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Androvett Blog

by Androvett Legal Media & Marketing at 9:42:00 am

A Dallas constitutional law attorney says President Trump’s temporary ban on immigrants and refugees at airports nationwide is extreme, but not without historical precedent. 

Issued Jan. 27, the executive order prevents citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States for three months. Trump also placed the U.S. refugee program on hold for four months. The order launched massive protests at airports in major cities across the country and brought attorneys together to offer free legal support to detained travelers.

But attorney David Coale of Lynn Pinker Cox Hurst says that presidents have conducted similar actions in the past:

“There is a very broad 1952 statute that lets the president suspend entry by classes of aliens for security reasons. But a 1965 statute imposes anti-discrimination limits on the executive branch in how it implements immigration policy. But beyond that, there is not a lot of case law to go on. More modest bans have been allowed by courts, but with caveats that indicate they were thinking about a possibility such as this. Jimmy Carter did something vaguely like it in 1980 during the Iran crisis by requiring Iranians here on student visas to report to immigration officials, but it is a big leap from his limited action to this one. I think that once the temporary ban ends, however, the ‘extreme vetting’ in the current order will be DOA. The First Amendment prohibits government action that favors one religion over another, and the current executive order clearly does so by giving non-Muslims priority status.”

For more information, contact Barry Pound at 800-559-4534 or barry@androvett.com.

 

by Androvett Legal Media & Marketing at 2:33:00 pm

Beatle Paul McCartney just sued Sony/ATV in federal court in New York to get his songs back to where they once belonged.

The Beatles songs were sold to Michael Jackson in 1985 and then to Sony, but U.S. laws have changed since that happened. That could mean “Ticket to Ride” and “Hey Jude” revert to Sir Paul in 2018. But the band Duran Duran is having some trouble in the U.K. invoking the same rule, so Mr. McCartney filed a lawsuit hoping to make it clear he gets the tunes back.

“When Lennon and McCartney sold their copyrights to Sony, some might not have imagined that Beatles music would still be popular – much less still under copyright – by the second decade of the next millennium,” said lawyer Steve Mitby, a partner in the Houston law firm Ahmad, Zavitsanos, Anaipakos, Alavi & Mensing P.C., or AZA.

“In the 1998 copyright extension, Congress tried to give the original artists and authors the benefit of the longer 95-year term. But it is far from clear that Congress can modify private contracts – like those between the Beatles and Sony – through that retroactive legislation,” Mr. Mitby said.

Mr. McCartney followed the congressional rules to reclaim his music and served advance notice to the U.S. Copyright Office starting back in 2008 that he was coming for “She Loves You” and more. And no, he won’t just let it be.

For more information, contact Mary Flood at 800-559-4534 or mary@androvett.com.

by Androvett Legal Media & Marketing at 1:34:00 pm

A second former Title IX officer at Baylor University is speaking publicly for the first time about the lack of institutional support and the problems she encountered during her tenure. Gabrielle Lyons, who resigned her position at the school in November of 2015, says that top-level Baylor officials routinely withheld information she needed to investigate sexual assault claims from students at the Waco, Texas, institution.

Speaking to ESPN’s Outside the Lines, Ms. Lyons said:

"The violence is what took me aback. My limited understanding was that it was a great Baptist institution. Me, being a Christian myself, I was just appalled at the level of violence taking place so rampantly at the institution.”

Ms. Lyons said the final straw came during a Oct. 5, 2015, meeting with Reagan Ramsower, Baylor’s senior vice president for operations and chief financial officer. Ms. Lyons said she told Mr. Ramsower that "we are suffering," and the staff needed more support as "it's keeping me up at night. I felt that if I had the support, I could do it." Ms. Lyons described his response as "cold" and dismissive. 

According to the ESPN report, Ms. Lyons said that although cases involving football players comprised less than a third of her workload, she received the most pushback from Baylor officials on getting police records and arranging interviews on those cases. 

Ms. Lyons’ complaints about Baylor and the lack of support the school provided for those investigating sexual assaults of women on campus closely track the statements of former Baylor Title IX Coordinator Patty Crawford, who quit in 2016 and filed a similar complaint with the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights.

Dallas attorney Rogge Dunn, who represents both women says:

"Gabrielle and her boss, Patty Crawford, were placed in a hostile work environment and set up for failure by individuals who didn’t want to support the law or the victims of sexual assault. Gabrielle confirms everything Patty has been saying. She makes it clear that Baylor officials did not want to acknowledge the reality of sexual assault among students and stonewalled virtually any attempt she made to pursue legitimate claims. Her exposure of Baylor’s failures to comply with Title IX provides additional evidence for the victims who have sued Baylor and increases their chances of winning those lawsuits.”

Mr. Dunn says that Ms. Lyons’ statements and evidence provided to the Office of Civil Rights increases the chances that the Department of Education will take action against Baylor. Ms. Lyons, who now lives in Chicago, filed a Title IX complaint and an EEOC charge against Baylor last year, and those investigations are ongoing.

For more information, contact Mark Annick at 800-559-4534 or mark@androvett.com.

by Androvett Legal Media & Marketing at 1:55:00 pm

A Dallas lawyer says he has serious questions about security procedures at Target following a weekend assault in one of that store’s parking lots that left a well-known Texas theater director with a fractured skull.

Attorney Chris Hamilton of Standly Hamilton, LLP says Target should have taken far more seriously the armed threat that Dallas theater director Derek Whitener reported receiving on the way into the store near City Place in Dallas Saturday night. Mr. Hamilton also says Target sent Mr. Whitener into an ambush by allowing him to later leave the store unaccompanied by store security.

This attack was preventable. Having been informed of the danger, Target should not have allowed its customer to walk alone into an ambush. All businesses have a common sense responsibility to keep their customers safe from predictable and preventable crimes. In our view, all Target security had to do was take some basic precautions and provide Derek an escort when he finished his shopping. Target needs to take the safety of its customers more seriously, especially one that reports armed, threatening men in the parking lot to store security.”

Mr. Whitener is recovering at Baylor University Medical Center after he was beaten with a wooden pole by two masked men in a Target store parking lot the night of Jan. 14. Mr. Whitener had stopped by the Dallas CityPlace store after his performance at Firehouse Theater. He told Target employees that he noticed two suspicious men walking toward him. A Target security officer and an off-duty Dallas Police officer spoke to the suspects and asked them to leave the property. Mr. Whitener finished shopping and was allowed to walk to his car by himself when he was attacked.

Chris Hamilton has prior experiences with cases involving businesses’ liability for crimes committed on their premises. In 2015, a jury awarded his clients $27 million after an attack that began at a College Station McDonald’s that left two teenagers dead. According to VerdictSearch, it was the top Texas premises liability verdict of the past decade.

For more information, contact Mark Annick at 800-559-4534 or Mark@androvett.com.

 

 

Dallas attorney Chris Hamilton of Standly Hamilton, LLP speaks to reporters about his concerns regarding security procedures at Target following an attack of a Dallas theater director.

 

by Androvett Legal Media & Marketing at 10:41:00 am

A federal judge has dismissed claims brought by a South Carolina insurance company against Texas-based insurance agency Highpoint Risk Services and its owner, Charles David Wood, Jr. That lawsuit sought more than $40 million in damages for an alleged shortfall in reinsurance collateral and claims relating to the issuance of various workers’ compensation policies. Last week, Senior U.S. District Judge Cameron McGowan Currie ruled that Companion Property and Casualty Insurance Co. was contractually barred from recovering any alleged shortfall from Wood. In dismissing other claims against Highpoint and Wood for alleged breach of fiduciary duty and alleged violations of the South Carolina Unfair Trade Practices Act, the court found that “there is no evidence Highpoint (or Wood) owed or breached” a fiduciary duty to Companion in connection with the issuance of Companion’s workers’ compensation policies.

“The court has dismissed the core of the case brought by Companion,” said Michael Gardner, name partner at Dallas-based law firm Gardner Haas and counsel for Mr. Wood and the defendant companies. “An insurer cannot avoid the terms of its own policies and can’t complain when its agreements are given their clear and natural effect.”

“This is a highly complex dispute covering agreements going back more than a decade,” said Eric Haas, co-counsel on the case. “This ruling is an important step in resolving matters before courts in both South Carolina and Texas, and we’re gratified by the outcome.”

Companion, purchased by Enstar Group in 2015, now operates as Sussex Insurance Company and remains headquartered in Columbia, S.C.

For more information, contact Barry Pound at 800-559-4534 or barry@androvett.com.   

 

by Androvett Legal Media & Marketing at 3:49:00 pm

Dylann Roof will face the death penalty after a Charleston, South Carolina, jury found him guilty of shooting and killing nine people at the historic Emanuel AME Church in June 2015. Although he had legal representation during the federal trial, he chose to represent himself during the penalty phase, leaving open the possibility of an appeal. It also sets the stage for South Carolina prosecutors to seek the death penalty in an upcoming state murder trial.

Explains Dallas criminal defense attorney Nicole Knox:

“Roof's decision to take the innocent lives of South Carolina citizens is deplorable, and the pursuit of the death penalty in state court is likely an effort to offset any potential success he may find during his federal appeal. Roof has a sound basis to support his motion for new trial because he did not have the benefit of qualified counsel during the punishment phase. Without the arguments of defense counsel, we cannot be sure that Roof, arguing for himself, was capable of pursuing mitigation arguments that could have precluded a death penalty verdict. His post-trial motions and the appeals could continue for several years. Should the state pursue and succeed in obtaining a death penalty verdict on its own case, then Roof will be able to appeal that case as well, but it will give the state another opportunity to hold him accountable for his crimes.” 

For more information, contact Sophia Reza at 800-559-4534 or sophia@androvett.com

by Androvett Legal Media & Marketing at 9:58:00 am

It’s hard to predict exactly what President-elect Donald Trump wants in a new health care law, but a repeal of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is rapidly on track in Congress. Dallas health care lawyer Jeff Drummond of Jackson Walker LLP, who represents doctors, hospitals and other health care facilities, has some predictions about what to expect:

“Repeal is almost entirely certain, and will be near immediate with the new Congress. It will be done using the same reconciliation technique that allowed ACA to pass in the first place, thus avoiding the filibuster and the need for 60 votes in the Senate.

“The changes likely will be phased in over time, with very few, if any, immediately repealed. That will allow the new Congress time to fashion replacement parts. And those replacement parts will mostly resemble the old law.

“For example, the new law will allow insured parents to keep their children on their policies until age 26. It also will likely preserve the ban on lifetime limits.

“The new law will drop the individual mandate to buy health insurance. But coverage for pre-existing conditions will be more like the portability requirement under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). That law requires insurers to accept people with existing health problems only when they previously had coverage, such as from their current or former employer. So people with pre-existing health conditions now covered under individual policies through the ACA would be eligible for coverage under the new law, but individuals who did not previously have coverage would be subject to potential exclusion for pre-existing conditions.”

 

For more information, contact Kit Frieden at 800-559-4534 or kit@androvett.com.

by Androvett Legal Media & Marketing at 12:34:00 pm

The upward trend in Texas business bankruptcies continued in 2016 with hefty double-digit increases across all regions of the state, according to an Androvett Legal Media & Marketing analysis of federal filings. In particular, Ch. 11 business bankruptcy filings increased 42.4 percent statewide, with filings up more than 50 percent in both the federal Southern and Northern Districts of Texas.

A glance at the historic numbers is revealing: This continues to be a story about the impact of falling oil prices on the heavily leveraged Texas energy economy.

Writes Texas Lawbook and the Dallas Business Journal:

For the past two-and-half years, the energy industry has been in crisis. Oil slipped to $30 a barrel. Thousands and thousands of people lost their jobs. A record number of oil and gas companies and the businesses servicing them declared bankruptcy…More than 1,280 Texas businesses have filed for bankruptcy during the past two years – many of them related to the downturn in oil and gas prices, according to new data research provided by Androvett Legal Media.
 

Filings in the Western District of Texas (which includes upstream producers in the oil-rich Permian Basin) increased by 100 percent during the past two years – from 73 in 2014 to 146 in 2016. The jump was even bigger in the Southern District (which includes Houston, San Antonio and producers in the Eagle Ford Shale), where 293 companies filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 2016 – up from 141 in 2014.

 

“Oil and gas is an industry that has highs and lows,” Jackson Walker bankruptcy partner Bruce Ruzinsky tells Lawbook and the Dallas Business Journal. “The temptation in the oil and gas business is to catch the wave when things are blowing and going.

 

“This downturn has been more difficult than past ones because it has gone on longer and prices went lower than people expected,” Mr. Ruzinsky says.

 

 

 

KVUE Austin reporter Erin Jones notes that the numbers point to softness in other sectors, including the tech industry:

Patty Tomasco, who works in the bankruptcy division of Jackson Walker, said last year her practice saw a steady stream of cases dealing with the natural consequences of tech companies.

"With tech companies in Austin, you have a lot of people competing to be the next great app maker or the next great technology company," Tomasco said. "There's always going to be a winner and there's always going to be about 10 losers. The 10 losers are going to have to file bankruptcy and do something else."

by Unknown at 11:00:00 am

Lanier Law Firm attorney Mark Lanier discusses the impact of a Dallas jury’s recent record $1 billion dollar hip implant verdict and the significance of the jury’s decision.

In early December, jurors in the third bellwether MDL trial returned the verdict for six plaintiffs who suffered serious medical complications from defective Pinnacle hip implants manufactured by Johnson & Johnson and its DePuy Orthopedics subsidiary. The panel of six women and three men deliberated about eight hours before finding J&J and DePuy responsible for negligently designing the implant and failing to warn patients about dangerous health consequences. Earlier this week, the judge presiding over the MDL entered a final judgment preserving the plaintiffs’ jury award for compensatory damages and entering a $543 million combined punitive damages judgment. That final judgment has been appealed.

The verdict includes more than $30 million for injuries, pain and suffering, and more than $1 billion in punitive damages against J&J and DePuy, based on the jury’s finding that the defendants had acted with malice or fraud. The punitive award was the largest against a company in 2016, according to Bloomberg, which noted “such punishment damages are intended to dissuade defendants from continuing sanctioned practices.”

“The jury is telling J&J that they better settle these cases soon,” lead attorney Mark Lanier told Bloomberg.  “All they are doing by trying more of these cases is driving up their costs and driving the company’s reputation into the mud.”

In addition to Mr. Lanier, the Lanier Law Firm trial team included Alex J. Brown, M. Michelle Carreras, Dr. Robert Leone and Kevin P. Parker. Also orchestrating the win were Richard Arsenault and his team of lawyers from Neblett, Beard and Arsenault, as well as Jayne Conroy and her team from Simmons Hanly Conroy and Khaldoun Baghdadi with Walkup, Melodia, Kelly & Schoenberger

Writes Bloomberg:

The verdict continues a losing stretch for J&J before U.S. juries. Six of the seven largest product-defect verdicts in the U.S. this year have been against J&J units, including three in lawsuits claiming its talc products cause ovarian cancer.

Despite its pledge to appeal Thursday’s verdict, J&J shouldn’t wait for an outcome to approach hip patients with settlement offers, said Erik Gordon, a University of Michigan law professor, who teaches classes about how drugs and medical devices are developed and regulated.

“They may think they have good defenses to these claims, but they don’t seem to be working with juries,” Gordon said. “There’s no easy way out of these cases now that they have a billion-dollar verdict against them. They better start thinking of how they can settle these claims before the price goes up any more.”

Writes Consumer Reports:

The decision marks the latest turn in a medical drama that has seen nearly 100,000 prosthetic devices recalled, led to thousands of hip-replacement lawsuits, and been referred to by a leading medical journal as “one of the biggest disasters in orthopedic history.”

With the fourth bellwether now set for next September, the question on many minds is whether this record verdict will nudge the defendants toward settlement. Lanier tells Texas Lawyer that Johnson & Johnson would be wise to take note of the trial's outcome.

I'd love to take credit for some great, huge, hard-to-believe win. But the bottom line is, in spite of the media machine that Johnson & Johnson pumps, these are easy cases. This company was flat wrong, they did some horrible things and their best appellate point is, 'Gee, the jury shouldn't be allowed to know everything we did.' That's pretty pathetic.”

For more information, contact Robert Tharp at 214-559-4630 or robert@androvett.com.