An effort to be dismissed as a defendant in a $366 million lawsuit was lost in the Supreme Court yesterday by the General Council on Finance and Administration of the United Methodist Church.
The court denied a GCFA petition to review a decision that it is "doing business", in California and consequently can be sued for alleged breach of contract, fraud and other law vilations.
The suit was brought by about 1,950 current and former residents of 14 church-sponsored retirement and convalescent homes who were guaranteed lifelong care in exchange either for preparments of up to $150,000 or for lifetime monthly payments. The monthly payments were either fixed or subject to specified inflation related increases.
Hit by rising costs, the operator of the church-sponsored facilities Pacific Homes Corp., breached the contracts. Virtually all of the residents had to provide extra money to avert liquidation of the enterprise. In 1977, the company sought and get relief under the bankruptcy laws. It is now under the control of a trustee who is operating the homes without interruption of services.
Last March, Superior Court Judge Ross G. Tharp in San Diego dismissed the church from the litigation while retaining GCFA. "In brief. GCFA controls the purse strings of the United Methodist Church and dominates all church activities in the nation," he said.
Denying that it was the alterego of Pacific Homes. GCFA. based in Evanston Ill., protested in its Supreme Court petition that "the uncontradicted evidence" shows that it doesn't have so much as a listed phone in California and has had "no relationship of any kind" with Pacific Homes or its residents.
By contrast, the residents told the court that GCFA has a "significant" presence in California, where it collected $10.8 million in the last four years.
Yesterday's action clears the way for trial of the $366 million suit against the GCFA and other defendants.
The court took other actions: DEADLY FORCE
Acting in an Omaha case last May, the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said. "The police officer cannot be constitutionally vested with the power and authority to kill any and all escaping felons . . . Death is the ultimate weapon of last resot, to be employed only in situations presenting the gravest threat to either the office or the public at large."
No such threat was claimed by Omala officers John Moats and Robert J. Rockwell, who shot and killed Leslie Landrum when he fled a filling station burglary. But they invoked a Nebraska "deadly force" law - similar to that in many states - that allows of ficers, as a last resort, to school fleeing felons.
The appeals court invalidated the law, allowing Landrum's survivors to resinstate a $4 million damage suit against the officers. The Supreme Court let the decision stand. ABORTION
Last April the U.S. District Court in Chicago ruled unconstitutional several provisions of the extraordinarily far-reaching Illinois Abortion Control Act of 1975.
Under the invalidated provisions, a woman wanting an abortion after the first trimester must give written "informed consent," meaning, for example, that her doctor must tell her what the fetus look like, of its ability to "move and "Swallow," and of the "general dangers of abortion."
Other invalidated provisions require that a live-born infant resulting from an abortion become a ward of the state, and that each abortion performed after a gestation period exceeding 20 weeks be noted in public records.
Yesterday the Supreme Court declined to grant the state's appeal, saying that the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals must hear the case first. As a result, the single key abortion issue to be decided by the high court this term remains: can a state (Pennsylvania) require a doctor performing an abortion to save the life of a fetus that "may be viable"? INDIANS
The court agreed to decide whether federal treaties with certain Indian tribes require the state of Washington to protect their rights by restricting fishing by non-Indians, and by guaranteeing the tribes an opportunity to harvest up to half of any run of fish normally passing through the tribes' customary off-reservation fishing stations.