb Hadad, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s office.

Milana Murcia’s lawyer, Theodore Green, could not be reached for comment this morning.

Posted by Allan Drury on Friday, August 15th, 2008 at 9:58 am |
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Wyeth wants to pursue claims against retiree


Wyeth Pharmaceuticals Inc. wants a federal judge to allow it to pursue its claims that a former employee lied in order to get the company to provide her with a retirement benefits package in 2005.

The company is asking U.S. District Court Judge William C. Conner to deny a motion by retiree Daisy Early to have the Wyeth claims thrown out of court.

Early, who worked for the company as a packaging and biological operator for 29 years, is one of seven current and former black employees of Wyeth’s Pearl River operations who sued the company for alleged racial discrimination.

The company countered her lawsuit by alleging that she made it clear at the time of her retirement that she was retiring “voluntarily” and “without coercion.” But the company noted that she now claims she retired because Wyeth forced her out of the job by discriminating against her.

The company has asked the court to order Early to return certain retirement benefits she received.

Early, 57, and her lawyer, Steven Morelli, asked the court last month to dismiss the company’s claims.

But in papers filed last week, Wyeth’s lawyers said it has produced enough evidence to show that Early “may well have fraudulently induced Wyeth into pay her severance benefits.”

The company said Early worked through September 2005. But the company said it did not officially terminate her employment until Oct. 7, 2005 because she wanted to remain on the payroll through her 55th birthday on Oct. 4 so that she would not have a lapse in medical coverage.

Morelli could not be reached for comment.

Posted by Allan Drury on Monday, August 4th, 2008 at 12:56 pm |
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Barr confirms patent challenge


Barr Pharmaceuticals Inc. confirmed today that its Pomona-based subsidiary, Barr Laboratories Inc., has challenged four patents held by Amgen Inc. for its Sensipar drug, used by dialysis patients to treat side-effects of the treatment.

Barr said it filed an Abbreviated New Drug Application with the Food and Drug Administration on March 10, the first date the agency could accept such an application for the kidney drug.

On Monday, Amgen, along with patent partners Brigham and Women’s Hospital Inc. and NPS Pharmaceuticals Inc., filed suit against Barr and Israeli drug-maker Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd. for planning to sell generic Sensipar before the expiration of patent protection.

Sensipar recorded $377 million in U.S. sales during the 12 months ending May, Barr said.

Teva, the world’s largest generic-drug maker, is buying Montvale, N.J.-based Barr for $9 billion, the companies said jointly earlier this month.

Shares of Barr were down fractionally in noontime trading to $65.81 a share.

Posted by David Schepp on Tuesday, July 29th, 2008 at 11:11 am |
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Rye exec named in furniture lawsuit


A furniture company has accused The Door Store and its chief executive, a Rye resident, of cancelling its contracts and paying a competitor to supply products copied from its own designs.
John Kelly Furniture Design Inc. of Oceanside, N.Y. made the charges in a lawsuit filed in New York state Supreme Court in Manhattan this month. The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages from Furniture-In-Parts Corp., doing business as The Door Store, and President and Chief Executive Officer Jodi Brinkman Fitzgerald.
Fitzgerald could not be reached at her Forest Avenue home in Rye, and she did not return a call to The Door Store’s headquarters in Secaucus, N.J.
Mitchell Greene, a Manhattan attorney for The Door Store, denied the lawsuit’s charges and said his client planned a vigorous defense.
In the lawsuit, John Kelly said Fitzgerald’s company had bought more than $1 million in furniture from the business between December 2004 and February 2008. Fitzgerald asked a John Kelly competitor, California-based Ligna USA Inc., to duplicate pieces from John Kelly’s Tranquility collection of bedroom furniture, court papers said.
Fitzgerald shipped some Tranquility pieces to a Ligna plant in Indonesia so they could be copied, John Kelly charged. Ligna is also a defendant in the case. The Ligna furniture that The Door Store eventually bought is “virtually identical” to the Tranquility line, the lawsuit said.

Posted by Jerry Gleeson on Thursday, July 24th, 2008 at 5:05 pm |
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Falcon Hyundai files for bankruptcy


A Hyundai dealership and service center in Bedford Hills is closed and has filed for federal bankruptcy protection, blaming the economy for a downturn in sales and leasing that began affecting it in 2007.
Falcon Motors Inc., doing business as Falcon Hyundai at 774 N. Bedford Road, filed late Thursday for Chapter 11 protection at bankruptcy court in White Plains. The company said in court papers that it is seeking a buyer and is trying to refinance obligations owed to its biggest creditor, Hyundai Motor Finance Co.
Hyundai Motor Finance is owed $729,000, according to the filing. Falcon’s secretary-treasurer, Ariel Tehrani, said in the filing that Hyundai Motor obtained a federal order of seizure on April 14 for nearly all of the company’s inventory. It later repossessed the vehicles and planned a private sale that was scheduled for as early as today.
Falcon reported total assets of $2.25 million, and total liabilities of $1.01 million. No hearing has been scheduled yet in the case, said Falcon’s attorney, Jonathan S. Pasternak in Harrison.
The company was formed in 2006.

Posted by Jerry Gleeson on Friday, May 23rd, 2008 at 1:13 pm |
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Wyeth, plaintiff dispute dismissal request


A reasonable person who was subjected to the racist taunts that a Wyeth Pharmaceuticals Inc. scientist endured would have felt the workplace was hostile, a lawyer for the scientist argues in court papers.

The lawyer, Steven Morelli, is trying to convince U.S. District Court Judge Charles L. Brieant to let the lawsuit filed by Mellard Jennings go to trial.

Wyeth’s lawyers filed papers in February and again this week urging Brieant, who works out of White Plains, to dismiss the lawsuit.

Jennings, 52, sued the company and fellow scientist Charles Guinosso in January 2007, alleging that Guinosso called him “boy,” and taunted him by making fun of Aunt Jemima and acting out a routine from “Amos ‘N Andy,” a defunct radio and television show that characterized blacks in an offensive way.

Jennings, a resident of Highland Falls, is black, while Guinosso is white. Both work at the company’s Pearl River campus.

In the company’s latest filing, Wyeth’s lawyers — who also represent Guinosso — argue that Jennings “raises baseless arguments and asserts irrelevant or unfounded facts in a desperate attempt to stave off” dismissal of his lawsuit.

Wyeth says Jennings has not met the legal standard for showing that he faced a hostile work environment because he has not shown Guinosso’s actions and comments were “either severe or pervasive.” The company says it has presented examples of other court cases involving allegations of harassment that were dismissed even though the allegations were more severe than the ones Jennings has made.

Jennings has also not shown the Guinosso’s conduct interfered with his ability to do his job, the company argues. Wyeth took action against Guinosso for his behavior and never retaliated against Jennings for bringing it to management’s attention, the company argues, disputing claims Jennings has made.

Jennings is one of seven black current and former employees of Wyeth’s Pearl River operations who sued the company for alleged race discrimination.

The company has so far succeeded in defeating two of the lawsuits. A jury ruled in the company’s favor in one suit and a judge dismissed another, leaving five suits, including the one filed by Jennings.

Posted by Allan Drury on Wednesday, April 23rd, 2008 at 3:02 pm |
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Tax cases can be e-filed


Property assessment challenges that are filed with the Westchester County Supreme Court now can be commenced electronically through the Unified Court System’s e-filing program, the County Clerk’s office said yesterday.
Documents can be filed online any time, anywhere. Court fees can be paid by credit card online. No additional fees are charged in connection with e-filed cases. Judges and court clerks can receive and access files electronically as well.
To access the Unified Court System’s e-filing website, go to nycourts.gov. Click on “E-Courts” and then “Electronic Filing.” You can also visit www.westchesterclerk.com, click on “Legal Division,” then click on “E-filing of Tax Certiorari.”
The program is a joint effort of County Clerk Timothy C. Idoni and Administrative Judge Francis A. Nicolai, with support from Westchester County’s Department of Information Technology. For more information, call 995-3070 or visit www.westchesterclerk.com.

Posted by Jerry Gleeson on Wednesday, April 9th, 2008 at 2:46 pm |
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Verizon Wireless files suit against telemarketers


Verizon Wireless said it is going to court to try and stop telemarketers who have made more than 2 million phone calls to its customers and employees this year.

In a lawsuit filed in New Jersey Superior Court, the company alleged that the telemarkers violated the Federal Telephone Consumer Protection Act that makes it illegal to use an autodialer to make calls to wireless phones. The suit also alleges that the calls violated fraud and privacy laws.

By filing the lawsuit, Verizon Wireless said the goal is to use the legal discovery process to help identify the unknown telemarketers, and make them stop the nuisance calls. The company said that the telemarketers used methods that hid their identities and the origin of the calls.

“Telemarketers are using increasingly sophisticated methods, such as illegal autodialing, to harass our customers,” Steven E. Zipperstein, vice president and general counsel of Verizon Wireless, said in a written statement. “Whatever the method, these unlawful telemarketing calls are an annoyance to our customers and invade their privacy, and we will continue to use every weapon in our legal arsenal to stop this activity and protect our customers.”

The calls in question involved Verizon Wireless customers and employees hearing a pre-recorded voice message indicating that the recipient’s car warranty was about to expire, and encouraging them to press “1” for more information. When recipients pressed “1”, they were connected to a person who asked for the make and model of the car. However, if the recipient asked for information about the company, the representative hung up and ended the call, according to Verizon Wireless.

Verizon Wireless, based in Basking Ridge, N.J., has 65.7 million customers nationally.

Posted by Jay Loomis on Thursday, March 27th, 2008 at 2:12 pm |
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General Patent resolves patent disputes


General Patent Corporation International, a Suffern-based patent licensing and enforcement firm, has settled two patent disputes involving its affiliate, Digital Technology Licensing LLC, and Cingular Wireless and AT&T Mobility.

The settlement, announced today, resolves two claims alleging infringement of single Digital Technology patent — one against AT&T in New Jersey in 2007 and a second earlier case in Texas in 2006 involving Cingular Wireless, a predecessor company to AT&T Mobility, the nation’s largest wireless carrier.

The lawsuit claimed both companies unlawfully used technology developed by Digital Technology that aids in audio compression and the ability for newer cellphones to work with older cellphones and towers, known as base stations.

As part of the settlement AT&T has licensed Digital Technology’s patent. Financial terms, however, weren’t disclosed.

The case was settled a week before jury selection was to begin, said the attorney for Digital Licensing.

The settlement with AT&T Mobility and Cingular follows licensing deals with Nokia, Ericson and Samsung, said Alexander Poltorak, General Patent’s chairman and chief executive.

Posted by David Schepp on Monday, March 10th, 2008 at 3:00 pm |
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Students in tailspin after helicopter school shuts


Some 60 students taking helicopter flight school at Stewart International Airport in Orange County are wondering if they’ll ever see the tens of thousands of dollars in tuition they’ve paid to Silver State Helicopters after the company suddenly shut down operations Sunday.

Silver State Helicopters, a privately owned company based in Las Vegas, ceased all operations Sunday evening and yesterday filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in U.S. Bankruptcy Court, according to a press release posted on the company’s Web site (www.silverstatehelicopter.com).

“This action followed a rapid, unprecedented downturn in the U.S. credit markets,� the statement read, “which severely curtailed the availability of student loans for the company’s flight academy students and resulted in a sharp and sudden downturn in new student enrollment.�

Calls placed to the company’s Nevada headquarters this afternoon went unanswered.

The Journal News reported Silver State’s decision to open a flight school at Stewart in July.

Speaking at the time, company founder, president and chief executive Jerry Airola said tuition, which included 200 hours of flight time and 300 hours of classroom and simulator time, was about $70,000.

Airola also said his company had more than 2,600 students enrolled in 34 flight-training academies in 15 states, from Florida to Oregon.

One student whose wondering what will become of the tuition is Jesse Arvidson of Haverstraw, who today was anticipating further word from Silver State about what may become of the tuition he paid.

“Our class has now been in contact with the local FBI, district attorney, and consumer affairs office to see what our options are,� Arvidson wrote in an e-mail.

He and thousands of others students are awaiting word from the company, which is expected to release further information for students and the media this evening.

Posted by David Schepp on Tuesday, February 5th, 2008 at 3:53 pm |
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Wyeth race discrimination trial to start


A trial to determine whether Wyeth Pharmaceutials Inc.’s Rockland County’s largest employer, discriminated against a former employee because of the employee’s race is scheduled to begin next Monday in federal court in White Plains.

Jury selection in the case was completed today.

U.S. District Court Judge William C. Conner will preside over a trial to determine whether Howard Henry of Ramapo, who was a Wyeth chemist and production engineer, was denied promotions in favor of less qualified white employees.

Henry, who is black, also alleges in his September 2005 lawsuit that he was demoted to packaging supervisor, a job he claims does not require a college degree and entails just standing at an assembly line.

Henry says that when he complained about the treatment, the company retaliated against him by denying him another promotion and by giving him negative performance evaluations.

Wyeth, which employs approximately 3,200 people at its campus in Pearl River, has denied the allegations by Henry and six additional current and former employees who have filed lawsuits alleging race discrimination. Henry’s lawsuit is the only one for which a trial date has been set.
Henry, 39, left the company in 2006 after 13 years.

Conner last month refused to dismiss the case. Judge Colleen McMahon had previously dismissed allegations of discrimination Henry made against a pair of Wyeth supervisors, but the company remains a defendant.

The company asked Conner to review McMahon’s decision and to dismiss the entire case.

Posted by Allan Drury on Monday, January 28th, 2008 at 5:19 pm |
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Dannon sued over yogurt health claims


The Dannon Company Inc. of White Plains is facing a potential class action lawsuit accusing the company of falsely claiming health benefits for its Activia and DanActive yogurt. A Los Angeles law firm yesterday filed the suit in federal court on behalf of plaintiff Patricia Wiener and “tens of thousands of consumers� who have purchased the products. Dannon could not be reached to comment.

Activia, introduced in January 2006, was Dannon’s most successful new product to date, with about $130 million in sales that year. In January 2007, Dannon launched DanActive. oth yogurt brands contain specialized bacteria called “probiotic,� which Dannon has claimed come with health benefits. In the case of Activia, the ingredient is “Bifidus Regularis,� a proprietary probiotic bacteria that Dannon said is “proven� to improve one’s “intestinal rhythm� and “regulate your digestive system,� according to the complaint.  DanActive contains the probiotic bacteria “L. casai Immunitas,� which the company has advertised as “clinically proven to help naturally strengthen the body’s defenses,� the complaint states.

Michael Neuwirth, senior director of public relations for Dannon, said in an interview with The Journal News last year: “Probiotics are a key element of our growth strategy. These are what we call high-health products, and they have clinically proven benefits beyond that of traditional yogurt, most often based on proprietary probiotic cultures found only in Dannon products.�

Dannon sells the product at a 30 percent premium to other yogurts, according to the suit, which also said Dannon has spent $100 million on its marketing. Deceptive advertising has enabled Dannon to sell hundreds of millions of dollars worth of ordinary yogurt at inflated prices to responsible, health conscious consumers,� said plaintiff’s lead attorney Timothy G. Blood of Coughlin Stoia Geller Rudman & Robbins LLP.

A key exhibit in the case is a 2006 study funded by Dannon that showed “no conclusive evidence� of probiotics providing health benefits, according to the complaint. The report, entitled “Probiotic Microbes: The Scientific Basis,� was prepared by the American Academy of Microbiology, a leadership group of the American Society of Microbiology, according to the complaint.

The lawsuit seeks redress for consumers and asks Dannon to pull its marketing messages and “correct the record.� Dannon is owned by Groupe Danone in Paris, which also owns Stonyfield Farms Inc., the New Hampshire-based maker of organic yogurt and ice cream.

Posted by Julie Moran Alterio on Wednesday, January 23rd, 2008 at 6:05 pm |
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Trade agency to examine IBM patent claim


The U.S. International Trade Commission said today it will begin looking into allegations that ASUSTeK, based in Taiwan, infringed patents belonging to Armonk-based IBM Corp.

Big Blue filed a complaint with the commission last month.

The complaint, which also targets ASUSTeK’s North American subsidiary, ASUS Computer International, seeks to have certain ASUSTeK computer products and components barred from entry into the United States.

The commission’s decision to investigate IBM’s claims doesn’t mean the agency has reached a decision about the merits of the case, the ITC said.

Posted by David Schepp on Friday, January 4th, 2008 at 6:21 pm |
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Barr files patent lawsuits


Barr Pharmaceuticals Inc. said that its subsidiary, Duramed Pharmaceuticals Inc. has filed lawsuits against Watson Pharmaceuticals and Sandoz, a subsidiary of Novartis, for alleged infringement of the patent covering Duramed’s Seasonale birth control pills. The suits were filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey.
In September, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office reissued Duramed’s patent for Seasonale. Barr, based in Montvale, N.J., has major operations in Rockland County.
“We will pursue all means to enforce the patent covering our Seasonale extended-cycle oral contraceptive, which was reissued by the (patent office) in September,” Bruce L. Downey, Barr’s Chairman and chief executive officer said in a written statement.

Posted by Jay Loomis on Friday, December 14th, 2007 at 1:10 pm |
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Emisphere settles dispute with Lilly


Emisphere Technologies Inc. has agreed to accept $18 million from Eli Lilly and Co. to settle the pending litigation between the two companies, the Tarrytown-based biotech company said today. This settles a dispute over Emisphere’s GLP molecule technology, an osteoporosis drug. A U.S. district court judge ruled in January that Lilly improperly broke an agreement with Emisphere, clearing the way for the Emisphere to license technology for the osteoporosis drug to a new partner. In April, an appeals court judge upheld that ruling.

Posted by Julie Moran Alterio on Tuesday, September 25th, 2007 at 5:12 pm |
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Barr challenges Sanofi-Aventis patents


Barr Pharmaceuticals Inc. said that its Pomona-based generic-drug unit, Barr Laboratories Inc., has challenged the patents listed by Sanofi-Aventis U.S. LLC in connection with its Uroxatral 10mg tablets. Barr applied to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on June 12 to create a generic version of Uroxatral. On Friday, Sanofi-Aventis filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware to prevent Barr from making its generic drug. Barr said it believes that other companies that have applied to the FDA to make the drug have also been sued. Uroxatral treats benign prostatic hyperplasia and has annual U.S. sales of about $140 million, Barr said, citing data from IMS Health.

Posted by Julie Moran Alterio on Tuesday, September 25th, 2007 at 5:09 pm |
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EVCI settles shareholder suit


EVCI Career Colleges Holding Corp. of Yonkers said yesterday that a federal court has approved the settlement of a shareholders’ class action lawsuit that dismisses all claims without any liability or wrongdoing attributed to the company.

The lawsuit was filed in December 2005. Attorneys for the shareholders said they settled for $7.73 million. EVCI said the settlement is being covered by its insurance carriers.

Posted by Jerry Gleeson on Monday, August 6th, 2007 at 6:31 pm |
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Business in the Burbs is our online news blog about businesses based or operating in the Lower Hudson Valley. Visitors here will also find items of interest to consumers in the region. Most contributions are from business reporters and editors covering Westchester, Rockland and Putnam counties.


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