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Androvett Blog

by Androvett Legal Media & Marketing at 10:57:00 am

Is it OK to mix guns and alcohol? A Texas Court of Appeals seems to be saying, “It depends.”


The court ruled that when people are drinking, but not obviously intoxicated, it can’t be assumed that a serious injury will happen just because there’s a gun around. The ruling came in a case in which a woman sued a Houston area homeowner after she was accidentally shot in the ankle at a barbecue where people were drinking. Hours before she was wounded, the plaintiff and other guests shot soda cans with a pistol. The plaintiff testified that she did not feel unsafe.


The 14th Court of Appeals in Houston concluded that the homeowner couldn’t be sued for premises liability and gross negligence just because there was a gun where beer and wine were served. The ruling isn’t surprising, said Ross Asher of Roberts Markel Weinberg Butler Hailey PC, which has offices across Texas. The Houston-based trial lawyer is experienced in insurance and premises liability matters.

Is it OK to mix guns and alcohol? A Texas Court of Appeals seems to be saying, "It depends."

The court ruled that when people are drinking, but not obviously intoxicated, it can't be assumed that a serious injury will happen just because there's a gun around. The ruling came in a case in which a woman sued a Houston area homeowner after she was accidentally shot in the ankle at a barbecue where people were drinking. Hours before she was wounded, the plaintiff and other guests shot soda cans with a pistol. The plaintiff testified that she did not feel safe.

The 14th Court of Appeals in Houston concluded that the homeowner couldn't be sued for premises liability and gross negligence just because there was a gun where beer and wine were served. The ruling isn't surprising, said Ross Asher of Roberts Markel Weinberg Butler Hailey PC, which has offices across Texas. The Houston-based trial lawyer is experienced in insurance and premises liability matters.

The court ruled that when people are drinking, but not obviously intoxicated, it can’t be assumed that a serious injury will happen just because there’s a gun around. The ruling came in a case in which a woman sued a Houston area homeowner after she was accidentally shot in the ankle at a barbecue where people were drinking. Hours before she was wounded, the plaintiff and other guests shot soda cans with a pistol. The plaintiff testified that she did not feel unsafe.


The 14th Court of Appeals in Houston concluded that the homeowner couldn’t be sued for premises liability and gross negligence just because there was a gun where beer and wine were served. The ruling isn’t surprising, said Ross Asher of Roberts Markel Weinberg Butler Hailey PC, which has offices across Texas. The Houston-based trial lawyer is experienced in insurance and premises liability matters.

“The most basic aspect of negligence law is foreseeability, and whether a reasonable person in similar circumstances should have foreseen that such an injury would occur. Texas law recognizes the important distinction between merely drinking alcohol and drinking to the point of impaired judgment.

“For example, the law criminalizes driving while intoxicated, but not simply driving after drinking. Thus, the amount of alcohol consumed and the effect of the alcohol on a person are the deciding factors – not the mere fact that some alcohol was imbibed. In this case, there was apparently no evidence that anyone near the firearm showed any signs of excessive drinking and impaired judgment. Therefore, such an incident could not be reasonably foreseen by the homeowner.”

For an interview or more information, contact Kit Frieden at 800 559-4534 or

by Androvett Legal Media & Marketing at 1:10:00 pm


The owners of Rowdy Girl farm, a self-described farm animal sanctuary run by vegans in Angleton, Texas, were ordered to pay nearly $60,000 in fines and legal bills for filing a meritless lawsuit over a Facebook post that criticized their aggressive fundraising. The owners had sought $1 million for defamation, but their case was dismissed by a Houston court on July 26.

“This case should be a warning to thin-skinned people who think that suing their critics is a good way to shut down free speech,” said Houston lawyer Adam Milasincic of Ahmad, Zavitsanos, Anaipakos, Alavi & Mensing P.C., or AZA, whose client was sued by the couple. “All my client did was raise legitimate questions in a Facebook post. We need to be on guard now more than ever for bullies using our court system as a hammer to whack First Amendment rights.”

The suit was filed by Renee King-Sonnen, a country singer who bills herself as the “Queen of Honky Tonk,” and her husband Tommy Sonnen. Until 2014, Tommy Sonnen raised cattle for slaughter. After his wife became a vegan, the couple converted the ranch into a no-kill farm.

But the farm became controversial when Ms. King-Sonnen raised $30,000 from online donors to buy her husband’s cattle to establish the nonprofit. The fundraising practices came under fire, especially after 2015 tax returns revealed that only 9 percent of the nearly $100,000 raised that year was spent on livestock supplies and veterinary care. In addition, cows, birds and a pot-bellied pig have died under suspicious circumstances. Photos show some cows looking emaciated.

Mr. Milasincic’s client, Dr. Sujatha Ramakrishna, a child psychiatrist in Dallas and animal rights advocate who once donated to the farm, merely posted her concerns on a Facebook page called The Real Rowdy Girl Revealed. Her post led to her being sued.

This is the most recent case Mr. Milasincic has won under the Texas Citizens Participation Act, a law that aims to shut down lawsuits targeting First Amendment rights. Using the same law, Milasincic has previously won six-figure fines against Schlumberger Ltd. and Landry’s, Inc.

For more information or to set up an interview, contact Kit Frieden at 800-559-4534 or

by Androvett Legal Media & Marketing at 10:56:00 am

Two brothers exploring their favorite park in Fort Worth, Texas, were killed in March when they came into contact with a live power line downed by a storm the night before. This week, their family filed a wrongful death suit in Dallas County against electric utility Oncor for its negligence in failing to cut power to the line or issue warnings to people in the area.

Killed were 12-year-old Alex Lopez and his 11-year-old brother Isaiah, who instinctively raced to help Alex after he was stricken by the electric shock. Both boys died from injuries resulting from high-voltage electricity. Dallas lawyer Jeffrey Rasansky of Rasansky Law Firm, represents Alex and Isaiah’s mother, Tammy Brooks.

“Oakland Lake Park was a place Alex and Isaiah loved and felt safe to explore. It was never a place to fear,” Mr. Rasansky said. “But due to Oncor’s negligence and delay in cutting power to this live line, the park became the scene of horror, ending these young boys’ lives.”

According to the lawsuit, Oncor uses interactive smart technology that provides real-time notification of disruptions. Yet the company failed to address line problems in the park until after the tragedy. Even then, it took Oncor workers an hour to arrive on the scene to cut power so that emergency personnel could reach the Lopez brothers.

The lawsuit is Alejandro Luis Lopez, Tammy Brooks, and Ana Lopez as Personal Representative of the Estates of Jose Alexandro Luis Lopez and Isaiah Alexander Luis Lopez v. Oncor Electric Delivery Company, LLC, in Dallas County.

For more information or to set up an interview, contact Mark Annick at 800-559-4534 or

by Androvett Legal Media & Marketing at 12:30:00 pm

It was a mistake and a bad one. In responding to a subpoena for information, a lawyer for Wells Fargo inadvertently sent the opposing attorney in a lawsuit a disc filled with confidential information, including Social Security numbers, for 50,000 of the bank’s wealthiest clients. This embarrassing and damaging error came to light in a New York Times article.

Telling the media is not the appropriate way to handle such a transgression, says Houston trial lawyer John Zavitsanos of Ahmad, Zavitsanos, Anaipakos, Alavi & Mensing P.C. or AZA, who has tried more than 75 cases to verdict. Normally, the recipient of the material would return it to the sender, understanding that mistakes like this happen sometimes, he said.

Instead, this may boomerang on the people who publicized the breach, and they may get in trouble for it. Most judges are human beings and understand mistakes – and they don’t like gotchas.

Also, many states have snapback procedures whereby if you inadvertently turn over privileged information, you can retrieve it and say it was inadvertently produced. Until that privilege is determined, the receiving party can’t hold onto it. There are a slew of states that have provisions like that. And even if this involved a state without a snapback rule, the other side can file a motion to protect their confidential information.

“Of course, if Wells Fargo is unsuccessful in retrieving the information, its law firm may be subject to claims and penalties. Usually you come up with a set of protocols to prevent this from happening. However, every lawyer with an active litigation practice has produced something in error at some point. You call the other side and ask them to return it. We’ve all been there.”

For more information or to set up an interview, contact Kit Frieden at 800-559-4534 or

by Androvett Legal Media & Marketing at 5:05:00 pm

Dallas Cowboys star running back Ezekiel Elliott is accused of punching a man at a popular Dallas bar Sunday night. Police have not arrested anyone tied to the bar brawl, but sources claim Elliott hit the man. This latest incident comes as the NFL is reviewing a domestic violence allegation against the running back that happened a year ago and could suspend him in the upcoming season. Dallas attorney Rogge Dunn of Clouse Dunn says Sunday’s altercation doesn’t help Elliott’s case.

“The NFL can take action against players whose behavior doesn’t meet NFL conduct standards on and off the field. The NFL has strengthened its stance on matters relating to violence against women and domestic violence. Any behavior related to domestic violence places the player at risk. In addition, there may be good conduct provisions in the player’s contract that could lead to economic penalties. On top of that, this type of behavior affects a player’s reputation and reduces the chances of future endorsements.”

For more information or to set up an interview, contact Sophia Reza at 800-559-4534 or


by Androvett Legal Media & Marketing at 2:00:00 pm

Munck Wilson Mandala has solidified its place among the elite intellectual property firms in North Texas with the arrival of seven experienced lawyers from IP boutique Howison & Arnott LLP. Monday’s announcement sent ripples through the North Texas IP bar, where the two firms are already known for their sophisticated and client-centered IP work.

Writes Texas Lawbook: They are joining forces to create the third largest patent law practice and the largest patent law boutique in North Texas… With the addition of the Howison & Arnott lawyers, Munck Wilson boasts 27 registered patent attorneys, which is the third most in North Texas, behind full service corporate law firms Baker Botts (40) and Haynes and Boone (31).

The new arrivals include partners Gregory Howison, John Arnott, and Brian Walker, as well as senior counsels  Andrew Graham, Edward Jorgenson, and Steven Greenfield, and associate Keith Harden. More details on all seven attorneys here: 

“We have a strong vision about the future of patent law and the addition of Greg and his team positions our law firm as a powerhouse in IP law,” Munck Wilson Mandala Managing Partner William A. Munck told Texas Lawbook. “We will put our resources and expertise up against any law firm in Dallas.”

Howison agreed: “During the past few years, the IP law market in Dallas has changed significantly – the dynamics have changed – and this move makes the firm uniquely positioned to take advantage of those changes,” he said.

For more information, contact Shannon Tipton at 972-628-4500 or

by Androvett Legal Media & Marketing at 12:25:00 pm

President Trump’s pick to replace fired FBI Director James Comey goes before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday. While committee members are preparing a full day of tough questioning to reveal Christopher Wray’s character and positions on law enforcement, former high level Justice Department lawyer Bill Mateja says his former colleague is ideally suited to weather the turbulent and politically charged approval process.

“Chris Wray’s appointment should sail through with flying colors,” said Mr. Mateja, now a shareholder in Dallas-based Polsinelli P.C. and former Senior Counsel to U.S. Deputy Attorneys General Larry Thompson and James Comey in Washington, D.C., where he also served as point person for the President's Corporate Fraud Task Force. “He’s a superb and qualified candidate to run the FBI. He has a great moral compass and he’s no one’s minion. He has the experience, the smarts and the gravitas.

“He’s an odd choice in a way for President Trump because he has worked with and is cut from the same cloth as Jim Comey, who Trump fired as FBI director, and special counsel Robert Mueller, who Trump has attacked. All three strive to do the right thing. The public can rest easy that Chris will not be a lackey for Trump.

“Chris is a Republican but he doesn’t wear his politics on his sleeve. He keeps things close to his vest. He isn’t as colorful as Jim Comey. He takes a conservative approach. It’s not his nature to comment publicly if it can be avoided.”

For more information, contact Mary Flood at 800-559-4534 or

by Androvett Legal Media & Marketing at 1:41:00 pm

In another attempt to change the admissions process at the University of Texas at Austin, a group - led by a man who unsuccessfully sued the university previously over its admissions process - has filed a lawsuit claiming UT violates state law by using race and ethnic considerations as factors in its admissions. Edward Blum’s nonprofit organization, Students for Fair Admissions, says UT gives African-American and Hispanic candidates preference over white and Asian applicants. Lynn Pinker Cox & Hurst partner Shonn Brown says this latest attempt is a step backward. 

“The University of Texas still struggles to obtain a diverse student population. It proceeds under an admissions policy that has been upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court. Blum’s group and its actions seek to return to the ‘days of old’ and if put into place would likely take UT backwards in its attempts to utilize additional across-the-board process that assists in increasing diversity in the UT student population."

For more information or to set up an interview, contact Sophia Reza at 800-559-4534 or

by Androvett Legal Media & Marketing at 11:18:00 am


The health care bill the U.S. Senate is fine-tuning could have profound effects on elderly people who rely on nursing home care, says Houston-area elder law attorney Kelley Bentley of Roberts Markel Weinberg Butler Hailey PC. Ms. Bentley is Board Certified in Estate Planning and Probate Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization.

“The bill proposes large cuts to federal Medicaid support over several years with reliance on states to decide funding in the future. In Texas, nearly 70 percent of nursing home residents are enrolled in Medicaid.

“While many people may assume the program pays solely for health care for the poor, it also fills a gap for long-term care, including at-home and nursing home care for the elderly population. The cost of long-term care in the U.S. can be substantial and a serious drain on an individual’s assets. That includes middle-class retirees who sometimes have managed to save substantial assets. Some people simply outlive their savings for long-term care.

“Older people should take a hard look at their savings long before any health problems. Consider a long-term care savings plan or long-term care insurance and also talk to a lawyer about how to organize and protect assets. In Texas, long-term care Medicaid programs can provide a wide range of care, including nursing home, assisted living and at-home programs. The secret is to start to plan early, before the need arises as there are more options available for the preservation of assets. The goal is not necessarily to preserve assets for future generations, but to ensure that an individual (or married couple) has sufficient assets to cover any future long-term care needs.”

For more information or to set up an interview, contact Kit Frieden at 800-559-4534 or

by Androvett Legal Media & Marketing at 10:30:00 am

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously this week that the U.S. government cannot refuse to register trademark names that are potentially offensive, saying that would violate the First Amendment. The case, Matal v. Tam, involved an Asian-American musical group called The Slants. But it is a clear signal that the Washington Redskins will prevail in efforts to retain the NFL team’s name, the issue in another trademark lawsuit.

Will this ruling now unleash a host of nasty and offensive names for publicity-craving companies and organizations? Not likely, says Houston lawyer Steve Mitby of Ahmad, Zavitsanos, Anaipakos, Alavi & Mensing P.C., or AZA, who has handled a number of intellectual property cases.

This ruling is significant, but I wouldn’t expect it to lead to a wave of new outrageous trademark filings. It’s simply not that easy to register a trademark in the first place. The normal requirements – namely, that the mark be unique, non-confusing, and used in commerce – limit the ability of individuals to trademark insulting or derogatory words. Plus, trademark filers have to register under their own names. There are no anonymous trademarks. That should discourage those who might try to push the offensiveness envelope.”

For more information or to set up an interview, contact Kit Frieden at 800-559-4534 or

by Androvett Legal Media & Marketing at 8:30:00 am

The NBA Draft is tonight and while fans focus on their favorite team’s selections, the newest professional players and their lawyers will have more weighty concerns to address: employment contracts.

Dallas-based attorney Rogge Dunn, partner at Clouse Dunn, works with professional athletes and coaches including Basketball Hall of Fame Coach Larry Brown. Mr. Dunn says:

Athlete employment contracts are singularly unique in many ways. For example, compensation may be tied to a player’s performance metrics, such as shooting averages, games played or post-season awards, and are likely to be quite invasive on issues including the player’s weight, health issues and off-season activities. Also, unlike most employment contracts, they will likely contain morals clauses. 

However, so-called ‘guaranteed contracts’ protect most athletes in a way that most of us with employment contracts do not have, by guaranteeing their compensation even if an injury prevents them from playing. We should all be so lucky to have guarantees such as these. Most executive contracts terminate payments or force a leave of absence if you are disabled or can no longer do the job.

For more information or to set up an interview with Rogge Dunn, contact Holly Scimeca at 800-559-4534 or

by Androvett Legal Media & Marketing at 9:25:00 am

Two weeks before it was set to take effect, the Department of Education has stopped the implementation of a rule designed to hold for-profit colleges accountable for marketing claims about employment rates for graduates. Had the Borrower Defense to Repayment rule taken effect, for-profit colleges would have had to prove their programs led to the “gainful employment” of graduates or risk the loss of federal aid.

“There is no doubt that the student loan bubble may burst in the near future due to the crushing amount of student loan debt resulting from the skyrocketing costs of attendance combined with the limited availability of jobs upon graduation,” says Dallas bankruptcy attorney Aaron Gottlieb of Godwin Bowman & Martinez.

“However, some responsibility must still remain with the student loan borrower to carefully choose which colleges and programs to attend. If a for-profit school provides the student an education and degree for which the student paid tuition, then a ‘gainful employment’ requirement following graduation seems to be too broad a brush to wield in determining whether the for-profit school made a material misrepresentation.

“In fact, several lawsuits have been dismissed over the past five to 10 years on the basis of student borrowers’ reliance on publications such as U.S. News & World Report, which listed inaccurate employment rates of graduates. The courts have consistently considered this information mere ‘puffery,’ rather than any sort of guarantee. I fail to see the difference between touting ‘employment rates,’ and promising ‘gainful employment.’ They appear, from my perspective, to be one and the same.”

For more information or to set up an interview, contact Rhonda Reddick at 800-559-4534 or

by Androvett Legal Media & Marketing at 9:45:00 am


Texas lawyer Kent Sullivan, who helped build a potent state health care fraud unit as the No. 2 lawyer in the Texas Attorney General’s office, is convinced that more states will follow Mississippi and Ohio in suing to recover damages related to the opioid epidemic. Mr. Sullivan, now a partner in the Austin office of Jackson Walker LLP, says states wield “a huge hammer” over defendants through their tough anti-fraud laws.

“I expect a national trend, a significant wave of lawsuits against the companies and organizations connected with the spread of these powerful prescription drugs. States will be very tempted by the significant potential damages that may be awarded in court to try to recoup some of the costs of treatment.

“There is, of course, a way to successfully defend these cases, but at the beginning, state governments have a huge advantage under Medicaid fraud and consumer protection statutes. There is an easier burden of proof and enhanced damages available under these laws. Intent or negligence often is not required to prove liability. You have a huge hammer over these companies’ heads, and they can be at risk of losing more than actual damages. The damages are often multiplied if you’re found liable, and the states can often recover attorneys’ fees.

“As government health care has expanded, so have anti-fraud actions by states. These lawsuits are not part of the traditional private party litigation framework, where the burden of proof is higher. In many cases, the defendants consider settlement to avoid the significant risk and high cost of litigation. It is fairly unusual for these cases to go to trial but, as I often tell clients, the way to obtain the best settlement is to be totally ready for trial.”

Mr. Sullivan, a former appeals court judge, was chief deputy AG to then-Attorney General Greg Abbott and ramped up the state’s Civil Medicaid Fraud Division from four lawyers to over 40. In 2012, Texas won a $158 million settlement from Johnson & Johnson over its improper marketing of the anti-psychotic drug Risperdal to patients on Medicaid from 1994-2008. It was the largest Medicaid settlement in Texas history and is believed to be the first settlement paid at that time to any state in the nationwide litigation over Risperdal.

For more information or to set up an interview, contact Kit Frieden at 800-559-4534 or

by Androvett Legal Media & Marketing at 1:41:00 pm

In a new effort to compete with Amazon’s delivery system, Walmart says it plans to have store employees on their way home from work deliver online orders to customers. While it may make business sense, it also raises a host of legal questions, says Justin Markel, a Houston labor and employment lawyer with Roberts Markel Weinberg Butler Hailey PC.

First is determining how much to pay the employees for this extra work. The deliveries will be considered non-exempt under the Fair Labor Standards Act, so the employees will be entitled to overtime if this extra drive time puts them over 40 hours in a workweek. But how can Walmart be sure as to how long the deliveries actually take? If employees are required to electronically check in when deliveries are made, that may create an incentive to take the scenic route to the customer’s home. If, on the other hand, Walmart requires them to have GPS trackers, state law privacy concerns might arise. What about the extra gas and maintenance costs? Walmart should consider paying employees extra to ensure that these out-of-pocket expenses don’t cause them to fall below minimum wage.

“Then there are public safety issues. Walmart should look into the employees’ driving histories before asking them to make deliveries. According to news reports, Walmart will conduct background checks. That should be a comprehensive review. Criminal histories that might have been less relevant for certain non-interpersonal store jobs might be more relevant if an employee is sent to customers’ homes.

“Even with safe drivers on the road, accidents will be all but inevitable. If an employee is in an accident on the way to a customer’s house, the employee will likely be considered acting in the scope of employment. That will likely lead to vicarious liability on Walmart’s part. To protect against risk of claims from injured victims, it would be advisable for Walmart to discuss its non-owned auto insurance coverages with its insurance brokers.

“As Walmart tests this program, it will have to carefully navigate many legal issues. Time will tell whether the cost savings and efficiencies will outweigh the legal risks.”

For more information or to set up an interview, contact Kit Frieden at 800-559-4534 or

by Androvett Legal Media & Marketing at 9:30:00 am

A federal appellate court ruling last week resurrected a class-action lawsuit filed by a group of oilfield workers who say their employer failed to pay them the overtime they are entitled to under the law.

The Fifth Circuit opinion in Dewan v. MI LLC found that the overtime lawsuit filed by the employees of Schlumberger subsidiary M-I SWACO had been wrongly dismissed by a lower court. According to the opinion, jurors should ultimately determine whether the workers are allowed overtime pay under a series of tests spelled out in the Federal Labor Standards Act (FLSA).

Overtime lawsuits have spiked in recent years, particularly in the energy sector, and the Fifth Circuit ruling in this case should cause businesses to take a close look at their payroll practices and ensure that they are in compliance with the FLSA wage-and-hour guidelines, says employment law attorney Audrey Mross of Dallas’ Munck Wilson Mandala.

“The FLSA’s administrative exemption is routinely misapplied by employers, and this case is a wake-up call to businesses that use a loose interpretation of the ‘duties test’ in order to obtain the desired outcome of exempt status,” said Ms. Mross.

“Employers may have breathed a sigh of relief when the planned December 2016 doubling of the minimum salary for most FLSA white-collar exemptions was put on hold via an injunction. And they may be assuming that agency enforcement of FLSA classification will wane as the DOL faces a 20 percent cut in its annual budget under the new Trump administration. But this case is a good reminder that individuals and groups of employees can still file lawsuits and the judiciary will hear their plea. The biggest take-away here is that these FLSA classification disputes may not be resolved via summary judgment, meaning employers leave their fate in the hands of a jury, who are often pre-disposed to favor employees in these types of cases.”

For more information, please contact Robert Tharp at 800-559-4534 or

by Androvett Legal Media & Marketing at 10:00:00 am

A new Texas “sanctuary cities" ban set to take effect Sept. 1 orders cities and counties not to stop law officers from asking about the immigration status of anyone they detain. It also would punish police chiefs, sheriffs and constables who fail to abide by the law or fail to comply with federal immigration detainer requests.

On Tuesday, the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas warned visitors that their constitutional rights could be violated when they’re in the state. A federal lawsuit has already been filed in San Antonio. On the other side, Attorney General Ken Paxton has also filed suit, asking a federal judge pre-emptively to uphold the constitutionality of the law.

Dallas attorney David Coale of Lynn Pinker Cox & Hurst, a trial and appellate lawyer, says the new law is vulnerable.

“States and cities can't be made to enforce federal law because of the 10th Amendment and federal preemption of immigration law. Period. Farmers Branch and Irving, Texas, went through similar issues several years ago with their local laws about immigration. A state law that tries to make cities enforce federal law is just as problematic. 

“Procedurally, I expect the plaintiffs in the San Antonio case to seek some kind of temporary restraining order or preliminary injunction to enjoin the law. On both sides, you have to separate the policy from the law. Both sides have points about the importance of immigration enforcement, on the one hand, and local control over local law enforcement, on the other. The legal question, though, is about the structure of our government, which is defined by the Constitution.”  

For more information or to set up an interview, contact Sophia Reza at 800-559-4534 or




by Androvett Legal Media & Marketing at 9:31:00 am


Unhappy with his boss and former friend’s close association with the Trump administration, David Magerman aired his concerns about Renaissance Technologies President Robert Mercer in a February interview with the Wall Street Journal. Although the hedge fund’s legal department had assured the research scientist that his interview would not violate company policy, Mr. Magerman was fired shortly after publication of the article, which labeled Mr. Mercer a racist.

The former partner is now fighting back with a wrongful termination lawsuit, which should serve as a cautionary tale for all companies, says Dallas labor and employment attorney Leiza Dolghih of Godwin Bowman & Martinez.

“It is important for a company to establish and enforce clear rules on media interaction, particularly in situations such as this where you have high profile leadership or there is a potential for controversy. Here you had an employee who claimed that the Chief Compliance Officer orally told him that his interview was authorized,” she says. “No matter how respected he may have been at the firm, Magerman was known to have divergent views that were likely to be explored during the course of the interview. Even in instances where an employee is allowed to talk with the media, you cannot give them blanket assurances about repercussions.”

For more information or to set up an interview, contact Rhonda Reddick at 800-559-4534 or

by Androvett Legal Media & Marketing at 11:25:00 am

Time off or overtime pay? Many employees who work extra hours have had that option for years. On Tuesday, the U.S. House passed a bill that would allow more employers to offer compensatory time off instead of overtime wages if the employee agrees. It’s unclear if the bill will make it through the Senate since many Democrats argue it could weaken worker protections.

Houston labor and employment lawyer Marlene Williams of Jackson Walker LLP says: “This bill simply amends the Fair Labor Standards Act so that private employers are allowed the same flexibility that public employers have had since 1985.

“Many companies, especially those in the energy sector with boom and bust cycles, would find this appealing to help manage labor costs. And the bill protects workers because the receipt of comp time in place of cash wages must be a voluntary choice. Given the increasing demands on family schedules, many employees these days prefer time off when offered as an alternative to cash wages for overtime hours.

“This proposal comes as we are waiting to see the outcome of a court challenge to an Obama administration rule that would expand overtime eligibility to higher-paid workers. Many companies have already adopted that rule, giving workers raises so that their salaries allow them to be exempt from overtime. It seems unlikely that larger employers would take back those salary increases now, no matter what the court rules.” 

For more information or to set up an interview, contact Kit Frieden at 800-559-4534 or




by Androvett Legal Media & Marketing at 10:01:00 am

Plano attorney Jason Van Dyke was all set to begin a new chapter of his legal career as an assistant district attorney in Victoria County. So he was startled to receive notice that the District Attorney’s office had rescinded its job offer with no explanation. Mr. Van Dyke speculates the reversal could be related to media coverage of a Twitter exchange he had involving a case he was working on in 2014. He has since filed suit seeking answers from Victoria County, and Dallas labor and employment attorney Leiza Dolghih of Godwin Bowman & Martinez says this is a cautionary tale for both employers and job-seekers.

“Many employers these days Google prospective hires and look them up on social media for any evidence of red flags that indicate that the applicant may be violent, unethical, unstable or simply have bad judgment. These behind-the-scenes, informal background checks often result in rejection, or even withdrawal, of a job offer,” she says.

While a Texas employer may reject a prospective candidate for a myriad of reasons, including social media activity, a prospective employee cannot be rejected on the basis of race, gender, religion, age or other protective categories – information that can often be gleaned from social media. If a candidate can show that a job rejection was based on information protected under employment law, there could be basis for a claim of discrimination.

“However, in this case, if the employer discovered what they considered unsavory comments, or possible evidence of poor judgment or lack of self-control, after offering Mr. Van Dyke a job, the withdrawal of that offer based on the newly discovered information, would be acceptable,” says Ms. Dolghih. “While everyone has the right to speak their mind freely, that speech may result in rather harsh consequences in terms of employment.”

For more information or to set up an interview, contact Rhonda Reddick at 800-559-4534 or

by Anrovett Legal Media & Marketing at 8:01:00 am

The bitter child custody trial pitting high-profile internet radio host Alex Jones against his ex-wife has begun in an Austin courtroom. Mr. Jones’ attorneys are arguing that the angry, volatile personality evident from his Infowars website and radio show is “performance art” and doesn’t reflect his fitness as a parent.

“It’s going to be a fascinating tightrope for him to walk because the jury will have to decide who is the real Alex Jones,” says Austin-based Weisbart Springer Hayes attorney Geoff Weisbart, who is closely following the case. “He may be in a bit of a lose-lose situation because, if successful at trial, that defense could ultimately damage his credibility with his core audience. That’s obviously a risk he’s willing to take.”

Mr. Weisbart also notes the court of Judge Orlinda Naranjo is one of the few in the state that allows jurors to submit questions to the witnesses as a part of their testimony. “While the judge has made it clear that the focus is going to be on the best interests of the three children involved, it will be fascinating to see what questions the members of the jury have for Mr. Jones.”

For more information or to set up an interview, contact Barry Pound at 800-559-4534 or

by Androvett Legal Media & Marketing at 2:54:00 pm

Trial lawyer Mark Lanier was not looking for new cases when two Idaho attorneys called him earlier this year with an appeal to what he described as his “core sense of right and wrong.” The always-busy Houston lawyer recently earned a $1 billion  product liability verdict against J&J and is gearing up for numerous other trials. But when he heard more about the case involving Antwon McDaniel, a developmentally disabled teen who was bullied and raped at a rural Idaho high school, the decision to join the legal team was an easy one.

“It’s outrageous. It’s horrible,” Mr. Lanier told the Magic Valley Times-News. “As a lawyer, if I can help in a case like this and I don’t, they ought to take away my bar card.”

The federal lawsuit, filed last year, claims that the individually named school board trustees, administrators, teachers and coaches of the Dietrich School District chose to ignore the ongoing physical and mental abuse being suffered by Antwon McDaniel, effectively depriving him of his constitutional rights. The racially motivated violence inflicted on the now 19-year-old Mr. McDaniel, who is black, included anal rape with a coat hanger by several white football teammates in 2015. Criminal cases stemming from the locker room attack have all been resolved, but the civil lawsuit seeking $10 million is ongoing, with the next hearing set for May 9. Trial dates have not yet been scheduled.

Mr. Lanier described his decision to join the lawsuit in an interview with the Times-News:

“My goal is to make sure no student in Idaho or anywhere else has this problem again,” [Mr. Lanier] said. “We need to do something to protect our children who don’t fit in, aren’t the right color, aren’t the right religion and don’t fit that model profile. There’s a chance to do something here.”

There were three main motivating factors, Mr. Lanier said. The need for the school district to be responsible; the “egregiousness of it all”; and because he “cares deeply about racial issues.”

“America is at a place where we have to find a way to be accepting of people of different race, religion, gender, or even political affiliation,” Mr. Lanier said.


For more information or to set up an interview with Mark Lanier, contact Robert Tharp at 800-559-4534 or  

by Androvett Legal Media & Marketing at 1:25:00 pm

One day after a Harris County law enforcement officer was ambushed and shot to death in a Houston suburb, the county’s former district attorney was placed under armed guard. The slain peace officer, Clint Greenwood, had told county officials a week earlier that he felt threatened by a man he had targeted in a corruption investigation while working in the DA’s office. Now officials are concerned about the safety of former DA Devon Anderson, who previously headed the Harris County public integrity unit.

Former U.S. prosecutor Philip Hilder, now a white-collar defense lawyer at Hilder & Associates, P.C., offered this perspective:

“In the context of the heavy caseloads and often dangerous people that prosecutors handle, threats to these public servants are relatively rare. But when they do occur, they are treated with the utmost seriousness. Usually, the full weight of law enforcement ensures an aggressive investigation and the prosecution of those responsible. There is no other option. Allowing prosecutors and judges to be intimidated would be the first step to the collapse of our legal system.”

For more information, contact Kit Frieden at 713-383-0090 or


by Androvett Legal Media & Marketing at 3:50:00 pm

A Dallas County jury found there was “clearly and convincing evidence” that Bell Helicopter Textron, Inc. was “grossly negligent” in exposing longtime engineer Billy Dickson to asbestos. (File photo)

A Dallas County jury found there was “clearly and convincing evidence” that Bell Helicopter Textron, Inc. was “grossly negligent” in exposing longtime engineer Billy Dickson to asbestos. (File photo)

 Twelve years after retiring from the only professional job he’d ever had, a routine medical exam revealed nodules on Billy Dickson’s lungs. The next exam confirmed the worst: mesothelioma — the deadly cancer caused by inhaling asbestos fibers.

For persons older than 25, malignant mesothelioma was listed as the underlying or contributing cause on more than 45,000 death certificates in the U.S. from 1999 to 2015, according to a recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Mr. Dickson, a resident of Hurst, Texas, lost his battle Dec. 13, 2013. He was 74.

Earlier this week, a Dallas County jury found there was “clearly and convincing evidence” that Bell Helicopter Textron Inc. (TXT), Mr. Dickson’s employer for 38 years, was “grossly negligent” in exposing the longtime mechanical engineer to asbestos.

“There was not a company-based respiratory protection policy in place during the time of Billy’s exposure,” said the Dickson’s attorney Darren McDowell of Dallas-based Simon Greenstone Panatier Bartlett P.C. “Asbestos air concentrations were so high that Mr. Dickson often found himself surrounded in clouds of asbestos dust. “It was an ungodly amount of asbestos exposure.”

The family’s lawsuit, which was filed the year before his death, was bittersweet for Mr. Dickson.

“He was a mentor and inspiration to numerous engineers over the years,” his family wrote in his obituary. According to the United States Patent and Trademark Office, Mr. Dickson and a colleague invented a landing gear load transducer for the aerospace company in 1987.

“For Bell to have a total lack of regard for asbestos danger was absolutely heartbreaking to him,” Mr. McDowell said.

The jury awarded Mr. Dickson’s widow and three children $1 million for their loss and $7.8 million as punishment to Bell.

For more information or to set up an interview, contact Mark Annick at 214-559-4630 or

by Androvett Legal Media & Marketing at 10:18:00 am

Bold stripe patterns and other decorative elements on cheerleading uniforms can be protected by copyright law, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled Wednesday in a closely watched case that has implications for the fashion industry’s ongoing efforts to police counterfeit merchandise. The high court sided with Varsity Brands in a dispute with rival Star Athletica, finding that while the basic functional design of a uniform cannot be protected, Varsity’s copyrights for specific decorative patterns are valid. The opinion helps clarify a long-running debate over a manufacturer’s ability to protect products from knock-offs by copyrighting ornamental designs.

“The fashion and apparel industry is doing everything it can to combat counterfeiting, and this opinion provides the industry with another tool,” says intellectual property lawyer Amanda Greenspon of Dallas’ Munck Wilson Mandala. “Copyright enforcement will remain subjective and determined on a case-by-case basis, but this ruling will spur companies to obtain copyright protection of their work to discourage competitors with the threat of monetary damages.”

To speak with Amanda Greenspon, contact Robert Tharp at 214-559-4534 or

by Androvett Legal Media & Marketing at 2:31:00 pm

A Democrat and Republican have introduced legislation that would reform Texas grand juries and require prosecutors to share evidence that could help defendants. State Rep. Senfronia Thompson, a Democrat from Houston, and Lakeway Sen. Dawn Buckingham, a Republican, have filed similar bills in the House and Senate that they say would lead to fairer treatment of those accused of crimes.

Houston white-collar defense lawyer Philip Hilder, a former federal prosecutor and founder of Hilder & Associates, P.C., agrees:

“The proposed grand jury reform legislation would go a long way toward protecting the rights of citizens and promoting fairness in the criminal justice system. Currently, the old saying stands that a prosecutor ‘can get a ham sandwich indicted.’

“If this legislation becomes law, grand jurors will be able to receive a more balanced presentation in which to evaluate whether to indict someone. The bills provide for the presentation of evidence favorable to the accused, something that is not currently mandated. Additionally, the defendant will be allowed to have an attorney present during questioning, again not currently allowed. This provision alone levels the playing field and turns a possible inquisition into a fairer proceeding.

“Finally, the legislation prevents prosecutors from shopping a case to a second grand jury should the initial grand jury decline to indict. This too will promote fairness by halting the practice of seeking indictment a previous grand jury finds no probable cause to indict. In sum, this is a terrific piece of legislation that would even the playing field.”

 For more information or to set up an interview, contact Mary Flood at 713 383-0090 or


by Androvett Legal Media & Marketing at 11:52:00 am

A Dallas attorney says Texas may have to ask for permission to change election laws after a panel of federal judges ruled the maps drawn for three congressional districts violate federal statutes.

The judges found the maps used for the congressional districts covering parts of South and West Texas intentionally discriminated against minority voters by either violating the U.S. Constitution or the Voting Rights Act.

Constitutional law attorney David Coale of Lynn Pinker Cox & Hurst says the decision means that Texas may face a rare remedy referred to as a “bail-in,” which could lead to requiring prior federal approval of any changes to district lines.

“The issue here is not so much what the court said about these districts, since none of them were actually used in an election. It's whether Texas' process for drawing districts was so flawed that the federal government has to take over.”

Texas can appeal the ruling before early May, but that will mean more uncertainty and added delay to an already complicated case, adds Mr. Coale.

For more information or to interview David Coale, contact Sophia Reza 214-559-4630 or


by Androvett Legal Media & Marketing at 10:25:00 am

Having appeared as counsel of record in more than 800 cases in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas and having served as the chairman of the Eastern District’s Local Rules Advisory Committee for nine years, few attorneys have the same insights to the East Texas “rocket docket” as Michael Smith of Siebman, Burg, Phillips & Smith, LLP. His legal analysis is the foundation of the recently updated Eastern District of Texas Blog – considered by many as the “go-to” news source for patent litigation work originating from Marshall, Texas.

In addition to the invaluable free content that readers have come to depend upon, the blog now also offers a subscription service that allows readers to dig deeper, providing more detailed analysis of the judges, the cases and the verdicts in the Eastern District.

“I wanted to provide more substantial analysis to those in the blog’s audience that might want more than just an overview of the Eastern District,” says Mr. Smith. “It involves a personal connection to those that have invested in the content and the blog.”

For years, the Eastern District of Texas Blog has provided readers a trove of free information, unavailable elsewhere, about case filings and court rulings, as well as insights into courtroom preferences of Eastern District judges and their staff members. The blog has an estimated daily readership of close to 1,000 people.

For more information or to set up an interview, contact Sophia Reza at 214-559-4630 or


by Androvett Legal Media & Marketing at 11:38:00 am

Bus crash victims Kenneth and Peggy Hoffman were retired longtime educators in Lockhart, Texas. (Courtesy: Lockhart ISD)

Bus crash victims Kenneth and Peggy Hoffman were retired longtime educators in Lockhart, Texas. (Courtesy: Lockhart ISD)

A Texas woman is suing a railroad and bus company for the death of her father who was killed when a freight train slammed into the tour bus carrying him and other senior citizens.

Kenneth Hoffman, 82, wife wife, Peggy, and two other people died in the March 7 accident in Biloxi, Mississippi. The bus was headed from a Bastrop, Texas, senior center to Boomtown Casino in Biloxi. The charter bus got stuck at a train crossing known to be hazardous for long vehicles and marked with a warning sign.

The lawsuit was filed March 10 in Dallas County State District Court on behalf of Mr. Hoffman’s daughter Kimberly Chapman of Lockhart, Texas. Defendants include Echo Tours and Charters and CSX Transportation Inc. among others. Representing Ms. Chapman is Houston lawyer Larry Wilson of Lanier Law Firm, one of the country’s premiere personal injury firms. Mr. Wilson, who specializes in transportation accidents, says:

“This tragedy should have never happened. It’s horrifying that a charter bus would ignore a warning sign and get high-centered on the tracks. CSX could have implemented policies relating to speed and procedures that greatly reduced the risk of a catastrophe like this.”

The case is Kimberly Kay Chapman v. Echo Tours and Charters, LT DBA Echo Transportation; TBL Group Inc.; Diamond Tours Inc. and CSX Transportation, Inc., Case DC-17-02924, filed in Dallas County District Court. 

For more information, please contact Mark Annick at 800-559-4534 or

by Androvett Legal Media & Marketing at 10:22:00 am

A Travis County jury has returned a verdict against Chicago Title of Texas, LLC and other real estate-related businesses, finding they defrauded a young Danish woman of all proceeds from the sale of her $1.35 million condominium at the exclusive Residences at W Austin.

The scheme involved a falsified power of attorney to execute contracts and closing documents in the sale of the condo, and a forgery in connection with a subsequent sale of a promissory note.

Mari-Louise Larsen, a Danish citizen, filed the breach of fiduciary duty and fraud claim in 2013 against her estranged husband, Andre Jones, an Austin-area resident, as well as Chicago Title and the other firms. Ms. Larsen, now 30, first met Mr. Jones in Austin’s Sixth Street entertainment district while visiting the area in 2007. After a long-distance courtship, the couple married in Denmark in 2009.

While in Denmark and waiting to move to Austin, Ms. Larsen testified she agreed to buy the luxury high-rise condo in Austin with funds from a family inheritance. However, Mr. Jones convinced her that Texas law required the names of both spouses to be on the title, despite the fact it was her separate property. Ms. Larsen and Mr. Jones later decided to divorce and sell the property. Mr. Jones then convinced Chicago Title’s contracted fee attorney, Wally Tingley, to use falsely notarized documents to close the sale without his wife’s knowledge. Mr. Jones pocketed all of the profits as the marriage deteriorated.

“This is a case of a con artist taking advantage of a wealthy young woman and actively working with others to violate the law and professional standards in the real estate industry,” said Ms. Larsen’s lawyer, Brian N. Hail of Gruber Elrod Johansen Hail Shank LLP in Dallas. “As acknowledged by Chicago Title and its fee attorney, this was one of the worst real estate transactions anyone has ever seen.” 

Mr. Hail believes the jury’s finding that Chicago Title is responsible for its fee attorney’s actions may have significant implications on future litigation involving the real estate industry. 

“The jury finding that Chicago Title is vicariously liable for its fee attorney, due to the control it exerted throughout the entire transaction, may call into question the company’s entire business model of attempting to delegate closing and escrow responsibilities in the Texas market, and perhaps nationwide.”

In addition to Chicago Title and Mr. Jones, the Austin firm of Wally Tingley & Associates, P.C., and Austin-based JTREO, Inc. were found liable in the scheme.

Mr. Hail plans to file a proposed final judgment order of more than $3.7 million in Travis County’s 419th District Court. The order will be based on a request for all proceeds from the condo sale, in addition to pre-judgment interest and costs.  Punitive damages were assessed against Mr. Jones in the amount of $2 million.

The case is Larsen v. Jones, et al., No. D-1-GN-13-004321.  Ms. Larsen is represented by Brian N. Hail, Brian E. Mason, and Gaby Gutierrez Rawlings.

For more information on the verdict, contact Barry Pound at 800-559-4534 or

by Androvett Legal Media & Marketing at 9:25:00 am

A fired Georgia-Pacific system administrator who remotely accessed the company computer system to upload malware, causing $1.1 million in damages, has been sentenced to 34 months in prison.

The case was prosecuted in Louisiana by the U.S. Attorney’s Office under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA), which allows for both civil and criminal charges for those accused of hacking. The law applies to former employees who log into employer's system after they had been terminated, says business and employment litigator Elisaveta “Leiza” Dolghih of the Dallas office of Godwin Bowman & Martinez.

“A disgruntled former employee who finds his way into an employer's computer system either to steal confidential information or to damage the system is subject to civil and criminal penalties,” she says. 

“Proving intent behind the unauthorized access, as well as the scope of the authorized access, is often difficult, as the employee will often deny and present seemingly plausible explanations. The key to success in CFAA cases is to have a qualified forensic team ready to go in and catch the ex-employee red-handed when suspicious activity is detected.”

For more information or to set up an interview, contact Rhonda Reddick at 800-559-4534 or


by Androvett Legal Media & Marketing at 9:17:00 am

The Texas Supreme Court just made it easier for citizens to fend off meritless lawsuits attacking them for what they said or wrote.

The ruling on Feb. 24 opened the door for fast dismissals of defamation and disparagement lawsuits far beyond the context of political speech covered under Texas Citizens Participation Act, says Houston lawyer Adam Milasincic of Ahmad, Zavitsanos, Anaipakos, Alavi & Mensing P.C. or AZA. That law was designed to protect Texans from lawsuits filed primarily to keep them from speaking out on matters of “public concern.”

The Supreme Court case involved notes by an ExxonMobil Pipeline Co. supervisor who detailed how an employee missed a critical safety check of a fuel storage tank. The employee was fired. He sued for defamation, citing the notes made about his work. In ExxonMobil Pipeline Co. v. Coleman, the Supreme Court ruled for ExxonMobil which had argued the matter involved a “public concern” because of health, safety and environmental risks, Mr. Milasincic said.

“In the wake of the ExxonMobil decision, almost every defamation claim in Texas is subject to this procedure that can stop a case in its tracks very early. The real strength of the law comes from provisions allowing defendants to win attorneys’ fees and damages designed to deter future baseless lawsuits.

“Texas has one of the broadest statutes against so-called strategic lawsuits against public participation (SLAPP). It was originally designed mainly to protect political speech and activists on either side of an issue. Now it will protect folks who aren’t necessarily all that political but who speak about any old thing that someone else might arguably care about.”

Mr. Milasincic has won two highly publicized anti-SLAPP rulings, one just last week against Landry’s Inc. which sued an animal welfare group over its statements about the treatment of four white tigers caged at the Landry’s-owned aquarium in Houston. That lawsuit was tossed out by a Harris County judge, and Landry’s was ordered to pay $624,000 for filing the frivolous lawsuit.

For more information or to set up an interview, contact Mary Flood at 800-559-4534 or

by Androvett Legal Media & Marketing at 10:07:00 am

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled last week that the right to videotape the police is protected under the First Amendment. In this case, the Fort Worth police handcuffed and detained Phillip Driver in 2015 for taking video of the police station from the public sidewalk.

In Turner v. Driver the court, whose rulings cover Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi, noted that gathering information about government officials in a form that can readily be disseminated to others serves a cardinal First Amendment interest in protecting and promoting “the free discussion of governmental affairs.”

“This case declares the importance of filming police activities by acknowledging the public’s ability to hold the police accountable and not to abuse their power,” says Houston lawyer Philip Hilder, a former federal prosecutor, founder of Hilder & Associates P.C. and who also serves on the City of Houston Independent Police Oversight Board.

“The Court also notes the importance of the citizen’s role, in that a recording may corroborate probable cause or even exonerate the police if they are charged with wrongdoing. Bottom line, this reinforces that citizens have a constitutional right to record the police subject only to reasonable time, place and manner restrictions.”   

With this ruling, Mr. Driver will be allowed to pursue his Fourth Amendment claim against the police because his right against unlawful arrest was clearly defined at the time. Though this decision makes a First Amendment claim available going forward, the appellate court said Mr. Driver won’t get a trial on that right. The court said at the time of the 2015 arrest, the First Amendment right to video the police had not yet been legally established.

For more information contact Mary Flood at or 800-559-4534.

by Androvett Legal Media & Marketing at 12:00:00 am

Dramatic video showing Harrison Ford’s near miss of a passenger airliner as he landed his private plane on a taxiway at California’s John Wayne Airport earlier this month has renewed safety concerns over the incident. However, Dallas aviation attorney Greg Reigel of Shackelford, Bowen, McKinley & Norton, LLP, said he expects the Federal Aviation Administration investigation is likely to find the scare was an honest mistake rather than a more serious safety concern.

“If the investigation shows that Mr. Ford’s actions were inadvertent, then it is likely that the FAA will handle the incident as a ‘compliance action’ which addresses incidents that occur because of flawed procedures, simple mistakes, lack of understanding, or diminished skills,” says Mr. Reigel. “If the FAA determines that was the cause of the incident, then the FAA will resolve the situation through counseling or remedial training, rather than legal enforcement action.

“However, if the investigation reveals that the incident resulted from a lack of competence or qualification, then the FAA could require Mr. Ford to submit to re-examination or remedial training, or it could suspend or revoke his airman certificate. But based on the initial limited information available, it does not appear that his competence or qualifications were factors in the incident.”

For more information or to set up an interview, contact Rhonda Reddick at 800-559-4534 or

by Androvett Legal Media & Marketing at 11:00:00 am

Republican control in the White House, House and Senate may give new life to trucking industry proponents and their agendas. Lawmakers are expected to establish a new standard under the Trump presidency, which will cover hours on the road, increased weight limits and length of double trailer combinations.

Listen to Dallas attorney Peyton Inge of Chamblee Ryan Kershaw & Anderson, who represents trucking companies, comment on the impact of the restrictions.

In our December blog, we noted Republican lawmakers in Congress effectively suspended the Obama administration’s tight restrictions on work hours and rest breaks for the nation’s interstate truckers.

Inge says some restrictions needed to be loosened:

The industry has found that the restrictions during the past few years actually increased the risk of accidents by forcing more trucks onto the road during rush-hour periods, leading to increased congestion and road safety risks. We’ve also seen that increased regulations have disproportionately affected smaller trucking companies, and that rolling back regulations historically can allow these companies to expand while reducing costs to the consumer.  This change should also allow individual drivers and their employers greater flexibility in setting off-duty time, rest periods and overall business operations.”

For more information or to set up an interview, contact Barry Pound at 800-559-4534 or

by Androvett Legal Media & Marketing at 2:27:00 pm

My Other Bag sells inexpensive canvas tote bags that are obvious parodies of pricey designer bags. Luxury handbag maker Louis Vuitton doesn’t get the joke. The company filed a trademark infringement suit in New York that was tossed out because the judge said it was clear the canvas bag wasn’t a typical knockoff copy. Earlier this week, an appeals court judge said he wouldn’t reconsider that decision.

Chris Schwegmann, an intellectual property partner at Dallas-based Lynn Pinker Cox Hurst, agrees Louis Vuitton missed the joke:

“This case is very different from most counterfeit litigation. Just by looking at them, the products sold by My Other Bag are clearly not Louis Vuitton bags. That is part of the joke.

“This is lawsuit is a cautionary tale that trademark holders need to pick and choose their targets carefully. Sometimes by suing, you bring more attention to the alleged infringer, and in this case, it seems that Louis Vuitton is the butt of the joke. There are several examples of trademark holders sending silly cease and desist letters, only to have the action backfire on them in a very public way.”

For more information contact Holly Scimeca at or 800-559-4534.

by Androvett Legal Media & Marketing at 10:17:00 am

A bill in the Texas House seeks to end regulations that require nurse practitioners to contract with doctors in order to treat and write prescriptions. The proposal, HB1415, would finally give nurse practitioners (NPs) in Texas the freedom and flexibility they have been seeking for decades. It also would cut costs for both patients and providers, according to attorney Bill Hopkins of the Austin office of Shackelford, Bowen, McKinley & Norton, LLP.

“From the start, there has been a fundamental tension between their role and the role of the physician in the health care setting,” says Mr. Hopkins, who advises both individual and institutional health care providers on matters involving administrative law, regulatory defense and litigation. “No one has ever questioned that the physician is at the top of the pyramid. But over the years there has been some question as to whether there was some room at the top for the nurse practitioner who can drastically improve access to care.”

Currently NPs must complete four years of nursing school and two years in a graduate-level training program. Although they are regulated by both the Texas Board of Nursing and the Texas Medical Board, the belief is that they still need a doctor to supervise – even if the physician is not physically present and does not even see the patient, says Mr. Hopkins. Similar regulations have been rolled back in other states, with no evidence of increased safety issues. In fact, he says, in some studies, nurse practitioner safety has ranked as high or higher than doctor care.

“For many years, NPs have argued that their knowledge, ability and training were more than sufficient to allow them to practice independently, care for patients and ensure safety,” he says. “The justification for charging NPs for this ‘supervision’ traditionally has been that it is a necessary cost to ensure patient safety. But thanks to the Affordable Care Act, there are more people with insurance than ever before and access has become a primary concern. With the safety argument becoming less relevant and calls for better access getting louder, it looks like this may be the time for NPs to finally get the independence that they have sought.”

For more information, contact Rhonda Reddick at 800-559-4534 or

by Androvett Legal Media & Marketing at 9:38:00 am

The executive orders from the Trump administration have inspired a remarkable sea change in the way some folks view lawyers. Accustomed to being the butt of jokes about sharks, liars, jellyfish etc., lawyers are garnering praise as they defend immigrants, fight sanctuary city bans, sue over the emoluments clause and work against the border wall. Attorneys are giving the profession a good name in some mainstream and liberal circles.

There’s a meme going around Facebook that says, “Hug a lawyer today. They are now first responders.” The legal press has noted that at Dulles Airport recently a crowd chanted, “Thank you lawyers! Thank you lawyers!” And a national left wing magazine editorial wrote: “If you want to be a rock star in Trump’s America, go to law school.” Of course it’s not the supporters of the new president who likely feel this way. NBC News has counted 50 lawsuits filed against the new administration in just the first two weeks since the inauguration. And some lawyers will make lots of money in litigation over these and other new policies as the Trump White House reverses course on multiple regulations.

“These are trying times and it’s fascinating to see one of the side effects of Trump’s policies is lawyers gaining public respect and praise. They say you never like lawyers until you need one. This is likely happening because a lot of us need one right now,” says Houston lawyer Philip Hilder, a former federal prosecutor and founder of Hilder & Associates P.C.

“I expect there to be an enormous amount of litigation to be filed in coming weeks and months as the administration unravels protections for the environment, consumers, immigration and more. Policy changes alone are not driving the awakening of legal action, but the general perception that civil liberties and rights are being jeopardized,” Mr. Hilder said.

Lawyers all know about Shakespeare’s praise for the profession in Henry VI when he had a power-hungry character say, “The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers” to disrupt law and order. But attorneys are more used to average folks joking about getting rid of lawyers than agreeing with Shakespeare.

For more information contact Mary Flood at or 800-559-4534.

by Androvett Legal Media & Marketing at 10:48:00 am

A Dallas attorney who represents former Baylor University Title IX coordinator Patty Crawford and three other former Baylor employees against the university is taking issue with the school’s new legal strategy. On Thursday, three Baylor regents filed a 54-page response in defense of a libel lawsuit filed by former Baylor athletic department administrator Colin Shillinglaw. In the filing the regents detail accusations against the plaintiff and include damaging texts between former football coach Art Briles and other athletic department officials.

But Rogge Dunn of Clouse Dunn LLP says the regents’ response is another misstep by the university’s leadership in an effort to justify its own failures:

“I find it sad that it took a lawsuit by Shillinglaw to cause Baylor to release Briles’ incriminating texts. Baylor is releasing information only when it’s in Baylor’s strategic advantage to do so, and will never have credibility until the university is transparent for transparency’s sake. Baylor’s regents and top administrators continue to deny their own culpability and responsibilities in this scandal and should not withhold documents and other information to release only as weapons in lawsuits. In detailing Briles’ texts and reports of sexual assaults and other misconduct involving football players, the filing only vaguely alludes to the Title IX compliance shortcomings Baylor was experiencing on a larger scale.”

The regents claim that Shillinglaw, Briles and others on the football staff downplayed sexual assault allegations and other wrongdoing involving football players, and attempted to protect the players while showing little concern for the law or potential victims.

For more information, contact Mark Annick at 800-559-4534 or

by Androvett Legal Media & Marketing at 10:25:00 am

Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch, a federal appeals court judge, is expected to face intense scrutiny over the politically incendiary topics of abortion and gun rights during confirmation hearings. However, Dallas media lawyer Shannon Teicher  of Jackson Walker LLP suggests that the nominee’s record on the First Amendment is also vitally important given the new administration’s already strained relationship with the press. Ms. Teicher says she is “cautiously optimistic that he would be favorable on free speech issues before the court.”

“There is not a lot of case history involving Judge Gorsuch related to First Amendment issues, but it is important to look at what there is to find,” says Ms. Teicher. She points to Bustos v. A&E Networks, a case in which a prison inmate sued for defamation because he only affiliated with a gang but was not a member, as A&E had reported. Serving on the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, Judge Gorsuch ruled that A&E’s statement was substantially true and affirmed dismissal of the lawsuit. In doing so, he explored the historical importance of truth as a defense and called it a “First Amendment imperative.”

However in an earlier decision, “Judge Gorsuch offered an interesting concurrence in Mink v. Knox, in which the court ruled a college student’s parody of a professor was protected speech.” Judge Gorsuch noted the U.S. Supreme Court had not yet ruled on whether parody is actionable when the plaintiff is neither a public figure nor the speech a matter of public concern. He believed “reasonable minds can and do differ” on the issue, so that it was best to avoid such “thickets.” Citing an opinion by then-Judge John Roberts of the D.C. Circuit (now Chief Justice of the United States), Judge Gorsuch said he would only decide what is necessary and nothing more.

“Such careful parsing may well be a preview of the type of measured approach Judge Gorsuch would take if confirmed to the U.S. Supreme Court,” says Ms. Teicher.

For more information, contact Rhonda Reddick at 800-559-4534 or

by Androvett Legal Media & Marketing at 9:42:00 am

A Dallas constitutional law attorney says President Trump’s temporary ban on immigrants and refugees at airports nationwide is extreme, but not without historical precedent. 

Issued Jan. 27, the executive order prevents citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States for three months. Trump also placed the U.S. refugee program on hold for four months. The order launched massive protests at airports in major cities across the country and brought attorneys together to offer free legal support to detained travelers.

But attorney David Coale of Lynn Pinker Cox Hurst says that presidents have conducted similar actions in the past:

“There is a very broad 1952 statute that lets the president suspend entry by classes of aliens for security reasons. But a 1965 statute imposes anti-discrimination limits on the executive branch in how it implements immigration policy. But beyond that, there is not a lot of case law to go on. More modest bans have been allowed by courts, but with caveats that indicate they were thinking about a possibility such as this. Jimmy Carter did something vaguely like it in 1980 during the Iran crisis by requiring Iranians here on student visas to report to immigration officials, but it is a big leap from his limited action to this one. I think that once the temporary ban ends, however, the ‘extreme vetting’ in the current order will be DOA. The First Amendment prohibits government action that favors one religion over another, and the current executive order clearly does so by giving non-Muslims priority status.”

For more information, contact Barry Pound at 800-559-4534 or


by Androvett Legal Media & Marketing at 2:33:00 pm

Beatle Paul McCartney just sued Sony/ATV in federal court in New York to get his songs back to where they once belonged.

The Beatles songs were sold to Michael Jackson in 1985 and then to Sony, but U.S. laws have changed since that happened. That could mean “Ticket to Ride” and “Hey Jude” revert to Sir Paul in 2018. But the band Duran Duran is having some trouble in the U.K. invoking the same rule, so Mr. McCartney filed a lawsuit hoping to make it clear he gets the tunes back.

“When Lennon and McCartney sold their copyrights to Sony, some might not have imagined that Beatles music would still be popular – much less still under copyright – by the second decade of the next millennium,” said lawyer Steve Mitby, a partner in the Houston law firm Ahmad, Zavitsanos, Anaipakos, Alavi & Mensing P.C., or AZA.

“In the 1998 copyright extension, Congress tried to give the original artists and authors the benefit of the longer 95-year term. But it is far from clear that Congress can modify private contracts – like those between the Beatles and Sony – through that retroactive legislation,” Mr. Mitby said.

Mr. McCartney followed the congressional rules to reclaim his music and served advance notice to the U.S. Copyright Office starting back in 2008 that he was coming for “She Loves You” and more. And no, he won’t just let it be.

For more information, contact Mary Flood at 800-559-4534 or

by Androvett Legal Media & Marketing at 1:34:00 pm

A second former Title IX officer at Baylor University is speaking publicly for the first time about the lack of institutional support and the problems she encountered during her tenure. Gabrielle Lyons, who resigned her position at the school in November of 2015, says that top-level Baylor officials routinely withheld information she needed to investigate sexual assault claims from students at the Waco, Texas, institution.

Speaking to ESPN’s Outside the Lines, Ms. Lyons said:

"The violence is what took me aback. My limited understanding was that it was a great Baptist institution. Me, being a Christian myself, I was just appalled at the level of violence taking place so rampantly at the institution.”

Ms. Lyons said the final straw came during a Oct. 5, 2015, meeting with Reagan Ramsower, Baylor’s senior vice president for operations and chief financial officer. Ms. Lyons said she told Mr. Ramsower that "we are suffering," and the staff needed more support as "it's keeping me up at night. I felt that if I had the support, I could do it." Ms. Lyons described his response as "cold" and dismissive. 

According to the ESPN report, Ms. Lyons said that although cases involving football players comprised less than a third of her workload, she received the most pushback from Baylor officials on getting police records and arranging interviews on those cases. 

Ms. Lyons’ complaints about Baylor and the lack of support the school provided for those investigating sexual assaults of women on campus closely track the statements of former Baylor Title IX Coordinator Patty Crawford, who quit in 2016 and filed a similar complaint with the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights.

Dallas attorney Rogge Dunn, who represents both women says:

"Gabrielle and her boss, Patty Crawford, were placed in a hostile work environment and set up for failure by individuals who didn’t want to support the law or the victims of sexual assault. Gabrielle confirms everything Patty has been saying. She makes it clear that Baylor officials did not want to acknowledge the reality of sexual assault among students and stonewalled virtually any attempt she made to pursue legitimate claims. Her exposure of Baylor’s failures to comply with Title IX provides additional evidence for the victims who have sued Baylor and increases their chances of winning those lawsuits.”

Mr. Dunn says that Ms. Lyons’ statements and evidence provided to the Office of Civil Rights increases the chances that the Department of Education will take action against Baylor. Ms. Lyons, who now lives in Chicago, filed a Title IX complaint and an EEOC charge against Baylor last year, and those investigations are ongoing.

For more information, contact Mark Annick at 800-559-4534 or

by Androvett Legal Media & Marketing at 1:55:00 pm

A Dallas lawyer says he has serious questions about security procedures at Target following a weekend assault in one of that store’s parking lots that left a well-known Texas theater director with a fractured skull.

Attorney Chris Hamilton of Standly Hamilton, LLP says Target should have taken far more seriously the armed threat that Dallas theater director Derek Whitener reported receiving on the way into the store near City Place in Dallas Saturday night. Mr. Hamilton also says Target sent Mr. Whitener into an ambush by allowing him to later leave the store unaccompanied by store security.

This attack was preventable. Having been informed of the danger, Target should not have allowed its customer to walk alone into an ambush. All businesses have a common sense responsibility to keep their customers safe from predictable and preventable crimes. In our view, all Target security had to do was take some basic precautions and provide Derek an escort when he finished his shopping. Target needs to take the safety of its customers more seriously, especially one that reports armed, threatening men in the parking lot to store security.”

Mr. Whitener is recovering at Baylor University Medical Center after he was beaten with a wooden pole by two masked men in a Target store parking lot the night of Jan. 14. Mr. Whitener had stopped by the Dallas CityPlace store after his performance at Firehouse Theater. He told Target employees that he noticed two suspicious men walking toward him. A Target security officer and an off-duty Dallas Police officer spoke to the suspects and asked them to leave the property. Mr. Whitener finished shopping and was allowed to walk to his car by himself when he was attacked.

Chris Hamilton has prior experiences with cases involving businesses’ liability for crimes committed on their premises. In 2015, a jury awarded his clients $27 million after an attack that began at a College Station McDonald’s that left two teenagers dead. According to VerdictSearch, it was the top Texas premises liability verdict of the past decade.

For more information, contact Mark Annick at 800-559-4534 or



Dallas attorney Chris Hamilton of Standly Hamilton, LLP speaks to reporters about his concerns regarding security procedures at Target following an attack of a Dallas theater director.


by Androvett Legal Media & Marketing at 10:41:00 am

A federal judge has dismissed claims brought by a South Carolina insurance company against Texas-based insurance agency Highpoint Risk Services and its owner, Charles David Wood, Jr. That lawsuit sought more than $40 million in damages for an alleged shortfall in reinsurance collateral and claims relating to the issuance of various workers’ compensation policies. Last week, Senior U.S. District Judge Cameron McGowan Currie ruled that Companion Property and Casualty Insurance Co. was contractually barred from recovering any alleged shortfall from Wood. In dismissing other claims against Highpoint and Wood for alleged breach of fiduciary duty and alleged violations of the South Carolina Unfair Trade Practices Act, the court found that “there is no evidence Highpoint (or Wood) owed or breached” a fiduciary duty to Companion in connection with the issuance of Companion’s workers’ compensation policies.

“The court has dismissed the core of the case brought by Companion,” said Michael Gardner, name partner at Dallas-based law firm Gardner Haas and counsel for Mr. Wood and the defendant companies. “An insurer cannot avoid the terms of its own policies and can’t complain when its agreements are given their clear and natural effect.”

“This is a highly complex dispute covering agreements going back more than a decade,” said Eric Haas, co-counsel on the case. “This ruling is an important step in resolving matters before courts in both South Carolina and Texas, and we’re gratified by the outcome.”

Companion, purchased by Enstar Group in 2015, now operates as Sussex Insurance Company and remains headquartered in Columbia, S.C.

For more information, contact Barry Pound at 800-559-4534 or   


by Androvett Legal Media & Marketing at 3:49:00 pm

Dylann Roof will face the death penalty after a Charleston, South Carolina, jury found him guilty of shooting and killing nine people at the historic Emanuel AME Church in June 2015. Although he had legal representation during the federal trial, he chose to represent himself during the penalty phase, leaving open the possibility of an appeal. It also sets the stage for South Carolina prosecutors to seek the death penalty in an upcoming state murder trial.

Explains Dallas criminal defense attorney Nicole Knox:

“Roof's decision to take the innocent lives of South Carolina citizens is deplorable, and the pursuit of the death penalty in state court is likely an effort to offset any potential success he may find during his federal appeal. Roof has a sound basis to support his motion for new trial because he did not have the benefit of qualified counsel during the punishment phase. Without the arguments of defense counsel, we cannot be sure that Roof, arguing for himself, was capable of pursuing mitigation arguments that could have precluded a death penalty verdict. His post-trial motions and the appeals could continue for several years. Should the state pursue and succeed in obtaining a death penalty verdict on its own case, then Roof will be able to appeal that case as well, but it will give the state another opportunity to hold him accountable for his crimes.” 

For more information, contact Sophia Reza at 800-559-4534 or

by Androvett Legal Media & Marketing at 9:58:00 am

It’s hard to predict exactly what President-elect Donald Trump wants in a new health care law, but a repeal of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is rapidly on track in Congress. Dallas health care lawyer Jeff Drummond of Jackson Walker LLP, who represents doctors, hospitals and other health care facilities, has some predictions about what to expect:

“Repeal is almost entirely certain, and will be near immediate with the new Congress. It will be done using the same reconciliation technique that allowed ACA to pass in the first place, thus avoiding the filibuster and the need for 60 votes in the Senate.

“The changes likely will be phased in over time, with very few, if any, immediately repealed. That will allow the new Congress time to fashion replacement parts. And those replacement parts will mostly resemble the old law.

“For example, the new law will allow insured parents to keep their children on their policies until age 26. It also will likely preserve the ban on lifetime limits.

“The new law will drop the individual mandate to buy health insurance. But coverage for pre-existing conditions will be more like the portability requirement under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). That law requires insurers to accept people with existing health problems only when they previously had coverage, such as from their current or former employer. So people with pre-existing health conditions now covered under individual policies through the ACA would be eligible for coverage under the new law, but individuals who did not previously have coverage would be subject to potential exclusion for pre-existing conditions.”


For more information, contact Kit Frieden at 800-559-4534 or

by Androvett Legal Media & Marketing at 12:34:00 pm

The upward trend in Texas business bankruptcies continued in 2016 with hefty double-digit increases across all regions of the state, according to an Androvett Legal Media & Marketing analysis of federal filings. In particular, Ch. 11 business bankruptcy filings increased 42.4 percent statewide, with filings up more than 50 percent in both the federal Southern and Northern Districts of Texas.

A glance at the historic numbers is revealing: This continues to be a story about the impact of falling oil prices on the heavily leveraged Texas energy economy.

Writes Texas Lawbook and the Dallas Business Journal:

For the past two-and-half years, the energy industry has been in crisis. Oil slipped to $30 a barrel. Thousands and thousands of people lost their jobs. A record number of oil and gas companies and the businesses servicing them declared bankruptcy…More than 1,280 Texas businesses have filed for bankruptcy during the past two years – many of them related to the downturn in oil and gas prices, according to new data research provided by Androvett Legal Media.

Filings in the Western District of Texas (which includes upstream producers in the oil-rich Permian Basin) increased by 100 percent during the past two years – from 73 in 2014 to 146 in 2016. The jump was even bigger in the Southern District (which includes Houston, San Antonio and producers in the Eagle Ford Shale), where 293 companies filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 2016 – up from 141 in 2014.


“Oil and gas is an industry that has highs and lows,” Jackson Walker bankruptcy partner Bruce Ruzinsky tells Lawbook and the Dallas Business Journal. “The temptation in the oil and gas business is to catch the wave when things are blowing and going.


“This downturn has been more difficult than past ones because it has gone on longer and prices went lower than people expected,” Mr. Ruzinsky says.




KVUE Austin reporter Erin Jones notes that the numbers point to softness in other sectors, including the tech industry:

Patty Tomasco, who works in the bankruptcy division of Jackson Walker, said last year her practice saw a steady stream of cases dealing with the natural consequences of tech companies.

"With tech companies in Austin, you have a lot of people competing to be the next great app maker or the next great technology company," Tomasco said. "There's always going to be a winner and there's always going to be about 10 losers. The 10 losers are going to have to file bankruptcy and do something else."

by Unknown at 11:00:00 am

Lanier Law Firm attorney Mark Lanier discusses the impact of a Dallas jury’s recent record $1 billion dollar hip implant verdict and the significance of the jury’s decision.

In early December, jurors in the third bellwether MDL trial returned the verdict for six plaintiffs who suffered serious medical complications from defective Pinnacle hip implants manufactured by Johnson & Johnson and its DePuy Orthopedics subsidiary. The panel of six women and three men deliberated about eight hours before finding J&J and DePuy responsible for negligently designing the implant and failing to warn patients about dangerous health consequences. Earlier this week, the judge presiding over the MDL entered a final judgment preserving the plaintiffs’ jury award for compensatory damages and entering a $543 million combined punitive damages judgment. That final judgment has been appealed.

The verdict includes more than $30 million for injuries, pain and suffering, and more than $1 billion in punitive damages against J&J and DePuy, based on the jury’s finding that the defendants had acted with malice or fraud. The punitive award was the largest against a company in 2016, according to Bloomberg, which noted “such punishment damages are intended to dissuade defendants from continuing sanctioned practices.”

“The jury is telling J&J that they better settle these cases soon,” lead attorney Mark Lanier told Bloomberg.  “All they are doing by trying more of these cases is driving up their costs and driving the company’s reputation into the mud.”

In addition to Mr. Lanier, the Lanier Law Firm trial team included Alex J. Brown, M. Michelle Carreras, Dr. Robert Leone and Kevin P. Parker. Also orchestrating the win were Richard Arsenault and his team of lawyers from Neblett, Beard and Arsenault, as well as Jayne Conroy and her team from Simmons Hanly Conroy and Khaldoun Baghdadi with Walkup, Melodia, Kelly & Schoenberger

Writes Bloomberg:

The verdict continues a losing stretch for J&J before U.S. juries. Six of the seven largest product-defect verdicts in the U.S. this year have been against J&J units, including three in lawsuits claiming its talc products cause ovarian cancer.

Despite its pledge to appeal Thursday’s verdict, J&J shouldn’t wait for an outcome to approach hip patients with settlement offers, said Erik Gordon, a University of Michigan law professor, who teaches classes about how drugs and medical devices are developed and regulated.

“They may think they have good defenses to these claims, but they don’t seem to be working with juries,” Gordon said. “There’s no easy way out of these cases now that they have a billion-dollar verdict against them. They better start thinking of how they can settle these claims before the price goes up any more.”

Writes Consumer Reports:

The decision marks the latest turn in a medical drama that has seen nearly 100,000 prosthetic devices recalled, led to thousands of hip-replacement lawsuits, and been referred to by a leading medical journal as “one of the biggest disasters in orthopedic history.”

With the fourth bellwether now set for next September, the question on many minds is whether this record verdict will nudge the defendants toward settlement. Lanier tells Texas Lawyer that Johnson & Johnson would be wise to take note of the trial's outcome.

I'd love to take credit for some great, huge, hard-to-believe win. But the bottom line is, in spite of the media machine that Johnson & Johnson pumps, these are easy cases. This company was flat wrong, they did some horrible things and their best appellate point is, 'Gee, the jury shouldn't be allowed to know everything we did.' That's pretty pathetic.”

For more information, contact Robert Tharp at 214-559-4630 or

by Androvett Legal Media & Marketing at 6:00:00 am

From the legal debate over bathrooms, to the battle over renaming a Houston law school, to a billion-dollar-plus jury award, Texas was home to some of the nation's most intriguing legal news of 2016. The following is a list of the year's top Texas legal stories as determined by the staff of Androvett Legal Media & Marketing:


  1. Shadow of Scalia and Texas Cases

The unexpected death of Justice Antonin Scalia on Feb. 13 while on a hunting trip at Cibolo Creek Ranch in far West Texas sent shockwaves through the nation’s legal system. And Senate Republicans immediately declared that no confirmation hearings would be considered until after the inauguration of the 45th president. The Supreme Court continued to hear and decide cases with just eight justices for the remaining 10 months of the year. The absence of the conservative Justice Scalia hung over opinions in three hot-button cases from Texas involving immigration, abortion and affirmative action. But in the end, only affirmative action might have been affected. In the landmark Fisher v. University of Texas, a 4-3 vote (Justice Elena Kagan recused herself) upheld UT’s affirmative action admissions policy and created national precedent. The vote likely would have been a tie – with no precedent – had Scalia been on the bench. On immigration, the court deadlocked 4-4 letting stand a Texas-instigated injunction blocking a presidential order protecting millions of immigrants from deportation. And on abortion, the court rejected most of Texas’ stringent new restrictions on a 5-3 vote.


  1. What’s in a Name?

Founded in 1923, the South Texas College of Law is the oldest law school in Houston and third-oldest in the state. Long on prestige and history, what the school was lacking in 2016 was geographic recognition. Citing a failure by many to connect the school with Houston, the school announced in June that it was rebranding as “Houston College of Law.” Charging that the downtown law school’s new moniker was too similar to its own University of Houston Law Center, UH filed a trademark infringement suit to block the name change. In early November, the school briefly known as the Houston College of Law changed course and adopted the name South Texas College of Law Houston. 


  1. A Decisively Blue Legal Island

In 2016, the presidential coattails were long and swift enough for Harris County voters to jettison not just incumbent GOP judges, but also the district attorney, Devon Anderson. Unlike Republican Pat Lykos, who dodged Obama’s 2008 presidential reelection coattails to become the first female elected Harris County district attorney, Ms. Anderson faced many problematic issues of her own in her re-election bid. The biggest was that her office jailed a rape victim as a material witness, and that victim was assaulted while in jail. As a result, Kim Ogg is set to become the first Democrat to be Houston’s top prosecutor since the olden days, way back when it seemed everyone in Texas was a Democrat.


  1. AG Charges Dismissed, Refiled

After more than a year of fighting federal allegations of securities fraud, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton scored a major legal victory on Oct. 7 when U.S. District Judge Amos Mazzant III announced he was dismissing charges. However, the relief was short-lived. On Oct. 21 the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission refiled the civil lawsuit, which accuses then-State Rep. Paxton of recruiting investors for a technology company without acknowledging that he was earning a commission. In addition to the refiled federal civil suit, Paxton faces separate state criminal charges of securities fraud.


  1. Dallas DA Steps Down

With her first year in office marked by extended leaves of absence to address depression and other issues, Dallas County District Attorney Susan Hawk seemed ready to put the past behind her. Responding to the Jan. 8 news that a legal challenge calling for her removal from office had been dismissed, she said: "I can't tell you how happy I am. I can't tell you how ready I am for this fresh start and just to get back to work." But by spring, her personal troubles had returned and she reportedly was showing up to her office only sporadically. On May 20, just 17 months into her tenure, Ms. Hawk resigned. The search for a replacement stretched through the summer and fall, until Dec. 6 when Gov. Greg Abbott announced he had appointed former state district Judge Faith Simmons Johnson to fulfill Ms. Hawk’s remaining term.


  1. Campus Carry Concerns

The irony was impossible to ignore. On Aug. 1, the 50th anniversary of the University of Texas Tower shooting and one of the most tragic days in state history, SB 11, the so-called “campus carry” law went into effect. Individuals over 21 with a handgun license may now carry guns into all public university buildings, including classrooms and private offices. Sports stadiums and day care operations are excluded. The law produced a wave of petitions and protests, but after four months, protests have diminished and no gun-related incidents have been reported. Currently, 10 states allow guns on college campuses, with at least one more working on legislation.


  1. Fight for ABA Accreditation

From the day the doors opened at the UNT Dallas College of Law in 2014, officials were up-front about their intention to provide a low-tuition option for a diverse group of students, including those who needed a helping hand or second chance at law school. Local and legal community support soared, but the school still needed to earn American Bar Association accreditation for students to sit for the bar. And with the first group nearing graduation, the clock was ticking. Following a year-long accreditation process, the ABA announced it would defer any accreditation decision, pending additional review. A final decision on whether UNT Dallas will become Texas’ 10th accredited law school may come in 2017, but graduating students received an early Christmas present when the Texas Supreme Court ruled on Dec. 14 that they would be able to take the bar exam regardless of the school’s accreditation status.


  1. Bathroom Battle Ignited

Squarely at the intersection of social and legal concerns, the question of who should be allowed to use what bathroom at department stores and gyms quickly became one of the most divisive issues of 2016. But it was the announcement by Fort Worth ISD Superintendent Kent Scribner that the district would allow students to use the bathroom that matched their gender identity that ignited a firestorm. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick labeled Scribner a “dictator” and called for his resignation. In August, a Texas federal court blocked President Obama’s executive order requiring all schools to adopt similar policies. Patrick now says a comprehensive bathroom bill will be a primary focus in the upcoming Texas Legislature, despite projections from the Texas Association of Business that such a law could mean economic losses of more than $8.5 billion annually and put up to 185,000 jobs at risk.


  1. Billion-Dollar Verdict

There was no shortage of headline-generating court battles in Texas during 2016. There was a $300 million verdict for VirnetX in its patent infringement fight against Apple and the $145 million court win for T. Boone Pickens and Mesa Petroleum Partners involving a failed Permian Basin oil deal. But it was a Dec. 1 product liability jury verdict over hip implants from the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas that may have the most lasting impact. After hearing searing testimony of the pain and complications suffered by six patients who got Pinnacle hip implants, the jury returned a verdict of more than $1 billion against Johnson & Johnson and its DePuy Orthopedics subsidiary for the negligent design and marketing of the metal-on-metal implant. Earlier in the year, a Dallas jury awarded more than $500 million to plaintiffs in a similar Pinnacle case. The Dec. 1 verdict was the largest punitive award against a company in 2016.


  1. Baylor Sexual Assault Scandal

Baylor University faced a different kind of bear when a sexual assault scandal enveloped the football program. First, there was the 2015 conviction of a promising football player for rape, but it was a story on ESPN’s “Outside the Lines” in February this year that led to outrage. The investigation centered on allegations that school and football team leaders had turned a deaf ear to multiple claims of sexual assault by athletes over a five-year period. The school failed to report a single incident. Baylor hired the Pepper Hamilton law firm to investigate. Although the full report has never been made public, Baylor President and Chancellor Ken Starr, Athletic Director Ian McCaw and head football coach Art Briles all were ousted or left. The U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights launched an investigation after Baylor’s former Title IX coordinator filed a formal complaint with the office. The school now says 17 women reported sexual or domestic assaults by 19 football players, dating back to 2011; four allegedly involved gang rapes. An alumni group commissioned a recent report that concluded the scandal could cost the university more than $220 million through settlements, investigative costs and revenue losses.


by Androvett Legal Media & Marketing at 9:05:00 am

Late last week, Republican lawmakers in Congress effectively suspended the Obama administration’s tight restrictions on work hours and rest breaks for the nation’s interstate truckers. Under the Trump presidency, it’s expected that lawmakers will establish new standards for the industry, covering not only hours on the road but also increased weight limits and the length of double trailer combinations.

Dallas attorney Peyton Inge of Chamblee Ryan Kershaw & Anderson, whose clients include trucking companies, says some restrictions needed to be loosened:

The industry has found that the restrictions during the past few years actually increased the risk of accidents by forcing more trucks onto the road during rush-hour periods, leading to increased congestion and road safety risks. We’ve also seen that increased regulations have disproportionately affected smaller trucking companies, and that rolling back regulations historically can allow these companies to expand while reducing costs to the consumer.  This change should also allow individual drivers and their employers greater flexibility in setting off-duty time, rest periods and overall business operations.”

For more information or to set up an interview, contact Barry Pound at 800-559-4534 or

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