AG Jennings, DOJ Fight Corporate Abuse of Class Action Settlements

Delaware leads bipartisan coalition opposing attempt to weaponize class action settlements against state law enforcement actions

Attorney General Kathy Jennings announced Monday that Delaware has filed an amicus brief in a Minnesota federal court opposing a corporation’s attempt to weaponize a class action settlement against a parallel law enforcement action by the Minnesota Attorney General. Delaware’s brief was also signed by the attorneys general of 35 other states and the District of Columbia.

Following a lengthy investigation, Minnesota’s Attorney General filed suit in 2017 against CenturyLink, Inc. for unlawful business practices, alleging the Louisiana-based telecommunications provider had harmed Minnesota consumers through fraudulent and deceptive billing. Trial in Minnesota’s lawsuit is scheduled for March 2020.

In addition, numerous private litigants have filed class action lawsuits against CenturyLink in connection with the same conduct, which is alleged to have harmed millions of consumers across the United States. In early 2018, the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation consolidated the private class action lawsuits before Judge Michael J. Davis in the United States District Court for the District of Minnesota.

In October, CenturyLink announced that it had reached a tentative settlement with the private litigants in federal court. Under the proposed settlement, consumers would only receive a small fraction of the losses CenturyLink is alleged to have caused. CenturyLink then asked Judge Davis to bar the Minnesota Attorney General’s state court restitution claims against it, arguing that any further relief ordered by the state court would be “duplicative” of payments consumers will receive under the private settlement.

“Class action settlements aren’t get-out-of-jail-free cards,” said Attorney General Jennings. “This issue is bigger than any one state or business; this is about giant corporations playing by a different set of rules than everyone else. The injunction that CenturyLink has requested would undermine state consumer protection laws and send a message that corporations can violate the law and unilaterally avoid full accountability by leveraging private settlements to squeeze out law enforcement efforts. I’m grateful to my colleagues for standing up to say we won’t let that happen.”

Delaware’s brief makes four principal arguments:

  1. CenturyLink’s request is unconstitutional under the Eleventh Amendment
  2. Additional federal statutes bar the Courts from granting CenturyLink’s request
  3. The approach advocated for by CenturyLink would incentivize class action settlement abuse, diminish recoveries for fraud victims, and enable bad actors to keep more of the proceeds of their misconduct.
  4. State attorneys general are not represented in class actions and are legally separate from private litigants

The Minnesota Attorney General filed a separate brief opposing CenturyLink’s proposal on November 15. A hearing on the matter will be held before Judge Davis on December 11.

Delaware’s amicus brief was also signed by the attorneys general of: Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, Wyoming, and the District of Columbia.

Delaware’s work in this matter was led by Deputy Attorney General David Weinstein, with assistance from Fraud Division Director Owen Lefkon, Director of Impact Litigation Christian Wright, and Deputy Attorney General Michael Clarke.

Man Pleads Guilty to Leaving Infant in Hot Car Leading to Child’s Death

Other defendants face prison time on manslaughter, drug, weapons, robbery, and burglary charges

Syiee Parker, a Wilmington man who left his 10-month-old child in a car one day last summer has pleaded guilty to causing her death. In July 2019, Parker, 37, dropped his wife off at work, and took 6 other children to summer camps. Despite initially telling police that he dropped off the child at daycare, an investigation determined that Parker failed to do so and returned home. The child remained in the car for over 7 hours and was found later that afternoon when Parker picked up his wife. Parker drove the child to the hospital, and upon arriving, she had a temperature of 109 degrees and was not breathing. Parker pleaded guilty to Criminally Negligent Homicide and Providing a False Statement to a Law Enforcement Officer. A Superior Court judge will sentence Parker next year. Deputy Attorneys General James Kriner and Diana Dunn prosecuted the case, with assistance from social worker Bettina Jones and paralegal Jayna Quillen.

A Dover man previously convicted of a fatal shooting has been sentenced to 75 years in prison. A Superior Court judge sentenced Reginald Waters, 33, for the 2016 killing of 31-year-old Clifton Thompson of Newark. In February 2016, Waters shot and killed Thompson after a brief interaction in the parking lot outside Thompson’s home in the Prides Court Apartments in Ogletown. In a bench trial in 2018, the judge found Waters guilty of Manslaughter, Possession of a Firearm During the Commission of a Felony, Possession of a Firearm by a Person Prohibited, and Possession of Ammunition by a Person Prohibited. Barred from having a gun because of previous felony convictions for sexual assault and weapons charges, Waters was declared a habitual offender and sentenced to 75 years in prison, followed by 6 months of either home confinement or work release, then 1 year of probation. Deputy Attorneys General Brian Robertson and Cynthia Hurlock prosecuted the case with the assistance of paralegal Stacey Coupe.

A Wilmington man convicted on weapons and drug charges has been sentenced to 25 years in prison. Deputy Attorneys General Michael Cooksey and Anna Currier secured the sentence for 29-year-old Angel Arbolay. While on patrol in October 2018, members of the Delaware State Police Governor’s Task Force heard what they believed to be a domestic dispute at the Dutch Inn Motel on the 100 block of South Dupont Parkway in New Castle. As they investigated, they identified Angel Arbolay, a man wanted on a Violation of Probation charge, as being involved. Arbolay refused to let officers in the room, leading them to use a Taser to subdue Arbolay. Once inside, police found a loaded 9-mm handgun, close to 400 grams of marijuana, illegal prescription pills, cocaine, as well as materials and equipment used for packaging and dealing drugs. In July 2019, Arbolay was convicted by a Superior Court judge in a bench trial of Possession of a Firearm During the Commission of a Felony, Drug Dealing, Aggravated Drug Possession Tier 1, Tampering with Physical Evidence, Operating a Clandestine Laboratory, Possession of a Controlled Substance, Resisting Arrest, and Possession of Drug Dealing Paraphernalia. Abolay was sentenced to 25 years in prison, followed by 6 months of either home confinement or work release, then 18 months of probation. DOJ paralegals Meredith Parkinson and Julia Bacon assisted with the case.

A string of home burglaries in Kent County resulted in a guilty plea and prison sentence for a Georgetown man. Richard Edwards, 46, pleaded guilty to 3 counts of Burglary Second Degree. During the last week of May 2019, Edwards broke into homes Hartly, Dover, and Smyrna, and stole a 9-mm handgun, cash, jewelry, and a video game console. A Superior Court judge immediately sentenced Edwards to 10 years in prison, followed by 1 year of probation. Edwards will then remain on probation until restitution is paid. Deputy Attorneys General Stephen Smith and Sean Motoyoshi prosecuted the case.

Deputy Attorneys General Nicole Hartman and Sean Motoyoshi secured a prison sentence for a Marydel man for his previous guilty plea to weapons, drug, and theft charges. In January 2019, Dustin Bell, 22, robbed a woman at gunpoint, stealing her cell phone during an argument about money. When police executed a search warrant 2 days later, they found a loaded 9-mm handgun, methamphetamine, marijuana, and oxycodone. Bell pleaded guilty in August 2019 to Possession of a Firearm During the Commission of a Felony, Drug Dealing, and Theft of Less Than $1500. A Superior Court judge sentenced Bell to 7 years in prison including the Key substance abuse program, followed by completion of the Crest residential drug treatment program, then 1 year of Crest aftercare probation.

Two Defendants Face Prison Time for Causing Two Separate Fatal Crashes

A Maryland woman who caused a fatal crash while driving under the influence of drugs has been sentenced to prison. Deputy Attorneys General Barzilai Axelrod and William Leonard secured the sentence for Michelle Park, 35, of Earlville. In March 2018, with her 2-year-old child in the car, Park failed to negotiate a curve while driving on Bethel Church Road, crossed the center line, and collided head-on with a Ford Escape. Three people in the Escape were injured; one of them, a 73-year-old woman, later died from her injuries. In June 2019, Park pleaded guilty to Manslaughter, 2 counts of Assault First Degree, Driving Under the Influence of Drugs (3rd Offense), and Failure to Use Proper Child Restraint. A Superior Court judge sentenced Park to 12 years and 3 months in prison, followed by 6 months of either home confinement or work release, then 2 years of probation. DOJ social worker Kristen Fluharty-Emory and paralegal Jaevan Owens assisted with the prosecution. Corporal Joseph Aube of the Delaware State Police was the chief investigating officer.

A 41-year-old man faces prison time after pleading guilty to a crash that killed 2 people and seriously injured a third. In August 2018, Jeffrey Guseman, of Bear, crossed the double yellow line on Salem Church Road in Newark while illegally attempting to pass another vehicle, and crashed head-on into a Toyota Camry. The driver of the Camry survived, but both of his parents, who visiting Delaware from another country, were killed. Guseman pleaded guilty to 2 counts of Manslaughter and 1 count of Assault Second Degree and will be sentenced by a Superior Court judge in March of next year. Deputy Attorneys General Barzilai Axelrod and Erik Towne prosecuted the case. DOJ social worker Kristen Fluharty-Emory and paralegal Jaevan Owens assisted with the prosecution. Sergeant Dermot Alexander of the Delaware State Police was the chief investigating officer.

Man Convicted of Three Rapes Including Two Cold Cases Gets Life in Prison

Other defendants receive prison sentences for fatal shootings

Kili Mayfield, a man convicted of raping 3 women over the course of 7 years will spend the rest of his life in prison. Mayfield, 40, of Bear, was arrested in June 2018 after being linked to the raping, beating, and strangling of a woman and 2 other sexual assaults for rapes that occurred in 2010, 2014 and 2017. The prosecution occurred thanks to the federally-funded Sexual Assault Kit Initiative (SAKI), through which the state Criminal Justice Council, Delaware Department of Justice, state Division of Forensic Science and law enforcement agencies are working to identify offenders by reviewing cases in which there were untested sexual assault kits. In a non-jury trial in July 2019, Mayfield was convicted of 4 counts of Rape First Degree, 4 counts of Rape Second Degree, and 1 count each of Kidnapping First Degree, Strangulation, and Assault Third Degree. A Superior Court judge sentenced Mayfield to life plus 127 years in prison. Deputy Attorneys General Eric Zubrow and Jillian Schroeder prosecuted the case.

A 25-year-old Wilmington man has been sentenced to prison for his role in a murder and robbery of a city business. In January 2017, Devonte Dorsett, along with a then 14-year-old accomplice, demanded cash from the clerk at the Lancaster Market in the 100 block of North Clayton Street. A struggle ensued, and Dorsett fatally shot 64-year-old Santanu Muhuri in the head. In May 2018, Dorsett pleaded guilty to Murder Second Degree, 2 counts of Possession of a Firearm during the Commission of a Felony and 1 count of Robbery First Degree. A Superior Court judge sentenced Dorsett to 35 years in prison. Dorsett’s accomplice pleaded guilty in February 2018 in Family Court to Criminally Negligent Homicide, Robbery First Degree, and Conspiracy Second Degree. A Judge sentenced him to 3 years in a juvenile detention facility followed by an aftercare program. The judge also extended jurisdiction over the juvenile until age 21 at the State’s request. Deputy Attorney General Daniel McBride prosecuted the case with paralegal Stacey Coupe and social worker Donna Lindsay. Detective Mackenzie Kirlin of the Wilmington Police Department led the investigation.

A 24-year-old Wilmington man pleaded guilty to the 2014 killing of a New Castle teenager. Deputy Attorneys General Martin Cosgrove, Rebecca Anderson, and Haley King secured the plea to Manslaughter and Possession of a Firearm During the Commission of a Felony from Jacquez Robinson. In November 2014, Robinson shot and killed 18-year-old Malik Watson in the 100 block of West Ninth Street in New Castle. Robinson was arrested a week later after fleeing from the scene of a shooting near the intersection of Lancaster Avenue and North Franklin Street in Wilmington. A Superior Court judge immediately sentenced Robinson to ten 10 years in prison, followed by 2 years of probation. DOJ victim advocate Carla Ennals and paralegal Lisa Loikith assisted with the prosecution.

Delaware, Newark Manor Nursing Home Reach Settlement

This settlement resolves allegations that Newark Manor provided substandard and worthless care to residents of the nursing facility.

Attorney General Kathy Jennings announced today that the State of Delaware has reached an agreement with Newark Manor Nursing Home (also known as Premiere Healthcare, Inc.), its owner Bruce Boyer, administrator David Boyer and former administrator Susan Comegys, to settle allegations that Newark Manor: (1) provided substandard and worthless services to its residents; (2) inaccurately reported certain residents’ clinical conditions; (3) failed to provide adequate staffing to provide resident care; and (4) failed to prevent harm to its residents. Newark Manor is a privately owned for-profit intermediate care nursing facility in Newark and licensed by the State of Delaware.

“Elderly nursing home residents are among the most vulnerable citizens of Delaware. We are committed to holding facilities accountable and will not tolerate substandard care, or an unsafe environment, for residents of facilities. Today’s settlement holds Newark Manor and its owner responsible for the substandard care provided and sends a message that we will continue to hold facility owners responsible for resident care provided throughout Delaware,” said Attorney General Jennings.

The civil settlement resolves allegations that, from 2011 through 2017 Newark Manor:

    1. persistently failed to provide adequate nursing care including supervision to vulnerable residents of Newark Manor, causing falls, fractures, and other significant injuries;
    2. failed to meet the required daily care hours per resident;
    3. failed to act on monthly pharmacy recommendations, and supply prescribed medication to certain residents;
    4. failed to take steps so that residents were not burned by hot coffee, and failed to adequately treat burns;
    5. failed to maintain hygiene standards;
    6. failed to maintain effective strategies to prevent falls;
    7. failed to ensure that the resident environment was free of accident hazards; and
    8. created incorrect care plans for their residents.

Newark Manor and its owner have agreed to pay $381,000 to resolve this case with $175,000 going to the Division of Medicaid and Medical Assistance within the Department of Health and Social Services. Newark Manor’s owner will reinvest the remaining $206,000 into capital improvements at the facility that will enhance resident care. Additionally, Newark Manor will be subject to a two-year Corporate Integrity Agreement, which subjects Newark Manor, its owner and management, to extensive compliance obligations. The Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit will monitor Newark Manor’s compliance with the settlement terms.

Director Christina Kontis, Deputy Attorney General Laura Najemy, special investigator Paul Reutter, nurse analyst Brian Galbreath, all of the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit, along with forensic accountant Clyde Hartman of the White Collar Crime Unit, handled this case.