September 24, 2008 by Robert Tharp at 3:05:06 pm Runup, downfall, bailout, outcry, fallout. Get ready for the payback.
While debate over the proposed $700 billion Wall Street bailout continues, class-action securities attorney Jeffrey Zwerling says shareholder lawsuits are almost certain to follow. Zwerling, of New York-based Zwerling, Schachter & Zwerling, LLP, says disgruntled shareholders who were misled by financial institutions will be filing litigation
"Because the executives at some of these financial institutions, investment banks and mortgage houses were treating their businesses as if they were their own personal casinos, the investors didn't receive the value they thought they paid for," he says. "All they received was an illusion."
Zwerling is already actively involved in litigation related to the collapse of the auction-rate securities sector earlier this year. He represents the lead plaintiff in a securities class-action against Citigroup in auctions it managed. After the market for auction rate securities shut down early this year, investors were left with no access to their money. Since then, New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo has forced Citigroup and other institutions to make good on the auction rate securities, but still unknown is whether pension funds and the individual workers they represent will receive any money.
Zwerling also represents the Wayne County Employees Association in a class-action against MGIC Investment Corporation, a provider of private mortgage insurance. The lawsuit claims that MGIC failed to warn investors of large financial losses it was experiencing as a result of the worsening credit crisis and problems in the home mortgage industry.
For more information or to speak with Jeffrey Zwerling about the financial crisis, call Mark Annick at 800-559-4534 (office) or firstname.lastname@example.org.
September 24, 2008 by Robert Tharp at 11:00:17 am Web 2.0 a brave new world for law firm marketing
Consider Twitter, an often maddening medium that gives you an opportunity to send out short messages accompanied with a Web site link to targeted groups. Seattle law firm Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro and their marketing firm suffered widespread wrath when they used Twitter in an attempt to recruit class-action plaintiffs for a case against Verizon Wireless. The blunder got the attention of the Wall Street Journal and many, many others.
While the ubiquitous `I'm stuck in traffic on the way to the airport' Twitter posts that I typically receive are about as useful as spam and good examples of useful Twittering remain rare, the takeaway here is to think a little before you step out and pursue Web 2.0 marketing. Legal blogger Kevin O'Keefe nailed it with his recent post, Be smart. Just because your law firm, marketing company, or PR agency heard of a new communication tool that others have found powerful, doesn't mean you should start using it tomorrow. You need to know how to use tools like Twitter. This means getting out and playing with Twitter. Use it for personal use. Look at how others are using Twitter. Twitter on training wheels if you will. Then start using Twitter in business settings - after you feel very comfortable with how Twitter works. If you don't feel comfortable, don't start.
September 23, 2008 by Robert Tharp at 2:29:57 pm Collegiate athletics on trial
Lawsuit filed by Houston attorney Mark Lanier questions whether Rice University adequately screens its young athletes
A simple blood test by the Rice University athletic department would have revealed that a young football player should not have been given a nutritional shake containing
creatine, according to a lawsuit filed by Houston attorney Mark Lanier. Dale Lloyd II's 2006 death after drinking the shake during a conditioning workout is now putting a spotlight on whether college athletic departments are properly screening college athletes.
At issue is whether Rice coaches should have known that Lloyd had a blood condition common to African-Americans that placed him at greater risk of suffering from rhabdomyoloysis by injesting the shake containing creatine. Creatine is a naturally occurring organic acid that supplies energy to muscle and nerve cells, but it also causes dangerous side effects, including rhabdomyoloysis, a breakdown of muscle fibers that causes the release of harmful substances into the bloodstream. Medical literature has long warned about the increased risk of rhabdomyoloysis for those who use nutritional supplements and also have the trait for sickle-cell disease.
Lloyd collapsed after he was given a nutritional shake by Rice football coaches and ordered to finish a conditioning workout. Despite having trouble breathing and in obvious pain, coaches ordered other players not to help him and forced him to complete the workout, according to the lawsuit. Lloyd was hospitalized and never regained consciousness. Although African-Americans comprise a large number of student athletes at U.S. universities, very few schools test for the sickle cell trait, exposing thousands of young people to the conditions that lead to Lloyd's death. "If Rice University had conducted simple blood tests on African American student athletes, then they would have seen that Dale had the sickle cell trait and that he should never been given a creatine-based supplement directly before being forced to complete such a brutal workout," Lanier says.
September 23, 2008 by Robert Tharp at 11:50:24 am Texas tort reform heading to court
Plaintiffs' attorney Mark Werbner dubious of pending Texas Surpreme Court review
As challenges mount to the 2003 tort reforms, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram outlines how backers of Texas tort reform are taking an unusual step and seeking out a direct appeal of a case to the Texas Supreme Court for a ruling on whether the reforms comply with the state constitution. Plaintiffs' attorneys like Mark Werbner of Dallas-based Sayles Werbner question the strategy used by supporters of tort reform, telling the Star-T that the unusual direct
appeal to the Texas Supreme Court appears to be an attempt to prevent other cases that promise a stronger challenge to the reforms. "This is another way to put more nails in the coffins of people who are dying because of medical malpractice," he says, adding that tort reform has created a system that has taken away the ability of most Texans to seek legal recourse for medical errors.
Supporters of tort reform, meanwhile, describe how changes in the system in Texas have made the state a more friendly economic environment for doctors.
The Star-T sums it up: The debate pits two sides with starkly different takes on the effects of the cap. To the medical groups, the $250,000 cap on "noneconomic" or compensatory damages for pain and suffering has helped high-risk patients because doctors are now willing to accept complex cases. Proponents say the cap has also made it easier to recruit new physicians - Texas has almost 300 more licensed doctors than it did a year ago. What's more, medical liability rates have dropped by 26.6 percent overall since 2003, when the cap became law, according to the Texas Department of Insurance. Critics say the cap dealt a crushing blow to patients' rights because many of those who suffered life-threatening injuries effectively have no legal recourse. That's because of the economics of the lawsuits.
September 23, 2008 by Robert Tharp at 10:20:51 am Texting rates skyrocket as Senate seeks answers
Cowles & Thompson Antitrust attorney Jim Chester: curious timing for probe
It's become a toss up for many lately as to which monthly bill is more unpleasant to open...the electricity bill or the cel phone. For those who have embraced text
The Dallas Business Journal analyzes the issue and efforts by Senate antitrust subcommittee chairman Herb Kohl to get some answers from the four major wireless phone companies. DBJ reporter Jeff Bounds explains in the piece that Kohl finds the hike curious because text messages cost little to transmit because they are small and that the four carriers each raised rates with identical spikes almost simultaneously. Kohl has asked the four carriers -- AT&T, Sprint, Verizon and Nextel -- to justify their rates by Oct. 6.
Jim Chester, chairman of the international business and trade practice at Dallas' Cowles & Thompson, explains that politicians are obligated to enforce antitrust statutes, but he finds the timing of the probe _ at the height of the political season _ a little curious.
September 18, 2008 by Robert Tharp at 1:55:19 pm Sarbanes-Oxley offers little protection for whistleblowers, attorney Wade McClure
September 17, 2008 by Robert Tharp at 3:18:46 pm Burgeoning media superstar emerges from Gardere Martin Luther King Jr. Oratory Competition
Young Dalton Sherman is on a roll. After winning the the 16th annual Gardere Martin Luther King Jr. Oratory Competition with a speech about community involvement that ended with the closing line: "...a drum major with no band is just a
September 17, 2008 by Robert Tharp at 11:07:16 am High costs of citizenship process causing fewer to apply
September 17, 2008 by Robert Tharp at 10:32:24 am Law firms dust off in Ike's path of destruction
"I'm very pleased that we have been able to move quickly to resume a level of normal business operations," Houston managing partner Dallas Parker said. "Our attorneys already have been able to respond to some pressing business demands of our clients related to the current issues in the financial markets as well as to offer counsel on matters stemming from Hurricane Ike. Like thousands of others in the areas affected, many of our Houston employees are coping with the personal needs of their homes and families... We are encouraging our workforce to continue working remotely and follow the direction of local and state officials in safely returning to downtown."
September 15, 2008 by Robert Tharp at 1:57:51 pm Fannie-Freddie carnage focusing on individual investors, pension funds
Pension funds and ordinary investors appear to have the most to lose in the federal bailout of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac,
September 12, 2008 by Robert Tharp at 4:36:10 pm Air taxis getting more of us from here to there
While the airline industry contracts, consolidates and generally struggles to find a way to survive, niche aviation businesses are thriving as they nimbly fill the gaps, says aviation attorney and pilot David Norton of Shackelford, Melton & McKinley in Dallas. Most recently, Miwok Airways began an air-taxi service in California, shuttling
Harking back to the early days of aviation when pilots in biplanes picked up passengers on farm fields, the flights on Miwok Airways are not scheduled. They fly on demand and can take off from any of the more than three dozen airstrips in the region. Passengers can set their own flight time and then be flown in four-seat Cirrus propeller planes with fares as low as $82 one way. The fare will depend on the distance between airports and on how many people are sharing the plane, rising to more than $300 if no other passengers are on the plane. The plane can seat three paying passengers. By comparison, chartering a plane can cost more than $600 an hour.
These kinds of services will no doubt only become more common as large carriers cut costs by abandoning or drastically reducing service to mid-sized and less-profitable airports. "We're seeing the evolution of the air travel business," says Norton, who helps clients navigate laws and regulations involved in leasing corporate jet aircraft, also sat on the panel advising the FAA regarding on-demand air travel rules. "The airlines are never going away, but very soon this kind of air taxi service is going to be more and more common."
September 11, 2008 by Robert Tharp at 4:16:35 pm Little to celebrate on 5th anniversary of RIAA file-sharing crackdown
September 11, 2008 by Robert Tharp at 3:56:06 pm New study: juries more often side with English speakers
September 11, 2008 by Robert Tharp at 11:25:19 am Using Gmail, Google Docs or other cloud computing apps? E-commerce attorney Peter Vogel says beware
According to the Chronicle: Google, which prides itself on not being evil, offers a few more protections in its online legal agreement that everyone accepts before using its products. The agreement states that users retain the copyright to content they post, submit or display using Google's services. But Google gets "perpetual, irrevocable, worldwide, royalty-free and nonexclusive license to reproduce, adapt, modify, translate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute" any of the content. What's more, Google can make that content available to any companies or organizations it chooses.
So the problem remains: What you put in cloud services such as Docs and Gmail, Google's free Web-based e-mail, isn't really yours anymore. Google doesn't make money by giving us gigantic e-mail accounts. Its profit comes in part from selling ads tied to the content of messages sent with those accounts. In other words, it's sifting through our messages, looking for sales leads. And it's not just Google. "When one uses an online service - Google, Yahoo, AOL - there's a click agreement that nobody ever reads. Somewhere embedded in the agreement you waive all sorts of ownership issues," Vogel said.
September 5, 2008 by Robert Tharp at 4:45:02 pm `They call it' ... great law firm advertising
Thirty-one years later, some firms are really embracing creative advertising(other firms, not so much). Gardere Wynne Sewell, for example, understands that such a campaign can go hand in hand with being a big, internationally respected firm. Gardere was recently singled out to receive the prestigious "Award of Distinction" from the International Academy of the Visual Arts Communicator Awards for its smart "They call it/We call it" campaign.
September 5, 2008 by Robert Tharp at 2:51:45 pm Rose Walker law firm's verdict in Lycoming airplane engine case stands up on appeal
After an exhaustive investigation and legal battle in which attorneys from the Dallas law firm Rose•Walker became experts in the intricacies of plane engine design, a Grimes County jury sided with Interstate Southwest, dinged Lycoming for fraud and handed Interstate Southwest a $96 million verdict in 2005. The verdict was later reduced by an appeals court, but the Supreme Court of Texas this week upheld the trial court's key rulings that Lycoming alone is responsible for the design defects that caused the engine failures. The appeals court's decision effectively closes the door on any legal attempts to hang blame on Interstate Southwest and also wipes out Lycoming's $186 million counterclaim against Interstate Southwest.
The ruling should end six years of litigation, says attorney Marty Rose of Rose•Walker. "This Supreme Court decision means Interstate Southwest wins and Lycoming loses - it's as simple as that," Walker says. "A jury of 12 people looked at this and said that Lycoming was to blame. This decision affirms that."
September 4, 2008 by Robert Tharp at 4:18:44 pm Munck Carter trademark attorney Dyan House: Slinging high-dollar cupcakes no cake walk
Indeed. This summer alone, Sprinkles has warned one rival to discontinue using a similar circle motif in its packaging. Most recently, it threatened a cupcake peddler called "Sprinkled Pink Cupcake Couture" and ordered that the business change its name. As Munck Carter intellectual property attorney Dyan House put it, protecting Sprinkles' distinctive niche is a fight worth having and goes to the core of trademark law, whether you're talking about cupcakes or technological innovation.
September 3, 2008 by Robert Tharp at 2:47:40 pm Sayles Werbner scores rare Supreme Court of Texas ruling upholding big medical malpractice verdict
The ruling stems from a 2001 verdict by a Dallas County jury awarding $9.2 million in compensatory damages and $21 millin in actual damages to the family of a man who died of a heart attack after waiting 12 hours for treatment after complaining of chest pains at the Las Colinas Medical Center. The 5th Court of Appeals in Dallas previously reduced the total award to approximately $5.4 million based on existing Texas laws limiting damage awards in health care claims. Given the Supreme Court of Texas' reputation, there was concern that justices would further reduce the award. Instead, the Supreme Court upheld the award against Columbia Medical Center and also reversed an award for loss of inheritance damages.
"We are extremely pleased to finally have this case resolved through this just, but infrequent affirmance of punitive damages," says attorney Mark Werbner, co-founder of Sayles Werbner and trial counsel for the Hogue family. "This opinion is especially gratifying because the Hogues have had to wait so long for the court to rule. The Supreme Court of Texas is known far and wide for reversing court judgments favoring plaintiffs, particularly in medical malpractice cases, and it is important that this decision is perhaps putting a halt to that trend."
Under the court's ruling, defendant Columbia Medical must pay the Hogue family approximately $10 million when the amount of pre- and post-judgment interest is included with the $5.4 million award of actual and punitive damages.
September 2, 2008 by Robert Tharp at 10:41:15 am Life after the three-letter agency: former federal prosecutors and gumshoes put their digital forensics and investigative expertise to work at firms like Stroz Friedberg
"Part of our value to our client is being able to work with and solve really big problems without anyone knwoing about it. We can't go out like law firms tha splash their verdicts across the front pages of newspapers. We just can't do that." Behind the scenes, Cox said. firms like hers are helping law firms win lawsuits, settle lawsuits and avoid them altogether. They help in-house counsel investigate internal problems, such as data breaches and intellectual property theft, to determine whether legal action needs to be pursued. "The law firms don't have the forensic laabs that we have," she said. "They don't have the private inestigator experience that we have. We look for that smoking-gun e-mail or document"
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