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Androvett Blog

by Robert Tharp at 4:37:26 pm

Fashion sense and modesty can absolutely go out the window as the mercury rises. Workers will wear anything -- or practically nothing at all -- in a futile attempt to beat the heat. But scantily clad workers in a professional setting can create real dilemmas for employers, says labor and employment attorney Audrey Mross of Dallas-based Munck Carter. "A coworker who is revealing a little too much can make colleagues uncomfortable or, intentionally or unintentionally, attract attention that forms the basis of a harassment claim," Mross says. "Supervisors are often loathe to confront the situation since it can come off as an attack on personal taste or style. That's where the value of a consistent, basic dress code comes in." To interview Ms. Mross about workplace matters, contact Robert Tharp at 800-559-4534 or robert@androvett.com.

by Robert Tharp at 4:11:32 pm

When an Uptown construction worker fell 23 stories to his death Thursday, the tragedy put a face on an alarming Texas trend that has already caught OSHA's attention. Following a dramatic spike in worker deaths in Texas, OSHA is bringing more inspectors to Texas and has begun performing unannounced site inspections. Dallas attorney Jeff Rasansky of the Rasansky Law Firm says the action is greatly overdue. "The latest figures show that more than 140 construction workers died in 2007, up nearly a third over the previous few years," says Rasansky, who represents people hurt on the job. OSHA has indicated it will conduct unannounced inspections at Texas construction sites through August. "With the current economic conditions, some companies are tempted to cut corners on safety to save a few pennies. Knowing that the government could show up at any time should help business owners do the right thing in looking out for their employees." To interview Mr. Rasansky about workplace safety issues, contact Bruce Vincent at 800-559-4534 or bruce@androvett.com.

by Robert Tharp at 4:35:29 pm

You might pity the plight of Michael Jackson's personal physician, Conrad Murray. There he was in the weeks after the King of Pop's death, dutifully making himself available to investigators and answering questions. Then all of a sudden, the po-po with whom he thought he was cooperating come barging in with a search warrant.

But noted Houston criminal defense attorney Dan Cogdell says that's not an unusual experience for folks who are at the center of criminal probes. "Often, ‘people of interest' feel that cooperating with investigators will prevent a raid, but that is simply not the case," says Cogdell, who has represented numerous high-profile clients subjected to similar searches. "Law enforcement agencies don't have to tell you in advance what they are going to do, and can basically lie to you about their intentions in many cases. People often find out that while they are operating in good faith, that isn't always reciprocal." To interview Mr. Cogdell about high-profile criminal cases, contact Alan Bentrup at 800-559-4534 or alan@androvett.com.

by Robert Tharp at 2:42:10 pm

More than two years have passed since a Dallas jury ordered a Dallas-based physicians' group to pay local doctor Neal Fisher $6.3 million for defamation and breach of contract. The big jury award was in appellate limbo until June 25, when an appellate court finally affirmed the judgment in Fisher's favor.

Dr. Fisher was a member and "shareholder" in Pinnacle Anesthesia Consultants, P.A., a firm that provided obstetric anesthesiology services to Presbyterian Hospital. Things started to go bad for Dr. Fisher after he questioned the firm's billing practices and raised concerns that while the firm advertised as being "in-network" for all major health care plans, it allegedly had a business model of intentionally being "out-of-network" for its services. Pinnacle responded by accusing Dr. Fisher of abusing alcohol and drugs and made false accusations about the doctor's administrative and medical abilities. Pinnacle then fired him from the practice.

His personal and professional reputation at stake, Dr. Fisher voluntarily submitted to drug and alcohol testing of samples of his blood and hair through Presbyterian Hospital's own Impaired Physician Program. Though Dr. Fisher passed each test, Pinnacle neither apologized nor offered him his job back. The suit alleged that his lost job and damage to his reputation cost him millions in lost income.

"For the appellate court to rule in his favor on every single issue makes a statement about this case and about the jury's verdict," says attorney Mike Richardson of Rose•Walker, who represented Dr. Fisher at trial. With post-judgment interest, the amount of the judgment is now in excess of $10 million.

 

by Robert Tharp at 4:11:10 pm

With a sprawling southern neighbor like Mexico, it's easy to forget about the smaller Central American countries that also have interrelated economies. Consider the sudden political shakeup in Honduras. Dallas attorney Trey Branham says few in the U.S. grasp the degree of bilateral trade that occurs between Honduras and the U.S. - more than $7 billion at last count, or that the lush, relatively small country is a significant U.S. tourist destination with more than 100 cruise ship landings a year. Branham, who has interests in Honduras, says a stable government is vital for Honduras' economy and for a continued healthy economic relationship with the U.S. "It's pretty simple; stability in the government there is good for business here," Branham says. "And it's good for the people of Honduras as well. It's in both our interests to do whatever possible to help resolve this situation quickly." To interview Mr. Branham, contact Mark Annick at 800-559-4534 or mark@androvett.com.

by Robert Tharp at 5:04:25 pm

The Supreme Court's landmark Ricci v. DeStefano ruling appears to have provided some much-needed clarity for hiring and promoting within businesses. The Court ruled in favor of white New Haven, Conn., firefighters who had challenged the city's decision to reject the results of a promotion exam after no African-Americans scored well enough to advance. The Supreme Court's 5-4 ruling found that such unbiased tests are valid for making employment decisions. Labor and employment attorney Mark Shank of Gruber Hurst Johansen & Hail predicts the ruling will lead to an increased use of such exams in the business world.

The ruling centers on theTitle VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex or national origin. The marority also ruled that the city had failed to demonstrate its primary argument for invalidating the test — that certifying the results would result in unintentional injury to minority firefighters. "This ruling removes a level of risk for companies and public agencies that use standardized tests in performance evaluations or hiring practices, and will likely reduce litigation for employers that stay within the opinion's boundaries," says Shank.

Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in the majority opinion: "Fear of litigation alone cannot justify an employer's reliance on race to the detriment of individuals who passed the examinations and qualified for promotions." Meanwhile, writing in dissent, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said the white firefighters "understandably attract this court's sympathy. But they had no vested right to promotion. Nor have other persons received promotions in preference to them." To interview Mr. Shank on employment matters, contact Barry Pound at 800-559-4534 or barry@androvett.com.

by Robert Tharp at 4:32:24 pm

History has proven that industry leaders often emerge during tough economic times. Regarding the legal biz in 2009, one of those appears to be McKool Smith. The growing firm's latest coup: selection as one of 20 firms across the U.S. highlighted in The National Law Journal's first-ever "Midsize Hot List."

In selecting McKool Smith, NLJ editors noted the firm's successful expansion into Washington, D.C., and New York City during the past two years, as well as several high-profile lateral attorneys in core practice areas of commercial litigation, white collar litigation and intellectual property litigation.

Noting that midsize firms "have proven more agile than their bigger competitors," the NLJ staff also highlighted the firm's incredible trial performance last year, earning four of the Top 100 verdicts of 2008, more than any law firm of any size in the nation. The publication also details McKool Smith is on the forefront of meeting client demands by offering cutting-edge alternate billing arrangements and fee structures that do not rely on hourly billing.

 

by Robert Tharp at 3:26:49 pm

With credit markets in deep freeze, lots of businesses out there are desperately seeking investors. And when a company's viability is hanging in the balance, it becomes harder and harder to look the gift horse in the mouth and ask the tough questions of a potential white knight. But such due diligence of investors is more important than ever, says attorney Cliff Risman of Gardere Wynne Sewell LLP. Risman notes that potential investors should be vetted by the State Department, Treasury Department and other governmental agencies, as well as through private investigation agencies. "Due diligence is critical, and this goes far beyond traditional reviews of business and financial fitness," he says. "Regardless of the domicile or nationality of the investor, care must be taken to be sure the funds are not the proceeds of some form of illegal enterprise and that the investor is not on any of the various terrorism or other watch lists." To interview Mr. Risman, contact Rhonda Reddick at 800-559-4534 or rhonda@androvett.com.

by Robert Tharp at 4:17:30 pm

It's now the U.S. Senate's turn to debate proposed climate change legislation, and amid all the talk about smart grids and wind and solar energy, it's easy to forget about the small, but increasing role being played by natural gas-powered vehicles. Many public and private entities are already taking advantage of existing federal incentives that encourage the use of natural gas-powered vehicles, and attorney Scott Deatherage of Dallas' Thompson & Knight says that the proposed legislation will likely contain provisions promoting the relatively clean fuel source. "The final Senate bill will likely echo the House version in extending tax and fuel credits for the use of natural gas into the next decade," he says. "Regardless of what happens legislatively, there is a plentiful domestic supply and a growing market for natural gas as a vehicle fuel, particularly for large fleet operators." Deatherage notes that AT&T recently committed $350 million to buy natural gas vehicles, and more and more entrepreneurs are looking into independent fueling stations to sell liquid or compressed forms of natural gas. To interview Mr. Deatherage, contact Barry Pound at 800-559-4534 or barry@androvett.com.

by Robert Tharp at 11:19:41 am

Probate lawyers Steve Spitzer, Scott Meyer and Glenda Brewer over at  Cowles & Thompson's blog, Texas Probate & Estate Disputes, have plenty to say about the ins and outs of probate and estate law. According to their latest post, Michael Jackson's estate squabble provides some learning opportunities for all of us, namely you never know when it's your turn to perform that big moonwalk in the sky, so it's smart to have a thorough and up-to-date estate plan in place.

They write:

You will need to have a complete and current written will that addresses all of the relevant issues that may arise upon death. The two biggest legal issues so far regarding Mr. Jackson's death are 1) who will be in charge of the estate (who will serve as executor) and 2) who will be in charge of his minor children (who will be the guardian).

Mr. Jackson's will apparently names two people to serve as co executors of his estate(those two are two of Mr. Jackson's attorneys, and neither of them are members of his family). Mr. Jackson's mother, who was not one of the two people named, applied to the court to be named executor. Her request was denied by the court, which is not a surprise. Normally, the executor named in the will by the deceased will be appointed by the court unless the executor is disqualified for some reason (usually conviction of a crime, mental incapacity, or the like). The fact that someone else might be a closer relative to the deceased or that someone else might be a better business manager than the person chosen is not usually relevant. As long as the person chosen meets the basic and minimal qualifications, the courts will usually honor the choice made by the deceased person as expressed in their will.

The guardianship for the children issue is more clouded because Mr. Jackson had three children by two different women. The mother of the two older children has expressed a desire to have guardianship custody of those two children. As the biological mother, she has rights as a parent, just as Mr. Jackson had parental rights while he was alive. For the time being, Mr. Jackson's mother (the grandmother of the children) has been appointed temporary guardian.

In the short run, the courts usually look to try to provide as much stability as possible for the children, as they have obviously been traumatized enough by their father's unexpected death. The grandmother seems more involved in their lives on a regular basis and is in the best position to provide interim stability. In the longer run, the courts may not view the 79 year old grandmother as the best option, and the biological mother of the children could well be given expanded rights, if not full custody.

Mr. Jackson's will made designated his mother as the guardian, with Diana Ross as an alternate in the event that his mother is unable to serve. It will be interesting to see what rights the court may grant to the biological mother as the case proceeds.

It is important that parents of children under the age of 18 include such provisions in their will so that their wishes can be made known and taken into consideration after death.

by Robert Tharp at 10:23:36 am

When Rice University freshman football standout Dale Lloyd collapsed during a workout three years ago, his death was tragic for the many touched by his life and a wakeup call for the NCAA's oversight of young athletes. Mr. Lloyd's family turned to The Lanier Law Firm to find answers. Firm founder Mark Lanier and firm partner Gene Egdorf have negotiated an important settlement to the wrongful death litigation that takes significant steps to prevent such tragedies from happening again in college sports programs.

Medical examiners concluded that sickle cell disease was a factor in Mr. Lloyd's death. Neither Mr. Lloyd nor his family were aware that Mr. Lloyd carried the sickle cell trait, and the NCAA did not require screening for sickle cell disease even though the sickle cell trait had been linked to other student athlete deaths. As a result of the litigation and settlement, the NCAA will recommend that university athletic departments test all athletes for the sickle cell trait. The Lloyd family has sought such a commitment form the NCAA to protect future student athletes. The sickle cell trait appears in approximately 8-9% of the African-American population, and is found less commonly in all races.

"This settlement is the first step in preventing tragic deaths like Dale's from ever happening again," says Mr. Lanier. "The Lloyd family is pleased that the NCAA stepped up and settled this matter in a way that honors their son's memory and also funds research that will save lives."

The NCAA also will insert a "Point of Emphasis" regarding sickle cell testing in its Football Rulebook in conjunction with a press conference scheduled for August. Additionally, the NCAA will instruct coaches, athletic trainers and student athletes about the dangers of the sickle cell trait, and provide a $50,000 donation to the Sickle Cell Disease Association of America and a $10,000 donation to the Dale R. Lloyd II Scholarship Fund. Mr. Lanier also will be contributing $20,000 to the scholarship fund in recognition of the Lloyd family. The Houston Press touched on the impact that Lloyd, a Lamar High School grad, had on so many:

It's difficult to overstate how well-liked Lloyd was among his peers. His death hit Lamar especially hard; he'd been a football star who was friendly to everyone, and got the grades necessary to get into Rice. "From the beginning of this case, our goal was to have the NCAA recommend and implement a testing program to prevent further deaths related to the sickle cell trait," said Gene Egdorf, the lead attorney on the case.

by Robert Tharp at 11:53:10 am

Retail electricity and gas provider Stream Gas & Electric has grown like crazy in the last three years with an intoxicating message. With a business model that offers individuals a path to personal wealth by schlepping electrical service to friends and neighbors, it has become the 29th largest private company in Dallas/Fort Worth,

But some are starting to question whether Stream's business plan amounts to a multilevel marketing pyramid scheme, which is an illegal and non-sustainable business model that involves the exchange of money primarily for enrolling other people into the scheme, often without any product or service being delivered. Attorney's from Houston's The Clearman Law Firm have filed a federal class action lawsuit under the Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organizations(RICO) Act against the Dallas-based company.

Clearman attorneys allege that Stream and its marketing arm, Ignite, induced the plaintiffs and others to invest in the "Ignite Services Program" at a cost of $329 and purchase an "Ignite Homesite" web page for a charge of $29 per month. The lawsuit claims that a large portion of the $329 is paid to those higher in the pyramid. "Some of the individuals at the top of the Stream and Ignite pyramid earn millions of dollar a year, while most of those that are now joining the scheme will likely never recover their investment," says Scott Clearman of The Clearman Law Firm, lead counsel for the plaintiffs. "Stream promises recruits that they can make vast sums of money, but the fact is that most will lose their money."

A copy of the lawsuit and more information about The Clearman Law Firm is available at http://www.clearmanlaw.com. For more information or to schedule an interview with Mr. Clearman, please contact Barry Pound at 800-559-4534 or barry@androvett.com.

by Robert Tharp at 4:32:04 pm

Looks like we'll never know exactly what caused Air France 447 to go down into the Atlantic Ocean earlier this month now that key data stored in the plane's "black box" is buried with the wreckage at sea. Attorney and pilot Marty Rose of Dallas' Rose•Walker law firm says the loss of the crucial flight data didn't have to occur. In fact, modern aircraft like the Airbus A330 that was involved in this crash are technologically able to transmit this flight data real-time so there's no need to rely on an investigator's ability to recover the black boxes from a crash.

"So how is it that manufacturers and airlines can collect that data, but not information from the black boxes?" Rose asks. "It's simple. They're not required to do so. Neither the FAA, NTSB, nor their equivalents in other countries require the airlines to install real-time data transmission devices which would make the black boxes unnecessary and antiquated." To interview Mr. Rose, contact Mark Annick at 800-559-4534 or mark@androvett.com.

 

by Robert Tharp at 3:41:38 pm

For even the most on-the-ball parents, the search for a good daycare provider is at best an emotionally charged exercise. At worst, it's an exasperating test in faith to place loved ones in the hands of a poorly regulated and inconsistent world of daycare. With news accounts of children injured or abused at the hands of caregivers occurring on practically a daily basis, consumer attorney  Jeff Rasansky has published an important guide to identifying and preventing daycare abuses.

"Preventing, Discovering and Acting on Claims of Daycare and Childcare Abuse" is available to download at www.daycareabusebook.com, the guide outlines rules, regulations and best practices regarding daycare safety, explaining what to look for when choosing a daycare, how to spot warning signs and what to do when abuse is suspected. "Our hope is that this book will give parents the tools to help protect the most vulnerable members of their families," Mr. Rasansky says. To interview Mr. Rasansky about daycare abuse, contact Bruce Vincent at 800-559-4534 or bruce@androvett.com.

 

 

by Robert Tharp at 11:50:45 am

Jon and Kate Gosselin's car crash of a relationship could not have been scripted any better/worse for reality TV fodder. Now that the couple are divorcing and their wildly successful cable show, Jon & Kate Plus 8, is on hiatus, a family court will have to do something these two adults have so far been incapable of...consider what's best for their eight young children. Family law attorney Carmen Eiker, a Dallas partner in McCurley Orsinger McCurley Nelson & Downing, says the court has much to consider in this case, but the process is essentially the same for any family in Texas.

"There are myriad considerations for the court in regard to the couple's children, from custody to the protection of their earnings," says Eiker. "In Texas, the court could require an attorney be appointed to represent each child individually to ensure their unique interests are considered and protected." To interview Ms. Eiker, contact Bruce Vincent at 800-559-4534 or bruce@androvett.com.

 

by Robert Tharp at 4:20:07 pm

U.S. farmers and ranchers stand to reap a new bounty for their toils. Compromise climate change legislation recently passed by the U.S. House creates a new market opportunity for farmers and ranchers to become important players in proposed cap-and-trade greenhouse gas reduction plans.

Under the compromise, environmental attorney Scott Deatherage of Thompson & Knight's Dallas office says famers and ranchers would be exempt from the bill's greenhouse gas emission reduction requirements, which means that farmers, ranchers and forestland owners would not be subject to any caps on greenhouse gas emissions. Additionally, farmers ranchers and forestland owners would be encouraged to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and sequester carbon from their operations. With offests earned from these actions, they could get into the business of selling credits to utilities, refiners, or other firms that operate under the new greenhouse gas limitations. All of this hinges on whether the bill can make it through the U.S. Senate unscathed.

Environmental attorney Dallas' Richard O. Faulk, head of the Environmental Practice Group at Gardere Wynne Sewell,says the compromise is a major victory for agribusiness, as well as rural America. "Far too many U.S. Legislators seemed to have lost sight of the impact their decisions could have," says Faulk. "These agribusinesses, and the areas that support them, often walk a very narrow line between profit and loss." Even with the compromise, Faulk still sees the legislation as problematic. "Perhaps now the headlong rush to regulate America's farmers and ranchers can take a more measured pace. The number of family farms has declined precipitously since the 1930s. There are so many other problems with this bill that it would have been tragic if this ill-conceived piece of legislation had hastened that decline." To interview Mr. Deatherage or Mr. Faulk, contact Rhonda Reddick(rhonda@androvett.com) or Barry Pound(barry@androvett.com) at 800-559-4534. 

by Robert Tharp at 1:35:02 pm

We couldn't help noticing Erin Nealy Cox's inclusion on the Dallas Business Journal's "40 Under 40" list of the city's top young business minds this year. Erin, managing partner and deputy general counsel for the global digital forensics firm Stroz Friedberg, has packed an incredible amount of accomplishments into her career, and she's not even 40 yet.


A former federal prosecutor, Ms. Nealy Cox previously served as the Computer Hacking and Intellectual Property Coordinator for the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Northern District of Texas - Dallas Division. She led major cyber-crime prosecutions across the United States, including the first-ever federal prosecution of a rogue Internet pharmacy operation, and also handled numerous complex white-collar fraud, public corruption, intellectual property theft and child-exploitation cases. During her Department of Justice career, Ms. Cox also served as chief of staff and senior counsel for the Office of Legal Policy at Main Justice in Washington, D.C. Erin now leads the high-tech computer forensics lab and Dallas offices of Stroz Friedberg, a global leader in cutting-edge digital and traditional investigations. At Stroz Friedber, she helps clients in matters ranging from theft of intellectual property to lost laptops, click fraud to online review, load files to leaked confidential information, internal corporate data wiretapping to white collar defense investigations, database forensics to corporate hacking incidents, cyber-extortions to fabricated e-mails — and all other matters, digital and investigatory.