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Claims Flood in as Northridge Filing Deadline Reached

Claims Flood in as Northridge Filing Deadline Reached

LAW

by Amanda Bronstad

L.A. insurance attorneys spent the last few days of the year filing last-minute lawsuits for Northridge earthquake victims.

“The list is unbelievable,” said Brian Kabateck, a senior partner at Quisenberry & Kabateck LLP who filed a lawsuit Dec. 31 against 21st Century Insurance on behalf of 91 families. “My rough idea, from the information I know and what I read, is there were definitely in excess of 700 (lawsuits) in the last month.”

California passed legislation following the 1994 earthquake extending the statute of limitations to file against insurance companies from the typical one-year period to the period ended Dec. 31, 2001.

Insurers say the number of actual lawsuits filed was far fewer than originally anticipated. The Northridge earthquake resulted in some 600,000 property damage claims for a record $16 billion (since surpassed by the World Trade Center collapse).

But insurers now face a new wave of suits filed just before the Dec. 31 deadline. “The last couple of weeks of the year our phone was ringing off the hook, Kabateck said.

Not Enough Info

Infonet Services Corp., the El Segundo-based provider of computer and data network services, got hit with a shareholder lawsuit just before the start of 2002.

Two shareholders filed the suit in federal court, claiming the company and its chief executive, Jose Collazo, failed to reveal information about a souring contract deal until the final minutes of trading on July 31, 2001. The next day, the stock price fell from $6.42 a share to $3.55.

The lawsuit seeks to obtain class action status for investors who bought shares between Dec. 16, 1999, and July 31, 2001. In the lawsuit, the shareholders claim “Infonet portrayed itself as a company with growing revenue and profits, yet failed to disclose its business problems.”

Infonet executives could not be reached for comment.

Spawning Unrest

“Lord of the Rings” distributor New Line Cinema Corp. and its Los Angeles-based subsidiary, Katja Motion Picture Corp., has sued the maker of the comic book series “Spawn” for $2 million.

New Line, which released the movie “Spawn” in 1997, claims Ariz.-based Todd McFarlane Productions Inc. altered the terms of an agreement that gives New Line royalties from sales of merchandise based on the movie “Spawn.”

Instead of paying New Line royalties from all merchandise sales, Todd McFarlane reported only 10 percent of sales, claiming that the other 90 percent went to an affiliated company called TMP International Inc., which does business as McFarlane Toys. The change reduced New Line’s royalty rate to less than 1 percent, the lawsuit asserts.

McFarlane Productions declined to comment.

Staff reporter Amanda Bronstad can be reached at (323) 549-5225 ext. 225, or at

abronstad@labusinessjournal.com.

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