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Judge upholds sanctions for ex-soldier who missed settlement conference in burger needle case

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HONOLULU — The presiding judge in a Hawaii lawsuit over needles found in a Burger King sandwich is upholding a decision that ordered the retired soldier who filed the suit to pay nearly $8,500 for skipping a settlement conference.

Clark Bartholomew violated a court order when he didn't attend the September conference to settle the lawsuit he filed after swallowing needles in a burger purchased at a Hawaii Army base, said U.S. District Judge J. Michael Seabright's ruling issued last week.

Bartholomew said he wasn't able to travel from his home in Chantilly, Virginia, because he couldn't get time off from work. He and his lawyer also argued the defendants weren't making a good-faith effort to settle.

"Although the settlement conference was held, the dynamics of a settlement conference are much different when the parties themselves attend," Seabright's order said.

Burger King and the two other defendants asked for sanctions or for the case to be dismissed after Bartholomew didn't show up. A magistrate judge ruled that dismissal would be too severe but recommended that Bartholomew be ordered to pay lawyers' fees that were used for the "fruitless" conference.

In hindsight, it was a mistake not to attend the conference, Bartholomew's attorney, Paul Saccoccio, said Tuesday. "For any family ... that's a lot of money," he said of the lawyers' fees totaling $8,460.10.

Without a settlement, the case is heading to a jury trial scheduled for March.

"We're still going ahead," Saccoccio said. "It's just a bump in the road."

Attorneys for the defendants didn't immediately respond to requests for comment.


Follow Jennifer Sinco Kelleher at http://www.twitter.com/JenHapa .

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