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Judge Delays Humana Trial

October 8, 1999

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) _ A judge scolded a lawyer for ``trying to poison the well″ of potential jurors in his client’s trial against an insurance company and ordered them to stop making public statements.

A trial to determine whether Humana Inc. should pay Mark Chipps for cutting back the treatment for his daughter, who has cerebral palsy, was to begin next week.

A judge already found Humana liable for breach of contract, fraud and bad faith after the company failed to respond to repeated court orders to turn over documents in the lawsuit.

Chipps, and his lawyer, Ted Leopold, staged a news conference Wednesday _ with Chipps’ wife and now 8-year-old daughter, Caitlyn _ to discuss the case and make allegations of widespread misconduct against Humana.

Such public statements violate state rules of conduct concerning litigation.

Humana immediately filed a motion for a change of venue and asked a judge to sanction Leopold and Chipps.

On Thursday, Circuit Judge James T. Carlisle accused the attorney of ``trying to poison the well,″ Humana said in a release. The judge refused to change the location of the trial but granted Humana a delay of no less than 60 days.

``We are pleased with the court’s rulings resulting from Mr. Leopold’s inappropriate conduct,″ said spokeswoman Pam Gadinsky. ``When all the facts of this case are presented to the court we believe we will prevail.″

The Chipps claim Humana made promises of covering care for Caitlyn to lure them to a Humana policy, then renegged on those promises.

Leopold did not immediately return a call for comment, and Chipps’ home telephone number was not listed.

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