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Androvett Blog

by Robert Tharp at 4:00:15 pm

HRWorld has an interesting article today about how employers are increasingly moving to a paperless payroll system that both saves money and provides a much more convenient and secure payment mechanism for the legion of workers out there who don't have bank accounts.

Writes HRWorld: Paying employees who don't have a bank account is a problem facing a growing number of businesses. Such "unbanked" individuals would like to be spared the trouble and expense of using check-cashing stores, supermarkets and other nonbank sources to receive their salary. Meanwhile, companies that currently pay such employees with currency need to escape the security, payroll and regulatory headaches that accompany cash disbursements.

To address the need for a secure, hassle-free electronic employee-payment system, various financial institutions and third-party vendors have created payroll debit-card - or paycard - services. It's a trend that seems to be catching on. A 2006 study by Boston-based financial-research firm Aite Group LLC estimated that expanding paycard use will lead to nearly 60 percent market growth by 2009.

 

Employment attorney Carrie Hoffman of Gardere Wynne Sewell agrees: "Because it is all electronic, these systems can dramatically lower payroll processing costs and in an industry such as retail that is operating on an increasingly thin profit margin, the savings can help keep a business operating," she says. To interview Ms. Hoffman about the increasing use of paycards, contact Rhonda Reddick at 800-559-4534 or rhonda@androvett.com.

by Robert Tharp at 2:00:25 pm

Just weeks after McKool Smith attorneys secured a $200 million patent-infringement verdict against Microsoft on behalf of software maker i4i, attorneys for the national trial firm McKool Smith have won a $139 million patent-infringement verdict in the Eastern District of Texas. As reported by Bloomberg and others covering the trial of Versata Software Inc. vs. SAP AG, a jury in Marshall, Texas, awarded more than Versata sought at the outset of the trial. Jurors found that SAP infringed two Versata software product patents related to pricing technology - U.S. Patent Nos. 6,553,350 B2, issued in 2003, and 5,878,400, issued in 1999. The jury also rejected SAP's assertion that the patents were invalid.

Bloomberg reports that the Versata verdict is the fourth-largest patent jury verdict in the U.S. this year and represents the 11th-largest jury award overall for 2009. Meanwhile, McKool Smith's $200 million jury verdict on behalf of i4i against Microsoft was the third largest patent verdict and seventh largest overall verdict of 2009, according to Bloomberg. Last year, McKool Smith was responsible for more of the National Law Journal's Top 100 verdicts of of 2008 than any other firm in the country.

 

by Robert Tharp at 10:55:48 am

There's no shortage of horror stories about insurance companies that routinely refuse to pay businesses and individuals for legitimate losses. While some states are increasingly pursuing stiff penalties for insurance companies that operate in bad faith, The Lanier Law Firm is responding with the formation of a new Bad Faith Insurance Practice Group led by firm attorney Phillip Sanov of Houston. The Bad Faith Insurance Practice Group helps individuals and commercial property owners across the country in non-payment disputes with insurance carriers based on claims arising from storms, fires and other natural disasters.
"When you call Houston home, you become intimately familiar with the effects of natural disasters and the insurance mess often left in their wake," says Mark Lanier, founder of The Lanier Law Firm. "Our new practice group will work to help businesses and individuals get back on their feet after a disaster."
The firm has already helped thousands of individuals and businesses recover insurance reimbursements from Hurricane Ike, not to mention claims involving damage from earthquakes, mudslides, forest fires and other disasters.
"After paying premiums for years, you expect an insurance company to stand behind you when disaster strikes," says Mr. Sanov. "The sad truth is that most people and businesses I talk with have been wrongfully denied, unreasonably delayed or vastly underpaid for their insurance claims."
For more information, contact Johnny Cargill at 281.866.6886 or jdc@lanierlawfirm.com.

by Robert Tharp at 4:05:51 pm

Business bankruptcies spiked 60 percent as of for the first six months of 2009, representing 30,333 business filings, according to the American Bankruptcy Institute. With that kind of carnage, even companies with strong balance sheets can't feeling the pinch when working with suppliers that may heading down the path toward bankruptcy or that have already sought court protection. "We're seeing this from worldwide industries like the auto manufacturing sector down to smaller, more contained industries," says Rhett Campbell, who leads Thompson & Knight's Corporate Reorganization and Creditors' Rights Practice. "It can be an enormous challenge to maintain business relationships with companies as they're trying to restructure, and that can really impact businesses all along the supply chain." To interview Mr. Campbell about commercial bankruptcy trends, contact Barry Pound at 800-559-4534 or barry@androvett.com

 

by Robert Tharp at 3:50:49 pm

The Justice Department's crackdown on Swiss bank accounts has been called the beginning of the end of super-secret offshore banks favored by the world's elite. Following a contentious eight-month legal battle between the U.S., Switzerland and UBS, the IRS will get access to 4,450 UBS Swiss bank accounts that represent an estimated $18 billion in untaxed savings. While that may be true, the tax crackdown doesn't just threaten the super rich, says  tax litigation attorney Charles Meadows of Meadows, Collier, Reed, Cousins & Blau. "People with $10,000 or more in a foreign account who fail to check the right boxes and don't file the proper disclosures are at risk," he says.

While the IRS has offered an amnesty period of sorts set to end Sept. 23, the voluntary disclosure period allows taxpayers a break from prosecution provided they agree to pay back taxes, interest and penalties. But not everyone's off the hook, particularly those already under investigation. "If they already have your name, you may be ineligible for the amnesty," Meadows says. "In these cases the IRS reserves the right to move forward with criminal prosecution." To interview Mr. Meadows, contact Scott Holcomb at 800-559-4534 or scott@androvett.com

by Robert Tharp at 4:07:17 pm

There's an unprecedented disciplinary hearing unfolding in San Antonio involving the chief ustice of the Texas Court of Appeals, Sharon Keller. You can read the blow-by-

blow coverage over at Texas Lawyer's Ex Parte blog. The New York Times even weighed in with an editorial today. Judge Keller is facing ethics charges from the State Commission on Judicial Conduct in connection with the events that occurred just hours before the execution of Michael Richard in Sept. 2007. The judge is accused of closing the courthouse doors promptly at 5 p.m., effectively blocking the filing of a late appeal by Richard's legal team. Needless to say, there's no shortage of strong feelings among observers on both sides regarding what should happen at the close of this hearing. Count Dallas litigator Dan Boyd among them.

Boyd, who is a frequently published and regular speaker on the topic of legal ethics, calls the judge's actions "inexcusable," but also notes "they are only the most notorious of a pattern of biased judicial conduct on her part." To interview Mr. Boyd about legal ethics, contact Rhonda Reddick at 800-559-4534 or Rhonda@androvett.com.

by Robert Tharp at 4:24:19 pm

More than two years after Jenkens & Gilchrist closed its doors as a law firm, attorneys from Sayles Werbner walked out of a Dallas courtroom with a multi-million breach of contract verdict on behalf of the firm. Attorney Mark Werbner successfully argued in trial that the now-closed firm is still entitled to revenue from a former client's patent licensing program. The breach of contract trial hinged on an agreement between Jenkens & Gilchrist and Forgent (now known as Asure Software Inc.) in which Forgent agreed to pay the firm a percentage of fees from a patent licensing program. When Jenkens & Gilchrist ceased operations two years ago, Forgent stopped paying the fees. "When you boil it down, this lawsuit was about Forgent's failure to keep a promise it made to the law firm," says Werbner.
Texas Lawyer's Ex Parte blog notes that the plaintiffs spurned three different settlement offers, the highest of which was $2.45 million, and proceeded to trial. The decision paid off with a jury award that(with prejudgment interest) was more than a million dollars more than the final settlement offer.

by Robert Tharp at 1:30:33 pm

As reported by the Seattle Times and many others today, not only has Microsoft Corp. failed to quash a $200 million patent-infringement verdict, but the award has since grown to $290 million and counting with enhanced damages. U.S. District Judge Leonard Davis also issued a permanent injunction banning Microsoft from selling Microsoft Word products that include the customized XML feature at the center of the dispute with Toronto-based technology provider and document management company i4i Inc.

The i4i verdict is just the latest in a stellar string of courtroom victories for McKool Smith. The i4i verdict is the seventh-largest jury verdict this year, and the third-largest patent verdict, according to Bloomberg data.

During the trial, attorneys from McKool Smith and Tyler, Texas-based Parker, Bunt & Ainsworth successfully argued that Microsoft infringed the i4i patent issued in 1998, U.S. Patent No. 5,787,499, which covers software designed to manipulate "document architecture and content." The software covered by the patent removed the need for individual, manually embedded command codes to control text formatting in electronic documents.

Judge Davis ruled that Microsoft should pay i4i an additional $40 million for its willful infringement of the i4i patent. Microsoft also was ordered to pay slightly more than $37 million in prejudgment interest, including an additional $21,102 per day until a final judgment is reached in the case. The court also ordered Microsoft to pay $144,060 per day until the date of final judgment for post-verdict damages. Today's permanent injunction prohibits Microsoft from selling or importing to the United States any Microsoft Word products that have the capability of opening .XML, .DOCX or DOCM files (XML files) containing custom XML. The court is requiring Microsoft to comply with the injunction within 60 days.

 

by Robert Tharp at 2:52:11 pm

School supplies, check. School uniforms, check. Credits to graduate?

As Texas families gather school supplies and gear for the rapidly approaching 2009-2010 year, the clock is ticking for school districts across the state to make a decision that could significantly affect the graduating class of 2010. At issue is a newly passed state law that allows districts to eliminate the previously mandated graduation requirements for health, computer skills and one of three P.E. semesters.

School districts were surprised to learn that the new requirements are effective for graduating seniors this year, and that potentially creates enormous curriculum and personnel changes with just weeks to go before the opening bell. School districts can opt out of the law and phase the requirements in over time, but such action requires explicit action by school districts in the coming weeks.

A recent Dallas Morning News story notes: The bill did not phase the changes in with incoming freshmen, as is generally the case when changes are made to graduation requirements. Instead, the Texas Education Agency informed districts July 3 that the changes were effective immediately and would apply to all students unless local districts explicitly decided not to implement them. That's putting school boards between parents and students, who want the new choices, and teachers and staffers, who say it's too late to make changes.

"Usually the state specifies a transition period, but in this case the changes can be effective immediately," says Bill Banowsky of Thompson & Knight, who is legal counsel for a number of districts. "We're still recommending that districts keep students on their current plans and phase in these requirements for next year, rather than attempt to hire new staff or make curriculum adjustments on the fly." To interview Mr. Banowsky, contact Barry Pound at 800-559-4534 or barry@androvett.com.

 

by Robert Tharp at 1:38:15 pm

One place I wouldn't want to be right now is idling in the ever-present traffic jam on a stretch of Interstate 35 under construction just north of Gainesville near the Oklahoma border. Authorities say traffic's been down to one lane for weeks because the contractor working on a bridge project is progressing at a snail's pace. It's become a deadly situation for motorists. Twice in the last month, tractor-trailer drivers have plowed into the queue of cars, resulting in five deaths.

On July 5, 13-year-old Casey Hinkle and his 63-year-old grandfather Gervious Dale Hinkle were killed when their Ford Explorer was struck from behind by a tractor-trailer owned by Tulsa, Okla.-based Refrigerated Delivery Services Inc. On August 3, three people died when an 18-wheeler plowed into stopped traffic along the same stretch of the Interstate.

Noted truck accident attorney Steve Laird of Fort Worth's The Law Offices of Steven C. Laird has filed a wrongful death lawsuit filed against the Texas Department of Transportation (TXDOT) and other defendants on behalf of the Melissa Hinkle, who was injured in the July 5 wreck that killed her son and father. A Texas state trooper told reporters that Mr. Crume failed to control the truck's speed before crashing into the Hinkle's vehicle and several others.

"Ms. Hinkle is filing this lawsuit with the hope that it will bring change and prevent something like this tragedy from happening to another family," says Mr. Laird. "Every defendant in this case had a hand in these unnecessary deaths, and we intend to make sure they are held accountable. This has to stop before more innocent people are killed."

This latest case was filed in Cooke County's 235th District Court in Gainesville the morning of Aug. 6 as Melissa J. Hinkle, et al. v. Randy Crume, et al., No. 09-00364. Mr. Laird has requested a jury trial to determine the defendants' liability. For more information on the lawsuit, please contact Bruce Vincent at 214-559-4630 or bruce@androvett.com.

by Robert Tharp at 3:25:45 pm

Compared to Bernie Madoff's spectacular collapse, the recent implosion of Dallas-based Provident Royalties, LLC, may not seem that sexy. Try telling that to the more than 7,000 investors who ponied up $485 million for what the SEC now calls a classic Ponzi scheme. There's so much of this stuff going on lately that a new word has been coined: ponzimonium.

According to the SEC, Provident Royalties and its three principals, Paul "Russ" Melbye, Brendan Coughlin and Henry Harrison, misled investors about what they were buying and promised annual returns of up to 18 percent from investments in oil and gas, real estate, leases, and mineral rights. The company raised $485 million between September 2006 and January 2009, but investigators say most of the money was used to pay promised returns to earlier investors.

Victims of the scheme have retained the New York Law firm of Zwerling, Schachter & Zwerling, LLP, to pursue potential claims of securities fraud. The firm will be investigating the actions of Provident Royalties, its principals and related companies, including Provident Asset Management, LLC., Provident Energy, LP, and Shale Royalties, Inc.

"When oil and gas prices were riding high, everyone wanted to get in," says Jeffrey Zwerling, a founding partner of Zwerling, Schachter & Zwerling. "But when prices nosedived, investors disappeared. That meant there was no new money to pay investor returns or return principal to people who wanted to get out. That's when a scheme such as this comes apart."

Provident has officially gone belly-up, filing Chapter 11 bankruptcy shortly before the SEC's action in early July. For more information, please contact Mark Annick at 800-559-4534, 214-213-1754 or mark@androvett.com, or Shaye Fuchs at 1-800-721-3900 or SFuchs@zsz.com.  

by Robert Tharp at 2:07:45 pm

Facebook's usage numbers are just staggering: more than 250 million registered users are spending more than 5 billion minutes on the social networking site every single day(5 billion minutes works out to 9.5 years of time, according to this time conversion calculator). 

Businesses are learning the hard way that there's a fine line to walk regarding whether to allow workers to log onto their personal Facebook pages(and other social media networks) during the work day, says Anthony Campiti of Thompson & Knight. Many employers have implemented or are considering outright bans out of concern about productivity and concerns about confidential information and legal exposure. 

Campiti says such a response may be justified for some companies, but a measured, consistent approach is perhaps the best strategy for most. "Many employers are deciding against across-the-board bans because of the negative impact on recruiting and retention, and the potential benefits in using the sites to network and build business." Campiti says companies should enforce any existing reasonable-use provisions and develop specific policies for social networking. "As long as employers apply and enforce these policies consistently, they should be OK legally." To interview Mr. Campiti, contact Barry Pound at 800-559-4534 or barry@androvett.com.

by Robert Tharp at 1:22:23 pm

We receive lots of media requests here at Androvett Legal Media, many of which are spot-on relevant to our growing stable of expert legal clients. As former journalists ourselves, perhaps nothing pleases us more than helping a reporter on a deadine find the perfect source to flesh out a story. But you never know what's going to cross the transom on any given day. This one from just a few minutes ago deserves a special award.


[Publication deleted] magazine wishes to find out if it would be possible for a human being to survive inside a whale for a significant amount of time. I'm a freelancer. Contact: [name deleted], at [e-mail address deleted]


So there you go. Wanna talk about criminal defense? Estoppel? ERISA? Probate law? Executive compsensation? Mergers & acquisitions? We'll set you up. Shoot, even maritime law. Wanna know how long you might survive in the body of a whale? We'll work on it. Seems like someone's written about this before, though.