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Androvett Blog

by Dave Moore at 5:21:40 pm

Thomas Friedman’s book “The World is Flat” illustrated the tight-knit nature of the global economy. The recent natural disaster in Japan triggered by an earthquake, a tsunami and then worsened by nuclear power plant problems shows us exactly which industries are most affected by Japan’s woes.

Businesses, however, might not feel the financial sting from the cataclysm facing Japan if they’ve got the proper insurance, says Houston attorney attorney Phillip Sanov, head of The Lanier Law Firm's Bad Faith Insurance Practice Group.

“When those Japanese businesses are shut down, U.S. companies surely will see price increases and delivery delays,” says Sanov, “When Best Buy can't get the hot new gadget because of suppliers in Japan, that will have a direct and significant impact on their bottom line. Experience has shown me that local businesses should review their policies because many companies have coverage and don't realize it.”

While aid and prayers continue to pour toward Japan, companies at home and abroad need to consider what measures they can take to stem their losses as well.

by Rhonda Reddick at 1:22:37 pm

Demand for the H-1B specialty worker visa has become an interesting economic barometer, particularly in terms of the state of the tech industry. Just a few years ago, the entire year’s quota of available H-1B visas was snapped up within days of the opening of the filing period, which falls on April 1 each year.

What a difference a couple years and a global economic collapse can make!

Last year, the cap of 65,000 visas was not reached until February. While this year is shaping up to be equally slow, immigration attorney Irina Plumlee of Gardere Wynne Sewell LLP cautions companies from being lulled into a false sense of security.

“While most are predicting another slow year, it is impossible to determine how quickly the quota will be filled when the new application period opens on April 1,” she cautions. “Although the current economic conditions are not dramatically different from last year, if hiring starts to pick up as the year goes on, available H-1B visa spots may disappear in the blink of an eye. If a company anticipates a need, they should plan ahead and submit their petitions as early as possible.”

by Dave Moore at 8:29:19 am

A recent order from a Los Angeles court should help shine some light on problems detected in the production of a fentanyl pain patch manufactured by prescription drug maker Watson Pharmaceuticals Inc.

In a March 11 ruling, Judge Richard E. Rico ordered Watson to produce company documents and emails requested by Dallas attorney Michael Heygood of the Dallas firm Heygood, Orr & Pearson as part of a lawsuit filed by the parents of California woman who died within hours of applying a Watson fentanyl patch. The judge also has ordered Watson to make employees and corporate representatives available for depositions between April 11 and June 11. Watson and the company’s lawyers had denied requests for the documents and testimony for more than a year.

Heygood represents the family of Nicole Bristol, 37, who died in 2008 after applying a fentanyl patch that allowed a lethal amount of the drug to leak onto her skin, according to the lawsuit.

Although the package insert in Ms. Bristol’s prescription said she should have received 1.7 ng/ml of fentanyl, autopsy results showed that she died with 15 ng/ml in her system. Fentanyl has been found to be lethal at a blood level of 3 ng/ml, with an average lethal concentration of 8 ng/ml. The drug, which is up to 100 times more powerful than morphine, is often prescribed for chronic pain.

Heygood brings a unique track record to the Bristol case, having won a $5.5 million verdict in the nation’s first federal trial involving a fentanyl death, and a $16.5 million verdict for the family of an Illinois mother of three who died after using a fentanyl patch.

by Dave Moore at 10:38:08 am

When Dwaine Caraway took the job as Dallas’ mayor in February, he said he would try to keep a low profile.

Caraway’s statement came shortly after he gave the key to the city to Michael Vick, a professional football player who spent time in prison for his criminal mistreatment of dogs.

Now comes Mayor Caraway’s effort to prevent public access to the recording of a 9-1-1 call he made that followed a domestic incident between himself and his wife, State Rep. Barbara Caraway.

In a legal filing to halt the release of the tape, Mayor Caraway argues that the recording contains no content that would be of interest to the public.

Unfortunately, according to Thompson & Knight attorney Jim Harris, the public positions that both the mayor and state representative hold create interest in the recording.

“Both Mr. Caraway and his wife are public figures, both have been elected, and I think that puts him in a different category than Joe the Plumber,” Harris told Fox4 News' Shaun Rabb.

Even if he’s successful in blocking public access to the 9-1-1 recording, Mayor Caraway might find that it’s hard to keep a low profile while the title “mayor” precedes his name until someone else inherits that honorific.

by Robert Tharp at 3:06:14 pm

A healthy sense of humor may not be a prerequisite for a successful tax and corporate transactions lawyer, but it sure comes in handy sometimes.

When the Houston Chronicle sought out Thompson & Knight tax lawyer Roger Aksamit to provide some expert IRS insight for an oddball tax story, he was ready with a one-liner that is helping send this story quickly around the blogosphere. The story involves the plight of Houston Astros’ fan Bob Choate, who won a year’s supply of doughnuts and coffee as part of a Fan Appreciation Day contest.

Writes the Chronicle: Last month, much like the Grim Reaper, the punch line to his prize landed in Choate's mailbox: an Internal Revenue Service Form 1099, informing him that he owed taxes on $927.61 in "free" coffee and doughnuts.

“If you get paid in doughnuts, you've got to pay in dough," Aksamit quipped to explain how the IRS sends a tax bill for goods won in contests valued over $600.

The article has generated some lively comments from online readers and has been picked up by outlets from the ABA Journal to snarky sports insider news site Deadspin to the TaxProf Blog.

by Dave Moore at 8:51:41 am

Natural gas prices have stalled and sputtered. Companies that sink natural gas wells are filing for bankruptcy protection.What does Thompson & Knight bankruptcy attorney Rhett Campbell advise?

Buy, of course.

“There are attractive investment opportunities for companies that are prepared to ride out this downturn,” says Campbell, who has taken part in his fair share of energy-company reorganizations.

Campbell notes that natural-gas service companies and businesses concentrated along the Gulf of Mexico seem to be especially hard hit by sluggish natural gas prices, which have lingered near $4 per million British Thermal Units since a year ago, having dropped nearly 20 percent since early January.

The stagnation in natural gas prices has made energy companies hesitant to sink more wells in the Gulf, despite the fact that a moratorium on new wells has been lifted. Energy companies that were wobbly to start with are beginning to teeter.

In his decades as an energy lawyer who specializes in bankruptcy law, Campbell has seen many dramatic turnarounds.

It’s likely, given the tumultuous situation surrounding the Gulf and the continued wild variations in our climate, that we will see things turn around again.

by Robert Tharp at 1:20:05 pm

Distressed properties create the ultimate buyer’s market with obvious benefits for those in the M&A market. Thompson & Knight’s Millie Aponte Sall has an interesting piece in the Feb. 14 edition of Texas Lawyer’s “In-House Texas” exploring one of the less-apparent benefits for in-house counsel exploring mergers and acquisitions of distressed properties. Sall, a lawyer in Thompson & Knight’s creditors’ rights group, explains that the HSR Act provides for a waiting period that is considerably shorter than for non-bankruptcy transactions – in some cases the deal can be sealed in half the standard time.

Writes Sall: A company filing for bankruptcy is ripe for the picking, with assets or stock other scan acquire at discounted values. An in-house counsel’s company can obtain assets at lightning speed, free and clear of liens, claims and encumbrances.

Sall notes that of the 716 transactions reported under the HSR Act in 2009, 574 requested early termination(396 – or 69 percent – of those requests were granted). The entire article can be found here..

by Robert Tharp at 3:55:18 pm

The U.S. Department of Transportation is seeking a high-tech solution for the vexing problem of keeping long-haul truckers honest when it comes to abiding by safety restrictions designed to prevent driver fatigue. The DOT proposal would require long-haul trucks and interstate buses to be equipped with an electronic monitor that records drivers’ time on the road and ensure that they don't exceed federally mandated limits. The monitors would replace traditional hard-copy logs that have proven, sadly, to be too easy to falsify.

A 2004 Insurance Institute for Highway Safety survey of long-haul drivers found that one in eight had dozed off behind the wheel in the previous month. 

“Driver fatigue is one of leading causes of catastrophic traffic fatalities, particularly when a commercial truck is involved,” says Dallas trial attorney Frank L. Branson of The Law Offices of Frank L. Branson. “Electronic monitors like these will go a long way toward keeping trucking firms honest and relieve truckers of pressure to fulfill unrealistic driving schedules. This proposal will save lives.”

Appoximately 50,000 vehicles would be affected by the rule.

"We cannot protect our roadways when commercial truck and bus companies exceed hours-of-service rules," said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood in a press release. "This proposal would make our roads safer by ensuring that carriers traveling across state lines are using EOBRs to track the hours their drivers spend behind the wheel."

by Rhonda Reddick at 2:29:48 pm

There’s no doubt the media will compare the grandiosity of the ceremony that surrounded the wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Di with whatever pomp and circumstance await Princess-to-be Kate Middleton and Prince William. After all, William even gave Kate his late mother’s engagement ring.

Dallas Family Law attorney Keith Nelson of McCurley Orsinger McCurley Nelson & Downing says that if the young couple want to forge a bond that lasts beyond ceremonial obligations, besides the obvious need of a prenuptial agreement, they should run – not walk – to the nearest plain-spoken marriage counselor. They should then engage in some serious heart-to-hearts, he says.

“Anyone should expect a bumpy first year, but for arguably the highest profile couple in the world, it will be especially challenging,” Nelson says. “Not only will they experience their first year of marriage in the proverbial fish bowl, but they will also be under the microscope, with every magazine and paparazzi waiting for their first stumble.”

So, can some tough talk from a disinterested third party help the British Monarchy? Well, look how it helped Prince George.

“Good counseling – with a direct, blunt counselor rather than with a well-meaning, but namby-pamby type – will help you anticipate the challenges and winding roads that are sure to come,” says Nelson.