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Androvett Blog

by Robert Tharp at 11:49:09 am

With $80 billion in incentives in the stimulus package reserved for promoting energy efficiency and investment in alternative sources like solar, wind, geothermal and
biofuels, "green collar" entrepreneurs are poised for growth, says environmental attorney Scott Deatherage, who leads climate change and renewable energy projects at Dallas' Thompson & Knight. Emerging companies providing services in renewable energy like wind and solar power projects, greenhouse gas reductions and energy efficiency are becoming better positioned with lenders, who until recently have been holding onto funds as a result of the credit squeeze. "We're working with a number of companies that are now better positioned with lenders, investors and purchasers," Deatherage says. "These ‘green collar' entrepreneurs are gaining funding and looking at the best means to market the stimulus plan's incentives, just as their potential customers are looking at the tax credits and loan guarantees available to them." The stimulus package includes $80 billion in incentives that promote improvements in energy efficiency and investment in alternative sources such as solar, wind, geothermal and biofuels. To interview Mr. Deatherage, contact Barry Pound at 800-559-4534 or barry@androvett.com.

by Robert Tharp at 10:55:57 am

The approaching April 3 anniversary of the raid on the Yearning for Zion Ranch provides a convenient opportunity to step back and assess what, if anything, was learned
from the sweeping law enforcement action on the polygamist sect in a West Texas commune. Based on an anonymous outcry and opinions about the sect's belief system, authorities seized hundreds of children and placed them in the state foster care system. The unprecidented action overloaded the state's child welfare system and cost an estimated $14 million. The Texas Supreme Court later reversed after action, and accusations that the bulk of the children were in danger were never substantiated. Family attorney Betsy Branch of McCurley Orsinger McCurley Nelson & Downing says that while some of the teenage girls were abused and have been rightly removed from the environment, the rush to seize all of the children was premature. "The State had maintained that the ‘pervasive belief system' at the Ranch presented a danger to the children," says Branch, who represented several of the children on a pro bono basis. "The Supreme Court, however, concluded that the rush to remove all of the children was unwarranted based upon the evidence presented at the emergency hearing. In order to ensure the welfare of the children during the investigation, the Court instead directed the trial court to available statutory protections in lieu of placing them in foster care." To interview Ms. Branch, contact Scott Holcomb at 800-559-4534 or scott@androvett.com.  

by Robert Tharp at 4:40:46 pm

Pity all the bosses out there trying to clamp down on employees surreptitiously watching the March Madness NCAA basketball tournament. No longer a cable TV phenomenon, March Madness tournament coverage is now just a mouse click away on computer screens or streaming from any smart phone. Audrey Mross, who
heads the Labor & Employment section at Dallas' Munck Carter, reports that companies taking a hard line on employees tuning into the coverage should consider they may be fighting a losing battle. "Some employers have tried to ban web-watching, labeling it as a nonproductive activity," she says. "Increasingly, however, many employers are subscribing to the ‘If you can't beat ‘em, join ‘em,' theory, and are using the tournament to promote team spirit and to have some fun at work." To interview Ms. Mross about March Madness in the workplace, contact Mark Annick at 800-559-4534 or mark@androvett.com.

by Robert Tharp at 4:31:13 pm

Immigration attorney Irina Plumlee of Dallas' Gardere Wynne Sewell reports an interesting byproduct of the economic crisis related to educated immigrants with college-level or higher degrees. Immigration authorities are reporting that a growing number of these highly skilled workers are choosing to leave the country during this
downturn. Plumlee says the exodus is indeed troubling. "Many of those who are leaving are U.S.-educated professionals with college-level, or higher, degrees, often in the fields that we are most likely going to have to rely upon to get over the current economic hump," she says. "Add to this the fact that every immigrant contributes significantly to the tax pool and the line at the departure gate is suddenly a cause for serious concern." To interview Ms. Plumlee about immigration issues, contact Rhonda Reddick at 800-559-4534 or rhonda@androvett.com.   

by Robert Tharp at 4:17:09 pm

It's no small accomplishment to be listed in The National Law Journal's annual roundup of top 100 trial verdicts. There's not much gray area involved in these rankings; researchers simply scour the previous year's top verdicts and list the 100 largest.

One firm really stands out on this year's list. With four cases making the 2008 list, Dallas-based McKool Smith claims more Top 100 verdicts than any other firm of any size anywhere. This is just the latest indication that something's really going on at this lawfirm, which only recently expanded Washington, D.C., and New York. The four verdicts highlighted on the Top 100 list include:

At No. 12: Medtronic Vascular Inc. v. Boston Scientific Scimed Inc. In this May 2008 verdict, McKool Smith won a $250 million award for Medtronic, successfully arguing that Boston Scientific infringed on a patent for a series of Medtronic catheters used in surgical procedures to treat heart disease.

At No.36: Pioneer Corp. v. Samsung SDI Co. Ltd. McKool Smith and co-counsel from Morrison & Foerster secured a $59 million verdict in October 2008 in a patent infringement trial against Samsung. The case centered around technology used in plasma televisions.

At No. 74: Adderley v. National Football League Players Association. Back in November 2008, the firm and co-counsel from Manatt, Phelps & Phillips obtained a $28 million jury award for more than 2,000 former NFL players alleging breach of contract and breach of fiduciary responsibility. The retired players argued that they were not adequately compensated for licensing and marketing proceeds from NFL-themed video games, jerseys and other merchandise.

At No. 100:  Anascape Ltd. v. Microsoft Corp. Representing Anascape Ltd. against Nintendo of America Inc., McKool Smith attorney successfully argued that Nintendo had infringed on Anascape's patents for various video game controllers sold by Nintendo. The jury awarded Anascape $21 million.

Additionally, McKool Smith is featured in a companion article in The National Law Journal, "Minding their manners; McKool Smith finds that politeness is the way to a jury's heart," which highlighted each of the firm's four major victories. For more information, please visit www.mckoolsmith.com or contact Bruce Vincent at 800-559-4534 or bruce@androvett.com.

by Robert Tharp at 4:28:16 pm

There's still lots to glean from the Obama stimulus package, but one potentially important tax break for business centers around the onerous tax implications when
lenders cancel a borrower's bad debt, says David Wheat, a tax attorney with Dallas' Thompson & Knight. Previously, the borrowers still faced significant tax hickies based on the outstanding amount owed on the loan. Under the stimulus package, the tax liability of having debt cancelled could be deferred. "Because of this, many struggling companies that have not yet reached insolvency or bankruptcy faced hefty tax consequences when they could least afford it," Wheat says. "Now businesses can elect to push back taxation of that income to a five-year period between 2014 and 2018. If eligible, this can help a company work out loans and negotiate discounted payoffs without facing short-term tax obligations." To interview Mr. Wheat about Cancellation of Debt issues, contact Barry Pound at 800-559-4534 or barry@androvett.com.

by Robert Tharp at 4:13:43 pm

Foreclosure is more complicated than it sounds. Before a lender can foreclose and evict a mortgage holder in arrears, some very specific steps have to be taken.
Property owners seeking to avoid home foreclosure also have a protocol that must be followed. Too clarify the process, real estate attorney Robert Miller of Dallas' Prager & Miller has created a foreclosure checklist that outlines the do's and don't's for lenders and homeowners in Texas. For example, lenders must state in their foreclose notices a specific reason for foreclosure - such as failure to pay mortgage, taxes etc. They also must outline steps that the property owner can take during a 20-day period to avoid being put out. Homeowners can stop a foreclosure by paying the amount owed, filing for bankruptcy or going to state court. "Foreclosures don't just happen," Miller says. "The banks have to follow the law, and if you want to stop one, so do you." For a copy of Mr. Miller's foreclosure checklist, contact Mark Annick at 800-559-4534 or mark@androvett.com.

by Robert Tharp at 11:44:25 am

Who knew retractable dog leashes were so controversial? Dog training purists despise them. Entire countries have banned them, and Worldise Inc.'s SlyDog leash is
the subject of a nationwide recall by the Consumer Product Safety Commission because of injuries caused by the defective device.

A 12-year-old Arlington girl suffered serious eye damage when the clasp on her SlyDog leash broke while she was walking her puppy in April 2008, causing the line to recoil rapidly and strike her in the eye. The CPSC recall notes that the defective leash is responsible for broken teeth, facial lacerations, eye damage and other injuries. Stephen Drinnon from Dallas' The Drinnon Law Firm represents the girl and her family and has filed the first known federal lawsuit against Worldwise Inc., as well as Dollar General stores which sold more than 200,000 of the leashes across the country. Read more here

by Robert Tharp at 4:32:48 pm

McKool Smith expanding white-collar practice in growing New York office.
While law firms everywhere are contracting, some are finding opportunity in the downturn. Look at  McKool Smith, which is already adding to its New York offices that

opened just a year ago in a bold move to stake out its IP practice area claim. Responding to the white collar and financial fraud cases and corresponding government regulatory and enforcement actions, the firm has added veteran white-collar litigation attorneys Jack Cooney and Thomas E. Engel.

Both attorneys are former standout federal prosecutors who served together in the US Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York, and each has gone on to successful careers in private practice representing corporate, multinational and individual clients. The two are close friends who each serve as godfathers to the daughter of the other. Additionally, each was in direct talks with McKool Smith when they realized that the other was also in talks about beefing up the firm's white-collar practice.

"Jack Cooney and Tom Engel give our clients access to the very top tier of white-collar and commercial representation at a time when these matters are not merely proliferating, but growing more complex and absolutely crucial to our clients' future," said Mike McKool, the firm's co-founder. He added that a special benefit to the new partners is the relative absence of client conflicts which often inhibit flexibility in representing important clients at larger traditional firms.

Said New York office head Robert A. Cote, "We're growing fast in IP and commercial litigation, as are all our offices, but we expect robust growth in our business and our roster of attorneys over the next year, and the white collar practice is part of the bedrock of our expansion strategy here."