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Androvett Blog

by Androvett Legal Media & Marketing at 1:37:00 pm

The iconic jewelry store Tiffany & Co. is a model for trademark enforcement by aggressively and successfully policing its brand in the courts. Last year Tiffany & Co. filed litigation against Costco, 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. That trial began this week in federal court in New York. 

Chris Schwegmann, a partner at Lynn Pinker Cox Hurst in Dallas, who focuses his practice on intellectual property litigation, says:

“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.

“If this case goes as I expect, it is unlikely that other companies in the industry will try to make the same the same arguments against Tiffany & Co., which is a benefit of aggressive trademark enforcement.”

Read more about the case here.

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

by Androvett Legal Media & Marketing at 11:42:00 am

Amid reports that Brad Pitt is being investigated for some form of alleged child abuse, there are clues in Angelina Jolie’s divorce paperwork that may be consistent with such an allegation, says Dallas Family Law attorney Keith Nelson, a partner in the Family Law boutique Orsinger, Nelson, Downing & Anderson, LLP. Chief among them is Ms. Jolie’s request for sole physical custody of the couple’s six children, while allowing joint legal custody.

“These are two very specific distinctions. With sole physical custody, although there will be visitation, the child resides primarily with one parent. With joint legal custody, both parents will likely have a say in decisions related to education, health care and general welfare.

“Many of the initial media reports made it clear that it was the well-being of the couple’s six children (ages 8 to 15) – not infidelity or other issues – that was the primary concern. The fact that she included a request for sole physical custody should be a bit of a red flag that she may not consider him a proper influence on the children or she may claim that he is engaging in risky behaviors – such as substance abuse – that could potentially put them in danger. Her request for sole physical custody, may also signal a desire on her part to have the right to live with the children without any geographic restriction."

If Mr. Pitt wants to counter this request, one of his first moves, says Mr. Nelson, could be to ask for a full-scale custody evaluation, which could include a psychological and substance abuse assessment of both parents.

“Sometimes, the parent asking for sole custody will have mitigating issues of their own that will be vetted out in such a custody evaluation, which can impact the evaluator’s ultimate recommendations to the court.”

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 11:08:00 am

Mexico’s energy reform has opened that country’s oil and gas sector to private companies, generating widespread interest among U.S. oil and gas companies and other businesses. But working under a foreign legal system can cause some unexpected snags for U.S. companies that are not properly prepared.

Houston-based, Mexican-licensed lawyer Jaime A. Treviño of J.A. Treviño Abogados, or JATA, which is headquartered in Monterrey, Mexico, represents U.S. businesses in their dealings in Mexico. His firm has produced a “Practical Handbook” outlining that country’s energy reforms and some of the challenges confronting foreign-based companies. Mr. Treviño explains:

First, most land in Mexico is not private property, so it cannot be easily sold. Much of Mexico’s territory is classified as an ‘ejido,’ a collective group of people that live and work as a community. This land first must be converted into private property before it can be sold, and special negotiations with a whole community are often required. There are horror stories in which communities refuse to cooperate and halt entire projects, or cases where investors have taken advantage of people, particularly indigenous communities. It is critical to have expert legal advice to deal with these situations and negotiations properly.

“Second, much is made of Mexico’s cheap labor. But job protections are ironclad for virtually all full-time Mexican workers. It is difficult to fire an employee, but most of all, it’s costly. Mexican law requires 90 days of paid salary for an employee, even if he or she has worked just a single day. It is critical to structure labor relationships in a manner that is best for each company or project, and in compliance with Mexican labor law.

“Then, there are the excruciatingly detailed requirements of the Mexican legal system when a company is dealing with the government. Every form must be filled out in an exacting way. Simply abiding by the spirit of the law does not cut it. For example, something as seemingly simple as a company director needing power of attorney must comply with requirements that are not standard when doing business in the U.S.

“It is essential to have the legal advice of a lawyer who completely understands the formalities of the Mexican legal system. That is what led us to produce our energy reform handbook.”

For more information about Mr. Treviño and JATA, please contact Kit Frieden at 800-559-4534 or kit@androvett.com.

by Androvett Legal Media & Marketing at 3:40:00 pm

Dallas attorney and private investigator Wes Bearden says actors Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt will need some particularly creative evidence if they decide to fight for custody of their six children.

Ms. Jolie reportedly cited irreconcilable differences in a court filing yesterday that seeks to end the couple’s two-year marriage. The actress is requesting sole physical custody and joint legal custody of their six children, giving Mr. Pitt visitation rights.

Mr. Bearden, founder of the Bearden Investigative Agency, says one of the more intriguing parts of the superstar divorce can be found in the unique lifestyles of the couple’s children, including the role their parents play in their less-than-traditional upbringing.

“Since both Jolie and Pitt are involved in the movie business and face many of the same time-away-from-home issues, they could arrange a 50/50 agreement,” says Mr. Bearden. “But if they decide to wage a custody fight, then they will both have to come up with some pretty compelling arguments for why one would be a better custodial parent than the other. These are two of the most famous actors in the world who are consistently on movie sets and probably not taking care of their children all the time. More issues will develop as this case moves along in terms of not only who will be taking care of the kids, but where they will live and where they go to school.”

 

 

by Androvett Legal Media & Marketing at 2:09:00 pm

Two Gulf Coast oilfield services and marine staffing firms recently agreed to pay more than $500,000 in fines to settle federal lawsuits that alleged they skirted employment rules and overtime laws by improperly paying workers as contractors to reduce overtime costs. The penalties are the latest reminders to Texas employers of the consequences of a continued federal and state crackdown on employee misclassification, says Dallas attorney Audrey Mross, who leads the Labor & Employment section at Munck Wilson Mandala.

Such enforcement efforts have gained steam in 34 states, including Texas. These states signed on to an initiative to share information and aid the feds in identifying and punishing employers who fail to properly classify workers as employees. In addition, the National Labor Relations Board recently found that a trucking company improperly classified its truck drivers as independent contractors, which interfered with their rights to join labor unions.

“Businesses that are not on top of this issue are operating in perilous territory,” Ms. Mross says. “Any employer using independent contractors should analyze whether workers are properly classified and regularly re-evaluate those relationships. Violators face a long list of economic penalties, including fines, back pay, IRS penalties and legal fees.”

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

by Androvett Legal Media & Marketing at 10:54:00 am

It’s been a year since the Department of Justice issued the Yates Memo. That document advised federal prosecutors to hold individuals accountable for corporate wrongdoing and ordered companies to provide “all relevant facts” on culpable individuals in order to get credit for cooperating with the government. Houston attorney and corporate compliance consultant Thomas Fox says the jury is still out on the Yates Memo’s impact on corporate corruption. Mr. Fox is the former general counsel for an international oilfield services company and now works as an independent consultant advising companies on the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

“First, there’s the corporate response,” says Mr. Fox, who also founded and operates the FCPA Compliance Report website. “In a speech in May, Deputy U.S. Attorney General Sally Yates said companies are now presenting ‘Yates binders’ when meeting with the government. The binders hold information on individuals that the government can use in prosecutions.

“While some general counsel are uneasy having to investigate their own employees and turn over that information to the government, a positive effect has been that corporations set their investigation protocols to more quickly and efficiently respond to allegations of wrongdoing. Many companies are now moving to use outside counsel, who generally are more seasoned than in-house counsel when dealing with internal investigations.

“The government’s response has been equally interesting. It’s too early to see a trend, but the recent prosecution of Volkswagen engineer James Liang and his guilty plea for helping create the device that cheated air pollution tests may be a harbinger for the impact of Yates. It will be instructive to see if the U.S. government continues to prosecute others at VW for their conduct.

“The key will be whether the government is willing to prosecute a senior manager or board member for their role. If the Yates Memo is only going to be used to go after the little guy, then it will be seen as a meaningless gesture by corporate America.”

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

When a 5.8 magnitude earthquake centered in Oklahoma shook that state and several others over Labor Day weekend, regulators in the Sooner State ordered 37 oil and gas wastewater disposal wells to shut down because of previous connections to quakes.

There also have been earthquakes in Texas that some researchers believe are tied to disposal wells used for wastewater fluids resulting from hydraulic fracturing/fracking operations. While state regulators continue to question a definitive link between these wells and earthquakes, some major oil and gas producers are already taking steps to try to avoid problems.

“The more sophisticated producers are already beginning to use technologies to recycle water used in fracking and to develop new formulas that substantially reduce both water usage and the amount that must be disposed by subsurface injection. Those changes will provide numerous benefits, which may include reducing the potential for seismic activity,” said Leonard Dougal, an environmental lawyer with Jackson Walker LLP in Austin who is also a former petroleum engineer.

“In most cases, however, the disposal of wastewater is contracted out to other service companies, and many producers aren’t involved in decisions about where those wells are drilled or how they are operated. But that separation may not totally free producers from a potential lawsuit given the recent widespread publicity about earthquakes. Producers also should take steps to reduce liability by avoiding use of disposal wells or contractors working in areas of known seismic activity.” 

by Androvett Legal Media & Marketing at 11:35:00 am

 

The billion-dollar Bayside resort development at Lake Ray Hubbard in Rowlett, Texas, has been partially held up for more than a year as part of a lawsuit filed by a marina operator. But now, the project is moving forward after attorneys from Fish & Richardson led by Dallas managing principal Tom Melsheimer recently convinced a Dallas state district court to throw out the lawsuit. Melsheimer’s client, Bayside Land Partners, purchased the marina property in 2015, but the operator refused to leave even though his prior concessions contract with the city of Dallas had expired years earlier. Melsheimer, fellow firm principal John Sanders and co-counsel filed a motion for summary judgment. The judge agreed with their arguments and ruled in favor of Bayside, dismissing every claim filed by the marina operator and ordering him to pay court costs. “This is a victory for the citizens of North Texas who will enjoy the tremendous benefits of a world-class recreational, retail and housing development for years,” Melsheimer says.

 

by Androvett Legal Media & Marketing at 10:37:00 am

The producers of motion picture “Middle Men,” a drama about the birth of the business of internet pornography, filed a breach of contract lawsuit against Paramount Pictures claiming the movie studio failed to properly promote, distribute, and pay royalties on the film. 

The movie was set up for success with director George Gallo and well-known actors Luke Wilson, Giovanni Ribisi, and James Caan. Despite buzz around the film at Cannes, the lawsuit explains that Paramount purposely depressed the film’s box office performance by withholding marketing and only releasing the movie in limited cities – showing only one screening of the movie in New York City on a Sunday afternoon for opening weekend.  

In addition to failing to fully uphold a $7 million marketing agreement, Paramount sold the movie to the premium cable channel EPIX for streaming to services such as Amazon Prime and Netflix. Paramount holds a 43-percent stake in EPIX. The lawsuit says that Middle Pictures Inc., the film’s producers, have not received their fair share of the profits from streaming “Middle Men.”

“We plan to prove that when Paramount agreed to distribute ‘Middle Men’, it only saw the film as an opportunity for their own financial gain at the expense of the independent film company,” says Jeffrey Simon of Dallas-based Simon Greenstone Panatier Bartlett, PC, which represents Middle Pictures Inc. “Evidence shows us that the studio simply bundled the critically-acclaimed film with other Paramount products.”

Simon says the movie studio giant either can’t or won't show auditors in full detail  if, or how, the $6.8 million that Middle Pictures provided for marketing was spent. 

For more information on this lawsuit and to request an interview with Jeffrey Simon, contact Mark Annick: mark@androvett.com.

by Androvett Legal Media & Marketing at 1:35:00 pm

Dallas employment attorney Rogge Dunn says Fox News’ quick resolution of Gretchen Carlson’s sexual harassment lawsuit shows how eager the network is about distancing itself from former chairman Roger Ailes.

21st Century Fox, the parent company of Fox News, has offered a public apology and announced a settlement with Carlson for a reported $20 million. Carlson filed her claims in early July, and Ailes was fired nearly two weeks later. Now her case is off the books altogether.

“Given how quickly this case was settled, Fox News obviously is eager to put the Roger Ailes era behind them. These kinds of cases can go on for years, but this one settled in two months, which is significant on several levels,” says Mr. Dunn of Dallas’ Clouse Dunn LLP. “Ms. Carlson has been the most visible among those who have accused Mr. Ailes of inappropriate conduct, so resolving her case was very important for Fox News in terms of public perception.”

To interview Rogge Dunn, please contact Sophia Reza at 800-559-4534 or Sophia@androvett.com.

 

by Androvett Legal Media & Marketing at 9:40:00 am

Two years after the disappearance of 23-year-old Christina Morris from a Collin County shopping mall, investigators are treating the mystery like a homicide investigation. But when 12 Collin County jurors convene next week for the trial of Enrique Arochi, the charge facing the 26-year-old will be kidnapping – not murder.

The lesser charge resulted from the fact that Ms. Morris’ body has not been found. But Dallas criminal defense attorney John Teakell says a lot people don’t realize that Texas law applies the same range of penalties for both murder and first-degree felony aggravated kidnapping – up to life in prison.

Mr. Teakell, a former federal prosecutor who is not involved in this case, says prosecutors likely felt pressure to provide a speedy trial for Mr. Arochi, who was indicted last December. And since there is no statute of limitations for a murder charge, authorities can always choose to refile charges should Ms. Morris’ body be found.

“With Christina still missing two years later, prosecutors will use all of the forensic evidence and surveillance footage they have collected to build a case highlighting Mr. Arochi’s conflicting statements while attempting to draw a straight line between him and this suspicious disappearance,” he says.

To interview Mr. Teakell, contact Robert Tharp at 800-559-4534 or robert@androvett.com.

by Androvett Legal Media & Marketing at 9:40:00 am

Atmos Energy failed to properly locate and install a device that would have prevented a natural gas explosion last year in Waxahachie, Texas, according to a lawsuit filed in Ellis County by more than 20 homeowners. That explosion, which destroyed several homes and caused multiple other severe injuries and damage, resulted from an Atmos gas line being cut by contractors installing underground fiber optic cable. The lawsuit claims that an excess flow valve should have immediately shut off the leaking gas when the break occurred, but Atmos did not place the valve close enough to the gas main, allowing the deadly gas to escape. The company then didn’t respond when neighbors reported a gas disruption to their homes more than four days prior to the explosion.  

“This disaster was totally preventable. It’s clear from the information we’ve uncovered that Atmos failed to comply with federal law governing the location of excess flow valves, and provided no degree of oversight in an active construction area,” says Tom Carse of Dallas’ Carse Law Firm. “Atmos personnel violated the company’s policies and procedures at multiple steps leading to this tragedy.”

The explosion occurred on the morning of September 21, 2015, when Adelmira Chavez turned on her electric cooktop to prepare breakfast, unaware of the gas line break and the concentrated fumes in her home that had been deodorized by the surrounding soil. Ms. Chavez was severely injured in the resulting blast, suffering second- and third-degree burns on her face, arms, stomach, back and legs, as well as a broken arm. Her brother, Jamie Rodriguez, also suffered severe burns to his face and arms. In addition to Ms. Chavez’s home, three other residences in the path of the explosion are considered total losses, while seven others were significantly damaged.

“Atmos has never warned its millions of customers that deodorization can and will occur when escaped natural gas passes through soil, although there are low-cost and readily available monitors for home use that can detect leaking natural gas in any form,” says Mr. Carse. “It’s a miracle that Ms. Chavez and her brother survived this explosion.”

by Androvett Legal Media & Marketing at 9:08:00 am

The daughter of Antoinette Brown, the woman who was fatally mauled by dogs in a South Dallas neighborhood in early May, has sued a Dallas City Council member and a Georgia-based attorney based on claims that they improperly solicited her on the day after her mother was buried in hopes that she would file a wrongful death claim against the city.

In the lawsuit, Matisha Ward alleges that Dallas City Councilwoman Tiffinni Young repeatedly contacted her with text messages and told her during a private meeting that she had legal claims against the City. The day after Ms. Brown’s funeral, Ms. Young contacted Ms. Ward by text and arranged a phone call involving Atlanta personal injury attorney Christopher Chestnut. Ms. Ward recorded that conversation, and submitted a transcript as part of her lawsuit.

On the call, Ms. Young asks Ms. Ward if she had spoken to an attorney. When Ms. Ward says she had not, Ms. Young introduces Mr. Chestnut.

“I have one sitting right here,” Ms. Young says on the recording. “Do you want to talk with him?”

At the conclusion of the five-minute call, Mr. Chestnut indicates he will forward his contact information and that the councilwoman “will call you back.” Ms. Ward was never contacted again by Ms. Young or Mr. Chestnut, and she never initiated any contact with either.

“It is shocking and disheartening to have this level of collusion between an elected official and an attorney not even licensed to practice law in Texas,” says attorney Tom Carse of the Carse Law Firm, who has filed a barratry action on behalf of Ms. Ward. “My client was frustrated and grieving, but understood that something was wrong about that conversation.”

Under Texas law anyone can face a barratry claim for the improper solicitation of legal representation, even those who are not licensed attorneys. Other attorneys representing Ms. Ward later issued a demand letter to the City of Dallas seeking $5 million based on the negligence that led to her mother’s death.

To speak with Mr. Carse or Ms. Ward, or for more information, please contact Barry Pound at 800-559-4534 or barry@androvett.com.

 

by Androvett Legal Media & Marketing at 11:26:00 am

The preliminary injunction issued yesterday by U.S. District Judge Reed O'Connor of Fort Worth that temporarily blocks the Obama Administration's instructions for public schools to accommodate transgender students has intensified the national debate over students’ use of bathrooms and other facilities.

“The nationwide aspects of the injunction will be interesting to watch because there are limited circumstances where that is appropriate, and this injunction only applies to those states that recognize the directive from the DOJ under their own state laws,” says Dallas attorney Shonn Brown of Lynn Pinker Cox & Hurst. “The big question is what does ‘sex’ mean. The differentiation between ‘biological’ and ‘identity’ will likely be interpreted differently by other courts, which will ultimately require an opinion of the Supreme Court to resolve. Also, this is a temporary order, which places a lower burden on the plaintiffs to show ‘likelihood’ of prevailing, whereas at the permanent injunction phase there is the higher standard of a trial on the merits.”

Federal officials interpreted the word "sex" in anti-discrimination statutes to also cover gender identity. They also argued that the lawsuit was filed too soon because the transgender policy isn't binding and no enforcement action has been taken. Attorneys representing Texas, however, said the guidelines "obliterate" past rules, putting Texas and other states at risk of losing millions of dollars in education funding if the new guidelines were not followed.

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

Attorneys for Texas State Sen. Royce West are asking a Dallas judge to sanction lawyers for Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant for making false and baseless claims in a lawsuit accusing Mr. West of mismanaging the player’s business affairs.

“Dez has been known to trash talk on the field, but you can’t trash talk your way through the courts,” said Mike Gruber of Dallas-based Gruber Elrod Johansen Hail Shank, who represents Mr. West, who is also a lawyer. “He and his attorneys at Reed Smith should know that you cannot make accusations that aren’t supported by any facts and expect there won’t be consequences. Our motion is the first of those consequences.”

Earlier this year, Mr. West sued Mr. Bryant for $60,000 in damages for trashing a rental house that Mr. West had provided to him. In response, Mr. Bryant’s lawyers accused Mr. West of absconding with funds, which the filing claims is ludicrous given that those funds were forwarded to creditors to settle lawsuits against Mr. Bryant.

Mr. West’s sanctions motion filed August 17 in Dallas County District Court states that Mr. Bryant and his new attorneys acted in bad faith in their claims against Mr. West, managing partner of Dallas law firm West & Associates, L.L.P.

According to the motion, Mr. West’s attorneys immediately pointed out the “legal and factual deficiencies” in Mr. Bryant’s claim and demanded that they withdraw the false and baseless pleading. Yet Mr. Bryant and his lawyers persist, despite their inability to provide a single piece of evidence.

Mr. West is seeking dismissal of Mr. Bryant’s counterclaim, attorneys’ fees and other expenses, and a $500,000 sanction payment to be made to the United Negro College Fund.

Mr. West is represented by Dallas-based Gruber Elrod Johansen Hail Shank; Mr. Bryant is represented by attorneys with Reed Smith.

The case is Royce B. West v. Desmond D. Bryant, No. DC-16-07364, in the 101st State District Court in Dallas County.

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

 

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

Tougher greenhouse gas and fuel efficiency standards are coming for new large and heavy-duty vehicles, such as buses and tractor-trailers. The package of regulations announced this week represent the latest effort by the Obama administration to produce cleaner and more efficient vehicles after 2018. In the final rule, the Environmental Protection Agency tightened carbon dioxide emission standards while the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration imposed fuel consumption measures.

“The goal of reduced carbon emissions is laudable, but fuel efficiency typically means less power from engines that are more expensive to purchase and operate,” says H. Peyton Inge IV of Dallas’ Chamblee Ryan Kershaw & Anderson, who represents trucking companies on operational and litigation matters. “The long-term environmental effects of the regulations are likely to be positive, but they are also likely to hit truckers in the pocketbook when they purchase a new rig, with costs ultimately passed along to the consumer.” 

The standards also require that truck manufacturers follow an expanded and improved compliance simulation model to test drivetrain and powertrain performance during the vehicle certification process and use. In addition, since refrigerants used in these vehicles’ air conditioning systems are also extremely potent greenhouse gases, the final rule includes standards to control leakage of hydrofluorocarbons. The rule also includes more stringent nitrous oxide standards for heavy-duty engines.

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

This week health officials reported the first spread of the Zika virus from state to state when a Texas man got the disease after visiting a section of Miami where mosquitoes have been spreading Zika.

The Zika virus can cause brain damage and other birth defects in infants if the mother is infected during pregnancy. While its dangers first appeared in Brazil, its spread to the U.S. has magnified questions about risk, including to workers whose employers want them to travel.

For example, what steps are employers legally required to take if they need an employee to travel to a hot zone? What is the liability if an employee contracts the disease, which also can be sexually transmitted and spread when a mosquito bites an infected person and carries it to someone else?

“Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act, employees may refuse to work in certain circumstances when working conditions are dangerous,” says Justin Markel, a labor and employment lawyer in the Houston office of Roberts Markel Weinberg Butler Hailey PC. “Among other things, the employee must genuinely believe that an imminent danger exists, and there must be a real danger of death or serious injury. Because of the way Zika is transmitted and the availability of preventive measures, it is unlikely that an employee could refuse to travel on this ground – unless the employee is pregnant.

“However, employers should be cautious when an employee refuses such a work assignment,” Mr. Markel says. “An employee could argue that she is protected by OSHA and is shielded from adverse employment actions.”

Mr. Markel says that employer liability depends in part on participation in the worker’s compensation system. In Texas, employers have the option of whether to participate, he notes. “If the employee is covered by workers’ comp insurance, and if it could be proven that the employee contracted Zika while working, then the employee may have a workers’ comp claim. That would also mean that workers’ comp benefits are the employee’s exclusive remedy.

“If the employer does not subscribe to workers’ comp, then the employer may be liable for failing to provide a safe work environment if the employer does not take reasonable precautions to protect against Zika exposure.”

Mr. Markel says employers with workers in affected areas should focus on educating their workforce about precautionary measures. OSHA has published helpful guidance here. Employers should try to limit standing water near worksites, and employees working outside should use mosquito repellant and wear long sleeves and pants.

by Androvett Legal Media & Marketing at 11:02:00 am

Four workers injured in a flash fire last week at the Sunoco Logistics terminal in Nederland, Texas, remain hospitalized with severe burns and related injuries. Two of the workers have retained Matthew Matheny and Edward Fisher of the Provost Umphrey law firm to represent their interests, and the attorneys have already secured a preservation agreement covering the accident site and will be leading an investigation on behalf of their clients.

“It’s important to preserve the location and allow investigators and experts to better determine the causes of the accident and what might have prevented this tragedy,” says Mr. Matheny. “We’ll be talking to witnesses and examining any records of safety and maintenance procedures at the facility. Obviously this horrible accident should not have happened, and we’re prepared to find out why.”

According to initial reports, at the time of the accident the workers were doing some welding at the Sunoco facility, which handles crude oil, condensate, naphtha, base and extract oils.

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

 

by Androvett Legal Media & Marketing at 9:30:00 am

“You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. …”

For 50 years now, police officers across the United States have been reciting the so-called Miranda warning to criminal suspects before they are detained.

Now, the largest legal association in the United States – the American Bar Association – is taking steps to ensure that the language in Miranda warnings is accurately translated for Spanish-speaking suspects who may not understand English. When the ABA meets this week in San Francisco for its annual convention, members will consider a proposal to adopt a uniform Spanish-language translation of the now-immortalized words from the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1966 Miranda v. Arizona ruling.

Miranda has stood the test of time and protects both defendants from self-incrimination and police officers from allegations of investigative misconduct,” says Dallas lawyer John Teakell, who represents white-collar and other criminal defendants. “The ABA’s efforts to create a standard translation will go a long way toward extending these constitutional rights to everyone.”

Police officers recite Miranda warnings to arrestees an estimated 900,000 times a year. In numerous cases, judges have thrown out confessions and statements of non-English speakers after determining that arresting officers did not accurately translate the language. An ABA committee looking into the issue found that the lack of a consistent Spanish translation results in “woeful” outcomes.

In one 2013 ruling, an Oregon appellate judge dismissed a marijuana conviction after finding that an arresting officer did not properly convey the Miranda warning when he used a Spanish word for “free” that was incorrect in the context. The officer used the word “libre” which relates to freedom or liberty and should have used the world “gratis” which means free in terms of no cost. In other cases, arresting officers have used Spanglish or even made up words such as “silento” in an effort to give the Miranda warning.

by Androvett Legal Media & Marketing at 4:45:00 pm

The state of Texas has agreed to expand the types of documents immigrant parents can provide to obtain birth certificates for their children born in the United States, settling a lawsuit filed by immigrant families.

The lawsuit was filed after the state stopped accepting foreign identification cards provided by a consulate, leaving many undocumented parents with no way to obtain birth certificates for their American-born children. A birth certificate is essential for receiving the full rights of U.S. citizenship.

The settlement allows parents from Mexico to use a voter identification card obtained from Mexican consulates in the U.S., and parents from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras can use identification documents certified by their consulates.

Dallas-area immigration attorney John W. Lawit believes this groundbreaking decision represents the beginning of the end of the denial of birth certificates to the children of immigrants or sometimes even U.S. Citizens:

Texas is singularly the most difficult state in the U.S. to get birth certificates for U.S. citizen children born to undocumented immigrants. The issuance of Texas birth certificates seems like a never-ending battle. Up until now, each parent would have to file a lawsuit in federal court to get a hearing regarding the citizenship of the child. Sometimes the issue would be raised in the context of an application for a U.S. passport or through an application for the issuance of a birth certificate by the State of Texas.

These lawsuits are common in the counties that form our border with Mexico. The cost of such litigation is staggering for most; so many children never get the opportunity to demand their birthright citizenship.

With this settlement, Texas is taking the steps to give children a meaningful opportunity to obtain a birth certificate without having to resort to litigation.

 

by Androvett Legal Media & Marketing at 9:48:00 am

New details found in the leaked documents known as the Panama Papers indicate the magnitude of the use of shell companies in Africa to launder money, often illegally obtained from bribes, involving the sale of oil and other natural resources. “That should prompt any oil companies doing business in Africa to quickly take stock of their contracts on that continent,” says Thomas Fox, a Houston consultant and lawyer who advises companies on international business and anti-bribery laws.

“It is imperative that any multinational company operating in Africa immediately check its contracts and payments to determine if it has been doing business with one of the shell companies listed in this most recent report,” says Mr. Fox, who is editor of the FCPA Compliance and Ethics Report. “If they fail to do that, those companies will be in a much worse position when they receive an inquiry from the U.S. Department of Justice or Securities and Exchange Commission.”

The latest revelations were published Monday by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) in collaboration with African news organizations. “These reports indicate that Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca established shell corporations for people in 44 of Africa’s 54 countries to assist in oil, gas and mining deals,” says Mr. Fox.

He notes that the first two waves of data published from the leaked documents came from politicians who used offshore tax havens to hide money and from U.S. citizens who used offshore tax havens to evade federal income taxes. “This third round of analysis puts the spotlight on those foreign officials who needed to launder money received from bribery and corruption.”

Mr. Fox, the former general counsel of an oilfield services company, has published several books on corporate compliance and the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. He is the founder of Advanced Compliance Solutions.

by Androvett Legal Media & Marketing at 10:51:00 am

A federal appeals court delivered a sharp blow against Texas’ voter ID law Wednesday, but the bottom line is that a newly shaped law by Election Day will be difficult to achieve, and short-term at best, says appellate attorney Chad Ruback.

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans sent the case back to the federal trial court in Corpus Christi, Texas, with instructions to devise an order that would implement portions of the law to remove its “discriminatory effect.”

“The 5th Circuit’s opinion orders the lower court not just to correct portions of the law identified as discriminatory, but to do so in a way that causes as little disruption as possible for the approaching election,” Mr. Ruback says. “That’s an enormous challenge. Both sides in the case are far apart in their positions, and there does not appear to be an easily identified middle ground.”

The appellate court went so far as to fault members of the Texas Legislature for being aware of the law’s negative impact on minorities but nevertheless passing the legislation without adopting “measures that might have lessened this impact.” 

It is far from certain that the trial court judge will actually have an opportunity to craft voter ID rules before the election, as the state of Texas could appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court and seek a stay. And even if the Supreme Court does not grant emergency relief, Texas will likely seek appellate review of any voter ID rule changes imposed by the trial court judge for November’s election. 

Whatever law the state has in place on Nov. 8, it likely will only last until a long-term solution can be devised—by the trial court judge or by the Texas Legislature—that will pass appellate scrutiny.

To interview Mr. Ruback, please contact Robert Tharp at 800-559-4630 or robert@androvett.com.

 

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

Dallas criminal defense lawyer Nicole Knox, on the proposal by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, to enhance penalties on attacks against police by classifying them as hate crimes: 

“I have represented a white police officer who was acquitted of civil rights charges, and I have represented African-American citizens who were arrested because of their skin color and acquitted at trial. Racial biases, conscious and unconscious, cloud our judgment and can cause us to question the integrity of an entire race. Anything that furthers the racial divide is a threat to sustaining justice and freedom in America, in Texas, and especially in Dallas. We must learn to focus on solutions that unite instead of divide. While Governor Abbott intends to protect law enforcement with this bill, it will effectively further the racial divide because it protects police officers without protecting citizens from the same hatred. For a solution that unites instead of divides, he should propose broader legislation that protects all citizens against hate crimes or propose no legislation at all.”

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

A Dallas internet attorney says comedian Leslie Jones may be able to bring legal action against the people who orchestrated a hate-filled social media campaign against the star of the all-female “Ghostbusters” reboot.

“When it comes to the Internet, people think free speech allows them to do anything they want,” says attorney Kenton Hutcherson. “Just because you’re on the Internet doesn’t give you a license to be crude, sexist and racist.”

The target of any litigation would be Breitbart Technology Editor Milo Yiannopoulos, who targeted Jones with a tweet that read, “EVERYONE GETS HATE MAIL FFS.”  Jones then suffered an onslaught of overtly racist and sexist messages from Yiannopoulos’ almost 400,000 Twitter followers aimed specifically at her and reportedly stopped using Twitter to escape the harassment. 

Mr. Hutcherson says Ms. Jones likely has a claim against Mr. Yiannopoulos and his followers for invasion of privacy and intentional infliction of emotional distress. “The case is similar to one where someone orchestrates a campaign to have people call you hundreds of times a day,” says Hutcherson, “that is a clear intrusion upon your privacy.”

While the law often sets a higher bar for such cases where celebrities are involved,  Mr. Hutcherson says orchestrating a deliberate campaign to harass Ms. Jones may be considered over the legal line.

In addition, Mr. Hutcherson says Ms. Jones can claim actual economic damages because she is a movie star, and being unable to use social media detracts from her ability to market herself and create more business opportunities.

He says there also could be punitive damages because everything that happened was willful.

“I think you could argue that Yiannopoulos acted deliberately, knowing his many followers would harass Ms. Jones.”

To speak with Kenton Hutcherson, please contact Mark Annick at 800-559-4534 or mark@androvett.com

by Androvett Legal Media & Marketing at 7:00:00 am

Can a lawyer search the social media accounts of prospective jurors before a trial?

The American Bar Association says such practices are ethical, but some courts have said no. Late last week a judge in a California federal case pitting Oracle against Google found a possible middle ground. The judge ruled that attorneys could search social media pages, but only after advance notice, offering potential jurors a chance to change their online privacy settings.

But attorney Britta Stanton at the Dallas law firm of Lynn Pinker Cox & Hurst notes that courts may or may not ask permission or give you a chance to change your privacy settings before attorneys look at them. “The bottom line is, just as most anyone can look at what you post publicly on social media, when you’re called to report for jury duty the lawyers asking you questions might be researching your online persona,” she says. “If you don’t like it you should change your privacy settings before showing up at the courthouse, even if just temporarily.”

In 2014, the ABA said that reviewing a juror’s social media is just as acceptable as driving down the street where the person lives. Ms. Stanton notes that most groups that have looked into the issue agree that a lawyer should not “friend” you to find out more information. But she says lawyers also know that reviewing a juror’s social media habits can reveal inconsistencies in testimony or even a violation of court rules against discussing a case online, which can lead to a mistrial or a conviction being overturned.

To interview Ms. Stanton on these and other jury issues, please contact Barry Pound at 800-559-4534 or barry@androvett.com.

 

by Androvett Legal Media & Marketing at 10:23:00 am

The international furor over the online game Pokémon Go has sent countless children and adults scurrying through neighborhoods, parks and unfamiliar areas in pursuit of virtual game characters found only online. While Pokémon Go is being credited for encouraging more public conversation and promoting regular physical exercise, Dallas attorney Rogge Dunn says there are many ways that a Pokémon pursuit can land a player at the courthouse or, worse, the jailhouse. Although Pokémon Go manufacturer Nintendo requires players to accept terms of service that prevent them from taking the company to court unless they send an opt-out notice, he says there are no such free passes for those who play the game.

“While Pokémon Go may blur the line between fantasy and reality, there are real legal consequences if you step outside the law as a player,” Mr. Dunn says. “If you park your car in the street, expect a parking ticket. If you’re trespassing on someone’s property, expect to get arrested. If you cause a wreck while speeding toward a popular Pokémon location, you better be prepared for jail.”

An adjunct professor in Southern Methodist University’s MBA program, Mr. Dunn notes one case from his classroom where a radio station promotion was blamed for causing a serious car crash after urging listeners to show up at a particular location. The same scenario played out in Fort Worth roughly 20 years ago when a disc jockey at a country radio station claimed he’d used $5 and $10 bills as bookmarks in the fiction section at the public library. News reports detailed how people overran the library in search of the money, damaging thousands of books in the process.

“A lot of adults are being very smart about playing Pokémon Go with their children so they can make sure everyone is safe. But there are just as many instances where kids and grown-ups alike are going into unsafe areas or entering strangers’ properties,” says Mr. Dunn. “Particularly in states like ours where a lot of people have guns in their homes, I fear that a Pokémon Go player may end up being shot or killed before a homeowner realizes that they’re simply playing a video game. If that happens, you can expect both our criminal courts and civil courts will get involved.”

To interview Mr. Dunn, please contact Bruce Vincent at 800-559-4534 or bruce@androvett.com.

by Androvett Legal Media & Marketing at 2:47:00 pm

Christopher Correa, the former scouting director for the St. Louis Cardinals, was sentenced in federal court this afternoon to 46 months in prison for hacking into the computer system of the Houston Astros.

 

"The sentence reflects that the court felt this was a serious offense against society, not just the Astros,” said former Houston federal prosecutor Philip Hilder of Hilder & Associates. “The stiff sentence was anticipated because it sends a strong signal to others.”

 

Mr. Correa pleaded guilty to gaining unauthorized access to the Astros' computer database. In court he read a letter apologizing for what he had done. 

 

The Houston Chronicle wrote that federal prosecutors set the amount of damages at $1.7 million. The paper reported that Mr. Correa said during his January guilty plea hearing that “he suspected the Astros were in possession of Cardinals proprietary information and believes he found such information in the Astros' system. The Astros subsequently refuted that allegation.”

 

For more information please contact Mary Flood at 713-383-0090 or mary@androvett.com

by Androvett Legal Media & Marketing at 1:05:00 pm

On Thursday, July 7, a peaceful protest in downtown Dallas turned deadly when a gunman targeted police officers, killing five and wounding several others. The Dallas Police Department acted quickly to identify and corner the suspect, Micah Johnson, in a parking garage. They attempted to negotiate with Johnson, who said his intentions were to kill white people and police officers.

When negotiations soured, Dallas Police Chief David Brown noted in a statement that he saw no other option that would minimize exposure of additional officers to grave danger, and he chose to use a mechanical robot bomb to kill Johnson.

Attorney Philip Hilder, founder of Hilder & Associates and former federal prosecutor, and was appointed by former Houston Mayor Parker to the Houston Independent Police Oversight Board, shares his thoughts on the legality of this new method of killing suspects using police robot bombs:

“Using weaponized explosive robots by law enforcement presents new questions of whether it is appropriate to use, and if so, at what point. Traditional analysis that lethal force is justified where there is an imminent threat to the officers or others may be the proper analysis. However, in Dallas, was it justified to use deadly force where a gunman is surrounded, in dialogue with authorities, holding no hostages?  Clear rules of engagement to utilize this new policing technology must be established to prevent a slippery slope of killing citizens without the benefit of due process.”   

by Androvett Legal Media & Marketing at 12:15:00 pm

A federal judge in Dallas yesterday cleared the way for a September trial in the ongoing multidistrict litigation against DePuy Orthopaedics Inc., a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson (NYSE: JNJ), over various medical problems surrounding the company’s Pinnacle metal-on-metal hip implants.

Judge Ed Kinkeade of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas is presiding over the many hip implant lawsuits filed by patients from across the U.S. The first trial in the multidistrict litigation ended in 2014 with a verdict in favor of DePuy, but noted attorney Mark Lanier of The Lanier Law Firm and other lawyers won a $500 million verdict against the company in March for five hip implant victims. DePuy responded by appealing the verdict and requesting that the next trial be postponed.

“This ruling ensures that our clients will get their day in court despite the defendants’ attempt to delay justice,” Mr. Lanier says. “We look forward to proving once again that DePuy’s Pinnacle hip implants don’t work and instead cause innocent patients to experience horrible medical problems that often take years to correct.”

DePuy has never recalled the Pinnacle hip implants that will be the focus of the upcoming trial, although the company did recall other metal-on-metal hip implants that were sold under the ASR brand name. Approximately 35,000 patients received the now-recalled ASR devices, which required more than 10 percent of patients to have painful “revision surgery.”

For more information, please contact Bruce Vincent at 800-559-4534 or bruce@androvett.com.

by Androvett Legal Media & Marketing at 11:44:00 am

Two of Dallas’ top boutique law firms are merging to better serve their clients in high-stakes business disputes, employment law litigation and counseling, business restructuring and general counsel services. The July 1 launch of Loewinsohn Flegle Deary Simon LLP will result in a dynamic new platform for sophisticated legal consumers, replacing the law firms Loewinsohn Flegle Deary LLP and Simon, Ray & Winikka LLP.

“Our lawyers are at the top of their game, representing clients in crucial areas impacting their businesses,” says noted trial attorney and name partner Alan S. Loewinsohn. “We are now in a better position to solve a broader range of our clients’ complicated business problems and disputes. Whether you are a plaintiff or defendant, we can continue to handle any type of state or federal dispute in court proceedings or arbitrations.”

Fellow accomplished trial and bankruptcy attorney and name partner Craig F. Simon says the merger creates a level of expertise uncommon at many boutique firms.

“There are very few, if any, firms of our size that can provide the broad and deep knowledge and track record in the courtroom and through negotiation that we bring to the table,” says Mr. Simon. “From business litigation to employment law to bankruptcy and business restructuring, our team is home to attorneys who are consistently ranked by their peers among the best in the state and the entire nation.”

Loewinsohn Flegle Deary Simon’s clients include a variety of companies, partnerships, limited liability companies, and high net worth individuals, including Lincoln Property Co., Toni&Guy USA LLC, Rosewood Property Co., Kaiser Aluminum and Sovereign Bank.

All the name partners from both firms will be founding principals of Loewinsohn Flegle Deary Simon, including Mr. Loewinsohn, Mr. Simon, Jim L. Flegle, David R. Deary, Matthew W. Ray and Daniel P. Winikka. All the attorneys from Loewinsohn Flegle Deary and two additional attorneys from Simon, Ray & Winikka are joining the new firm, including partner Zoltan A. Papp, who is experienced in every aspect of the general counsel role based on his many years of work as general counsel for a global technology company. He will represent clients while working for the new firm in Dallas and Austin.

The new firm’s offices are located at 12377 Merit Drive, Suite 900, Dallas 75251.

For more information or to schedule an interview, please contact Bruce Vincent at 800-559-4534 or bruce@androvett.com.

by Androvett Legal Media & Marketing at 3:20:00 pm

A Dallas man who has worked in the airline industry for more than 35 years and the company he founded are suing his former employer, Pratt & Whitney, and others based on claims that they secretly and illegally excluded the man and his company from a multimillion-dollar deal based on “fraud, manipulation and greed.”

Attorneys Darren Nicholson and Mark Torian, both shareholders in Dallas’ Sayles Werbner, represent Robert Hogan and his company, AerReach Aero Space Solutions. In the lawsuit, Mr. Hogan says was led to believe AerReach would benefit from a $500 million deal he helped develop only to later discover that his so-called business partners were working behind his back to make sure he got nothing.

“Bob Hogan knows more about the airline industry than perhaps anybody, and the defendants knew this when they brought him in under false pretenses before working in the shadows to illegally shut him out of millions of dollars,” says Mr. Nicholson. “It really turns your stomach when you see some of the text messages and emails that Bob received and compare those to what actually happened.”

Mr. Hogan worked as an executive for airplane parts manufacturer Pratt & Whitney in Dallas for many years before retiring in 2012. The company is a subsidiary of aircraft manufacturer United Technologies Corp. Mr. Hogan created Pratt & Whitney’s blueprint for inventory management agreements, which allow customers to buy airline engines and other aviation equipment under consignment before being resold. The lawsuit includes details about how Mr. Hogan became business partners with an Oklahoma lawyer and a Connecticut entrepreneur to do work with Pratt & Whitney after his retirement. While working on a proposal for the $500 million deal, he learned that Pratt & Whitney had completed the transaction with another company. However, according to Mr. Hogan, he later learned that the other company actually was owned by his business partners, who apparently formed the company so they could shut him out of the deal while relying on his valuable airline industry expertise.

The lawsuit includes various claims against Pratt & Whitney and the other defendants, including allegations of fraud, breach of partnership agreement, breach of fiduciary duty, civil conspiracy, and tortious interference, among others.

For more information about the case, please contact Bruce Vincent at 800-559-4534 or bruce@androvett.com.

 

 

 

 

by Androvett Legal Media & Marketing at 3:04:00 pm

A Christian missionary and his young family have been granted religious asylum in the United States thanks to the nearly three-year pro bono efforts of lawyers in the Houston office of Sutherland Asbill & Brennan LLP.

Viktor Lim, a native of Uzbekistan, had established a small Baptist congregation in Kazakhstan where he endured arrests, threats, police searches of his home and interrogation for years before being convicted of charges related to his ministry.

“I could not feel certain of the safety of myself or of my family,” he said through an interpreter in an interview with the Houston Chronicle.

Mr. Lim was ordered to leave Kazakhstan, although he had lived there most of his life there. Terrified at their prospects, the Lim family managed to obtain tourist visas and settle in Houston in August 2013. Sutherland attorney David Baay led the effort for asylum, saying he believed  Mr. Lim would face imprisonment on a trumped-up charge if he returned.

On June 2, the U.S. government granted Mr. Lim asylum, and he and his wife and children will be eligible to apply for citizenship in a year.

Mr. Lim said the whole family cried for joy when they received the good news earlier this month.

“This is a great day for Viktor and his family, who have been living here in limbo for almost three years,” Mr. Baay says. “Viktor provided credible evidence of a very real threat to his life and liberty – and that of his family – if he were denied asylum and returned to Kazakhstan.”

A religious rights advocacy group says Protestant Christians are among the most targeted groups in Kazakhstan.

by Androvett Legal Media & Marketing at 10:27:00 am

The Dallas Women Lawyers Association (DWLA) will honor Chief District Judge Barbara M.G. Lynn of the Northern District of Texas, during a reception Tuesday, June 28 at the Belo Mansion starting at 5:30 p.m. On May 1, Judge Lynn became the first woman to attain the position of Chief Judge of the Northern District, which includes the city of Dallas. She succeeds former Chief District Judge Jorge Solis.

“The DWLA’s mission is to elevate the status of women lawyers, and we are thrilled to honor our first Louise B. Raggio recipient, the one and only Chief District Judge Lynn,” says Angela Zambrano, president of the DWLA. “She is the epitome of what women lawyers should aspire to be, someone who has opened countless doors for women in the legal profession, and a mentor and friend to all lawyers.”

Judge Patrick Higginbotham of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals recently told The Dallas Morning News that Judge Lynn was an “inspiration to all of us, but especially to young women lawyers.”

Nominated by President Bill Clinton, Judge Lynn joined the federal bench in 2000. Before that, she was a civil trial lawyer at Carrington Coleman Sloman & Blumenthal in Dallas. Judge Lynn has received numerous awards throughout her career, including the Louise B. Raggio Award from the Dallas Women Lawyers Association. A year before her appointment as judge, the National Law Journal named her one of the most influential women attorneys in the country, and in 2010, the International Women’s Forum honored her with the Women Who Make a Difference Award.

by Androvett Legal Media & Marketing at 9:30:00 am

A Texas truck driver who suffered third-degree burns over 90 percent of his body in a liquid asphalt explosion has filed a negligence and injury lawsuit against the owners and operators of the Shreveport, Louisiana-based facility where the incident occurred.

According to court documents filed in Dallas County District Court, Darrell Allen, 59, of Denison, Texas, was assigned to pick up and haul a load of asphalt from the Calumet Shreveport refinery on April 23, 2015. An estimated 3,000 pounds of the scalding hot asphalt needed to be pumped out of Mr. Allen’s truck after it was overfilled. He was asked to help with the pumping process even though he had no related training or experience for that task.

The lawsuit alleges that the suction hose used by the plant’s workers to remove the asphalt had not been properly cleaned, leading to a catastrophic explosion that threw Mr. Allen from the top of the tanker truck and covered him in 350-degree liquid asphalt.

Mr. Allen was hospitalized for more than three months in the burn unit at University Health Shreveport Hospital, where he underwent painful treatments each day to remove dead or damaged skin. As a result of his severe injuries, he remains in constant pain with persistent itching and no sweat glands to properly regulate his body temperature.

“Darrell’s doctor has treated burn victims for 30 years, and he says he has never seen anyone burned this badly who survived,” says attorney Charla Aldous of Dallas’ Aldous\Walker, who represents Mr. Allen and his family. “Darrell has already suffered tremendously, and he still faces a lifetime of pain, impairment and ongoing surgeries because of this company’s negligence.”

by Androvett Legal Media & Marketing at 12:44:00 pm

This morning the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the University of Texas at Austin’s affirmative action student admissions policy, ruling against a white woman from Sugar Land, Texas, who wanted to attend there. Her lawsuit challenged UT’s use of race in admissions decisions, which was implemented in part by accepting the top 10 percent of eligible high school graduates across Texas, along with other considerations including race, community service, leadership, and extra-curricular activities.

Attorneys share their thoughts on the high-profile ruling:

Dallas trial lawyer Shonn Brown, partner at Lynn Pinker Cox & Hurst, says:

“This opinion affirms that the university can take a holistic approach to consider race as one of several factors in admission, while still following the precedents in other court decisions that overturned the use of racial quotas. Diversity should not be viewed as a rigid standard in higher education; I think schools have to be allowed some flexibility for the good of every student, and considering many factors including race where the compelling interest is met, so this decision is the sensible and proper approach.”  

Houston appellate attorney Misty Coné, shareholder at the appellate and trial law firm GODWIN PC, says:

“The Court's opinion in Fisher v. University of Texas would no doubt be different had Justice Scalia remained on the bench. Scalia's untimely passing coupled with Justice Kagan's non-participation resulted in an opinion that not only upheld the use of race-based affirmative action programs in higher education, but also reveals the true impact of the vacancy on the Supreme Court. Much has been written about the post-Scalia era on the Court – a time where the Court focuses on consensus building and ‘minimalist’ decisions. With the Court recently issuing a number of 4-4 decisions, there is some support for this notion. But with categorical evidence illustrating the impact and success of the Texas ‘top 10 percent rule’ as a means of improving diversity and access in Texas colleges and universities, it is very clear that Fisher will not represent the last word on the legality of affirmative action programs in the United States.”

by Androvett Legal Media & Marketing at 9:54:00 am

Every dog has its day, and for many, that day is June 24.

Celebrating the value of companionship and raising awareness of pet adoptions, Friday marks the 17th annual Take Your Dog to Work Day.

“Allowing employees to bring non-service dogs to work can be exactly the kind of perk that some employees, especially millennials, might be looking for when considering whether to accept one position over another,” says Dallas employment attorney Elisaveta Dolghih of GODWIN PC.

“Dogs are proven to relieve stress, can boost employee morale, and depending on the type of the business, can generate favorable publicity and goodwill around the business among its customers.”

However, Ms. Dolghih says, before employers temporarily or permanently roll out the proverbial red carpet for employees’ four-legged friends, they should consider the following legal issues:

  • If a company leases office space, does the lease agreement allow pets in the building?
  • Does the company's insurance policy cover a dog biting a customer or employee on the company premises? If not, do employees need to sign certain documents before being allowed to bring pets?
  • Are any employees allergic to dogs and, if so, what accommodations should be made for such employees?
  • How will a company address situations where a dog becomes loud or causes a work-interrupting distraction?

 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 3:26:00 pm

All eyes are on the U.S. Supreme Court which has yet to rule on the three most controversial cases this session, one of them focused on immigration. The case before the court is from Texas, and a decision is expected Thursday or Monday, June 27.

Texas and several other states have challenged President Obama’s executive order that would shield roughly 4 million undocumented immigrants from deportation and allow them to apply for work authorization. The high-profile case challenges the president’s executive authority in regulating immigration. Also at issue is the question of whether Texas  and the other states had legal standing to sue in the first place.  

Gordon Quan, a nationally recognized, 30-year immigration lawyer and founder of Quan Law Group, says:

“This decision will not only define the role of the executive branch but will be President Obama's last opportunity to address U.S. immigration policy.“

 

 

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

State Rep. Byron Cook, R-Corsicana, asked Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton on Friday to rule on whether Texas Central Partners can rely on the power of eminent domain in its development of a high-speed bullet train from Houston to Dallas.

The legislator wants to know if the private company has the authority to go onto private land, survey it and eventually take it for the train path.

Austin lawyer Luke Ellis, a partner with Johns, Marrs, Ellis & Hodge LLP, thinks the legislator raises an important point.

“It’s highly questionable whether the proposed high-speed rail can exercise the power of eminent domain,” Mr. Ellis says. “A strong argument can be made under Texas condemnation case law and related transportation statutes to challenge Texas Central Partners’ right to conduct surveys and take private property through eminent domain.”

The bullet train proposal has been popular in Houston and Dallas and less popular in the rural areas it will speed through. The state does allow established railroads and other private companies to use eminent domain to create infrastructure, but the question about the high-speed rail project may yet be decided. Texas Central Partners told the Texas Tribune that the project is clearly covered by the same laws. Legislator Cook told the online newspaper that the decision should be made based on today’s understanding of the law and current situation, not something based on laws from more than 100 years ago.

by Androvett Legal Media & Marketing at 10:40:00 am

Attorneys representing a large group of professional golf caddies are asking an appeals court in San Francisco to reopen a lawsuit against the PGA Tour for forcing the caddies to act as human billboards without pay or benefits. Tour caddies are employed by Tour players and not the Tour, which does not provide health insurance, retirement or other benefits. Yesterday, The Lanier Law Firm filed an appeals court brief arguing that the case should proceed.

The lawsuit filed in federal court alleges the caddies are being forced to wear aprons, also called “bibs,” which cover their shirts and include logos of Tour sponsors. The bibs cover valuable real estate on the caddies’ shirts that they otherwise could use to secure their own sponsors. Even though the lawsuit says the Tour receives more than $50 million in bib sponsorships annually, the caddies receive none of that money.

According to the lawsuit, the PGA Tour is violating federal antitrust laws in addition to breaching its contracts with the caddies and reaping illegal profits by coercing them to advertise for the Tour for free. The caddies also say their likenesses and images have been unlawfully used by the Tour in its advertising.

“When the world’s leading sports network says the PGA Tour treats caddies like ‘outside dogs,’ then you know there is a problem,” says attorney Richard D. Meadow, who represents the caddies. “Sure, caddies are told they can have their own sponsors, but what good does that do if they’re forced to cover their shirts with other sponsors who are paying them nothing and instead putting tens of millions of dollars in the Tour’s pocket?”

The caddies’ 66-page brief includes a series of reasons the case should be allowed to proceed, including claims that the trial court conducted an improper fact-finding expedition by focusing on assumptions, hypotheticals and other matters not included in the caddies’ lawsuit.

by Androvett Legal Media & Marketing at 10:22:00 am

African-American women who regularly use talc-based baby powder are at greater risk for ovarian cancer compared to their peers who don’t use the products, according to a new study conducted by researchers at the University of Virginia. The report published in the journal Cancer Epidemiology found that the use of baby powder was associated with an increased risk of ovarian cancer regardless of where the powder was regularly applied on the body. The study involved interviews with 584 black women with ovarian cancer and 745 black women without the disease from the Southern and Eastern United States.

In the 1990s, Johnson & Johnson outlined a plan to hike flagging sales of its talcum powder products by targeting black and Hispanic women, according to a company memorandum made public in recent lawsuits leading to multimillion-dollar verdicts against the manufacturer.

“It’s tragically apparent that for many years, Johnson & Johnson has ignored and suppressed the almost two dozen clinical studies that indicate a link between the use of talcum powder and ovarian cancer,” says attorney Warren Burns of Dallas’ Burns Charest LLP. “This is just the latest evidence showing that African-American women have been effectively targeted through the company’s marketing, with a resulting increase in the disease.” The Burns Charest firm is currently accepting ovarian cancer cases against Johnson & Johnson on behalf of women and families, and maintains the talcumcausescancer.com website as a resource for news and information.

So far this year, two juries have returned significant verdicts in liability and wrongful death claims against Johnson & Johnson for its actions in marketing the use of talc-based powders. There are currently more than 2,000 similar cases pending nationwide.

In the past, African-American women have reported significantly higher use of so-called feminine hygiene products, including genital powder. A 2015 case-control study in Los Angeles found that 44 percent of African-American women reported using talcum powder, compared to 30 percent of white women and 29 percent of Hispanic women.

by Androvett Legal Media & Marketing at 9:52:00 am

Attorneys representing the City of Dallas and the tenants of Topletz Properties have secured a court injunction that prevents the owner of more than 200 residential properties from increasing rent, evicting tenants or taking other retaliatory actions without cause and approval from the court. The hearing included testimony that the standard Topletz lease requires renters to pay for repairs and ongoing maintenance in violation of the Texas Property Code, and has not been reviewed or updated since the 1960s.

The city’s original complaint, filed in November, accuses Topletz of renting properties with numerous code violations to tenants. “But this case is not just a matter of city code compliance or some other municipal regulation,” says attorney Michael Hindman, who represents the tenants together with attorney Mark Ticer. “Currently, if something breaks, then it’s up to the renter to fix it or pay for it. What’s really broken is the Topletz way of doing business.”

Earlier this year, Topletz sent letters to tenants telling them to not allow city code inspectors or neighborhood services personnel into their homes. At least one tenant received a form letter asking for her signature that claimed she was “completely satisfied” and that the property “needs no repairs” and “is in compliance with all City of Dallas codes.” In contrast to the company’s letter, the two lead plaintiffs’ properties have inadequate heating, cooling, electrical circuits and water, among other violations. In addition, each home was judged to be structurally unsound by City of Dallas inspectors.

The temporary injunction is expected to remain in place until trial, scheduled for Nov. 8 in Dallas County’s 193rd District Court.

by Androvett Legal Media & Marketing at 9:31:00 am

Attorneys at Aldous\Walker who represent Ebola survivor Nina Pham are calling out Texas Health Resources (THR) for going back on its promises and refusing to release information outlining how Pham contracted the disease while working as a nurse in the intensive care unit at Texas Health Presbyterian Dallas. Pham treated Thomas Eric Duncan, who later died of Ebola complications at the hospital.

In a new court filing asking for the release of THR’s “root-cause analysis” report, Pham’s attorney Charla Aldous says, “THR repeatedly told the press, community and even Congress under oath that it is committed to transparency about how Nina contracted Ebola so that our health system can learn from it. THR’s position in this case shows that those claims of transparency were all lies.”

The “motion to compel” filed with the court states: “Nina is pursuing this lawsuit to get to the truth, and her efforts of discovering that truth are being prevented by THR’s false claim of privilege. The court should order them to do so.”

According to Ms. Aldous the claim of privilege is the latest in an ongoing series of legal strategies by THR during the past 15 months to delay or deny the release of information, or attempt to curtail the litigation.

Ms. Aldous recently conducted an interview with The Dallas Morning News, whose editorial board has previously urged THR to be transparent in its release of information. “THR seems to be less interested in protecting lives, and more interested in protecting themselves,” Ms. Aldous says. The online article includes video from the deposition of THR chief medical officer Daniel Varga, who claims the organization’s findings are privileged under state law.

by Androvett Legal Media & Marketing at 3:15:00 pm

Axl Rose, you may want to pay attention to this piece of advice.

The Guns N’ Roses front man is trying to stop an Internet meme, one that has been dubbed “Fat Axl,” as the pictures show the star a bit heavier than normal.

The unflattering photos of a heavier Axl Rose have appeared on the Internet with altered lyrics to some Guns N’ Roses songs. Memes like “Welcome to the Jungle, we got tons of cake” or “Sweet Pie o’ Mine.”

While fat jokes are never a good thing, Internet attorney Kenton Hutcherson of Hutcherson Law in Dallas says be careful what you wish for when trying to remove photos from the Internet, even in an issue as weighty – potentially – as this one.

“It’s called ‘the Barbra Streisand Effect,’” says Hutcherson. “If you take legal action to remove certain content, you might actually fail and attract more attention to the content.”

Hutcherson is referring to Babs. In 2003, the legendary singer tried to conceal photos of her Malibu, California home; the opposite occurred because the singer drew more publicity due to her actions.

From a legal standpoint, this is a copyright case; Rose is claiming any photographer shooting such photos would have to have attended one of his concerts, where photographers generally were required to sign a release indicating ownership of any photos belonged to Rose or the group. The photographer, who originally took the picture of the rocker at a concert in 2010, cannot remember if he signed a release giving Axl ownership of the photos.

But is legal action really the best course? Especially since reporters already are writing about it.

Hutcherson, who has built a practice representing people harmed on the web – and who has experience using the court system to compel Google and others to remove offensive content – says perhaps not.

“Learn to pick your battles on the web,” says Hutcherson. “And understand you can make the situation much worse.”

by Androvett Legal Media & Marketing at 2:09:00 pm

The Senate this week approved the first update in 40 years to the law governing chemical substances, and it is now on its way to President Obama who is expected to sign it.

Enacted in 1976, the Toxic Substances Control Act provides the Environmental Protection Agency with the authority to regulate chemicals found in products that Americans use every day. The TSCA reform bill calls for quickly identifying chemicals that are most likely to pose health problems and focusing resources on testing them more thoroughly.

The new bill provides the EPA with the authority to obtain information about existing chemicals and to approve of new chemicals before they enter the stream of commerce. In the past, the EPA did not have the authority to properly regulate substances, such as asbestos, which are now known to be toxic.

Most of the congressional delegation members representing Houston and its petrochemical complex have supported the TSCA reform bill.

“In some ways, petrochemical companies are in favor of the new law since it would potentially provide more clarity regarding what substances are deemed to be unsafe by the federal government,” says David Baay, a partner in the Houston office of Sutherland Asbill & Brennan LLP. “Currently, energy companies that operate in different states are confronted with a variety of state regulations. This reform could help set the standard going forward.”

“At the same time, the law was contentious in some states that argued that the reform would frustrate their attempts to enact laws that are typically more stringent than federal laws,” says Maryann Zaki, an attorney with Sutherland who has defended companies against lawsuits for violations of California’s Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act. 

“While it may take some time for the EPA to implement the TSCA reform, once it is signed by the president, many industry leaders believe the new law will be a step in the right direction,” she said.

by Androvett Legal Media & Marketing at 11:02:00 am

Tomorrow, attorneys representing the City of Dallas and the tenants of Topletz Properties will ask for a court injunction that would prevent the notorious Dallas landlord from increasing rent, evicting tenants or taking other retaliatory actions while the case against the company continues.

The city’s original complaint, filed in November, accuses Topletz of renting hundreds of properties with numerous code violations to low-income tenants. Attorneys say the standard Topletz lease requires renters to pay for repairs and ongoing maintenance in violation of the Texas Property Code. “This case is not just a matter of city code compliance or some other municipal regulation,” says attorney Michael Hindman, who represents the tenants together with attorney Mark Ticer. “Currently, if something breaks, then it’s up to the renter to fix it or pay for it. What’s really broken is the Topletz way of doing business.”

Earlier this year, Topletz sent letters to tenants telling them to not allow city code inspectors or neighborhood services personnel into their homes. At least one tenant received a form letter asking for their signature that claimed they were “completely satisfied” in their home and that the property “needs no repairs” and “is in compliance with all City of Dallas codes.” In contrast to the company’s letter, the two lead plaintiffs’ properties have inadequate heating, cooling, electrical circuits and water, among other violations. In addition, each home was judged to be structurally unsound by City of Dallas inspectors.

The temporary injunction hearing is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. Thursday, June 9 in Dallas Judge Carl Ginsberg’s 193rd District Court at the George Allen Courts Building, 600 Commerce Street, 8th Floor.

by Androvett Legal Media & Marketing at 4:52:00 pm

Amanda Greenspon, an Associate at Munck Wilson Mandala and part of the Firm’s Intellectual Property Section, provides counsel to companies on trademarks and copyrights. She provides perspective on the copyright litigation against pop music superstar Madonna.

At less than a quarter of a second, even a die-hard Madonna fan might miss the musical sound at the center of the copyright litigation over her dancehall smash hit, “Vogue.” But that was the issue for California’s 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which focused on a brief sample from funk ensemble SalSoul Orchestra’s “Ooh I Love It,” which was produced by the same person who later went on to work with Madonna on “Vogue” but didn’t have rights to the sample. The dispute was not over who created the sound but whether unauthorized use of such a tiny snippet of music could amount to copyright infringement. In the end, the 9th Circuit panel sided with Madonna in a 2-1 ruling, finding that such a fleeting sound is simply not recognizable to a general listening audience.

Seemingly, this ruling is at odds with an earlier ruling from the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in the so-called Bridgeport case, which found that rap group N.W.A.’s “100 Miles and Runnin” wrongly sampled a brief guitar riff from a song written by funk music icons Funkadelic. That decision, which essentially said that even small samples warranted copyright protection, led to a surge in lawsuits of artists seeking compensation. Here, the 9th Circuit appears to have set a boundary to the question of what amount of music data is too small to be considered a sample and therefore entitled to copyright protection. In this case, at least, it’s 0.23 of a second. If the Court’s opinion had gone the other way, we would have expected many more copyright lawsuits and claims by artists. But it would have been harder to determine whether the next 0.23 second actually was lifted from another song or merely sounded similar.

So where do you draw the line? Just like an artist cannot own a single line of a drawing, this court found that such a small amount of material cannot be owned by an artist. What we do know is that as the digitization of music production continues, the courts will continue to struggle to keep up.

by Androvett Legal Media & Marketing at 11:02:00 am

The Wall Street Journal reported that defense lawyers in Florida filed a lawsuit complaining that federal prosecutors have been spying on defense legal strategies for as long as a decade by obtaining copies of the defense discovery documents.

The Florida lawyers allege that the document service that provided them with copies of government documents they requested for their litigation then also provided government investigators with copies of the documents of interest to the defense – thus revealing some of the defense strategy before trial.

“The government’s receipt of defense counsel work product on the sneak, raises serious legal and ethical issues,” said Houston defense lawyer Philip Hilder, a former federal prosecutor himself.

“Reading the defense playbook is cheating,” said Hilder, founder of Hilder & Associates, P.C. “It is worrisome that the government doesn’t even recognize or chooses to ignore the long-standing work-product privilege. The government needs to be held accountable as this is a slippery slope.”        

The Wall Street Journal reported that the “allegations surfaced days ago on the eve of a scheduled trial, which is now delayed. In court papers filed May 26, lawyers alleged that prosecutors had secretly gained access to discovery document files assembled by the defense team. The lawyers wrote that an assistant U.S. attorney informed them in April that an FBI agent had received CDs containing duplicates of discovery files the defense had assembled and scanned from the more than 200 boxes of seized government evidence made available to them.”

The newspaper reported that the U.S. attorney’s office said the concerns were overblown and there was no evidence this practice was widespread.

by Androvett Legal Media & Marketing at 10:34:00 am

Accomplished Texas trucking accident attorney Steve C. Laird of Fort Worth is a strong advocate when it comes to highway safety issues. As a result, Mr. Laird is spreading the word about International Roadcheck 2016, a 72-hour mandatory inspection of tractor trailers, buses and other heavy trucks that will take place June 7-9. The average person may not be aware of Roadcheck, a partnership between law enforcement agencies and the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance that helps protect motorists and prevent hazardous situations on our highways. The three-day Roadcheck period represents the safest time of the year for drivers, but the days that follow are among the most dangerous.

Mr. Laird authored a blog explaining why.

“As [it] happens every year, the trucking industry already is telling companies and drivers about the three-day window, which will allow many of them to limit their hours or stay off the road entirely in order to avoid inspections. Once Roadcheck is over, expect to see many more tractor-trailers on the highway, including those whose drivers may be looking to make up for lost time that was spent waiting on the mandatory inspections to conclude.”

The time away from the road is what the trucking industry calls “Roadcheck vacation.” Drivers without the proper licensing and those operating unsafe trucks often take off work to avoid inspections only to return once the 72-hour period expires.

“The smart way to approach Roadcheck as an average motorist is to be particularly careful on the highway in the days and weeks following the inspection period when many drivers return to the road. That means everyone should be on high alert beginning Friday, June 10, through the weekend and at least the following week. Although not every big rig you see will have safety problems and not all of the drivers will be unqualified or improperly licensed, knowing about Roadcheck and taking the proper precautions will protect you and your family.”

by Androvett Legal Media & Marketing at 9:01:00 am

On May 27, the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled to reinstate a $641 million lawsuit representatives from Environment Texas and the Sierra Club brought against energy giant ExxonMobil for violating the Clean Air Act at its Baytown, Texas, oil refinery complex. The groups allege Exxon has thousands of air pollution violations, and are fighting for the government to properly enforce the law and protect the public’s health by penalizing the company.

Houston-based attorney Philip H. Hilder, who represents the environmental groups in the lawsuit, says:

“The opinion is significant because it ratifies enforcement of the Clean Air Act by ordinary citizens when the government refuses to do its job. This type of action is the great equalizer, holding corporations accountable where the government has failed.”

Luke Metzger, Director of Environmental Texas, echoes Hilder:

“After six years of litigation against one of the state’s biggest polluters, justice has finally been served. The appeals court confirms that even the world’s most powerful corporations must be held accountable when they violate our environmental and public health laws.”

 

by Androvett Legal Media & Marketing at 10:31:00 am

The Obama administration recently issued an order requiring that public schools permit transgender students to use the bathroom corresponding to their gender identity. The administration threatened to withhold federal funds from schools that don’t comply with this directive. Yesterday, Texas and 10 other states filed a federal lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the administration’s order. Chad Ruback, a Dallas appellate lawyer, explains:

There is simply not much precedent—one way or the other—as to the rights of transgender individuals. Consequently, it is quite difficult to predict how the states will fare in this lawsuit.  However, by filing their lawsuit in a West Texas federal court, the states have chosen one of the most conservative venues in the country. Wichita Falls, Texas, is not known for its sympathy to transgender individuals or to the Obama administration. However, it is quite possible that this case won’t turn on whether transgender individuals should have certain rights, but instead on whether the administration overstepped its authority by creating such rights by executive decree.



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