Androvett Legal Media and Marketing
2501 Oak Lawn Avenue  |  Suite 650  |  Dallas, Texas 75219
Tel: 214.559.4630  |  Fax: 214.559.0852


Androvett Blog

by Androvett Legal Media & Marketing at 2:50:00 pm

An attorney with ties to a former campaign aide for President Trump pleads guilty to lying to investigators for Special Counsel Robert Mueller in his probe of Russia’s influence into the 2016 presidential election. The lawyer, Alex van der Swaan, is accused of lying about his communication with Rick Gates, a deputy to Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, who has been charged with money laundering and other violations.

Brian Poe, a former federal prosecutor and now criminal defense attorney, says lying to federal agents is not uncommon.

In reality, people lie to federal agents all the time and do not get charged. While I won’t say that it is rare for someone to be charged for lying to federal investigators, it’s not something you see in a majority of federal investigations conducted across the country. It looks like Mueller’s team is trying to leverage everyone they can find to testify against Paul Manafort. The more pressure they place on Manafort, the more likely he is to plead guilty and cooperate against others who might be involved.”

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

by Androvett Legal Media & Marketing at 11:57:00 am

Dallas appellate attorney and specialist David Coale of Lynn, Pinker, Cox & Hurst LLP says President Trump is on track to nominate more full-time judges to the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals than any other president.

Mr. Trump recently announced the nomination of Andrew Oldham as his third pick from Texas, after previously nominating to the 5th Circuit Don Willett, a Texas Supreme Court justice, and Jim Ho, a former Texas Solicitor General. Mr. Oldham is currently general counsel to Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and a former deputy state solicitor general.

Mr. Coale says if Mr. Oldham is confirmed, along with two other pending nominations, Mr. Trump will have named one-third of the full-time judges after just over one year in his office. The New Orleans-based court, which hears appeals from federal trial courts in Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi, also has several “senior” judges who participate at different levels of activity.

“With the nomination of Andrew Oldham, President Trump is on track to become the number-one appointer of active judges on the 5th Circuit,” he said. “After one year, that is pretty remarkable, and more nominations are entirely possible as his term continues. This could mean even more of a Republican influence on the bench for this traditionally conservative court.”

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

by Androvett Legal Media & Marketing at 1:49:00 pm

February 17th is National Random Acts of Kindness Day. Is it any wonder that this day pops up just three days after St. Valentine’s Day? When we think of random acts of kindness, we usually think of doing something unplanned and spontaneous for someone we don’t know much about, if anything at all. But here’s the point: while Valentine’s Day is great, even the most creative and romantic among us struggle with the expectations that come with delivering the goods on this holiday. The truth is that we can do even more for our relationships by doing something random and kind for our Valentines on a day that isn’t February 14th

Orsinger, Nelson, Downing & Anderson attorney Jeff Anderson provides helpful tips that will show your other half that you care. On National Random Acts of Kindness Day, go through the ideas below, pick the ones that are out of character for you – that’s how we get to the “random” part. 

  • Leave work a little early, make dinner, have a glass of wine ready, and let her relax. 

 

  • Turn off the TV, sit together and notice things about him. Tell him what you love most about him. 

 

  • Spend 10 minutes texting your spouse a poem (one you make up . . . and it should be about how you feel, not about how cool your new motorcycle is going to be).

 

  • Remind her every day that she’s the only one for you . . . and mean it.

               

  • Ask him about his day and really listen to what he says. Make that conversation about him.

 

  • Call her in the middle of the day  . . . just to hear her voice.

 

  • Make plans. Plan a trip. Plan a dinner. Plan an adventure. No matter how hard things are, it’s always easier to go through when you get through it together and you have something to look forward to.

 

  • Write him a love letter while he’s asleep and put it in his car so he’ll be surprised the next morning.

 

  • Take both of your cell phones, turn them off for an hour and put them in a drawer. Make a show of making her the center of attention.

  

  • On a Friday afternoon, surprise him with a weekend trip to a little town an hour or two away.

Even if the kids are grown and have kids of their own, remind her that she’s still your girlfriend. Those acts are random acts of kindness.

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

 

by Androvett Legal Media & Marketing at 11:00:00 am

An East Texas hospital has been hit with a $43 million verdict after jurors unanimously agreed the facility was grossly negligent in its retention and supervision of a doctor on probation whose improper care led to a patient's complete loss of his quality of life and ability to provide for his family. The jury found that Tyler-based East Texas Medical Center had put patients in extreme risk by continuing to allow Dr. Gary Boyd to perform surgeries after he was placed on probation with the Texas Medical Board.

According to testimony, Dr. Boyd erroneously diagnosed a 61-year-old patient with an anatomical abnormality, which he said would make it impossible to surgically remove the man’s gallstones. The delay in treatment caused serious medical complications that necessitated a liver transplant.

"Hospitals have a supreme duty to provide safe and effective care to patients, and that duty must come before everything else," said Martin Walker PC attorney Reid Martin, who along with name partner Jack Walker and attorney Marisa Schouten represented the patient. "By allowing a dangerous doctor who had lost his hospital privileges to continue to treat patients, this was a tragedy waiting to happen."

The $43 million verdict included $25 million in punitive damages after jurors agreed that the hospital’s conduct involved an extreme risk of potential harm to others.

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

by Androvett Legal Media & Marketing at 10:15:00 am

Accusations of corporate espionage and trade secret theft are unfolding in a San Francisco federal courtroom between two of the tech world’s cutting-edge innovators in what is shaping up to be the trial of the decade for a dispute of its kind.

Pitting ride-sharing startup Uber against Google’s Waymo self-driving vehicle division, the lawsuit paints a picture of two companies hell-bent on winning the race to dominate the self-driving car market. It also highlights how far companies will go to guard valuable internal information and intellectual property and protect their competitive positions, says attorney Joe Ahmad of Houston’s Ahmad, Zavitsanos, Anaipakos, Alavi & Mensing P.C., or AZA.

Waymo filed the lawsuit in early 2017 after learning that autonomous vehicle visionary Anthony Levandowski had taken thousands of confidential files before leaving to join Uber’s self-driving vehicle project. Waymo is seeking nearly $2 billion in damages for the stolen secrets. Uber’s defense is complicated by Mr. Levandowski, who was fired from Uber for refusing to answer subpoenas and is now planning to exercise his Fifth Amendment right to avoid self-incrimination.

“This trial is providing an inside look at the personalities and workplace culture in Silicon Valley where staying ahead in the race to innovate is seen as key to survival,” Mr. Ahmad says. “Testimony will offer a glimpse inside these companies that few have seen, and all eyes will be on whether the key player (Mr. Levandowski) takes the stand to describe what happened in his own words.

“The allegations in this case are extreme examples, and the monetary damages at stake are breathtaking. But the core dispute in this case is something that businesses of all types are dealing with today,” Mr. Ahmad says. “These are real information-age struggles we’re seeing in the business world: How do you protect the information that gives a business a competitive advantage? It also highlights the perils that come when star employees change jobs in competitive industries.”

For more information or to set up an interview, contact Robert Tharp at 800-559-4534 or Robert@androvett.com.

 

by Androvett Legal Media & Marketing at 1:25:00 pm

The Michigan trial of Larry Nassar, the former doctor for U.S.A. Gymnastics who was sentenced up to 175 years in prison, prompted the Texas governor to ask the Texas Rangers to investigate what went on at the ranch owned by famed gymnastics coaches Bela and Martha Karolyi.

The Rangers likely will be cooperating with a county sheriff’s investigation already underway. Until recently, the ranch north of Houston served as USA Gymnastics’ national women’s training center.

Houston attorney and former federal prosecutor Philip Hilder of Hilder & Associates, P.C., said in addition to investigating what the doctor did at the ranch, law enforcement will look into what ranch staff members or coaches knew about or allowed to happen.

"The victims said they reached out and reported abuse. The investigators will want to know who received their complaints, what they reported, how did they report it, and what, if anything was done,” said Mr. Hilder, a criminal defense attorney.

Authorities will conduct an investigation into whether other individuals were aware, complicit or involved. If others were aware that felonies occurred at the ranch and had the duty to report the abuse and failed to do so, there may be criminal exposure,” he said.

“I'm not saying anyone was criminally involved, but it is a matter that the authorities are obliged to investigate. It is a waste of resources to go after Nassar himself given that he already received a sentence of what amounts to life in prison.”

For more information or to set up an interview, contact Mary Flood at 800-559-4534 or mary@androvett.com.

by Androvett Legal Media & Marketing at 9:15:00 am

The new U.S. tax law may not mean a postcard-sized tax return next year. But tax lawyers at Jackson Walker LLP have reduced the details to a one-page interactive graphic to help businesses, individuals and their accountants sort out the new law’s complexities.

Dallas tax lawyer William “Willie” Hornberger and a team of attorneys studied an array of situations and options to provide guidance on the kinds of adjustments companies and certain individuals may want to make this year as they look ahead to 2019 under the new Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.

"What will the law mean for partners in my LLC? How should I handle depreciation of equipment? What expenses can I write off? These are some of the questions we address,” said Mr. Hornberger, who advises corporations and partnerships. “Our audience is businesses, investors, individuals in partnerships, CPAs and lawyers.”

The one-page interactive graphic is linked to a 233-page PowerPoint presentation for the webcast “2018 Tax Reform: What You Need to Know Now.” Presented by Mr. Hornberger and Jason B. Freeman of Freeman Law, it can be viewed here: https://www.jw.com/tax-reform-analysis/.

“This law has many complexities, and we will be taking deeper and deeper dives into it to advise our clients,” Mr. Hornberger said. “It will save many of our clients money, but it isn’t always simple to figure out.”

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

by Androvett Legal Media & Marketing at 11:15:00 am

(Photo Credit: Christina Goodvoice, KOTV/NewsOn6.com via AP)

Monday’s blowout near Quinton, Oklahoma, that killed five workers is the deadliest oil and gas incident since the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. As this incident moves from the recovery of the victims to the cleanup and investigation stage, the largely self-regulated energy industry must use this tragedy as a signal to self-reflect and take stock of their safety procedures.

“When it comes to rig blowouts, somebody made a mistake,” says trial lawyer Frank Branson of The Law Offices of Frank L. Branson, who has handled numerous oilfield tragedies, including involvement in a 2015 onshore rig explosion where three men died in a well blowout near Midland, Texas.

“Every driller and operator knows that well control must be maintained at all times. That’s rule number one on these rigs. A failure to control the well is inexcusable and absolutely preventable. With so much at stake, companies like Patterson-UTI and Red Mountain Energy must make worker safety – not shareholder profits – the overriding priority.

“Patterson-UTI, one of the largest onshore rig operators in the U.S., has been called out for its safety shortcomings by name in Congressional reports and has been fined by OSHA following earlier oil and gas well fatalities. As the families of those killed search for answers, it’s clear that relatively toothless regulations are not enough to ensure the safety of hardworking oilfield workers. In cases like these, American jurors will be called upon to determine who was at fault and return a verdict that will make sure these companies put worker safety first.”

For more information, contact Robert Tharp at 800-559-4534 or Robert@androvett.com.

by Androvett Legal Media & Marketing at 9:56:00 am

New York City recently filed a lawsuit against five of the largest oil and gas companies for their alleged contributions to climate change. BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil and Royal Dutch Shell are named in the suit.

The companies are accused of knowing their fossil fuel products caused global warming issues and chose to ignore their own research. The complaint suggests the companies should consider paying for city property damaged by inundation, erosion and regular tidal flooding – factors attributed to climate change.

Houston energy attorney John Zavitsanos and founding partner in Ahmad, Zavitsanos, Anaipakos, Alavi & Mensing P.C., or AZA, told Hart Energy in a January 23 article that while this lawsuit may not survive summary judgment, attorneys should be ready to fight in court.

“This is the kind of thing that has to get shut down quickly because if it doesn’t, then you’re talking potentially, literally every municipality in the country joining in,” Mr. Zavitsanos told Hart Energy. “The one thing we know about most governmental entities is they’re always underfunded. They’re always looking for a way to increase their tax revenue without raising taxes.

"It’s really easy to pick on the majors because they’re monolithic, they’re big and when crude prices are high then they make record amounts of profits so they’re very easy targets.

“They need to take it seriously and they need to come back at this full-throttle,” he said. “This is not the kind of thing that they could settle, not the kind of thing that they could make go away quietly because it never does go away quietly. No settlement is confidential – even the president is finding that out now. I think that my advice to them would be: Put your foot on the gas and go, and come back very hard.”

For more information or to set up an interview, contact Mary Flood at 800-559-4534 or mary@androvett.com.

 

by Androvett Legal Media & Marketing at 10:05:00 am

For 10 years, trial attorney Mark Werbner of Sayles Werbner made it his mission to hold Arab Bank responsible for providing financial support to groups designated by the United States as Foreign Terrorist Organizations, resulting in a landmark victory for nearly 300 American victims of terrorism and their families.

Mr. Werbner will discuss his role in Linde, et al. v. Arab Bank PLC in a presentation titled, “Fighting Terror-Financing in the Courtroom,” on Jan. 11 during the State Bar of Texas Litigation Update Institute’s 34th annual course.

In 2014, a jury in New York sided with Mr. Werbner, finding Jordan-based Arab Bank responsible for providing financial services to Hamas for 24 terror attacks during the “Second Intifada” in Israel and the Palestinian territories. The verdict was the culmination of a lawsuit filed in 2004. The case marked the first liability verdict against a foreign bank for violating the federal Anti-Terrorism Act.

“So many families had lost loved ones and felt powerless to seek any kind of justice,” said Mr. Werbner. “There was so much violence that was occurring. And, I really felt this case was something that would make a difference, and it met my expectations in that regard.”

The U.S. Supreme Court is currently reviewing Jesner  v. Arab Bank, a related case that could clarify if corporations can be sued for international law violations under the Alien Tort Statute of 1789 (ATS).

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

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

High-profile sexual harassment scandals involving the entertainment, politics and media fields are spurring businesses everywhere to take a closer look at their policies and training programs. In many cases, employers are finding that generic policies with cut-and-paste legal text and one-size-fits-all instructional videos are simply not doing enough to connect with employees and address key issues. With careers at stake – not to mention the reputations of entire companies – employers are re-examining workplace culture, training, complaint procedures and everything in between, says employment attorney Audrey Mross of Dallas’ Munck Wilson Mandala. For example, businesses are finding that live training provides a more interactive experience that resonates with workers. “Previously, many employers thought showing an off-the-shelf training video would be sufficient, but the interactivity of live training does a better job of ensuring that key concepts are fully understood.”

In addition, training is moving beyond a focus purely on harassment to address problems including rudeness, poor judgment and disrespect toward co-workers. States are moving in a similar direction with a recent amendment to California law requiring harassment training to include bullying. “I am a big fan of moving beyond a recitation of the applicable law to delving into actual examples to help workers begin to understand where the line is between acceptable and unacceptable behavior,” says Ms. Mross, who frequently makes presentations to businesses on workplace policies and employment law. “I’ve found that this is what triggers an ‘aha’ moment for many, and often individuals will speak up and share their own experiences with their peers in the training session. When attendees are hearing the message from both the trainer and their fellow workers, it really starts to resonate.”

For more information or to set up an interview, contact Robert Tharp at 800-559-4534 or Robert@androvett.com.

by Androvett Legal Media & Marketing at 3:35:00 pm

Trial attorneys Chris Hamilton and Paul Wingo of the newly formed Hamilton Wingo law firm spent the first part of 2017 helping immigrant detainees held at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport during President Trump’s travel ban. Hours spent at the airport assisting detainees with their legal rights led to the formation of Lawyers for America, a nonprofit organization that provides legal assistance to people whose rights have been violated.

Their hard work and dedication haven’t gone unnoticed, as both attorneys have been nominated for the Dallas Morning News Texan of the Year. The Dallas Morning News Texan of the Year allows community leaders to nominate individuals who made a significant impact in 2017. The winner is announced December 31. 

“It’s a tremendous honor to have someone say your name in this context,” said Mr. Hamilton. “The true heroes are the people who came to this country and had the courage to fight through the roadblocks the system created. We only made sure their rights were protected.”

“Chris and I fight for the same causes,” said Mr. Wingo. “We partnered this year to continue fighting for justice and help people who have been legally wronged. To be nominated for Texan of the Year means so much.”

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

by Androvett Legal Media & Marketing at 4:37:00 pm

There’s no question that Texas has been affected by a number of executive orders originating in Washington, D.C., in 2017, whether they involved walls, sanctuary cities, deportations or travel bans. But in compiling our annual list of Texas’ top legal news stories we kept the focus on issues directly related to state-based businesses or stories originating in the Lone Star state. The following are the state’s top legal news stories this year as determined by the staff at Androvett Legal Media & Marketing.

  1. Facebook Loses Trade Secret Theft Case in Dallas

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg caused a stir when he came to Texas to testify in a federal trial early in 2017. Facebook subsidiary Oculus VR, a virtual reality developer, was accused of trade secret theft and related intellectual property crimes. Mr. Zuckerberg ventured far from the courtroom during his Texas trip, visiting the Fort Worth Stock Show and helping plant a community garden in Dallas – all to the delight of techie stargazers. As for the trial, a jury ordered Facebook to pay plaintiff ZeniMax Media Inc. $500 million for violating nondisclosure agreements, copyright infringement and misuse of trademarks. But the jury did not find Oculus liable for trade secret theft, and the jury award was far less than the reported $6 billion ZeniMax had sought.

 

  1. Best of Times, Worst of Times for Jerry Jones

The 2017 NFL season may go down among Jerry Jones’ wildest years as owner of the Dallas Cowboys. The mercurial Mr. Jones was enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in August, honored for his transformative role as a team owner. But just a week later, the league handed a six-game suspension to the team’s star running back Ezekiel Elliott, touching off a lengthy appeals process during which he continued to play for the team. The NFL and Mr. Elliott traded court wins until Mr. Elliott announced that he was dropping further appeals and would agree to the original six-game suspension. Whether he was smarting over the protracted battle over his star’s eligibility or if he was simply looking out for the “best interests” of the league, Mr. Jones threatened to sue the NFL if Commissioner Roger Goodell’s contract was extended. The threat was short-lived and the contract was extended, with Mr. Jones recording a 0-2 legal record for the year.

 

  1. Mass Shootings Do Little to Produce Tough Gun Laws

Two mass shootings captured the nation’s attention in a two-month span: the Oct. 1 attack in Las Vegas that killed 58 and injured more than 500 at a music festival and the Nov. 5 slaying of 25 and the wounding of 20 members of the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas. In the Las Vegas shooting, the gunman in a high-rise hotel used semiautomatic rifles, outfitted with Moran,Texas-manufactured bump stocks, devices that help mimic the action of a fully automatic gun. The manufacturer temporarily halted sales, but the ATF continues to look at potential regulations. Following the Sutherland Springs massacre, Texas Sen. John Cornyn helped produce a bipartisan bill designed to tighten federal background checks for gun sales. But that tougher measure has been rolled into a House bill which would allow concealed carry license holders to take handguns into states with strict gun laws, a measure backed by the National Rifle Association.

 

  1. Speaker Straus Wins Bathroom Battle, But Tires of the Fight

On July 21, after months of uncertainty and nearly 10 hours of often emotional testimony, a Texas Senate committee signed off on Senate Bill 3, the so-called “Bathroom Bill.” Backed by the Tea Party and religious conservatives, it requires people in public schools and government buildings to use the bathroom that matches the sex listed on their birth certificates. It was hailed as an important victory for Senate Republicans led by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who argued it was a public safety issue. But major corporations warned it would harm business investment in Texas. Despite passing the Senate, House Speaker Joe Straus, a moderate Republican, never brought up the bill for debate, effectively killing it. That made him a target for the state’s most conservative legislators, who vowed to challenge his rule of the State House. Mr. Straus removed that option, announcing his retirement in October after five terms as speaker. He vowed to “work for a Republican Party that tries to bring Texans together instead of pulling us apart.”

 

  1. Harris County Fights ‘Debtors Prison’ Allegations

Bail is vital to the U.S. judicial system. It allows people awaiting trial to avoid weeks or months in jail. The bail bond, designed to ensure the defendant returns to court, is refunded after all appearances are completed. It is a simple system – for those who can afford it. Last year, indigent misdemeanor defendants sued Harris County, claiming it was in effect running a debtors’ prison, setting unaffordable bail amounts for minor crimes alleged against the poor. In April, a judge ruled the county’s bail practices were unconstitutional because they were “de facto detention orders against those financially unable to pay.” Harris County has appealed, and smaller Texas counties with similar practices are anxiously awaiting a final ruling.

 

  1. Indiscretions End Legislator’s Political Career

With growing scrutiny of the personal lives of lawmakers, reports of sexual improprieties have almost become routine. But up until an anonymous Twitter feed shared a most-intimate photo of Rep. Joe Barton, Texas legislators had not been accused of any indecencies. Mr. Barton has claimed the photo was originally sent to a woman during the course of their consensual relationship. Although its release could violate Texas’ 2-year-old law banning acts of “revenge porn,” his admission of “sexual immorality” brought a decisive end to his political career. A week after the photo surfaced, the longest-serving member of the Texas House delegation announced he would not seek re-election to an 18th term.

 

  1. Opposition to AT&T, Time Warner Merger

Until 2017, federal regulators had a 50-year history of prioritizing consumer benefits when approving vertical mergers such as Dallas-based AT&T’s proposed $85 billion acquisition of Time Warner. However, the old regulatory regime has dramatically changed under President Trump. First announced near the end of 2016, scrutiny of the mega-merger hit critical mass in the fall when the U.S. Department of Justice sued AT&T to block final regulatory approval of the merger, citing concerns that the deal could hurt competing content providers. The trial to decide the fate of the merger is scheduled for March 19. The outcome could set the trajectory for similarly positioned mergers, most notably CVS Health Corp.’s $69 billion acquisition of Aetna Inc., announced on Dec. 4.

 

  1. Feds Fail to Convict Dallas County Commissioner

Accusations of public corruption have been the undoing of countless political figures who find defending themselves against formal federal charges to be a mostly impossible task. But few are John Wiley Price. The subject of federal investigations since 2005, the longtime Dallas County commissioner was indicted in 2014 on 11 counts of bribery, conspiracy to defraud the IRS, mail and tax fraud. Also included were charges of taking nearly $1 million in bribes in the form of cash, cars and real estate. The case finally made it to a Dallas federal jury in February, but almost immediately cracks began to form and it was disclosed that prosecutors failed to turn over evidence to the defense on multiple occasions. When the case finally went to the jury, days passed without a verdict. Finally, on the eighth day of deliberations, the jury returned with an acquittal on seven counts. They could not come to a decision on the remaining four and the court declared a mistrial on those counts. While the commissioner avoided a conviction – and potential jail time – he was ordered to repay nearly $500,000 in legal fees for his court-appointed attorneys. Prosecutors declined to retry Price, who continues to represent Dallas County’s District 3 on the Commissioner’s Court.

 

  1. Houston Floods Produce Onslaught of Litigation, Also Swamp Courts

With more than 50 inches of Hurricane Harvey-produced rain inundating Houston, business and homeowner insurance claims are expected to reach $10 billion or more. Harvey also produced a flood of litigation that some observers say could be some of the most complex and costly ever against the U.S. government. Hundreds of homeowners are suing over the “inverse condemnation” of their property, after a substantial amount of water was ordered to be released by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The decision was reportedly made to protect the integrity of dams at two federal reservoirs but in the process flooded residential neighborhoods. Harvey’s flooding affected another part of the justice system, too. Harris County’s busy criminal courts were swamped – literally, as 40 courtrooms, the district attorney’s office and holding cells, as well as the nearby jury assembly building were flooded, delaying cases for weeks. To help ease the backlog, plea bargains skyrocketed and plans were made to begin using the Civil Court House and Juvenile Justice Center court rooms for criminal trials, with misdemeanor cases moving to the Family Law Center.

 

  1. Heartland Ruling Cripples Texas’ Rocket Docket

May 22, 2017, is a day that may have permanently altered the Texas legal landscape. On that day, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned nearly 30 years of federal law on where patent lawsuits must be filed. In the TC Heartland LLC v. Kraft Food Group Brands LLC, the high court clarified and narrowed the term “residence” for corporate defendants, greatly restricting the venues where plaintiffs may file patent infringement lawsuits. Most affected was the “rocket docket” of the U.S. Eastern District of Texas, often viewed as friendly to plaintiffs but respected on both sides of the bar for its knowledgeable judges who move cases quickly through the docket. In the past, the Eastern District was home to roughly 35 percent of all patent lawsuits. For four days after the ruling, an unwelcome silence fell over the district as no new cases were filed. For comparison, in 2016, more than six patent cases were filed each day the court was open, totaling more than 1,600. The district has not been totally shuttered, with new filings picking up steam as plaintiffs’ lawyers test the full definition of “established place of business.”

 

by Androvett Legal Media & Marketing at 10:30:00 am

A Dallas County jury has awarded a North Texas real estate developer $98 million after finding that BBVA Compass Bank and one of its executives committed fraud.

During the financial crisis of 2008-2009, developer David Bagwell sought to modify loan financing for three planned luxury subdivisions in Tarrant County through his lender, BBVA Compass. As reported in The Dallas Morning News, the bank told Mr. Bagwell his loans were being renewed, while simultaneously negotiating in secret to sell the loans at a substantial discount to a rival developer.

“Emails from Compass connected the dots for this jury,” said Derrick Boyd of Decatur, Texas-based Boyd Powers & Williamson, who represents Mr. Bagwell. “We were able to show that while Mr. Bagwell was actively trying to work with the bank to keep these developments operating, Compass was misleading him and working behind his back to sell his debt to a competitor.”

The $98.02 million verdict included $37.86 million to Mr. Bagwell and $20.16 million to related business entities. The jury also returned $40 million in punitive damages after finding that the bank’s fraudulent actions caused harm to the parties.

The case is David Bagwell et al v. BBVA Compass and Sam Meade, Cause No. DC-14-00991 in the 101st Judicial District Court in Dallas County.

by Androvett Legal Media & Marketing at 10:16:00 am

The digital assets of a deceased loved one can be photos or messages that have sentimental value or domain names and airline points that have monetary value. Digital property includes videos, music libraries, emails, social media accounts, credit card or hotel loyalty points, and even Bitcoin. A law went into effect in Texas in September to help estate executors and trustees gain access to the digital assets of people who died or have placed their assets in trust.

Aaron Dobbs, a Houston-area estate lawyer at Roberts Markel Weinberg Butler Hailey PC, said that although the Texas law could ease estate transitions, people in all states should consider putting what they want done with their digital assets in their estate planning documents.

“I’ve seen people fight over digital assets. It’s best to think about these matters along with tangible assets. Make sure your digital property is managed by the appropriate person. In some cases, you might even want the executor to terminate the account and destroy the contents like potentially revealing texts or emails,” Mr. Dobbs advises.

“There are legal considerations. For instance, executors, trustees, and heirs could be breaking federal cybersecurity laws if they know a deceased person’s passwords and just go in and use loyalty points. The executor is still governed by the same terms of services as the user. For example, the licensed iTunes music is not transferable.

“Another issue could be privacy for someone famous who would not want surviving heirs to publish intimate details for profit,” Mr. Dobbs said. “This should all be discussed as part of estate planning.”

For more information or to set up an interview, contact Mary Flood at 800-559-4534 or mary@androvett.com.

 

 

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

Two Seattle parents have filed suit against Dallas-based Greyhound Lines, Inc., in the death of their 25-year-old son.

Paula Becker and Barry Brown are the parents of Hunter Brown, who was killed last June when the Greyhound bus he was riding ran over him.

The bus, bound from Seattle to San Francisco had stopped in Central Point, Oregon near the California state line so passengers could get food or use the bathroom. When the bus resumed its trip earlier than expected, Hunter was left behind.

As he ran beside the bus, banging on the door and asking the driver to let him on, the bus turned to the right and ran over him.

“This death was 100 percent preventable,” says Charla Aldous of Aldous \ Walker, who represents Hunter Brown’s parents. “Hunter trusted Greyhound and its bus driver to safely transport him from Seattle to San Francisco. That didn’t happen.”

 “Our son had a future ahead of him,” say Paula Becker and Barry Brown, the parents of Hunter Brown. “That future was taken away from him and from us because of the careless actions of the driver and Greyhound.”

For more information or to set up an interview, please contact Sophia Reza at 800-559-4534 or sophia@androvett.com.

 

by Androvett Legal Media & Marketing at 2:17:00 pm

President Donald Trump's personal lawyer, John Dowd, told CNN that he wrote a tweet for the president’s Twitter account stating former White House national security adviser Michael Flynn was fired not just for lying to the vice president, but also for lying to the FBI – the crime Mr. Flynn has since admitted he committed. That tweet was a new revelation and something that could be legally problematic. It implied the president knew Mr. Flynn had committed a crime before the time when then-FBI director James Comey said the president asked him to go easy on Mr. Flynn.

Houston lawyer and former federal prosecutor Philip Hilder of Hilder & Associates, P.C., said there is nothing wrong with a lawyer vetting or writing a statement or tweet for a client, but it can lead to problems if the lawyer discusses his advice in public.

“Once the client puts out that statement as his own, the client owns it. In fact, the White House and the Justice Department have both said President Trump’s tweets are official statements,” Mr. Hilder said.

“The problem here is this tweet could become evidence in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. It at least raises the question of obstruction of justice in a request that the FBI go easy on Flynn. And if lawyer Dowd is subpoenaed, he may have waived attorney-client privilege by talking about this publicly. That puts Dowd and his client on a dangerous and slippery slope,” Mr. Hilder said.

For more information or to set up an interview, contact Mary Flood at 800-559-4534 or mary@androvett.com.

 

by Androvett Legal Media and Marketing at 11:40:00 am

 (Image from Rotten Tomatoes)

Actress Reese Witherspoon, who played the beauty-and-dating-absorbed sorority girl turned clever Harvard Law grad in the “Legally Blonde” movie series, was quoted last week saying that women often tell her they went to law school because of her character. 

Kelsi Stayart White, a commercial trial lawyer at Ahmad, Zavitsanos, Anaipakos, Alavi & Mensing P.C., or AZA, in Houston, said that happened to her too.

“It’s funny because although Elle Woods’ character isn’t your stereotypical idea of a feminist, the message of the movie is feminist: you can achieve anything you want to simply by being the best version of yourself,” said Ms. White.

“One reason the movie made me interested in law school is that it presented Elle’s differences as her strengths. She was a good lawyer, in part, because she was a woman, not in spite of it,” she said. 

“I think the best part of the movie is the end of her commencement address at Harvard. She says, ‘most importantly, you must always have faith in yourself.’ I think of that line often, even today as a practicing lawyer!” Ms. White said.

For more information or to set up an interview, contact Mary Flood at 800-559-4534 or mary@androvett.com.

by Androvett Legal Media at 9:30:00 am

Midland Texas Veterans Train Crash Victims

Five years after a freight train crashed into a float carrying wounded war heroes at a Midland, Texas parade, family members of three men killed are asking Texas’ top court to reevaluate the dismissal of their wrongful death claims.

The flatbed trailer serving as a parade float was struck by a Union Pacific train traveling 62 mph through a rail crossing. Army Sgt. Maj. Lawrence Boivin, 47, Marine Chief Warrant Officer 3 Gary Stouffer, 37, Army Sgt. Maj. William Lubbers, 43, and retired Army Sgt. Joshua Michael, 34, were killed. More than a dozen other people were injured.

In a petition filed today, lawyers for the Boivin, Stouffer and Lubbers families argue that a lower court erred in deciding that though the crossing in question was designed to provide 30 seconds of warning, Union Pacific satisfied federal law by providing only 20.4 seconds of warning.

“This is an extremely important case, not just for the families of these three veterans, but also for all Texans, whether they are crossing the railroad tracks in Midland or in any other city or town,” said Austin attorney Doug Alexander of Alexander Dubose Jefferson & Townsend, who filed the petition.

A full copy of the petition is below and linked here.

For more information or to set up an interview, contact Mark Annick at 800-559-4534 or mark@androvett.com.

by Androvett Legal Media & Marketing at 10:45:00 am

President Trump declared the opioid crisis a public health emergency, stopping short of calling it a national emergency. The announcement expands access to treat the epidemic, but doesn’t free new federal funding for cities and states to use.

Dallas attorney Jeffrey Simon of Simon Greenstone Panatier Bartlett, who represents Texas counties suing drug manufacturers, says more federal funding is needed.  

“I commend the president for using his platform to highlight the epidemic of opioid abuse in America,” said Mr. Simon. “Opioid addiction is a disease rather than a character flaw, and the president’s effort to draw this distinction is welcome. But the financial costs of successfully treating opioid addiction are substantial, as are the costs of effective educational programs to stem the epidemic. I remain hopeful that our federal government will devote the financial resources necessary to combat this health crisis, but that remains to be seen.

“I contend that the second essential step to addressing any problem, after acknowledging its existence, is to identify the source of the problem. Our Texas county governments, which pay high costs to combat the opioid abuse epidemic in their communities, are doing this very thing. They are fighting back. Counties we represent, such as Bowie County and Upshur County, have filed lawsuits against drug manufacturers and wholesale distributors for the purpose of holding them financially accountable for their roles in promoting and selling so many of these addictive drugs.  

“On behalf of their citizens, these county governments are confronting the opioid abuse epidemic in their communities. We are proud and privileged to serve Texas counties as legal counsel in this fight."

For more information or to set up an interview, contact Sophia Reza at 800-559-4534 or sophia@androvett.com.

 

by Androvett Legal Media at 2:00:00 pm

Chris Mugica, Nina Valdez and Andrés Correa
Chris Mugica, Nina Valdez and Andrés Correa

As part of Hispanic Heritage Month, three Texas attorneys with Hispanic backgrounds shared experiences that impacted their lives and their legal careers. The Texas Lawbook featured “Three Lawyers & their Hispanic Heritage: Why Diversity Matters” – a special section dedicated to the narratives of these attorneys in their own words.

Jackson Walker’s Chris Mugica:

I have been humbled over the years when people have termed my life as a real “Horatio Alger” story, having pulled myself up by the bootstraps to become the person I am today. But the reality is that has been a much more nuanced story. One that never would have been possible without the lessons my grandfather taught me about the responsibility we have to embrace the opportunities we have been given and then ensuring we help others reach their fullest potential.

Rose Walker’s Nina Valdez:

The pride I feel for my Mexican-American heritage comes straight from my father. Growing up, he instilled in me and in my sister the importance of education because of the challenges he experienced as a migrant worker in south Texas. I still remember his stories of the discrimination he faced growing up – from eating in the back of restaurants to being severely reprimanded in school for speaking Spanish. It saddens me to know that he and many others experienced discrimination based on their race. My father’s struggles drove me to become an attorney. I was motivated to be in a position where I could argue for justice – for what is right.

Lynn Pinker Cox & Hurst’s Andrés Correa: 

As a litigator, I have learned that no story is without its nuance. I firmly believe that, as an immigrant and a minority, I have to be better than my majority counterparts in order to be considered their equal. But those same majority counterparts have welcomed me into their fold. They have not just allowed me to shine, they have shared the tools to succeed. As minorities in the corporate world, we must walk a fine line. I cannot forget where I came from or look away from the injustices facing those who look and sound like me. I must also give my all to my clients, who come to the firm for solutions. I also have an obligation to help my business grow.

For more information or to set up an interview, contact Sophia Reza at 800-559-4534 or sophia@androvett.com.

by Androvett Legal Media & Marketing at 9:10:00 am

The U.S. Supreme Court declined last week to consider two cases concerning the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA), leaving certain questions unresolved regarding liability for computer hacking and the prospect for potentially harsh criminal and civil penalties.

“Given the current state of the law, someone could potentially be put in jail or subject to civil liability under the CFAA in one jurisdiction and not in another for the very same act,” said attorney Shain Khoshbin of Dallas-based Munck Wilson Mandala. “In fact, someone could be potentially criminally prosecuted and civilly liable simply for password sharing.”

The CFAA was originally intended to criminally prosecute individuals who accessed classified information by hacking into government computers. The federal statute was later amended to allow private civil actions for violation of the act. This allowed businesses to take the offensive against hackers and those who improperly access digital assets stored in computers.

“As the definition of ‘computer’ continues to expand, and computer networks continue evolving to include social media platforms, cloud storage and a wide variety of subscription-based services, the CFAA will undoubtedly continue to be tested in the court system,” said Mr. Khoshbin.

“The CFAA is a valuable tool for businesses to use as part of their crisis management plan for data breaches, and to seek justice from those who improperly access electronic assets. But the judiciary or Congress needs to address and resolve some important issues so the law can be applied consistently.”

For more information or to set up an interview, contact Robert Tharp at 800-559-4534 Robert@androvett.com.

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

On Sunday, an inflatable trampoline went airborne at an annual corn maze festival in upstate New York with several children inside. A gust of wind caused the bounce house to fly 50 feet into the air, striking a woman and dragging her nearly 20 feet. She was treated at a hospital for non-life threatening injuries; the children escaped with minor injuries. Authorities are investigating whether the inflatable trampoline was secure at the time of the accident. 

Dallas attorney Hunter Polvi of the trial law firm Sayles Werbner says that when it comes to these accidents, the manufacturer and the operator have a responsibility to make sure the equipment is secure.

“The manufacturer has a duty to provide instructions about how to properly secure these inflatable trampolines. The operator has a duty to comply with these instructions. When either of these is not done, people get hurt. In this case, it appears the inflatable trampoline should have been shut down and deflated before the winds became so severe.”

For more information or to set up an interview, contact Sophia Reza at 800-559-4534 or sophia@androvett.com.

by Androvett Legal Media & Marketing at 12:11:00 pm

Lawsuits are being filed over the Oct. 1 Las Vegas massacre that left 58 dead and more than 500 wounded when Stephen Paddock fired down on a country music festival from a nearby high-rise hotel. Among the first was a suit filed by a wounded Texas college student, seeking to hold MGM Resorts, Live Nation, Bump Stock manufacturer Slide Fire and the estate of the gunman liable.

“There does not appear to be any dispute that Stephen Paddock was the gunman, making the move to freeze the estate a prudent decision,” says Dallas attorney Timothy Zeiger. “Injured victims will often sue the estate of the person who acted negligently, such as when a careless driver causes a traffic fatality, or in this case carries out an intentionally malicious act.

“However, despite the reported size of his estate, given the large number of potential claims related to the horrific injuries and deaths he caused, the chance that any particular victim will be justly compensated from the estate does not appear to be likely,” adds Mr. Zeiger, head of the litigation section at Shackelford, Bowen, McKinley & Norton.

It is still too early to determine the legal responsibility of MGM Resorts, Live Nation or Slide Fire, Mr. Zeiger says. He notes that unless a tragedy is “reasonably foreseeable” and not just an “isolated, and up to now, unique crime,” it will be difficult to prove negligence.

For more information or to set up an interview, contact Rhonda Reddick at 800-559-4534 or rhonda@androvett.com.

by Androvett Legal Media & Marketing at 4:09:00 pm

President Donald Trump’s threats against NBC for news coverage he didn’t like are not unprecedented, says Dallas First Amendment lawyer Paul C. Watler of Jackson Walker LLP. On Wednesday, after NBC reported that sources said Trump raised the idea of increasing the U.S. nuclear arsenal, the president tweeted: “With all of the Fake News coming out of NBC and the Networks, at what point is it appropriate to challenge their License? Bad for country!”

“There is a long history of American presidents criticizing the coverage they receive in the press,” said Mr. Watler. “There is an equally long history of American journalists doing their jobs despite presidential disfavor. 

“A few presidents, most notoriously Richard Nixon, actually attempted to turn their dislike of the media into official retaliation by government agencies or regulators. But those vengeful efforts at official harassment were abject failures.

“The First Amendment guarantee of freedom of the press stands as a fundamental bar to the type of vindictive action that the current president seems to contemplate or encourage. As long as we have federal judges who are true to their oaths to uphold the Constitution, media organizations should be protected from efforts to intimidate or subvert independent news reporting.”

Mr. Watler, a commercial litigator, has successfully represented numerous news media organizations over the years in First Amendment and libel matters.

For more information or to set up an interview, contact Kit Frieden at 800-559-4534 or kit@androvett.com.

by Androvett Legal Media & Marketing at 1:45:00 pm

Local 100 of the United Labor Unions has filed a complaint after Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones threatened to discipline players who protest during the national anthem. The labor union that represents workers in Texas, Arkansas and Louisiana alleges that Jones violated the National Labor Relations Act, which prevents employers from intimidating workers for their activities.

Dallas attorney Rogge Dunn of Clouse Dunn says the union’s complaint filed will likely lose. Here is why.

“Jerry Jones can do what he wants,” says Mr. Dunn. “Employers can control what employees say on and off the field - in and outside of the office. In other words, there is no First Amendment, free speech rights in the workplace for people working for non-governmental entities.

“Workers do have the legal right to speak out about the terms and conditions of the workplace, such as whether employees are being paid overtime, if bonuses are not fair or if the workplace is unsafe. This is called concerted action and that is the basis on which the union complaint was filed with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). Since this situation involves a political statement, the NLRB will likely hold that it is not concerted action.

“For example, an employer fired an employee who showed up to work wearing an anti-abortion T-shirt. The employer fired this employee for political speech. The firing was legally upheld because it was not a T-shirt about working conditions.”

For more information or to set up an interview, contact Sophia Reza at 800-559-4534 or sophia@androvett.com

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

As high school football enters another week, will high school players take a knee during the national anthem? The polarizing topic remains a point of discussion among school administrators, coaches, players, parents and fans. While some players signaled their support of the cause last week, two Texas teenagers were kicked off their high school football team for kneeling. The coach in that case made the two players immediately remove their uniforms and leave the field. The action raises many questions, including whether schools might be violating students’ rights if a prohibition or punishment is imposed? Dallas attorney Shonn Brown of Lynn Pinker Cox & Hurst says it depends on the school’s policy.

“It would be interesting to see what, if any, guidance can be gleaned from the school’s current policies. The students’ actions are certainly an exercise of their constitutional rights, which should not be abridged or disturbed by actions of the school. Additionally what is described as the coach’s action (the embarrassing manner in which he made them 'exit' and disrobe apparently) sounds extremely harsh, overly broad and an overreaction, assuming he was enforcing some policy. Absent some support in school policy, I question the school’s right to take this action. It is possible that in the absence of such support that the school infringed on these students’ constitutional rights.”

For more information or to set up an interview, contact Sophia Reza at 800-559-4534 or sophia@androvett.com.

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

The Republican tax reform plan released this week proposes changes that are likely to make C corporation structures more appealing to U.S. business owners and investors.

“The reduction of the top corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 20 percent could certainly lead to a renewed interest in C corporations,” said Dallas tax lawyer Nathan Smithson of Jackson Walker LLP. “An investment in a corporation is subject to two levels of federal income taxation – once at the corporate level, and then again when a distribution is made out of the corporation to the investor. The proposed 20 percent corporate tax rate would make this investment far more palatable.

“The plan also lowers rates for partnerships and LLCs. However, investors and business owners who do not want to subject themselves to the more complex partnership tax rules – including paying taxes on their share of entity-level income – may now want to convert their entities to corporations,” said Mr. Smithson, who advises corporations, LLCs and partnerships on federal tax planning.

“An original investment in stock of a qualifying small business corporation can be sold tax-free if held for five or more years. A drop from a 35 percent to a 20 percent rate may make this type of investment a no-brainer for investors looking to minimize their overall taxes on corporate income.”

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

by Androvett Legal Media at 9:40:00 am

National Anthem at Cowboys Stadium in 2016 (Photo: Androvett Legal Media)
National Anthem at Cowboys Stadium in 2016 (Androvett Legal Media)

 

President Donald Trump has a solution to stop football players from taking a knee in protest during NFL games.

“The NFL has all sorts of rules and regulations,” Mr. Trump said in a tweet this week. “The only way out for them is to set a rule that you can’t kneel during our National Anthem!”

But can NFL owners really do that? Yes, says noted Dallas employment lawyer Rogge Dunn.

“This is no different than employers prohibiting employees from smoking at the office or outside of the office,” said Mr. Dunn, a partner at Clouse Dunn LLP.

From London to Los Angeles, more than 100 pro football players defiantly knelt or locked arms before games on Sunday and Monday. Many did so following Mr. Trump’s harsh criticism at a campaign rally in Alabama late last week.

“Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now. Out! He’s fired. He’s fired!’”

While last weekend’s wave of protests were a show of solidarity against President Trump, former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick actually sparked the movement in 2016 by sitting on the bench during the national anthem to put a spotlight on the victimization of African-Americans by police.

Regardless of the cause, Mr. Dunn said more employers are regulating employees’ actions inside and outside of work.

“An employer can regulate employees’ actions at the office and outside, including limiting their political activities and firing them for speaking out or protesting,” he said.

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

 

by Androvett Legal Media & Marketing at 9:43:00 am

When comedy legend Jerry Lewis’ will was made public, many focused on the fact that he had “intentionally excluded” each of his six sons, as well as their descendants, as beneficiaries. Instead, his entire estate was left to his second wife and their adopted daughter.

While the details were shocking to many, Dallas estate planning attorney Sam Long of Shackelford, Bowen, McKinley & Norton, LLP says this type of exclusion typically will withstand legal challenges. “One of the fundamental premises of the American law of succession and wills is what is sometimes called ‘freedom of disposition,’” he says. “As long as wills are freely made, and subject to some protections for surviving spouses and minor children, state laws generally permit the complete exclusion of family members or differences in their shares.”

Although this type of exclusion is not common, such a provision is not unheard of says Mr. Long, who also serves as an adjunct professor of wills, trusts and estates at the UNT-Dallas College of Law. “There are a number of individuals who made what many would see as ‘curious’ decisions about their fortunes. For example, Cornelius Vanderbilt left in excess of 90 percent of his estate to just one of his surviving 12 children, William, and his family,” he says. “It isn’t the norm but when you are dealing with family dynamics there is often a complex foundation as to why these decisions are made.”

For more information contact Rhonda Reddick at 800-559-4534 or rhonda@androvett.com.

by Androvett Legal Media at 11:15:00 am

Mingo v. Xarelto Motion for New Trial

 

The consumer case against the blood thinner Xarelto has taken an interesting twist.

Lawyers for plaintiff Dora Mingo want a retrial because the Mississippi jurors who found against her and for the Xarelto drugmakers in August weren’t aware of a key piece of evidence. Her lawyers contend it may have changed the outcome of the case.

At issue is a new study conducted and funded by Bayer Healthcare, which, along with Johnson & Johnson, makes Xarelto.

The scientific findings, contained in a medical research article published near the close of the Mingo trial, revealed that a lab test called prothrombin time, or PT, “may be used to assess anticoagulant activity,” such as excessive bleeding in patients taking Xarelto.

Federal courthouse
Federal courthouse in Jackson, MS (Photo: Androvett Legal Media)

The Bayer research contradicts a crucial element of the defense’s case, because throughout the Mingo trial, lawyers for the drugmakers told jurors that such a test was meaningless. 

“These jurors were told no measuring or monitoring of any kind was required, or even possible. That is simply not true,” said Andy Birchfield of the Beasley Allen Law Firm and co-lead attorney for Mrs. Mingo. “The study by the Bayer scientists is just the latest example that they knew otherwise.”

Mr. Birchfield recently filed a motion for a new trial based on the Bayer research and its apparent contradiction with the defendants’ trial testimony. 

The case is In re: Xarelto (rivaroxaban) Products Liability Litigation, case number 2:14-md-02592 in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana.

To speak with Andy Birchfield about the Xarelto litigation, contact Mark Annick at 214-559-4630 or mark@androvett.com.

by Androvett Legal Media & Marketing at 3:11:00 pm

The Winn-Dixie grocery chain is the latest and perhaps highest-profile business to face penalties for websites that are not compliant with the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), but it’s not likely to be the last.

A federal judge in Florida found that the grocery chain’s website was inaccessible to visually-impaired individuals and thus violated the ADA because features such as the website’s online coupons and pharmacy could not be accessed using a screen reader. The court ruled in favor of the plaintiff on all issues and awarded injunctive relief and attorneys’ fees.

The Americans With Disabilities Act prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in public places, like stores and movie theaters. Increasingly, a battle has been brewing over whether or not websites for such “places of accommodation” must also be accessible.

“In Winn-Dixie’s case, the Court agreed that because its website was closely integrated with its stores, the web content must be accessible to the hearing and visually impaired,” said employment attorney Audrey Mross of Dallas-based Munck Wilson Mandala. “If consumer-facing businesses were not aware of ADA website compliance, this case should be an eye-opener. 

To speak with Audrey Mross about ADA website compliance trends, contact Robert Tharp at 214-559-4630 or Robert@androvett.com.

by Androvett Legal Media at 10:00:00 am

Hurricane Harvey (NOAA)

“Hurricane Harvey didn’t cherry pick its victims, and FEMA shouldn’t cherry pick who it helps,” Washington, D.C. attorney Diana Verm told the Houston Chronicle this week.

Verm, who specializes in religious liberty cases, is representing three small Texas churches who recently sued the Federal Emergency Management Agency, alleging the government’s disaster relief policy violates the Constitution by denying faith groups the right to apply for funds.

Texas nonprofits that sustained damage by the Category 4 hurricane have 30 days to apply for emergency cleanup grants. The Houston-area churches maintain they should be eligible since they have and continue to support victims of the devastating storm.

David Coale, a Dallas appellate attorney who specializes in constitutional cases, says the complaint by the Rockport First Assembly of God in Aransas County, Harvest Family Church in Harris County and Hi-Way Tabernacle in Liberty County goes a step farther than previous similar cases by moving beyond exterior structures and building repairs into providing personal services. 

“On its face it’s a reasonable request — it’s a disaster and they need all the help they can get,” Mr. Coale, a partner with Lynn Pinker Cox Hurst, told the newspaper.  “On the other hand, we are talking about giving people money to offer a place to sleep. There is stuff up in the church about religion and there will be people in the church providing a little bit of ministry.”

The Texas case comes three months after a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that prohibited government discrimination against a Missouri church that had applied for funding for playground equipment.

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

by Androvett Legal Media & Marketing at 2:15:00 pm

Image via Timothy J. McIntosh

The dramatic photo of residents of an assisted living facility in Dickinson, Texas, sitting in waist-deep water while waiting to be evacuated is one of the most widely shared photos of Hurricane Harvey’s aftermath. While many were quick to pass judgment on the facility owner, health care attorney Bill Hopkins of the Austin office of Shackelford, Bowen, McKinley & Norton, LLP, says she should be commended for her actions.

“Similar to what we saw with Hurricane Katrina, there is not a lot that an assisted living facility can do in these circumstances. With elderly residents who are fragile and frequently equipment-dependent, you cannot simply load them in cars or vans and move them somewhere easily,” says Mr. Hopkins. “In fact, studies have shown that sometimes attempting to relocate these residents in an emergency situation can result in stress-related incidents such as heart attacks and strokes.

“Reports indicate that the owner tried her best to get help and support, but was told that help was not readily available. Luckily for these residents, she did not take no for an answer and thought outside the box to get her people to safety. Rather than second-guessing her decision, she should be applauded for doing what was necessary to get her people safe.”

For more information, contact Rhonda Reddick at 800-559-4534 or rhonda@androvett.com.

by Androvett Legal Media & Marketing at 11:17:00 am

Potentially significant policy changes are on the horizon regarding federal rules that determine how and whether workers are entitled to overtime pay. Businesses hoping to avoid overtime obligations for hourly workers must jump through three hoops in most cases. One of those hoops is to pay at least the minimum salary set by the U.S. Department of Labor.  

Last year, the Labor Department under the Obama administration more than doubled the minimum salary threshold that is exempt from overtime, raising it from $23,600 to $47,476. But the salary increase proposal was stiff-armed by a Texas federal judge’s injunction before the change could take effect. While not endorsing the Obama-era regulations, newly appointed Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta mused in recent congressional testimony that the current salary threshold is too low and should be raised to “somewhere around $33,000.”

“The DOL is now seeking comment on how the overtime exemptions should be determined, as well as issues including whether salary levels should be allowed flexibility based on various factors, such as size of employer or region of employment,” says employment attorney Audrey Mross of Dallas-based Munck Wilson Mandala.

“There’s a lot on the line for employers who could be affected by these changes,” she said. “More than anything, employers are seeking consistency in order to plan for the future. This information-gathering phase provides parties a chance to be heard. If the salary threshold for exemption does increase, employers will be making hard decisions about whether to raise affected worker pay to maintain overtime exemptions or closely monitor worker hours, or otherwise be prepared to start paying overtime.”

To speak with Audrey Mross about the Fair Labor Standards Act regulations, contact Robert Tharp at 214-559-4630 or Robert@androvett.com.

 

by Androvett Legal Media & Marketing at 11:17:00 am

The second collision at sea in three months involving a commercial tanker and a U.S. naval destroyer raises serious questions about the training and communication protocols used by the Pacific fleet. Charles Herd, a litigator with significant experience in maritime cases at Houston’s Lanier Law Firm, says that prudent seamanship calls for merchant and military ships to talk to each other and to stay clear of each other.

“Navy ships have a much higher number of officers and crew than are on modern commercial ships. Given the impact in the port quarter of the USS John S. McCain and the previous damage to the superstructure of the USS Fitzgerald, it appears that both vessels were struck from the bow of the commercial ships. This makes it likely that either the Navy ships crossed in front of the commercial ships or the commercial ships did not slow down or steer away,” says Mr. Herd.

The Navy’s preliminary analysis already places some fault on the officers of the Fitzgerald, and Mr. Herd notes that if further evidence shows that both collisions occurred in busy waters, with numerous vessels in the vicinity, all the vessels involved likely bear some responsibility for failing to keep a sharp lookout and maneuver to avoid a collision.

“I expect there will be shared fault once all the investigations are completed, he says.

For more information or to set up an interview with Mr. Herd, contact J.D. Cargill at 713-659-5200 or jdc@lanierlawfirm.com.

by Androvett Legal Media & Marketing at 3:03:00 pm

The iconic jewelry store Tiffany & Co. is a model for trademark enforcement, aggressively and successfully policing its brand in the courts. Last year, Tiffany filed a lawsuit against Costco Wholesale Corp., claiming that the warehouse giant sold more than $6 million of ersatz Tiffany engagement rings and improperly used the jeweler’s name on at least 200,000 in-store signs. This week Tiffany prevailed by winning a $19.4 million judgment in federal court.

Dallas lawyer Chris Schwegmann, a partner at Lynn Pinker Cox & Hurst who tries intellectual property cases, has been following the Tiffany v. Costco dispute.

“This type of litigation not only discourages counterfeiters, but also ensures that Tiffany’s luxury brand doesn’t get diluted over time. I find it interesting that Costco argued that ‘Tiffany’ represents a generic term used to describe a ring setting, and not just a brand name. That’s a tough case to make against a company that aggressively defends its brand.

“Based on the sizable judgment, it is unlikely that other companies in the industry will try to make the same arguments against Tiffany & Co. That’s the benefit of aggressive trademark enforcement.”

For more information on the case or to set up an interview with Mr. Schwegmann, contact Holly Scimeca at 800-559-4534 or holly@androvett.com.

by Androvett Legal Media & Marketing at 2:30:00 pm

Houston commercial real estate is still suffering from the collapse of oil prices and loss of tens of thousands of jobs. The latest estimates are that more than a fifth of Houston office space sits empty as landlords struggle to find new tenants and existing tenants struggle to sublease unused space. Commercial real estate firm NAI Partners calculates that more than 2 million square feet in office space is expected to be returned to property owners in the next two years.

Houston commercial real estate lawyers Douglas Yeager and Jeffrey M. Smith of Winston & Strawn LLP have witnessed several real estate cycles in their careers. Their experience includes handling the purchase and sale of non-performing loans, as well as advising tenants, owners and developers.

“Without sufficient tenants in these buildings paying rent, the owners may not be able to service their debt. In a couple of years, once this sublease space comes back onto the market, there could be a number of workout agreements and foreclosures of office buildings,” said Mr. Yeager. “This is something we have not seen for a few years.”

Mr. Smith notes that “lenders will be keeping a close eye on properties as deadlines to extend leases approach. Will the owners be able to service debt if occupancy rates fall as tenants decide not to extend leases, or if they continue operations in less space? Owners that are unable to backfill space will be anxious to see whether lenders will work with them or whether they will try to unload non-performing loans. We would expect to see an uptick in not only workouts and foreclosures, but also opportunistic investors seeking to purchase non-performing loans.

“Tenants may be in a better position to negotiate moving forward, particularly in certain submarkets where vacancy rates are higher,” Mr. Smith said. ”On the flip side, tenants will need to get assurances from lenders that they have approved lease terms and, in a worst case scenario, that the lender will allow the tenant to continue occupying the space if the lender forecloses on property.”

For more information or to arrange an interview, please contact Kit Frieden at 800-559-4534 or kit@androvett.com.

by Androvett Legal Media & Marketing at 10:25:00 am

The West Texas oil boom has sprouted new businesses that want to pump something other than oil – water.  At least four new companies are hoping to pump water from aquifers that can be sold for use in hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.

That worries some residents in the region, where water is a precious resource. Some are talking about lawsuits. Austin environmental lawyer Leonard Dougal of Jackson Walker LLP is a former petroleum engineer who represents landowners and developers of water projects in West Texas. He says Texas property law is well established that the landowner owns the water below, just like the oil.

“But Texas has a fragmented system of regulating groundwater, with about 100 groundwater conservation districts that regulate drilling and production of groundwater in their local region. The districts’ goals are generally to protect the aquifers and to attempt to impose some fair rights to usage, such as restrictions on well spacing and pumping. A well-known example is the Edwards Aquifer Authority, which regulates wells that produce high-quality water across Central and South Texas.

“The district boards are generally composed of landowners, so there is often a common interest in approving usage that benefits the local area. Oil and gas development brings jobs, for example. But if a company wants to develop a well field, then pump and transport water outside the district, that type of proposal will get much more scrutiny.

“If an application meets the district’s rules, then it should be approved by the board. Of course, some residents might disagree. They could sue the conservation district on the grounds that board members failed to meet their duty to protect the groundwater aquifer. But the plaintiffs might run into questions of their standing to sue, difficulty in proving the board failed to follow the law, or even governmental immunity.

“Water rights have been the source of many court challenges. In Southern California, part of an aquifer lies beneath federal lands occupied by a Native American tribe seeking a say in how that water is used by the public utilities controlling it. The U.S. Supreme Court may take up that issue this fall.” 

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

by Androvett Legal Media & Marketing at 10:57:00 am

Is it OK to mix guns and alcohol? A Texas Court of Appeals seems to be saying, “It depends.”

 

The court ruled that when people are drinking, but not obviously intoxicated, it can’t be assumed that a serious injury will happen just because there’s a gun around. The ruling came in a case in which a woman sued a Houston area homeowner after she was accidentally shot in the ankle at a barbecue where people were drinking. Hours before she was wounded, the plaintiff and other guests shot soda cans with a pistol. The plaintiff testified that she did not feel unsafe.

 

The 14th Court of Appeals in Houston concluded that the homeowner couldn’t be sued for premises liability and gross negligence just because there was a gun where beer and wine were served. The ruling isn’t surprising, said Ross Asher of Roberts Markel Weinberg Butler Hailey PC, which has offices across Texas. The Houston-based trial lawyer is experienced in insurance and premises liability matters.

Is it OK to mix guns and alcohol? A Texas Court of Appeals seems to be saying, "It depends."

The court ruled that when people are drinking, but not obviously intoxicated, it can't be assumed that a serious injury will happen just because there's a gun around. The ruling came in a case in which a woman sued a Houston area homeowner after she was accidentally shot in the ankle at a barbecue where people were drinking. Hours before she was wounded, the plaintiff and other guests shot soda cans with a pistol. The plaintiff testified that she did not feel safe.

The 14th Court of Appeals in Houston concluded that the homeowner couldn't be sued for premises liability and gross negligence just because there was a gun where beer and wine were served. The ruling isn't surprising, said Ross Asher of Roberts Markel Weinberg Butler Hailey PC, which has offices across Texas. The Houston-based trial lawyer is experienced in insurance and premises liability matters.

The court ruled that when people are drinking, but not obviously intoxicated, it can’t be assumed that a serious injury will happen just because there’s a gun around. The ruling came in a case in which a woman sued a Houston area homeowner after she was accidentally shot in the ankle at a barbecue where people were drinking. Hours before she was wounded, the plaintiff and other guests shot soda cans with a pistol. The plaintiff testified that she did not feel unsafe.

 

The 14th Court of Appeals in Houston concluded that the homeowner couldn’t be sued for premises liability and gross negligence just because there was a gun where beer and wine were served. The ruling isn’t surprising, said Ross Asher of Roberts Markel Weinberg Butler Hailey PC, which has offices across Texas. The Houston-based trial lawyer is experienced in insurance and premises liability matters.

“The most basic aspect of negligence law is foreseeability, and whether a reasonable person in similar circumstances should have foreseen that such an injury would occur. Texas law recognizes the important distinction between merely drinking alcohol and drinking to the point of impaired judgment.

“For example, the law criminalizes driving while intoxicated, but not simply driving after drinking. Thus, the amount of alcohol consumed and the effect of the alcohol on a person are the deciding factors – not the mere fact that some alcohol was imbibed. In this case, there was apparently no evidence that anyone near the firearm showed any signs of excessive drinking and impaired judgment. Therefore, such an incident could not be reasonably foreseen by the homeowner.”

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

by Androvett Legal Media & Marketing at 1:10:00 pm

 

The owners of Rowdy Girl farm, a self-described farm animal sanctuary run by vegans in Angleton, Texas, were ordered to pay nearly $60,000 in fines and legal bills for filing a meritless lawsuit over a Facebook post that criticized their aggressive fundraising. The owners had sought $1 million for defamation, but their case was dismissed by a Houston court on July 26.

“This case should be a warning to thin-skinned people who think that suing their critics is a good way to shut down free speech,” said Houston lawyer Adam Milasincic of Ahmad, Zavitsanos, Anaipakos, Alavi & Mensing P.C., or AZA, whose client was sued by the couple. “All my client did was raise legitimate questions in a Facebook post. We need to be on guard now more than ever for bullies using our court system as a hammer to whack First Amendment rights.”

The suit was filed by Renee King-Sonnen, a country singer who bills herself as the “Queen of Honky Tonk,” and her husband Tommy Sonnen. Until 2014, Tommy Sonnen raised cattle for slaughter. After his wife became a vegan, the couple converted the ranch into a no-kill farm.

But the farm became controversial when Ms. King-Sonnen raised $30,000 from online donors to buy her husband’s cattle to establish the nonprofit. The fundraising practices came under fire, especially after 2015 tax returns revealed that only 9 percent of the nearly $100,000 raised that year was spent on livestock supplies and veterinary care. In addition, cows, birds and a pot-bellied pig have died under suspicious circumstances. Photos show some cows looking emaciated.

Mr. Milasincic’s client, Dr. Sujatha Ramakrishna, a child psychiatrist in Dallas and animal rights advocate who once donated to the farm, merely posted her concerns on a Facebook page called The Real Rowdy Girl Revealed. Her post led to her being sued.

This is the most recent case Mr. Milasincic has won under the Texas Citizens Participation Act, a law that aims to shut down lawsuits targeting First Amendment rights. Using the same law, Milasincic has previously won six-figure fines against Schlumberger Ltd. and Landry’s, Inc.

For more information or to set up an interview, contact Kit Frieden at 800-559-4534 or kit@androvett.com.

by Androvett Legal Media & Marketing at 10:56:00 am

Two brothers exploring their favorite park in Fort Worth, Texas, were killed in March when they came into contact with a live power line downed by a storm the night before. This week, their family filed a wrongful death suit in Dallas County against electric utility Oncor for its negligence in failing to cut power to the line or issue warnings to people in the area.

Killed were 12-year-old Alex Lopez and his 11-year-old brother Isaiah, who instinctively raced to help Alex after he was stricken by the electric shock. Both boys died from injuries resulting from high-voltage electricity. Dallas lawyer Jeffrey Rasansky of Rasansky Law Firm, represents Alex and Isaiah’s mother, Tammy Brooks.

“Oakland Lake Park was a place Alex and Isaiah loved and felt safe to explore. It was never a place to fear,” Mr. Rasansky said. “But due to Oncor’s negligence and delay in cutting power to this live line, the park became the scene of horror, ending these young boys’ lives.”

According to the lawsuit, Oncor uses interactive smart technology that provides real-time notification of disruptions. Yet the company failed to address line problems in the park until after the tragedy. Even then, it took Oncor workers an hour to arrive on the scene to cut power so that emergency personnel could reach the Lopez brothers.

The lawsuit is Alejandro Luis Lopez, Tammy Brooks, and Ana Lopez as Personal Representative of the Estates of Jose Alexandro Luis Lopez and Isaiah Alexander Luis Lopez v. Oncor Electric Delivery Company, LLC, in Dallas County.

For more information or to set up an interview, contact Mark Annick at 800-559-4534 or mark@androvett.com.

by Androvett Legal Media & Marketing at 12:30:00 pm

It was a mistake and a bad one. In responding to a subpoena for information, a lawyer for Wells Fargo inadvertently sent the opposing attorney in a lawsuit a disc filled with confidential information, including Social Security numbers, for 50,000 of the bank’s wealthiest clients. This embarrassing and damaging error came to light in a New York Times article.

Telling the media is not the appropriate way to handle such a transgression, says Houston trial lawyer John Zavitsanos of Ahmad, Zavitsanos, Anaipakos, Alavi & Mensing P.C. or AZA, who has tried more than 75 cases to verdict. Normally, the recipient of the material would return it to the sender, understanding that mistakes like this happen sometimes, he said.

Instead, this may boomerang on the people who publicized the breach, and they may get in trouble for it. Most judges are human beings and understand mistakes – and they don’t like gotchas.

Also, many states have snapback procedures whereby if you inadvertently turn over privileged information, you can retrieve it and say it was inadvertently produced. Until that privilege is determined, the receiving party can’t hold onto it. There are a slew of states that have provisions like that. And even if this involved a state without a snapback rule, the other side can file a motion to protect their confidential information.

“Of course, if Wells Fargo is unsuccessful in retrieving the information, its law firm may be subject to claims and penalties. Usually you come up with a set of protocols to prevent this from happening. However, every lawyer with an active litigation practice has produced something in error at some point. You call the other side and ask them to return it. We’ve all been there.”

For more information or to set up an interview, contact Kit Frieden at 800-559-4534 or kit@androvett.com.

by Androvett Legal Media & Marketing at 5:05:00 pm

Dallas Cowboys star running back Ezekiel Elliott is accused of punching a man at a popular Dallas bar Sunday night. Police have not arrested anyone tied to the bar brawl, but sources claim Elliott hit the man. This latest incident comes as the NFL is reviewing a domestic violence allegation against the running back that happened a year ago and could suspend him in the upcoming season. Dallas attorney Rogge Dunn of Clouse Dunn says Sunday’s altercation doesn’t help Elliott’s case.

“The NFL can take action against players whose behavior doesn’t meet NFL conduct standards on and off the field. The NFL has strengthened its stance on matters relating to violence against women and domestic violence. Any behavior related to domestic violence places the player at risk. In addition, there may be good conduct provisions in the player’s contract that could lead to economic penalties. On top of that, this type of behavior affects a player’s reputation and reduces the chances of future endorsements.”

For more information or to set up an interview, contact Sophia Reza at 800-559-4534 or Sophia@androvett.com.

 

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

Munck Wilson Mandala has solidified its place among the elite intellectual property firms in North Texas with the arrival of seven experienced lawyers from IP boutique Howison & Arnott LLP. Monday’s announcement sent ripples through the North Texas IP bar, where the two firms are already known for their sophisticated and client-centered IP work.

Writes Texas Lawbook: They are joining forces to create the third largest patent law practice and the largest patent law boutique in North Texas… With the addition of the Howison & Arnott lawyers, Munck Wilson boasts 27 registered patent attorneys, which is the third most in North Texas, behind full service corporate law firms Baker Botts (40) and Haynes and Boone (31).

The new arrivals include partners Gregory Howison, John Arnott, and Brian Walker, as well as senior counsels  Andrew Graham, Edward Jorgenson, and Steven Greenfield, and associate Keith Harden. More details on all seven attorneys here: https://www.munckwilson.com/newipattorneys/ 

“We have a strong vision about the future of patent law and the addition of Greg and his team positions our law firm as a powerhouse in IP law,” Munck Wilson Mandala Managing Partner William A. Munck told Texas Lawbook. “We will put our resources and expertise up against any law firm in Dallas.”

Howison agreed: “During the past few years, the IP law market in Dallas has changed significantly – the dynamics have changed – and this move makes the firm uniquely positioned to take advantage of those changes,” he said.

For more information, contact Shannon Tipton at 972-628-4500 or stipton@munckwilson.com.

by Androvett Legal Media & Marketing at 12:25:00 pm

President Trump’s pick to replace fired FBI Director James Comey goes before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday. While committee members are preparing a full day of tough questioning to reveal Christopher Wray’s character and positions on law enforcement, former high level Justice Department lawyer Bill Mateja says his former colleague is ideally suited to weather the turbulent and politically charged approval process.

“Chris Wray’s appointment should sail through with flying colors,” said Mr. Mateja, now a shareholder in Dallas-based Polsinelli P.C. and former Senior Counsel to U.S. Deputy Attorneys General Larry Thompson and James Comey in Washington, D.C., where he also served as point person for the President's Corporate Fraud Task Force. “He’s a superb and qualified candidate to run the FBI. He has a great moral compass and he’s no one’s minion. He has the experience, the smarts and the gravitas.

“He’s an odd choice in a way for President Trump because he has worked with and is cut from the same cloth as Jim Comey, who Trump fired as FBI director, and special counsel Robert Mueller, who Trump has attacked. All three strive to do the right thing. The public can rest easy that Chris will not be a lackey for Trump.

“Chris is a Republican but he doesn’t wear his politics on his sleeve. He keeps things close to his vest. He isn’t as colorful as Jim Comey. He takes a conservative approach. It’s not his nature to comment publicly if it can be avoided.”

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

by Androvett Legal Media & Marketing at 1:41:00 pm

In another attempt to change the admissions process at the University of Texas at Austin, a group - led by a man who unsuccessfully sued the university previously over its admissions process - has filed a lawsuit claiming UT violates state law by using race and ethnic considerations as factors in its admissions. Edward Blum’s nonprofit organization, Students for Fair Admissions, says UT gives African-American and Hispanic candidates preference over white and Asian applicants. Lynn Pinker Cox & Hurst partner Shonn Brown says this latest attempt is a step backward. 

“The University of Texas still struggles to obtain a diverse student population. It proceeds under an admissions policy that has been upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court. Blum’s group and its actions seek to return to the ‘days of old’ and if put into place would likely take UT backwards in its attempts to utilize additional across-the-board process that assists in increasing diversity in the UT student population."

For more information or to set up an interview, contact Sophia Reza at 800-559-4534 or Sophia@androvett.com.

by Androvett Legal Media & Marketing at 11:18:00 am

 

The health care bill the U.S. Senate is fine-tuning could have profound effects on elderly people who rely on nursing home care, says Houston-area elder law attorney Kelley Bentley of Roberts Markel Weinberg Butler Hailey PC. Ms. Bentley is Board Certified in Estate Planning and Probate Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization.

“The bill proposes large cuts to federal Medicaid support over several years with reliance on states to decide funding in the future. In Texas, nearly 70 percent of nursing home residents are enrolled in Medicaid.

“While many people may assume the program pays solely for health care for the poor, it also fills a gap for long-term care, including at-home and nursing home care for the elderly population. The cost of long-term care in the U.S. can be substantial and a serious drain on an individual’s assets. That includes middle-class retirees who sometimes have managed to save substantial assets. Some people simply outlive their savings for long-term care.

“Older people should take a hard look at their savings long before any health problems. Consider a long-term care savings plan or long-term care insurance and also talk to a lawyer about how to organize and protect assets. In Texas, long-term care Medicaid programs can provide a wide range of care, including nursing home, assisted living and at-home programs. The secret is to start to plan early, before the need arises as there are more options available for the preservation of assets. The goal is not necessarily to preserve assets for future generations, but to ensure that an individual (or married couple) has sufficient assets to cover any future long-term care needs.”

For more information or to set up an interview, contact Kit Frieden at 800-559-4534 or kit@androvett.com

by Androvett Legal Media & Marketing at 8:30:00 am

The NBA Draft is tonight and while fans focus on their favorite team’s selections, the newest professional players and their lawyers will have more weighty concerns to address: employment contracts.

Dallas-based attorney Rogge Dunn, partner at Clouse Dunn, works with professional athletes and coaches including Basketball Hall of Fame Coach Larry Brown. Mr. Dunn says:

Athlete employment contracts are singularly unique in many ways. For example, compensation may be tied to a player’s performance metrics, such as shooting averages, games played or post-season awards, and are likely to be quite invasive on issues including the player’s weight, health issues and off-season activities. Also, unlike most employment contracts, they will likely contain morals clauses. 

However, so-called ‘guaranteed contracts’ protect most athletes in a way that most of us with employment contracts do not have, by guaranteeing their compensation even if an injury prevents them from playing. We should all be so lucky to have guarantees such as these. Most executive contracts terminate payments or force a leave of absence if you are disabled or can no longer do the job.

For more information or to set up an interview with Rogge Dunn, contact Holly Scimeca at 800-559-4534 or holly@androvett.com.

by Androvett Legal Media & Marketing at 9:25:00 am

Two weeks before it was set to take effect, the Department of Education has stopped the implementation of a rule designed to hold for-profit colleges accountable for marketing claims about employment rates for graduates. Had the Borrower Defense to Repayment rule taken effect, for-profit colleges would have had to prove their programs led to the “gainful employment” of graduates or risk the loss of federal aid.

“There is no doubt that the student loan bubble may burst in the near future due to the crushing amount of student loan debt resulting from the skyrocketing costs of attendance combined with the limited availability of jobs upon graduation,” says Dallas bankruptcy attorney Aaron Gottlieb of Godwin Bowman & Martinez.

“However, some responsibility must still remain with the student loan borrower to carefully choose which colleges and programs to attend. If a for-profit school provides the student an education and degree for which the student paid tuition, then a ‘gainful employment’ requirement following graduation seems to be too broad a brush to wield in determining whether the for-profit school made a material misrepresentation.

“In fact, several lawsuits have been dismissed over the past five to 10 years on the basis of student borrowers’ reliance on publications such as U.S. News & World Report, which listed inaccurate employment rates of graduates. The courts have consistently considered this information mere ‘puffery,’ rather than any sort of guarantee. I fail to see the difference between touting ‘employment rates,’ and promising ‘gainful employment.’ They appear, from my perspective, to be one and the same.”

For more information or to set up an interview, contact Rhonda Reddick at 800-559-4534 or rhonda@androvett.com.



Items 1-50 of 223