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Mascot attacks; injured fan cries flagrant foul

Oversized sports team mascots are supposed to entertain fans with wacky antics, but they can become a risk management concern when those antics become misguided.

That allegedly happened when Boomer, the Indiana Pacers' mascot, tackled a fan after the man participated in a free-throw shooting competition during a March 2005 game with Golden State.

The fan, Nathaniel Jackson, was recovering from back surgery and wasn't amused by the 6-foot blue feline knocking him to the ground.

Earlier this month, he sued Boomer and the Pacers and sought compensation, claiming that the mascot caused unspecified permanent damage, the Marion County, Ind., suit reportedly contends.

The fan, citing his back surgery, initially declined to participate in the competition, according to published reports, but was assured there was no chance of injury.

As he was leaving the basketball court, the twentysomething man was tackled by the mascot. When an employee who knew about the fan's bad back told Boomer about it, the mascot kicked at the fan's legs, the lawsuit reportedly claims.

In general, there is growing awareness that sports mascots can be a source of liability, says Lowery Robinson, president of Marketing ETC., a Duluth, Ga.-based sports and entertainment underwriter.

"There definitely is a risk factor for them" when they interact with the fans, he said.

Chubb to back PBS program about unsolved Boston heist

In its own version of "Unsolved Mysteries," Chubb Corp. is sponsoring a documentary about the infamous 1990 art heist at Boston's Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.

The documentary, titled "Stolen," will be featured on the Public Broadcast System's "Independent Lens" program from March 20 to April 8.

The $500 million heist is one of the largest fine arts thefts ever, Warren, N.J.-based Chubb said in a statement. Thieves posing as police officers cut 13 canvases from their frames and walked off with such masterpieces as Rembrandt's "Christ in the Storm on the Sea of Galilee" and Vermeer's "The Concert."

The documentary, directed by independent filmmaker Rebecca Dreyfus, explores the unsolved crime "through the colorful cast of characters surrounding the search for the masterpieces and the culprits," Chubb said.

"Unfortunately, the works were not insured and 17 years later, the art world still holds out hope that they will be returned to their frames," said Dorit Straus, vp of Chubb & Son and worldwide fine arts manager of Chubb Personal Insurance.

'Ugly Betty' actress lands role as wife in Executive Life insurance saga

Some policyholders of the failed Executive Life Insurance Co. might call the impending union of sexy siren Salma Hayek and French businessman Francois-Henri Pinault a marriage of "beauty and the beast."

If the name "Pinault" doesn't ring a bell, think back to 1999 when the California Insurance Department was looking for someone to blame for the botched sale of the now-defunct Executive Life Insurance Co., which was seized in 1991 after regulators determined the insurer's assets had been invested mostly in virtually worthless junk bonds.

In a lawsuit filed in 1999, regulators claimed the sale of ELIC to a consortium of French investors led by Altus Finance was illegal because Altus was controlled by Credit Lyonnais, a French government-owned bank. Under both California and U.S. law, foreign governments are not allowed to own U.S. insurance companies.

The French billionaire and his holding company, Artemis S.A., were added to the lawsuit in 2000 once insurance department investigators discovered they had been involved in the transaction since 1992, when Artemis purchased the insurance business and ELIC's rebounding junk bond portfolio from Altus.

A jury agreed that the French billionaire and Artemis were parties to the alleged scam, and a federal judge in November 2005 ordered Artemis to pay restitution of $190 million, plus interest.

Ms. Hayek produces and acts in the TV hit "Ugly Betty" and was the Oscar-nominated star of the 2002 movie "Frida." She recently revealed she was engaged to Mr. Pinault, whose PPR S.A. owns luxury clothiers Gucci and Yves Saint Laurent, and is expecting the couple's first child.

Test kits weed out unwanted job applicants

Marijuana and amphetamine users may be avoiding employers that test for illegal drugs like vampires avoid silver crosses.

An index released last week by Quest Diagnostics Inc., which manufacturers workplace test kits, shows that drug use by U.S. employees and job applicants has dropped to its lowest level since 1998, when Quest began keeping score.

Of 9 million workplace urine drug tests performed by Lyndhurst, N.J.-based Quest during 2006, only 3.8% uncovered positive results. That is down from 4.1% in 2005 and 13.6% in 1988.

Quest's 2006 Drug Testing Index showed amphetamine use dropped 20% during the past year to a new low of 0.28% among safety-sensitive workers who must be routinely tested for drugs according to federal mandates.

Of those tested in the general workforce, use of the stimulants dropped 12.5% to 0.42% last year, Quest said.

A federal agency pegged the U.S. workforce at about 146 million people in January of this year.

Additionally, positive tests for marijuana, as a percent of all Quest tests for the drug, dropped 6.3% to 2.38% of the general workforce.

In a statement, Quest said it believes the drop in drug "positivity" has two main causes: "increased employer vigilance about the impact of workplace drug abuse on liability and the cost of decreased productivity, and the possibility that those who abuse drugs may tend to avoid employment at companies that actively conduct drug testing."

Contributing: Roberto Ceniceros, Sally Roberts, Joanne Wojcik