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October 18, 2018

Asbestos firms ready to fight Silver’s ‘slanted legal system’

Now that disgraced former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver is out of power, asbestos defense lawyers are revolting against what they say is a slanted legal system.

Silver, who had ties to the mesothelioma-suit firm Weitz & Luxenberg, was accused of using his clout to stack the odds for plaintiffs.

A group of 45 law firms that represent companies defending against asbestos lawsuits asked Administrative Judge Peter Moulton this week to put a 60-day moratorium on any pending and new cases to consider their gripes over Silver’s alleged influence.

Moulton replaced Justice Sherry Heitler as head of a special section of Manhattan Supreme Court called NYCAL, or New York City Asbestos Litigation, last month.

Under her tenure, Heitler, at the request of Weitz & Luxenberg, last year lifted a 20-year rule that barred punitive damages in asbestos cases — paving the way for jackpot jury settlements and verdicts.

The court also fast-tracked plaintiffs’ asbestos cases over other civil matters, the defense lawyers said.

Weitz handles more than half the asbestos cases in Manhattan. It won $273.4 million the last four years.

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Asbestos firms ready to fight Silver’s ‘slanted legal system’

Sheldon Silver-linked law firm has hand in asbestos funds

Weitz & Luxenberg, the law firm accused of exploiting its connection to Sheldon Silver in New York City’s asbestos court, has come under fire in another lucrative arena — multibillion-dollar bankruptcy trusts.

The East Village firm, which gained more than 100 mesothelioma clients in an alleged kickback scheme by the disgraced assemblyman, sits on 15 advisory committees for trusts set up by bankrupt companies to compensate victims — including Weitz’s own clients.

The loose system fosters a “fox guarding the hen house” culture, says a article published last month by Measley’s Asbestos Bankruptcy Report.

Assembly speaker Sheldon Silver

The 15 trusts guided by Weitz have paid out $12.2 billion between 2006 and 2013. Other trusts, which may also pay Weitz clients, have doled out $51.6 billion, the report says. Lawyers typically get at least 25 percent of the payments.

It’s unknown how many Weitz clients got payments — or whether any were funneled through Silver.

Perry Weitz, a partner in the firm, helped set up trusts for major companies such as Owens Corning, USG, and Kaiser Aluminum, his Web site boasts.

Trusts for asbestos-injured workers — who can file claims and also take active companies to court — still hold about $30 billion.

The system is rife with double-dipping abuse. Lawyers file trust claims blaming a client’s asbestos illness on bankrupt companies, but often hide those claims in lawsuits blaming active companies for the same illness.

For instance, Weitz & Luxenberg won a $25 million verdict against DaimlerChrysler in 2006 in a special Manhattan asbestos court where the firm files 50 to 70 percent of the cases.

At trial, Weitz shot down defense arguments that bankrupt Johns Manville, which made insulation and roofing, shared some blame for the worker’s exposure. “How should they be responsible?” the firm asked.

But a year after the trial, Weitz filed trust claims for the same client seeking payments from Johns Manville.

A Weitz spokesman said the firm had no comment.

In 2011, Weitz asked Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Sherry Klein Heitler to drop a requirement that plaintiffs disclose before trial any trust claims they had filed or intended to file.

Heitler, who was replaced as chief asbestos judge last week, denied the motion, but tweaked the rule, saying lawyers did not have to reveal trust claims “they may or may not anticipate filing.”

Her wording left wiggle room for potential fraud, Cardozo Law School professor Lester Brickman told The Post. Brickman, a leading expert on asbestos litigation, testified before Congress lastmonth in favor of a bill to curb the double dealing.

After Silver’s indictment last month, Weitz & Luxenberg claimed it was “shocked” that the former Assembly speaker had steered $500,000 in state grants to Columbia-Presbyterian mesothelioma researcher Dr. Robert Taub, who in turn referred the 100-plus patients.

See the article here – 

Sheldon Silver-linked law firm has hand in asbestos funds

U.S. Chamber Commends House Judiciary Committee Hearing on Asbestos Trust Transparency Legislation

WASHINGTON–(BUSINESS WIRE)–

Lisa A. Rickard, president of the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal
Reform (ILR), made the following statement regarding today’s hearing on
the “Furthering Asbestos Claim Transparency (FACT) Act of 2015” (H.R.
526) in the U.S. House Judiciary Committee. The legislation would
require asbestos personal injury settlement trusts, which currently
operate with little oversight and transparency, to report on their
claims.

“We applaud Representatives Blake Farenthold and Tom Marino for
introducing this legislation, and the House Judiciary Committee for
holding today’s hearing. Abuse of the asbestos compensation system is a
national problem, and the recent indictment in New York with allegations
of kickbacks and self-dealing is just the latest example. Evidence of
plaintiffs’ lawyers manipulating and withholding key information
continues to unfold in the Garlock bankruptcy case, which stands
out as ‘exhibit A’ of the systemic fraud in asbestos litigation.

“Exploitation of the system drains the funds available to deserving
claimants and forces solvent companies, as well as their shareholders
and employees, to pay more than their fair share when claimants ‘double
dip’ in court and in the trust systems. The FACT Act would diminish the
damaging economic ripple effect of these abuses, without impacting
legitimate asbestos claims.”

ILR seeks to promote civil justice reform through legislative,
political, judicial, and educational activities at the national, state,
and local levels.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is the world’s largest business federation
representing the interests of more than 3 million businesses of all
sizes, sectors, and regions, as well as state and local chambers and
industry associations.

www.uschamber.com

         

@USChamber

         

www.freeenterprise.com

Contact:

U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform (ILR)

Justin Hakes, 202-463-3156

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U.S. Chamber Commends House Judiciary Committee Hearing on Asbestos Trust Transparency Legislation

Justice for Newcastle former labourer diagnosed with asbestos-related illness

A shipyard labourer diagnosed with mesothelioma says “justice has been done” after lawyers secured him a six-figure settlement

A shipyard labourer diagnosed with an asbestos-related cancer after being exposed to the deadly dust during his career has won compensation.

John Canham, from Shieldfield, Newcastle, was diagnosed with mesothelioma, which affects the lining of the lungs, in January this year after suffering from shortness of breath. He is currently undergoing chemotherapy for the terminal cancer.

Asbestos experts at law firm Irwin Mitchell negotiated an undisclosed six-figure settlement for John from three companies he worked for which will help cover the cost of care as his condition deteriorates. It will also provide some financial support for his family in future.

John said he feels he feels “justice has been done”.

The dad-of-two added: “I remember when I used to fit steel plates to the boilers which were already lagged with asbestos; the handsaws we used got covered in dust and as we worked in such as confined space, there was no way of avoiding the dust.

“My colleagues and I were never given any protective clothing or masks whilst we worked with asbestos and I was also never warned about the potential dangers of inhaling the substance.

“It was devastating for my family and I to find out years later that this exposure to asbestos had made such a horrific impact on my health and the illness has completely changed my life. We are all anxious about what the future may hold but I am grateful to have the support around me from my loved ones.

“The settlement will be a big help financially when it comes to my care and will help support my family to look after me and help me to battle on against this incurable disease and it does feel like justice has been done as my former employer should have done something to protect me and my colleagues from this.”

John worked as a labourer at various shipping yards and engineering firms in the North East.

Isobel Lovett, an asbestos-related disease expert at Irwin Mitchell’s Newcastle office, said: “The past year has been incredibly difficult for John and his family as they have had to come to terms with his illness, which has seen his health rapidly decline.

“As the delay between exposure to asbestos dust and the onset of symptoms of mesothelioma is more than 30 years in most cases, people like John are only now discovering their health has been affected as a result.

“Mesothelioma is an asbestos-related cancer for which there is sadly no cure. Unfortunately John’s case is not isolated and it’s always sad to learn of such exposure to asbestos when, even in the 1960 and 70s employers knew of the risk associated with the dangers of inhaling the lethal dust.

“No amount of money can make up for the illness John has, but the settlement will provide him and his family with some financial security for the future.”

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Justice for Newcastle former labourer diagnosed with asbestos-related illness

Asbestos victims win damages ruling

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Asbestos victims win damages ruling

Asbestos review 'unsatisfactory'

The Government has been criticised for its approach to compensation for asbestos sufferers and urged to hold a fresh consultation.

The Justice Select Committee said the coalition’s approach had been “unsatisfactory” and that a review had not been conducted in an even handed manner.

In a critical report, the MPs expressed surprise that the Government had concluded a heads of agreement with the insurance industry without disclosing details to other parties.

Mesothelioma is a cancer of the pleural lining of the lungs caused by exposure to asbestos.

There were over 2,200 deaths from mesothelioma in 2011 and the number of cases is expected to continue increasing before peaking towards the end of the decade.

The Asbestos Victims’ Support Groups Forum UK has complained that cancer sufferers face being charged up to 25% of their awarded damages to pay for their legal costs as well as legal insurance premiums because of new legal provisions.

The select committee said the government’s review of claims was not prepared in a thorough and even-handed manner.

Chairman Sir Alan Beith said: “We listened carefully to views on both sides of an emotive and polarised debate about the process of claiming compensation for this terrible disease, caused by exposure to asbestos.

“We have concluded that the Government’s approach has been unsatisfactory on a number of counts.”

The committee said a heads of agreement was made between the Government and the Association of British Insurers, adding that the coalition was not open or transparent about the existence of the document.

Sir Alan added: “It was a surprise to us that the government concluded a heads of agreement, however informal its status, with parties on one side of the argument about mesothelioma.

The provisions of this document, which remained undisclosed to other interested parties, have shaped the Government’s approach to this issue, and we are concerned that the G overnment appears to have had no intention of supplying us with this document as part of our inquiry.”

Steve Murphy, general secretary of construction union Ucatt, said: “The Justice Committee’s findings should be welcomed be anyone who believes in fairness for asbestos victims.

“The Government has been caught in bed with the insurance industry.

“The Government’s proposals were the latest in a long line of policies where they have backed the insurance industry against the victims of asbestos, whose health has been damaged through no fault of their own.”

Daniel Shears of the GMB union said: ” The original consultation was clearly flawed and it’s absolutely right to look again at this as quickly as possible.

“In particular the behind the scenes deal done between the ABI and the Government flew in the face of an open consultation and we should thank the committee for bringing this shady backroom deal to light.”

TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “The Justice Committee is right to criticise the shoddy deal done between the insurance industry and the Government. Victims of this terrible and fatal illness deserve proper and swift recompense.

“We hope that the Government will urgently accept the recommendations of the Justice Committee and do the right thing for the victims of mesothelioma, 2,500 of whom die each year as a result of exposure to asbestos through their employer’s negligence.”

James Dalton, assistant director, head of motor and liability, Association of British Insurers, said: “While insurers did not cause mesothelioma, the industry has always been open and transparent on its commitment to help as many mesothelioma claimants and their families as possible. We make no apologies for negotiating with government a scheme, paid for by insurers, that will compensate an extra 3,000 sufferers over the next 10 years, who would otherwise go uncompensated.

“Significantly, this report raises the issue of high legal costs in mesothelioma claims, citing an average legal cost of £20,000 for every mesothelioma claim in England and Wales. Excessive legal costs mean higher insurance premiums for all employers, and clearly claimant lawyers need to answer to why they do not support lower legal costs.”

Dave Prentis, general secretary of Unison, said: “We have long campaigned for justice for mesothelioma sufferers. But with a short and painful life expectancy the last thing sufferers and their families need are extra costs.

“The changes the Government tried to impose would have a detrimental impact on mesothelioma sufferers. It’s the negligence of past employers that has condemned these workers. It is only right employers should pay.”

Paul Glanville, a specialist mesothelioma lawyer at Slater & Gordon, said: ” We should not be making it harder for mesothelioma victims to claim the compensation to which they are entitled.

“Implementing these rules will have this effect. The Government promised a review before taking these steps. This has not taken place. Hopefully in the light of the findings the Government will take very seriously the calls from the victims and confirm that these rules will not apply to mesothelioma cases.”

A Ministry of Justice spokesman said: “Mesothelioma is an awful condition which can destroy lives in a frighteningly short amount of time and we want to help sufferers and their families. We are considering the best way to get claims settled fairly and quickly.

“We will consider the report’s recommendations and respond in due course.”

Link:  

Asbestos review 'unsatisfactory'

U.S. Chamber Commends Senate Introduction of Asbestos Trust Transparency Legislation

WASHINGTON–(BUSINESS WIRE)–

Lisa A. Rickard, president of the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform (ILR), made the following statement regarding the introduction of the “Furthering Asbestos Claim Transparency (FACT) Act of 2014” (S. 2319) yesterday in the U.S. Senate. The legislation would require asbestos personal injury settlement trusts, which currently operate with little oversight and transparency, to report on their claims.

“We applaud Senator Flake’s effort to shed light on the growing number of bankruptcy trusts that play a significant role in today’s asbestos compensation system. Fraud and abuse in the system drain the funds available to deserving claimants and force solvent companies, as well as their shareholders and employees, to pay more than their fair share when claimants ‘double dip’ in court and in the trust systems. The FACT Act would diminish the damaging economic ripple effect of these abuses.

“The Senate should act to ensure that the asbestos compensation system is working as intended — especially in light of a federal court opinion last January in the Garlock asbestos bankruptcy that revealed manipulation and withholding evidence are a ‘regular practice by many plaintiffs’ firms.’ The FACT Act’s simple disclosure requirement will deter such fraud without impacting legitimate asbestos claims.”

ILR seeks to promote civil justice reform through legislative, political, judicial, and educational activities at the national, state, and local levels.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is the world’s largest business federation representing the interests of more than 3 million businesses of all sizes, sectors, and regions, as well as state and local chambers and industry associations.

www.uschamber.com        @USChamber        www.freeenterprise.com

Contact:

U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform
Justin Hakes, 202-463-3156

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U.S. Chamber Commends Senate Introduction of Asbestos Trust Transparency Legislation

Asbestos found in Waukesha renovation project

WAUKESHA- A viewer contacted CBS 58 recently, concerned about whether she and her fellow tenants were being exposed to deadly Asbestos, we looked into it.

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources said on Wednesday that at least four workers at a renovation project at 260 South Street in Waukesha were exposed to Asbestos.

The DNR also did more tests at the site on Wednesday.

Mark Davis with the DNR said when the building owner, Berg Management, recently began renovating the garage portion of the building into downtown apartments, they violated NR-447, meaning an Asbestos inspection was not done prior to tearing out some ceilings and building materials.

He also added that materials were put in a dumpster and not properly disposed of.

Initial DNR samples showed Asbestos levels ranging from 19 to 24 percent, anything over one percent is regulated.

Berg Management explained that this may have been an oversight in their planning.

They currently have an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau.

Berg said that when they started construction they had all the valid permits from the city.

Construction is currently at a standstill as the investigation continues.

The company insists they will do the proper remediation and hope that construction will kick back up in one or two weeks.

Citations can be given in situations and, if it is serious enough, the Wisconsin Department of Justice can get involved.

The DNR thinks that a furnace may be spreading the asbestos to other tenants, but that isn’t conclusive at this point.

Follow this link – 

Asbestos found in Waukesha renovation project

Woodbridge man pleads guilty to performing unlicensed asbestos removal work in Edison and Hunterdon County schools

A Woodbridge man has pleaded guilty to charges connected with asbestos work his unlicensed business performed at schools in Edison and Hunterdon County, as well as a day-care center in Union County where hazardous asbestos and dust were released into the air.

William T. Muzzio Jr., 52, of Woodbridge, pleaded guilty before Union County Superior Court Judge Scott J. Moynihan, sitting in Elizabeth, to a second-degree charge of unlawful release of a toxic pollutant and a third-degree charge of violating the Asbestos Control and Licensing Act (removing or encapsulating asbestos without a license), according to Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman.

Muzzio also performed asbestos removal work at 12 homes in Middlesex, Union, Morris, Essex, Hudson and Ocean counties.

Under the plea agreement, the state will recommend that Muzzio be sentenced to seven years in state prison. Sentencing is scheduled for June 27.

This unlicensed contractor put his own profits ahead of the health of those who were exposed to his unsafe asbestos abatement projects, including children at a day-care center, Hoffman said. His conduct in exposing children and others to hazardous asbestos-containing dust and debris was unconscionable. This prison sentence should send a strong deterrent message to any other contractors who would consider engaging in illegal asbestos work.

The state began investigating Muzzio and his business, Citadel Environmental Consultants, in March 2012 after a daycare facility in Union Township (Union County), Townley School, hired Muzzio to remove pipe insulation containing asbestos from its basement boiler room.

The state Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) inspected the facility and notified its operators that damaged insulation needed to be repaired or removed prior to renewal of the facilitys license. After Muzzio performed asbestos removal at the facility in February 2012, DHSS checked with the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development and learned Muzzio was not licensed to perform asbestos abatement, as required by law. The Department of Labor referred the matter to the Division of Criminal Justice.

(Page 2 of 2)

The Department of Labor and Division of Criminal Justice conducted inspections in March at the daycare facility and discovered dust and debris containing asbestos in the boiler room and an adjacent crawl space. The facility immediately hired a licensed contractor to properly complete the asbestos abatement.

The Division of Criminal Justice expanded the investigation and identified numerous other sites, including schools and homes, where Muzzio performed unlicensed asbestos abatement between April 2011 and May 2012.

In pleading guilty, Muzzio admitted releasing asbestos at Townley School. He further admitted performing unlicensed asbestos work at Union Middle School in Hampton, Hunterdon County, John Marshall Elementary School in Edison and two schools in Hackettstown, Hatchery Hill School and Willow Grove School.

Additionally, he admitted that, assisted by another, directly or indirectly, he performed unlicensed asbestos work at 12 homes in Middlesex, Union, Morris, Essex, Hudson and Ocean counties.

Under the plea agreement, Muzzio must pay total restitution of $19,848 as follows: $7,970 to Townley School, $4,763 to the New Jersey Department of Labor, $3,445 to the Hackettstown Board of Education, $2,870 to the Union Township Board of Education and $800 to the Edison Board of Education.

Source:  

Woodbridge man pleads guilty to performing unlicensed asbestos removal work in Edison and Hunterdon County schools

ADAO Announces Esteemed Speakers for 2014 Conference – to Coincide with 10th Year Anniversary

LOS ANGELES–(BUSINESS WIRE)–

The Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (ADAO), which combines education, advocacy, and community to help ensure justice for asbestos victims, today announced the list of 30+ esteemed speakers scheduled to present at the upcoming 10th Annual Asbestos Awareness Conference April 4-6 in Washington, DC. ADAO also celebrates its 10-year anniversary this year, marking a decade of asbestos awareness success since the organization’s inception in 2004.

ADAO began as a grassroots advocacy effort with the mesothelioma diagnosis of the beloved husband of the organization’s Co-Founder and President, Linda Reinstein. Since its inception in 2004, the Larkin and Reinstein families have worked with a tireless, dedicated group of volunteers to become the leading “voice of the victims” in the United States.

“I look at where ADAO has come since I began this journey as the confused and angry wife of an innocent asbestos victim and it has made me realize even more how we are all connected by a strong thread of hope that weaves itself across continents and lives,” stated Ms. Reinstein. “Since my husband Alan was diagnosed, more than 100,000 Americans have died from preventable asbestos-caused diseases and imports continue. As we celebrate the 10th year anniversary of ADAO and welcome our global supporters and speakers to this year’s conference, I’m reminded more than ever that there is strength in numbers. Although Alan is no longer with us, his memory lives on, along with the memory of so many more whose lives have been lost to asbestos-related disease. ADAO will continue to ensure each life lost was not in vain, as we continue to create a firestorm of action to finally ban asbestos and end its tragedy.”

The 10th Annual Asbestos Awareness Conference, themed “Where Knowledge and Action Unite,” will feature more than 30 expert speakers from ten countries who will present on the latest advancements in asbestos disease prevention, treatment for mesothelioma and other asbestos-caused diseases, and global ban asbestos advocacy.

The recently finalized list includes a highly esteemed group of research, advocacy, and medical experts:

  • Syed Ahmed
  • Marilyn Amento
  • Brad Black, MD
  • Michael Bradley, Mesothelioma Patient
  • Jill Cagle
  • Barbara Catlin, M.Ac
  • Barry Castleman, ScD
  • Francois Desriaux, Association Nationale de Défense des Victimes de l’Amiante (ANDEVA)
  • David Egilman, MD
  • Arthur Frank, MD, PhD
  • Ellen Costa
  • Fernanda Giannasi, Associação Brasileira dos Expostos ao Amianto (ABREA)
  • Michael Harbut, MD, MPH, FCCP
  • Marc Hindry, Association Nationale de Défense des Victimes de l’Amiante (ANDEVA)
  • Sinem Kankotan
  • Richard Lemen, PhD, MSPH
  • Steven Markowitz, MD
  • Barbi McQueen
  • Jim Melius, MD
  • Captain Aubrey K. Miller, M.D., M.P.H.,
  • Celeste Monforton, DrPH, MPH
  • Christine Oliver, MD, MPH, MS, FACPM
  • Ellen Patton, Mesothelioma Patient
  • Pierre Pluta, Association Nationale de Défense des Victimes de l’Amiante (ANDEVA)
  • Bill Ravanesi, MPH
  • Patrice Raveneau, Association Nationale de Défense des Victimes de l’Amiante (ANDEVA)
  • Linda Reinstein, ADAO Cofounder
  • Barry Robson, Asbestos Diseases Foundation of Australia (ADFA)
  • Joachim Rosler, MD
  • Ann Samuelson
  • Ken Takahashi, MD, PhD
  • Lisa Rahe Thompson
  • Susan Vento
  • Heather Von St James, Mesothelioma Patient
  • Yvonne Waterman,
  • Congressman Henry Waxman * by Video
  • James Webber, PhD
  • Heather White, Environmental Working Group
  • Lou Williams, Mesothelioma Patient
  • Jordan Zevon, ADAO National Spokesperson & Musician

Collaborating with organizations around the world for a global asbestos ban, ADAO has become a leader in social media advocacy and community outreach for asbestos victims, their families, and loved ones to share support, resources, and provide hope. ADAO has shifted education and awareness activities into high gear – with an unparalleled effort to educate the public and medical community about asbestos-related diseases and preventing exposure. Responsible for two Surgeon General asbestos warnings and ten Senate Resolutions designating April as Asbestos Awareness Week each year, ADAO is recognized as one of the largest organizations fighting for justice on behalf of asbestos victims in the US and abroad. The organization has presented to audiences throughout the U.S., Japan, Turkey, Mexico, Thailand, Holland, France, China, Italy, India, Brazil, Canada, Australia, and England.

Despite its known dangers, there is still no global ban on asbestos, and it continues to claim lives. Exposure to asbestos, a human carcinogen, can cause mesothelioma, lung, gastrointestinal, laryngeal, and ovarian cancers; as well as non-malignant lung and pleural disorders. The World Health Organization estimates that 107,000 workers around the world will die every year of an asbestos-related disease, equaling 300 deaths per day.

ADAO will hold its Tenth Annual International Asbestos Awareness Conference on April 4 – 6, 2014, at the Crystal Gateway Marriott in Arlington, VA.

About the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization

The Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (ADAO) was founded by asbestos victims and their families in 2004. ADAO is the largest non-profit in the U.S. dedicated to providing asbestos victims and concerned citizens with a united voice through our education, advocacy, and community initiatives. ADAO seeks to raise public awareness about the dangers of asbestos exposure, advocate for an asbestos ban, and protect asbestos victims’ civil rights. For more information, visit www.asbestosdiseaseawareness.org.

Contact:
Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (ADAO)

Kim Cecchini

Media Relations

202-391-5205


Kim@asbestosdiseaseawareness.org

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ADAO Announces Esteemed Speakers for 2014 Conference – to Coincide with 10th Year Anniversary